Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Something a little bit different

Hi everybody (in the voice of Dr Nick Riviera)!

I'm going to do this blog in a different way to normal. I forget how many people who read this are unfamiliar with my situation, my life & the way I speak. So I'm going to do some explaining & add some facts/info as well as talking about what I've done in training.

Hypermobility can affect lots of people, but it only becomes a syndrome if you suffer side affects/consequences because of it. So when you say to someone who has HMS "oh I've got that! I don't see why you're taking painkillers/seeing a Physio/in a wheelchair as I find it really cool to show people my tricks at parties", you clearly don't have the syndrome form. My mum has hypermobility in her elbows & her mum had it in her thumbs. My mum suffers no ill effect from it, therefore it's not a syndrome. It's just a cool/gross party trick.

I am from South East London and speak as such. I forget that people don't understand some of the things I say sometimes so please ask if it makes no sense to you! I recently had someone ask me to translate bits of my last blog into American for them - I was happy to oblige ;)

I sometimes moan about my personal trainers trying to kill me. It's all said in jest & that's just how I generally am with people. They aren't random trainers that are charging me the earth to try & injure me. They are not crappy fitness instructors that have done a 2 day online course for a qualification that isn't worth shit. They are important people in my life that are taking time out of their own schedules to help me get better. I'll list them below:

Terry Hollands - my husband & full time strongman. He was a judo champion when he was younger, has played professional rugby for teams in both New Zealand & England and is now a professional strongman. The most successful British competitor since the 90's, he mainly does international competitions rather than local lower level ones. He's competed at worlds strongest man 7 times (placed 3rd last time, made the final 6 times) & will be there for an 8th time next month. He's studied all aspects of strength training, nutrition & much more to aid his sport. He's also about to gain a qualification in personal training. He's been helping me out of bed and looking after me throughout this whole saga with my HMS so knows the pain I'm going through. He's the sole reason I'm training & if it wasn't for him I'd still be bedridden most of the time.

Jay Hughes - my good friend, former bodybuilder (placing 3rd at Junior Mr Universe) and one of the top British strongmen having competed at Britain's strongest man, amateur Arnold (Schwarzenegger) Classic & most recently at Europe's strongest man plus many more. He has an excellent knowledge of all aspects of training having come from such an eclectic sporting background. His knowledge of nutrition is extremely useful, particularly for someone such as myself who doesn't want to gain any weight.

Emmy Louise - my good friend and owner of Bulks Power & Strength Gym. She's done something not many have achieved; opened a strength & fitness gym that is clean, friendly & has tonnes of equipment whatever your goal may be. She has competed in strongwoman briefly and has now turned her hand to powerlifting. She has great knowledge of all aspects of gym training & even has her own supplement range. When Terry's busy, she takes the time to train with me even though she's often already done a heavy session a few hours before!

Clayton Nicholson - my good friend, former Muay Thai fighter who is now competing in strongman; he also does full time personal training at Bulks. He knows a lot of about stretching & flexibility which is extremely useful in my case.

So that's all my little (and not so little) helpers :) they all know their stuff and aren't trying to kill/injure me. They have my best interests at heart and when I moan about them, it's just messing about. Everything I've done has been trial and error; everyone is different and it's a case of finding what's right for you and your body.

By writing this blog I've met a lot of nice people; fellow sufferers, people who genuinely want to help and of course it wouldn't be complete without the people who have no clue about anything but think they're experts regardless. I am content that lifting weights is helping my condition. It's low impact, is helping to stabilise my bendy joints due to the strengthening of my muscles and is also giving my whole body a good stretch. I can now touch my toes 8 times out of 10 instead of 0 times in 15 years! I welcome advice & ideas from fellow sufferers/qualified therapists. I don't welcome criticism & ignorance. My husband knows what he's doing, he knows my limits and knows my situation. So the next person to tell me that lifting weights is the wrong thing to do (because they know better of course) shall be told to fuck right off :)

Another thing to point out is that HMS/EDS also comes with some other nasty issues. For years I've had kidney infections & UTI's as well as digestive problems. From doing research online, I've discovered that these can be linked to my condition. I'm hoping to get referred to a specialist once I change to a better doctor who isn't a complete fucking moron. All the investigations I've previously had have led to more confusion, so hopefully I'll have some answers to share soon.

