Hello everyone and welcome to my second entry on my #FITASBALLS Journey! This is a bit of a longer one, and I promise they won't all be this long.
Month #1 was quite difficult. On top of the exercise itself, I faced a number of setbacks which made things even harder. This blog entry is going to introduce you to the 3 major challenges I faced, all of which will get their own blog post later on this year. The three big hurdles in question were: testosterone, injury, and diet.
The first setback I suffered had to do with my hormone levels. The testicles, as you probably know, are responsible for the production of sperm as well as testosterone - testosterone being a vital hormone required for muscle growth. Thankfully testosterone production is not something that most testicular cancer patients have to worry about since nature was kind enough to grace us with two testicles! Typically, the remaining testicle is capable of producing more than adequate testosterone for the entire body. If you are worried about your testosterone levels however, you can always ask your family doctor to requisition some blood work!
I however, am not so lucky. Being a two time testicular cancer survivor means that I do not naturally produce any testosterone of my own, and because of this I have been placed on Hormone Replacement Therapy for the rest of my life. Fortunately for most testicular cancer patients, it is extremely rare (less than 5%) that the cancer spreads from one testicle to the other.
For my Hormone Replacement Therapy I've tried 3 different options: injections, pills, and gels. In my experience the gels have been the best fit for me because of their convenience - they have a great applicator that makes it as easy as putting on deodorant. Unfortunately, while on vacation over the Christmas holidays, I decided to put my medication in my checked luggage where it subsequently froze and rendered the medication useless. When I went for a routine blood test this month, my testosterone levels were well below the minimum acceptable levels. What did this mean? Well, after weeks of doing crossfit, my muscles didn't have the testosterone they needed to properly repair themselves which meant that I was sore. Incredibly sore. FOR WEEKS. After speaking with my doctor, I got a replacement subscription for my testosterone gels, and am back on track with my testosterone. A new blood test will soon tell if I'm back to my normal levels.
Despite the pain, I kept going. There was still plenty I could do - I still needed to get the technique down for the various movements, I could still do cardio, "I just need to keep moving forward" I told myself, so that's what I did... until I ran into my next hurdle: injury.
Just when I figured out my testosterone problem, my body decided to throw another curveball… injury. I had been doing some overhead squats for the first time when suddenly I felt a sharp pain in my right shoulder. Fantastic. I stopped immediately and ended up skipping the rest of the workout. I was really quite surprised at this injury because I hadn't been straining too hard, and I didn't have any weight on the bar - "how could I have possibly hurt myself so easily?" I thought. I went home feeling extremely disappointed, thinking that this was going to throw off my entire #FITASBALLS journey at just one month in. I didn't want to give up though - I still had some fire in me! That's when I ended up making an appointment to see Colby of Dynamic Chiropractic & Performance - the resident chiropractor at Frontier Performance.
This was the first time I had ever seen a chiropractor in my life, and it was full of surprises - both knowledge wise and physical. We spent quite a while diagnosing the injury along with determining what movements were causing me the most pain (taking on and off my jacket sucked). Then… we moved on to the actual treatment. The movements Colby put me through felt extremely weird, but also helpful. The final spine adjustment was a bit of a shock and I definitely dropped a few F-bombs, not out of pain, but out of surprise and having my senses overwhelmed. After giving me some exercises to do at home to help my shoulder, Colby also ended up putting on some KT tape in order keep my shoulder in a better position. The silver lining of this was that it made me look way more badass than I actually was (see above).
After all this, I still desperately wanted to know why this had happened. Was it because it was a new movement? Was I doing the movement wrong? Or was my upper body just ridiculously weak? What Colby told me was fascinating - essentially this injury was in the works LONG before I picked up that bar. Having worked in an office for the past 6 years, the subtle ways that I had been positioning my body were taking a toll on me, and instilling bad habits so that when I did finally pick up that bar, injury was inevitable. Who knew an office job could be so dangerous? Colby mentioned that there are some great preventative measures I can take for these kind of injuries, and I'm looking forward to learning more about how I can prevent other potential injuries! Stay tuned for a deeper dive on this.
With the testosterone and injury problems under control, I had one hurdle left to tackle… one which I had been truly dreading ever since I decided to get #FITASBALLS. That hurdle? Diet.
I love food. My girlfriend and I love to cook, visit new restaurants, and I have quite a severe case of sweet tooth (chocolate mousse is my kryptonite). I've never been on a diet before, so when I decided to get #FITASBALLS, I knew this was going to be a HUGE challenge for me. Frontier Performance also has an in-house dietician, and over the past few weeks I've sought out help from Courtney at Vitality Nutrition to help me on this front.
For my diet, I am currently trying to hit specific targets for my macronutrients - fat, protein and carbohydrates. Since starting I've had to track every single meal and snack in the app "MyFitnessPal", and have had to purchase a food scale so that I could portion out my meals correctly. This hasn't been easy - apparently I love fat and carbs and don't eat nearly enough protein! Courtney has been great at helping me set targets and giving me suggestions on what I should eat (and complete side note, I may have fallen in love with Cottage cheese).
Every week I have to check in with Courtney to review my progress and ask questions, and I'll admit that sometimes I've sucked at this (thank you for your patience Courtney). This is an area that will have plenty more developments to come and I look forward to taking a deeper dive on this in a future blog post.
The Journey Continues
When faced with setbacks like these, I definitely heard the voice in my head urging me to give up or "wait until I was better". It's so easy to fall into these temptations. For those of you that know me, my personal motto is that "it takes precisely zero balls to make a difference". To me, this means that making a difference is a choice - a choice you have to make every single day. Some days those choices are going to be hard and uncomfortable, but making a difference is about becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable. If change were easy, everyone would do it! The key here is that no matter what setbacks you experience, there is always a way to move forward.
Despite these setbacks, I consistently found a way back into the gym - whether it was modified movements, or just taking a day to do cardio instead. I'm happy to say that as of writing this, I've managed to compete in two weeks of the CrossFit Games - a global crossfit competition where everyone is ranked based on the routines they outline. I can't say that I did great, but I did have a great time doing it. Attitude really goes a long way. I look forward to having a benchmark to compare myself to next year.
Thanks for following me as I try to get #FITASBALLS! That's it for now, but I look forward to next month's blog where I can start taking a deeper dive into some of these topics.