From Athletic to Frail Before my Mid 20's
I Was Stronger in My Teens Than in My Early 20s
I was reasonably athletic and robust when I was a teen. I never had reason to doubt my physical capabilities. I’m not a stranger to exercise and fitness; it was my favourite way to let off steam, and it was addictive.
I even loved the burning sensations I experienced during the sessions and the delayed onset muscle soreness after my sessions. The exercise was a crucial part of my daily discipline that I struggled to go without.
However, this didn’t last, as it was around the time I was approaching the ages of 18–19 that I realized my body had slowly but surely begun deteriorating. I frequently suffered from repetitive strain injuries, and my body could no longer sustain the level of exercise I had conditioned myself to.
It slowly but surely got to a point where simple activities like just walking or standing became difficult or uncomfortable. I swear I would have the worst muscle cramps imaginable. Three areas of my lifestyle contributed to this decline in my fitness, time spent sitting, a poor diet, and smoking.
My Dietary Discipline Gave Way and My Physique Soon Followed
Allowing my diet to slip was undoubtedly the biggest mistake I had made as a young fitness enthusiast.
I now know that it doesn’t matter how hard I train or how consistent I am with the training sessions. I’ll never get stronger or bigger; I’ll only get smaller and weaker if I don’t eat enough food.
My body type is an ectomorph, and it never had many fat stores to draw from. As my training started seriously, my small amount of fat melted away quickly. Even during the phases where I was actively bulking and getting stronger, I never exceeded a 10% body fat threshold.
In my first couple of years of training, I took my diet more seriously than the exercise program. The results were terrific. Every day I would closely count how many calories I would be taking in,
I would even weigh out all of my food portions. My body developed quickly during this training phase, and I was getting noticeably stronger after every exercise session.
These gains wouldn’t last; I didn’t make the diet stick. Maintaining the diet was the least motivating part of my training regimen. Eating large quantities of food was always an alien concept; I forced myself to chuck away close to 3000 calories daily, which some can do without much thought.
Nuts, oats, raisins, bran flakes, beef and pasta, made up the bulk of my diet back then, and I would opportunistically snack on anything else I could find. I had discipline for a while, but as soon as I got out of that routine, I picked up what I can only describe as an eating disorder.
Once I got out of the habit of stuffing my belly, it was almost like my appetite vanished. Like that feeling of getting hungry was not enough to motivate me to eat. I would regularly eat under 1000 kcals per day, continuing to exercise throughout; this wasn’t a good habit.
Furthermore, it wasn’t the only issue that I wasn’t addressing correctly at the time. Another element of my lifestyle was setting me up to fail long before my diet slipped.
I Never Appreciated the Importance of Good Posture
My posture has been outrageous all my life, and right now, as of January 2022, it still is. When I was younger, I enjoyed a virtual life more than I did my actual life. I spent a lot of time on laptops, consoles or computers.
Over time, I had accumulated significant imbalances or weaknesses in my neck, pelvis, upper and lower back, glutes and hands.
I reckon that all of these muscle groups suffered due to the extended amounts of time I was remaining sedentary. Gaming wasn’t the only activity that had me sitting around, I love to study and learn. I’ve always been motivated to perform well academically, and even when I wasn’t studying, I’d constantly teach myself new facts/skills, and I read a lot, all of which meant I was sitting still a lot.
The muscular imbalances caused by my posture only became an issue once I began pushing my body to its limits through exercise. Up until now, I was unaware of how badly I needed to address these problems.
The most debilitating imbalance that I was dealing with was the weakness in my glutes. I feel like I have been suffering from gluteal paralysis for a long time. My body learned to compensate for this glute inactivation; mainly, I think my quads/hamstrings took the burden. I was performing heavy squats/deadlifts without proper glute activation.
Similarly, even when I was walking or running, again minimal glute activation, it was mainly my quads taking on this work. If my glutes weren’t bad enough, I also had a hunched back and rounded shoulders; such a posture doesn’t aid the scapula and the upper back in finding a position of strength and stability.
The upper back isn’t stable when hunched forwards, making many exercises uncomfortable. Back exercises felt particularly unnatural; with this form, many of my back muscles failed to activate correctly.
Poor diet and posture are not great habits for someone planning on putting his body through enormous amounts of stress to get stronger. I didn’t realize how bad these habits were until I started to get injured.
I Over Trained; Exercise was too Addictive
I was training a lot, but the reality was that my caloric intake was nowhere near enough to sustain the level of activity or repair itself after. In short, my body stopped responding positively to exercise and began to wear down instead.
I suffered from joint pain and muscle aches, and I’m not going to be specific because it occurred almost everywhere. It felt as if my body had aged up by 40 years.
My hands and forearms were terrible. I spent a lot of my time on the computer, and I developed a habit of not holding my wrists straight; instead, I had my hands bent outward subconsciously. I also suspect my back posture had cascading effects on my wrists.
I injured my hand during a boxing-based training session; I couldn’t even hold a straight wrist; it didn’t take long. Because I wasn’t eating right during this period, my hands never responded that well to physiotherapy, and so for years, they never fully recovered.
My grip strength was non-existent. I could still type on a pc, but it didn’t take long for overuse stress to start building up in my forearms. Another stupid thing was that I was exercising the wrong muscle groups, and I was still finding a way to train and exercise even with all these problems.
So remember when I mentioned that my glutes and scapula were weaker due to posture and lifestyle habits. It didn’t help that these were muscles that I didn’t bother to strengthen. My attention was on my quads, chest, front shoulder muscles, the vanity muscles.
I did exercise my back, but not with great form; hence I never felt comfortable or enthusiastic about doing the exercises. My body would have to break down my underused muscles because I was on an extreme calorie deficit, almost like its redistributing resources.
I had problems with my shoulders, and my knees were so sore that standing or keeping up a decent walking pace became difficult. My wrist’s glutes and upper back were all relatively underused and were the first to wear down gradually. After a while, my overused muscles also began to wear down.
For some reason, I always had shin splits, and the muscle cramps I would experience were unbearable. My body was becoming more immobile, and as the immobility got worse, I continued to pick up bad postural habits to compensate for the imbalances.
It’s funny, I look back at it all now, and I know that if I had just eaten correctly, most of these issues would have been super simple to solve. I probably wouldn’t be writing this if I did, but instead, I continued to push harder. At this point, I really should have gone to a doctor, or at least stopped going so hard with the exercise and taken some slow steps to evaluate my situation.
Even when I could no longer perform knee push-ups without intense discomfort, I adopted low impact forms of exercise like dance, but this caused my knees and ankles to wear down more.
Things were pretty bad at this point, but you know what, that’s not even the full scope of it because I was smoking throughout this entire process. It’s almost like I was trying to make my body give up on me.
I Started to Smoke Weed
I never considered myself a smoker; talk to me at age 15, and I would tell you that I’d never take up smoking, definitely not weed. I enjoyed the experience so much that I regularly indulged while over-training and under-eating.