Today is just under 3 weeks away from the 27th of April, which will mark one year since I started my Weight Training programme. As the longest that I had ever managed to stick to a programme before was about two months, this is something of a major achievement for me, all the more so when my Chronic Fatigue is factored in. (See my previous articles on Weight Training and Chronic Fatigue.)
Setting Goals, Boring Numbers
My goals have changed in the last year; initially, I just wanted to be able to exercise as I had just spent a couple of months highly incapacitated. Back last August, when I was starting to get into the swing of things, I decided that some specific goal would help keep me motivated. The goal was this: in 1 year, I should be able to perform 8 repetitions of 2 major compound exercises with in excess of my own bodyweight on the bar. The exercises in question were the bench press and the deadlift. At the time, I did not have equipment that would allow me to perform squats with any degree of safety; when I finally acquired my power rack, I added the squat to the list.
Perhaps being a little over-ambitious I then thought that it would be nice if I could reach my goal not by August 2008, but by the end of this month, or a year since I started the programme. If it were not for my bench press, where my set of 8 is currently performed at 85kg, some 20kg short of my bodyweight, I would be there as I have reached the target weight for the deadlift and am well past it with the squat. In a way, I am being helped by the fact that a change of medication has accelerated my decrease in fat mass. However, working against a diminishing bodyweight is probably cheating somewhat, so I have reset my bench press goal to the magic figure of 100kg. Can I get that extra 15kg in 4 months? I'm certainly going to try.
For those exercises where I have passed the target weight, I am now working to the next target of one and a half bodyweights. Once again, with the bodyweight changing, I've decided to fix a figure of 150kg, but with no time limit. I know that my beginner's rapid progress is slowing down, so I don't want to disappoint myself by setting any unrealistic targets. I am almost certain that - barring accidents - my squat workout weight will be at or past 150kg by August; no further weight targets will be set beyond that as my power rack is only rated to 160kg.
Lifting Weight, Gaining Weight, Losing Weight
Whilst some of the benefits of this year of exercise cannot be measured, changes in body mass can. A quick look back over my records shows that between August last year and March this year, I lost approximately 6.5kg of fat mass and gained 10kg of lean body mass. Much of the fat loss was in the last month or so, due the change in medication that I mentioned earlier. So, a nett gain in body mass, but of the desirable sort. Prior to the changed medication, there was little change in diet other than an increase in protein consumption - lifting weight gained good weight but lost bad weight too.
Benefits of my Year of Weights that cannot be measured include the disappearance of the all-over myalgia (muscle pain) that I used to experience when I became particularly tired. (That's more tired than normal as opposed to the 24/7 Chronic Fatigue tired.) Heat tolerance does not appear to have improved any; I had a vague hope that it might have done, but am not surprised that it has not. My diabetes has not become any worse; I do not know whether Weight Training has helped this or not, although exercise is certainly indicated in diabetes control through lifestyle.
Yes, I am still motivated - and enjoying - Weight Training. Boredom is not an issue because as soon as I start to think "oh no, not this routine again", I change it. Being able to perform some very similar exercises both with free weights and cable makes it even easier to maintain variety. Tomorrow, for about the first time since I started doing squats and deadlifts on the same day, I will be doing deadlifts first, rather than second and I am quite excited at the prospect - but then it doesn't take much!
Just Do It!
For anyone contemplating taking up Weight Training, I will plagiarise the marketing slogan of a certain sports goods manufacturer (link warning: horrible Flash content): Just Do It! Chronic Fatigue has not prevented me from lifting weights and I am fairly certain that doing so has benefited my condition, too.
Here's looking forward to another Year of Weights!