Since my last blog, I've been to the gym 3 times and am considering adding some Pilates type exercises to my days away from the gym. Again it's low impact & will help strengthen my joints & aid with my recovery from lifting. My chest, shoulders and triceps day went well; I improved on all exercises, the weights went up or stayed the same but did extra reps. So I won't bore you with details. It was the usual bench press, shoulder pressing type thing that I normally do, but mixed up a bit to keep it interesting.

Leg day was a bit of a weird one. I arrived at the gym late as I'd had a really late night/early morning at work & was knackered. Emmy trained with me (bless her, she'd already done loads already) and we did loads of squats with medicine balls, leg extensions, calf stretches and straight leg deadlifts with 20kg & 30kg. A short session, but it was enough; we were going to watch a strongman competition afterwards which is knackering just to stand there watching! Legs felt fucked, so I feel it was plenty.

Back & biceps was yesterday with Terry. Deadlifting went really well; he was monitoring my form very closely to make sure I wasn't hurting myself. He was very pleased with the progress I've made as I did a PB of 50kg for 3, then 2 after doing all my warm up lifts (30kg for 5, 35kg for 5, 45kg for 5) followed by a set of 10 at 30kg. I trialled a support belt for the first time. It doesn't add anything to the lift, it just helps to keep my back in the right position and protects me from further injury. I'd definitely recommend getting one if you ever do deadlifting. This was my most successful session to date; I tried hard and got the job done and all while keeping a good form.

I did all my usual exercises (lat pull downs, bent over rows, face pulls etc) and with good form, Terry was very pleased with my progress. At the end he wanted me to do planks which I fucking hate, but they're important for my core work. I did regular planks on the exercise ball - how hard is that shit?!!! I think Terry & Jay just wanted to have a good old laugh at me looking like a spaz. It was criminal, trying to stop myself falling off was really bloody hard; particularly because I was laughing so much. I also did some side planks on the bench, they also sucked.

I realise how lucky I am to have such a great supportive group of friends who happen to be experts in strength training; I know how difficult it must be for someone to go into the gym for the first time when they've got a condition like this that makes you feel useless and weak. So in that respect, I am super lucky that I've got company to bring along and guide me through a routine. The worst thing you can do is be trained by a dickhead who hasn't got a fucking clue what they're doing though; it's probably more damaging than just sitting on your arse. I've seen able bodied people doing ridiculous things in the gym, some of whom work as 'fitness instructors' too. So be wary of who you enlist to help you! There are cunts masquerading as saints! Check credentials!

I've added some pictures as is customary for me; the first ever pictures of me deadlifting and me with the wonderful team behind my success. Without them, I'd be crippled in bed and miserable still.

Later dudes/dudettes, feel free to ask anything if you don't understand my weirdness ;)

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Hypermobility sucks!

I have 3 gym sessions to include in this post, but I'll try to keep it brief to stop the life threatening boredom from kicking in. I've had a really bad day today, but I'll talk about it some more toward the end of the post.

Session 1: chest & triceps/upper body

I had just finished my last blog post before I headed off to the gym & was feeling very positive. I felt okay, my back was holding up well & I felt like this gym session was going to be a good one. What a mistake it was being so optimistic. This is what happens when you're normally a 'glass is half empty' kind of person & you suddenly change your outlook on life which is totally against all your normal beliefs.

I started off on the treadmill, 6 minutes with an incline & trying to keep my heart rate in the fat burning zone rather than the cardio zone. Not a problem. Felt fine.
Incline bench - 3 sets of 5 reps at 17.5kg & then a drop set of 10 reps at 12.5kg. All felt fine other than my elbows hyperextending & clicking as usual. I have to really make a conscious effort to stop my elbows doing that.

