Tuesday, November 27, 2012

My Lifting History (Part 1)

What better way to start this blog than by incriminating myself? So, as far as the training side of things goes, here's my life story (I should note that at all times I've had a life outside of fitness, but I'll skim over those details today).

When I was 8 years old, I was a skinny kid, weighing in at about 25kg. When I was 11 years old, I was still a skinny kid, being taller and still weighing only 25kg. That's not an exaggeration. I was bullied a lot. Being skinny was not the reason why, although I can't say it helped the situation. I copped more slack from adults than from children about my weight, but the kids made sure to give me hell over everything else. Around the time I turned 12, I was fed up with being skinny, so I did the only thing a 12 year old boy knows how when faced with such a problem: push ups, dumbbell curls, sit ups and chin ups. Notably, when you weigh 25kg, you don't have a lot of mass to move, so I recall being able to do 20 chin ups (although they were probably partials with horrific form) in a set; not something I've ever achieved as an adult. I didn't know anything about the need to eat in order to get bigger, but somehow still managed to grow all the way up to 32kg over a couple of months -- now I almost didn't look like I had 2 days left to live.

I made Anne Hathaway, dieted down for her role in Les Miserables, look pretty well fed.

The first time I stepped into a gym, I was 15, and by now I was all the way up to 45kg, at a height of about 165cm, giving me a BMI of 16.5, making me only underweight, instead of severely underweight. I was reluctant to go to the gym before I first arrived there, because in my mind the gym was where people went to lose weight, which I certainly didn't need to do (I might have looked anorexic, but I wasn't actually anorexic). I was only given a 1-month membership as something complementary to my parents' memberships, so it wasn't enough to achieve anything, but it did get me hooked. When I turned 16, I got my first 6-month gym membership, and have (with a few exceptions) been a regular ever since, giving me 8 years of experience to draw from.

Now, I have 8 years worth of experience, but do I have 8 years worth of progress? HAH! No.

In my first year of training, I quickly learned what the gym staff called good technique on most of the exercises I performed. I would now describe my technique back then as "safe," for the most part. Not all of it was safe, primarily when it came to instructors trying to impress me with new exercises. The first time I was taught an Arnold press, it wasn't really an Arnold press, and I'd like to thank that instructor for every shoulder issue I've had since. Also, if my technique on the bench press was safe, the fact that I was a 16 year old male negated that fact. However, for the most part I was doing exercises in a way that wouldn't hurt you; but wouldn't help you much, either. This general pattern, along with constant program hopping (not out of boredom, but because I bought into the lie that you have to change your routine every time it stops making you sore, because if you're not getting sore anymore you must have stopped responding to the exercise; let me repeat that that's a lie, and it turns out that if you don't get sore, you may still be progressing in size and strength), continued from my 16th birthday in 2004 through 'til the start of 2010. Around 2005-2006, I became unhealthily obsessed with my physique. Although I was skinny, my small frame didn't look bad with such a small amount of weight on it, and I had more muscle definition than I've had at any other point in my life. But I was also the most insecure I've ever been about my appearance. In hindsight, I've learned that perfection is a moving target, and if you look for faults in yourself, you will always find them, so I can't stress enough the importance of keeping your head in check while you're on your own fitness journey. It took a forced 5 months or so off from the gym at the start of 2007 to get myself to relax a little about my appearance, and return to training later inthe year for the right reasons: health.

I liked the idea of not ending up like this.

At the start of 2010 I was 171cm/5'07" tall (I think if I'd known more about how eating is actually good for you when I was 16, I'd have been taller -- I stopped growing as soon as I started consistently training, which is much more likely due to insufficient nutrition than my growth plates breaking, since the latter is a fracture, and the only fracture I ever received as a teen was behind my ear when a friend kindly punched me in the side of the head) and 62kg/136.5lb, giving me a BMI of 21.2. I'd been sitting around this weight since mid-to-late 2008; around the time I turned 20 I stopped being underweight for the first time in my life. A lot of guys aren't happy until they're huge. But for me, just being at a normal bodyweight was a huge achievement. Now there was even a chance that I might win in an arm wrestle against a 12 year old girl. As an aside, when I was 14 I lost an arm wrestle against a 12 year old girl. So if you're busy feeling miserable because you can only bench 300lb, count your blessings. The first time I benched to my chest, the empty bar was my working sets, and they legitimately were working sets.

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