I grew up a spectacularly unathletic kid. Throughout my childhood and adolescent years, I had absolutely no interest whatsoever in physical activity, and didn't really care for being outside (admittedly, being outside in Indiana is not usually terribly pleasant.) I was a chubby kid by the age of 8 (to the shock of all my relatives, since as far as anyone could tell I barely ate anything), and became a computer nerd around 9, so I suppose the lack of athleticism wasn't surprising. However, I was also extremely weak -- in high school, I literally never passed a single test in a gym class. They were always graded on a curve based on either the performance of the class or on Presidential physical fitness standards, and doing 15 pushups or a single pullup had always been beyond me; even running a 1/4 mile was. Luckily, phys ed was always a half-credit course so my straight F's didn't count much against me for GPA, class rank, etc.
It wasn't until my late 20s that I decided to try to get into better shape. It was a combination of two things -- first, in the Seattle area I found I really liked being outdoors. It wasn't so much being active as simply being out in nature. Walking, hiking, etc. weren't exactly strenuous, but they did depend on having at least some level of physical capability. The second was simply that by 2007 or so I was upwards of 200 lbs. and wasn't too happy with that (by comparison, that was about 60 pounds up from college.)
Since I hated cardio -- and, indeed, I still do, the boredom is very difficult for me to fight -- I started lifting weights. And it was here that I discovered that I was, in fact, spectacularly, unusually weak. I couldn't squat an unloaded bar. I couldn't do basic physical movements like mantling myself up onto a countertop (I recall when I tried skiing at one point, a difficulty I had was that if I fell down, without both feet planted firmly beneath me -- not always possible on skis -- I was not strong enough to stand back up unassisted.) It took me years of regular weight training to hit the "untrained" level on most lifts -- i.e. what a man of my height and weight should be able to lift without ever having lifted weights at all. I hit plateaus lasting months squatting 65 pounds, then again at 95, and again at 135. Admittedly, I think the strength standards assume your weight is mostly lean body mass -- fat doesn't help you lift, after all -- but even if I pretended I weighed 130 pounds instead of 207 at the time, it took me 4-6 months to reach "untrained" status.
Still, I kept at it most of the time. I'd say that since then, nearly 10 years ago, I've been lifting regularly (defined as 3 times a week following an actual progression program) at least 6 months out of every 12. I am, at this point, "Novice" to "Intermediate" on all my lifts -- that is, years of work has gotten me to where an average man should be able to reach after only 6-12 months.
One major benefit I've noticed, though. Back in 2007, I would actually gain weight eating 1750 calories per day. Losing weight required eating ridiculously low numbers of calories (online calculators would tell me I should lose weight eating an amount that would literally make me gain 1-2 pounds a week.) I think that I just had vanishingly low muscle mass -- that calculators assumed that my body fat was much lower than it actually was. At this point, were I to disregard calories and eat whatever I wanted, I'd end up in the 160-170 range -- which is a far cry better than the 207 and rising I had back then. So clearly, while I'm not "strong" by objective standards, all this has made a positive impact on my life. I still have to count calories, as almost anybody who was previously overweight has to for life, but I can now maintain my weight with a more normal 1750-2000, and lose weight on 1250-1500, which is much more practical. I can eat like a normal human.
What's interesting is that I don't know if my weirdly low starting point was due to simple inactivity from childhood (i.e. I just never built the muscle that most 15-year-old boys do), or if it was an actual medical issue. My testosterone level since my 20s usually tests at around 280 ng/dL, which is the very bottom of the "normal" range -- but the "normal" range was set by testing men from 40-70, so for a 25-year-old (or even my current 37 years old) that's actually weirdly low. Given the various issues anjelabug and I had conceiving a child, many of which were on my side, it's quite possible I was just biologically destined for the intellectual life. :)
On the other hand, I don't let this deter me from continuing to run and weightlift regularly. After all, I still occasionally see women at the gym lifting more than I can, and if they can do that on 60-80 ng/dL of testosterone, with enough dedication, I can do it too.
This entry was originally posted at http://fishsupreme.dreamwidth.org/70426.h