Shoulder pressing on the exercise ball was next. I don't know what the hell was wrong with me, but I was struggling with 5kg dumbbells & was pushing them up & forward rather than straight up. I think it's because I have a lack of flexibility in my upper body (probably due to my back muscle issues) & I really struggled to do it properly. I told Terry that it was really hard and asked to go down in weight as it was burning. His answer was 'it's supposed to burn, you can do this weight easily.' I argued that I couldn't do it, it was too hard. He was having none of it. The truth was, I was genuinely struggling to do it and the more I stressed about it, the worse I felt. I did get through the 1 set of 10 reps with 2.5kg, followed by 2 sets of 8 reps with 5kg. Sounds pathetic really, but when you're balancing on a ball, it's a lot harder than sitting on a bench; I always decrease the weight when I'm using a ball as the balance issue makes it much tougher. Once I'd finished this exercise, I had a little bit of a meltdown. I have no idea what was wrong, I'd started off with a positive attitude and suddenly felt defeated. I asked Terry to leave me alone for a minute as I was on the verge of having a mental breakdown. I honestly felt like a huge loser and had a really low moment. This is why I am always so negative - expect the worst and anything better than bad is a bonus!

Once I'd pulled myself together I carried on with the session; tricep push downs this time. Instead of using the rope as I usually do, we tried using a bar for a change. It went fine, no problems at all considering my last exercise almost ended up in disaster.

According to the expert, the next thing I did was called a French press. Basically, I held a dumbbell above my head & lowered it behind my neck. Like the last time I did it, I kept hitting the knobbly bit at the top of my spine. It fucking hurt! My arms felt fatigued, I was balancing on that ball & I just couldn't be bothered anymore. I had lost all control with my arms and really had to struggle to not smash the fuck out of my neck! All in all, a pretty shit session. In my head, that is. Terry said I did well, but I just wasn't feeling good about it. I went and had a moan to Jay about it :) he enjoys it, I'm sure haha. Terry suggested that maybe the jump between 2.5kg & 5kg on the shoulder press was maybe what caused it. As I'm not very strong in this area, the jump is quite substantial when I'm working up to a particular weight. For Terry & other strongmen, a 2.5kg jump would feel like fuck all. Even a 10kg jump. I suppose I just need to get my head round that and forget the whole thing so it doesn't fuck with me next time I do it. Jay suggested using plates for next time, maybe taping them together to make the jumps between each set not so extreme (for me!). Maybe that's the way forward for next time.

So, off Terry went to Finland the next day! I had no personal trainer. Even considering the disastrous session I'd just had, for some mental reason I decided to go to the gym by myself on Saturday. I knew Jay would be working and he had agreed to help me out as I'm pretty clueless about what to do by myself. So here we go:

Session 2: legs & core
Personal trainer: Jay Hughes - ex-bodybuilder (he came 3rd at junior Mr Universe once upon a time!)/international & British level strongman/general all round strength & fitness expert.
You may have seen me moaning about Terry being a mean personal trainer; I stupidly thought 'Jay's so nice, he's my buddy. He'll be much less mean to me'. Yeah, right. He was worse!!

I arrived & asked what I should do with myself. Jay asked what I wanted to do, which I replied with 'not a lot. But today would normally be my leg day'. So Jay agreed I'd do legs with his help & ordered me onto the treadmill. I asked how long for. He replied: 'until I say you can get off'. Oh man, I think I've done a fuck up here! I should've stayed at home. It gets worse though. He told me what speed, what incline, that he would be checking to make sure I was doing it AND took my phone off me so I couldn't even enjoy myself with some mid-exercise social networking. He did give me a copy of Nuts magazine to 'read' though!

11 minutes later, I was allowed to stop. It was a hot day and I was definitely suffering with a sweat moustache. Not the greatest look, even for men. I barely had time to breathe before he'd conjured up my next exercise. Standing in the middle of the gym (there were people... So many people) with my arms in the air & squatting my own weight. I thought he was taking the piss to make me look a right dickhead. Nope. I had to do it. A lot. Easy, you think? It really isn't!! I'd say it's harder than squatting with with a bar & weights. By having your arms up, you really have to use your core to maintain stability. Plus, I felt like a dick. He made me do it a tonne of times until I felt like I was going to die. As soon as I'd stopped, he made me jump up & down (from the floor, mind. Not just from a standing position) until my legs nearly buckled beneath me. Straight onto the next thing. Front squatting a medicine ball. Only, he decided that the heaviest one was too light and gave a pumpkin looking thing that weighed 15kg to hold while doing it. I did fucking tonnes of squats with that too. I actually nearly collapsed a few times while doing this. Did he care? Not a jot! When I felt like I could take no more and sweat was literally dripping into my fucking eyeballs, he made me squat with it again, dropping it when he said so to replace it with every fucking medicine ball in the gym each time. Plus a kettlebell?! I must have done at least 50 squats by the time this was done. My legs felt like concrete & I was walking like I'd shit myself. Again.

