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Before starting the 5 x 5 program that I recommended to her, Steph sent me some information on her health issues.
First, some background. I have a congenital disorder (Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome). It is a rare condition, and my specific subtype is even rarer. This disorder causes a malformation of the collagen in my body, so my ligaments are essentially too stretchy. The result is that my joints dislocate very frequently. This has greatly limited my physical activity, particularly over the last 5 years. I was unhappy about this, but didn’t really know what the solution was, since high impact activities are strictly forbidden, and even walking can be a challenge at times.
Whoa, I’d never encountered a medical hurdle related to training so out of my league. She reassured me, however, that she (after consultation with her doctor) was comfortable with giving the program a try. I believe this program is appropriate for everyone, whether an experienced weight lifter or someone who has never worked out before.
I sent her a note after hearing the good news.
“While I think this program is ideal (because it will build overall strength) for you based on your health issues, I can confidently say that anything you choose to do with a full heart – and that you can gradually increase intensity with – will change your life,” I told her. “Consistency, as you know, is more important than content for lifestyle change.”
I asked her about her motivation and she replied.
I wanted to try an exercise program for a few reasons. Aesthetically, losing weight and looking more toned is a significant appeal. I also hoped to build up some muscle that would hopefully help to support my joints and ligaments, allowing me to maintain or increase my physical abilities beyond the weight room. Also, in looking at the big picture, I have enough health challenges already. Making healthy lifestyle changes can only make my life better.
Good reasons indeed. I know she and I are aligned.
She also laid out some concerns.
Committing to a new program could be expensive, with gym memberships, and making a permanent lifestyle change is intimidating. I was also concerned about learning the exercises and performing them correctly and whether or not I would be physically capable of performing any of them.
I decided this was the appropriate time to send some encouragement.
“You’re one of the most resourceful people I know,” I told her, “so while I get the physical concerns around form, I’m not buying that as a huge hurdle. Slowly but surely, through research, pictures, feedback and trial and error, you’ll be golden. Soreness is to be expected and it’s temporary. We will stay in close contact and make good decisions based on the level of pain.”
I learned a lot from reading your thoughts on the use of things like weight belts. I pay a lot of attention to maintaining correct form to minimize my risk of injury. It is important that my muscles be able to support everything I’m doing, so I’m taking it slow and letting my body guide me.
Due to the inexperience and physical challenges, I suggested she start at 3 sets of 3 reps. It’s been three weeks as of this writing, and she has progressed to the full 5x 5 at body weight plus a broomstick. She’s had her good and less than ideal days related to her health, but she hasn’t missed a day and her commitment level is ridiculously good.
It has been easier than I thought to make this commitment. Because I’m doing it in my living room, on my own schedule, I can find the half an hour in my schedule and whenever my energy level is at its best. I’ve already begun to notice some progress; my posture has improved, my clothes are fitting a bit looser and it’s easier to lift things.
A few days ago, she sent me this email to make sure I was in the loop regarding our blog posts:
It’s just pain flare-ups that are preventing me from eating or sleeping, so I’m running a bit ragged right now. I’m going to get you the protein timing post back this morning; there is a chance I land myself in the hospital overnight, so I want to make sure that doesn’t impact posts going up.
Just hours later, she sent me this text:
5 x 5 on all three!
She was letting me know that she made it through her squats, presses and deadlifts, all for 5 sets and 5 reps. I was shocked.
The problems I was having were all related to my organs, not my muscles or joints, so I was determined not to use them as an excuse.
Stephanie shows genuine excitement when sharing her progress and I can say with confidence that she’s taken her first steps with grace and enthusiasm. I have zero doubt about her resilience and look forward to sharing the next update with you.