|Locking out a 725 deadlift.|
I was competing as a Master Heavyweight at Oil Regions Strongest Man in 2010. I decided to try to pull 725 for my third attempt on max DL, despite not needing a third attempt to win the event. I’m dumb that way, it’s one of my strengths.
I have a disease called Diffuse Idiopathic Skeletal Hyperostosis. This disease, in my case, is extremely advanced. On the one hand, it’s simple: all my connective tissue is turning to bone. It’s hit my ankles, hips, and spine hard. Some days, I really notice how hard it is to get moving. Other days, things seem to tear apart in my body for no reason.
|Giving a talk at a Practical Strength seminar.|
When I talk in a group setting about training with this disease, I like to relate a couple quick stories. The first story goes back to 1992, when I learned how to deadlift for the first time. I started with 95lbs; within 8 weeks, I pulled 500 from the floor. I didn’t think too much about it, and over the years, drifted away from training, spending more time with work and other things. I never did pull much over 500 as a young man.
Back to the disease: based on the buildup of bone we see on the anterior spinal ligaments in the thoracic region, spreading down into the lumbar region, various doctors guessed in 2011, that I probably had about 7 good years left. Good, of course, being relative: my ankles really don’t work, which means that my hips have to work harder with each step I take. Which may, or may not, encourage the disease to target my hips.
So, we got x-rays. I remember on May 6, 2006 (some dates never leave you), I had my second visit with the chiropractor. As soon as I got into the exam room, I could tell something was wrong; he was visibly upset. We went over the diagnosis of DISH, easily seen in the x-rays: my anterior spinal ligaments are huge, coated with excess bone, looking like somebody poured layers and layers of candle wax on my spine. As he put it, not good news.
She looked at me, and looked back at my x-ray, and said “My son is a bodybuilder. He lifts weights all the time. He can’t deadlift 520lbs. Your spine…your spine is so twisted, so damaged. How can you pick up so much weight?”
There’s a couple things important to me: strongman is right up there, but my Alaskan Malamutes and Siberian Huskies are at the top of the list, and I love nothing more than hiking with them in the dead of winter.
I know that was the date, because I’m looking at the payment screen for the loan I took out for $8,000.00 to pay for the treatment. That’s another thing I’ve learned to juggle: while I have excellent medical insurance, and I’m thankful I have it (along with the $750 monthly premiums), it doesn’t cover all services, and it didn’t cover decompression therapy.
That’s why I competed recently with no specific training; I’ve been unable to really crank up the intensity. As it was, on the final event of the day, stones, I tore my left hamstring – probably because of the pinched nerve. But I’ll never know for sure.
Now, I have something more to rehab.
Here’s my secret: every time I train, every time I compete, I feel better. There’s a psychological element at play, to be sure. We’re supposed to love our bodies; that’s something that I think is impossible for me to do. I hate everything about my body, I hate that I have problems moving, I hate the pain, I hate the disfigurement of my hunchback, I hate knowing that I probably won’t live to 60.
*You can read Bob’s experiences and approach to training on his blog, The Thinking Strongman.