No breather allowed. Next, I was doing the leg press. 5 reps, followed by one realllllllllllly slow rep, followed by 5 really fast ones. Repeat. A lot. It was burning like my pee does when my kidneys regularly decide to pack up. I was nearly crying. Jay didn't care. He helped me stand up as I was staggering all over the place and next stop was leg extensions. But not like normal. He put his hand to where I had to go to. Small reps at the bottom, up to his hand until he said stop. Then reps at the top to his hand until he said stop (felt like forever), followed with full reps. Again, until he said I could stop. I didn't even do a particularly heavy weight, but my legs were shaking, my sweat moustache was now becoming a sweat balaclava and it still wasn't over! Oh, I had to do those jumps between each exercise too! I nearly landed in a heap on many occasion!

Last thing was at least 20 reps of stretching my hamstrings. I stood on something with my heels hanging over the edge & went up on tip toes & back down as far as I could go. I also did this with me feet facing inwards, outwards and AGAIN in the regular forward position.

I've added some pictures of our session - one with me & him smiling, the other with my dying face.

Conclusion. Jay is mean! Like a militant bully! Not really, I know he's doing it for my own good. I see that now. That was 3 days ago though, so now I can see the goodness intended. At the time I thought he was trying to kill me.

So Terry's back for back & biceps. Today did not start well at all. I had to have him massage me before I could get out of bed this morning as I'd stiffened up so badly overnight. I was in fucking awful pain. I did get myself out of bed though, so still a positive... Even though it's a small one. Until my painkillers kicked in, I could barely walk faster than an old lady with a hip replacement. If I had put on a grey wig & a hideous floral lampshade skirt, you'd actually think it was a 90 year old woman struggling to walk along. So what happened? I don't actually know. I had a panic about how I was feeling, I should be getting better, not worse. I AM better, but this was horrific. I stood in the middle of the room about 3 hours after I'd got up & said to Terry 'I feel like my brain is over there (points to doorway), but my body is still stuck here trying to get there'. That's the only way I could explain it. I felt weak, fatigued, drained and useless. It was like having the flu when your whole body struggles to move and pick things up. I couldn't bend forward and get my hands past my knees - this was a MASSIVE set back. I haven't been that bad in months, lately I can get fairly close to toes straight off. After training or stretching, I can reach my toes. What the fuck has happened? I had a migraine yesterday, so maybe that may have had an effect? Or is a side effect of some bug I've acquired? I've also tried to stop taking as many painkillers, I'm wondering if this is what could've caused my issues? Who knows. I contemplated skipping the gym as I could barely pick up my shoes or even bend down to tie them. I decided to go anyway. Maybe some gentle exercise might help, it can't get much worse, right??

I drove the 15-20 mins to Bulks, and thanked god that I am currently driving an automatic car. Everything felt awful still. We decided that I'd do some serious warming up on the treadmill before I did anything else, just to see how that goes before trying weights. Problem. All the cardio equipment was in use.

Terry said I could warm up with just the bar before deadlifting instead of doing cardio. We'd see how that went and then decide whether I actually could deadlift or not. I did partial deadlifts with just the bar for 2 sets of 10 reps. Really light, really easy, something I wouldn't normally do. But as I was so crippled today, it was necessary :S

30kg deadlift. Terry said to try just 1 & see how I feel, but carry on to 5 if I can. He watched to make sure my form was alright, otherwise he'd make me stop. As I couldn't even touch my knees earlier in the day, it was a worry that I'd even be able to get down to the bar. I just about managed to get down & started my first lift. It was ok. By the 2nd rep, I was back to normal?! I did 5. I tried to touch my toes & got an inch away. This is absolutely mental shit. How can I go from looking like a crippled grandma, to being that close to touching my toes after deadlifting 30kg for 5 reps?! I then did 35kg for 5 reps, followed by 3 sets at 40kg. Terry asked if I wanted to up the weight after my first set at 40kg as my form was so good, but I decided to stick at it just in case my legs or back monged out again. I think he was as shocked as I was; he said it was the best he'd ever seen me deadlift and couldn't understand how I'd managed it after the shocking state of me this morning. One of life's mysteries I guess.

