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I've been lurking here for a while and guess it's time to jump in.

I originally started weightlifting in '89/90 in an attempt to work off some RAGE. At the time, I was involved in a bitter divorce/bankruptcy/child custody thingy. I don't even remember what gave me the idea to lift weights; but, I went out and bought a bench with attachments for lats, pecs and legs and a bunch of iron. The only instruction I had was Bill Pearl's "Getting Stronger" and the muscle mags I bought at the grocery store.

I turned my living room into my gym since I didn't have any furniture anyway. While I was pumping iron I would imagine myself repeatedly crushing my ex's skull or deadlifting her boyfriend's concrete encased body in order to fling it into the river. My only goal at that time was to pump iron until I was too exhausted to do anything stupid. Many nights I fell asleep on the bench. We're all still around today, so weightlifting saves lives.

I eventually got over all that crap but continued to lift because I had grown to love it. I liked how it made me feel, I liked how it made me look. I liked it when the chicks would feel my biceps and ask me where I worked out. In spite of my terrible motives, very bad technique and no coherent routine, I still made tremendous progress. Eventually, I moved to an apartment which forced me to join a real gym. There, I continued my bad habits with much better equipment.

At some point I hit a plateau and couldn't make any more progress no matter what I did. I just figured I was in a rut or getting lazy so I doubled and re-doubled my efforts in an attempt to break through the barrier. It got to where I was spending 2-2.5 hours a day, 6 days a week doing every exercise in every way I could think of in an attempt to shock my system into more growth. The result: an accumulation of injuries and I actually got weaker.

I stumbled across a couple of books that really helped me break through over the next year or so. I don't remember where I got them but they were probably bonus prizes for re-subscribing to one of the muscle magazines. One was "Super Squats" by Randall Strossen and the other was "Brawn" by Stuart McRobert. Both these books, but especially McRoberts', really helped me see what I was doing wrong. I went from spending 12-15 hours a week in the gym to a maximum of 3 (1-1.5 hours twice/wk) and from trying to do dozens of different exercises to just doing squats, bench presses and rows (till I puked!) and a few variations on those. I got rid of the machine exercises and the useless (for me) exercises like wrist curls and leg extensions. As a result I gained another 12-15 lbs of lean mass but more importantly, I felt great! Unfortunately, around 1995 I injured myself (not in the gym) and had to stop training for a while. Then I got married. Then I moved. Then I had a long illness. One excuse led to another and I haven't been back to the gym since.

A few years ago I also, by chance, found out that I had hepatitis C and sort of threw in the towel as far as ever being healthy again. That was a big mistake. Needless to say, I've lost a lot of lean mass over the years and probably some bone density too and that has been replaced, and then some, by blubber. I went from 5'9”, 195lbs with a 32” waist at my peak condition to 215lbs and a 42” waist.

The final straw came last year when I couldn't get my blood pressure below ~165/115 even with medication. I knew I had to get back into shape or die. At 49 I already outlived my father and his father who both died of heart related stuff (OK, they were chain smoking alcoholics, but I digress). I had everything checked out and didn't have any major cardiovascular problems other than being fat and sedentary. I radically changed my diet from the "Homer Simpson" diet to a sort of Atkins variant. Basically I just don't eat anything with grass (wheat, corn, rice, etc.), sugar or potatoes in it. I've lost 30 lbs since the middle of Oct and my blood pressure has dropped down to the 125/75 range sans medication. That's lower than it was when I was much younger and seemingly healthier. I can only attribute it to the diet.

I still need to lose at least another 15lbs of fat but at this point I'm not trying to lose weight as much as re-arrange it. I'll definitely stick with some version of the low-carb diet even after I meet all my goals. I've experienced too many side benefits from LC to ever go back to the old way of eating. When I was training before I was very much into the low-fat/high-carb/high protein diet that was the fashion among bodybuilders at the time and had no trouble with my weight (except keeping it up); but I can see now that I suffered from major blood sugar instability.

Up till Feb. I put most of my effort into improving my cardio conditioning. My wife and I decided to buy ourselves a recumbent stationary bike for Xmas. When I started I couldn't last more than a few minutes on the lowest setting. I basically had no stamina at all. By Feb, I could ride the bike for 30/40 min at a setting that kept my HR at ~130bpm. I HATE that freekin' bike. Recently, I switched to Appalachian Flatfoot dancing (cuz I'm just a dum rednek) for cardio. It's WAY harder than the bike but at least it's a skill/art and I don't feel like I'm wasting my time just burning calories.

I dusted off the old weight bench but went very light until Feb. Then I decided to revive the basic program that had worked before: Squats/deadlifts, presses/dips, rows/chins. It was pretty depressing when I did my first 20 rep squat workout in years with only a (standard) bar. I nearly passed out from inhaling snot and drool as I gasped for air around rep 15. I've made a lot of progress since then to the point that I can't squat safely anymore until I get a power-rack. That won't be until after I get the house re-carpeted in a couple of weeks. I need to move the furniture into the garage. So I'm sticking to the deadlifts and dips until then.

My goal at this point is "progressive poundages with perfect form" in those basic exercises and to drop my BF% to at least the 12-15% range (currently 21%). I think I could be happy with that. I don't have any idea what the limits are for a 49 year old fat male with Hep C, but I know I'm a long way from them.

Sorry it was so long,
Steve
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