1 arm dumbbell rows - 1 set at 7.5kg for 10 reps, 2 sets of 10 at 10kg. This all felt fine & Terry said it was positive as its the heaviest I've ever done and with good form too. So I must be improving, I just didn't feel like I could do fuck all before I got there! Weird.

Lat pull downs - 1 sets of 8 reps, 1 set of 5 at a heavier weight, then a last set at the precious weight for 8.

Rear delt flys on the gym ball. With the gay dumbbells this time as it was so fucking hard to keep myself still; it was like doing a plank AND with the extra added exercise. It was really difficult, but it felt like I was using all of my body so it was beneficial.

Stiff leg deadlifts - 2 sets of 10 with 20kg

Bicep curls on the ball - 2 sets of 10, 1 set of 12 all with 5kg dumbbells.

I also touched my toes afterwards :) yay!

And that wraps it up. Thank fuck, I bet you're thinking; if you even got as far as this paragraph ;) I know this has been particularly long, but I feel I need to log all of my training for my own benefit to look back on. And hopefully if someone else has the same issues as me, they can see what I've done in comparison to their own regimes. Everyone is different, but weight training is what works for me. Physio has been a lost cause, but hopefully soon I can find one to supplement my training that's not an uninterested-NHS-just doing enough to satisfy the quota-fucktard.

There's been a lot of highs and lows over the past couple of weeks, but hopefully there'll continue to be more highs from now on.

I'm not one for lame clich├ęs or motivational quotes, but a couple of quotes have really given me the mental strength to carry on and not just collapse in a sobbing heap. Bruce Lee has always been a massive inspiration in my life as all of my friends will know, and today when I was in a bit of a bad way, his words really helped me. His quotes are always spot on, not cheesy, and motivational; I hope you'll agree with his words that follow: -

"Preparation for tomorrow is hard work today."

"Do not pray for an easy life, pray for the strength to endure a difficult one"

On that note, we've come to an end. Pictures as always, until next time amigos....

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Deadlift, squats & pressing - 3 workouts in 1 blog

I've been lax with the blogging recently, so to save writing 3 separate blogs, I've done an all in one type combo thingumajig.

Session 1: upper body.
We started the session off with some bench pressing. Regular grip and with the silly little bar to begin with to see what kind of weight I could comfortably go up to without smashing myself in the tits. We kept adding more weight as it was hard to stabilise myself with such a puny little weight. I was wobbling all over the place, so ended up doing about 20kg for 3 sets of 8 reps. There was a bit of discussion about where to bring the bar down to. In female powerlifting, you generally bring the bar down to the the largest part of your boobs - so if you were to wear a massive padded bra, you could get away with doing a much smaller pressing movement ;) although that is how most powerlifters do it, it was decided by Jay & Terry that I had to bring the bar down to above my boobies as it would be far more beneficial for what I'm trying to achieve with my training. Bah. Just doesn't seem fair somehow...

Next was shoulder pressing on a machine. Just your average kind of pressing workout really. Not much to say about this. Some tricep push downs with a bar for a change instead of with the rope.

Now this was the most interesting part - Terry had a bright idea that I could do the rest of my workout on an exercise ball to help stabilise my core. He has never done this before as they don't make exercise balls to take 28 stone (shockingly!), so it was a brand new 'trial' for us both. I did shoulder pressing with dumbbells, flys & lateral raises all while balancing on this ball. And I have to say - it's actually amazing! My core felt like it had really done a lot, and the best part is, I didn't realise I was using my stomach muscles until I felt the ache afterwards. I had to lower the dumbbell weights from my usual ones due to the stability issue, but it really made my body work a lot harder than just sitting on a bench. I know it's not for everyone, but it really did my core good and also got me out of doing planks :D which I hate doing! So it was a win-win situation! I felt a bit of a knob rolling around the gym on a giant inflatable ball, but it was actually quite good fun in the end.

Session 2: legs
The gym was absolutely packed solid, so we had to improvise a bit. Instead of squatting on the smith machine, I used just a bar for the first time ever. Due to my lack of flexibility & core strength, I started out with just the bar (20kg) to get used to the feeling of it. It was digging like fuck into my shoulders & actually hurt more than the actual squatting. I moaned so much about it hurting that Terry let me use the foam cushion thing that he HATES & thinks is totally pathetic. Anything to shut me up right?! :) well Shane (Emmy's powerlifting coach) came over & demanded I stop using it as it's lame. He wants it banned from the gym & said everyone needs to man up. Terry agreed. How the hell was I supposed to carry on without my gay cushion?! Shane & Terry tweaked my technique a bit & once the bar was further down my back, the pain totally went. No foamy thing for me anymore! I did 1 set of 10 reps at 20kg, then went up to 30kg for the rest of the sets. It felt quite easy actually, I was surprised - I could definitely do more weight.

I did a couple of other leg machines & a set of kettlebell swings. Terry felt like I hadn't done enough & said 'do you really want to smash the fuck out of your legs?' to which I replied 'no I fucking don't!'. Needless to say, my opinion was ignored & he dragged the prowler outside. Basically, it's like a sled that you can load weight onto. You can either push it, or attach a harness to it & practice truck pull.

I then spent the next 10 minutes or so running around outside pushing this bastard metal thing up & down; never mind my legs. My chest felt like it was going to explode. Unfit doesn't even come into it, what a bloody joke! Terry was a bit disappointed that my legs still felt ok when we left... Next day, I could barely walk. Absolute sodding agony. So next time you see someone walking like they've shit themselves, please feel sorry for them rather than mock them! That was 7 days ago and my legs and arse still haven't recovered. Terry Hollands is a sadist. Let it be known.

Session 3: back & biceps
Deadlifting to start as usual. 30kg for 8 reps. Easy weight, good form. Upped it by 5kg and did another set of 8 reps, then another 5kg for a set of 8. As my form was still so good (yay!! Finally getting stronger/more flexible) he said to do another set at that weight. Unbeknown to me, while I was chatting to Jay, he sneaked another 5kg on; I didn't notice & did 45kg for 8 as my last set. My form was still good throughout, so this is a good positive sign. The gym is working!

Did a quick touching toes test afterwards & got to my ankles. This is also good - normally I can only get to my knees.

Bent over rows on the smith machine - it was fucking heavy compared with using the little bar with weights that I usually do. 3 sets of 8.
Hammer pull downs with 10kg each side (another improvement in weight), face pulls with the 4th pin down (compared to the start - this is also a huge improvement) and lastly, bicep curls with dumbbells on the exercise ball. More core work thrown into the equation without actually realising it. I'm a big fan of the exercise ball at the moment, it really helps get my core involved in my workouts without having to do an extra exercise. He also made me do some cardio at the end, you'll be able to see by my face how impressed I am with this...

I'd still say I'm unfit; the treadmill tells a different story as I can go for longer and in a quicker time. But to me, I still feel unfit.

One thing I would say is, I'm stronger. It's actually really noticeable :) I'm not in as much pain with my back/knees and haven't needed to be helped out of bed in a long while. This is all excellent progress for me and the fact I touched my toes last week is also a huge positive. Any positive you can take from the gym, no matter how small, can really help keep you motivated. Anyone who's followed by blog posts will see how much I struggled to get excited about going; I was the most reluctant gym goer ever. But now, I'm actually saying to Terry 'shall we go to Bulks?' quite a lot! I think I've gone mental ;)

One other thing for the ladies who might be interested: I trialled a Reebok Easytone top for the first time during my deadlift session. It's meant to assist with toning your muscles as it has strips in certain locations that apparently make your muscles work harder. I can't say for sure whether it helped with any of this, but it did improve my posture. It's so bloody tight (it was £3 in TK Maxx because it was a size XS - I might've been a bit ambitious with my size haha) that it keeps your posture in the right place; it doesn't let you slouch. This isn't a rave review, it's just an observation for anyone who's considered purchasing one :)

As always, I've added some pictures of my sessions; don't laugh, I'm trying! Haha

Feel free to ask any questions, I'm still new to this myself & welcome advice/queries from fellow cripples ;D