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Nearly 15 years ago I was diagnosed from a hospital bed with leukemia. For ten years I managed this disease by taking chemotherapy in pill form on a daily basis until my body could no longer take it, at which time I had to undergo a bone marrow transplant. For my situation and type of transplant, 50% of the patients survive the first year and of those, 50% survive five years. I'm closing in on three years.
When I was lying in that hospital bed I told myself that, insofar as it was in my control, I was going to get in the best shape of my life. Up until transplant, I did manage to get in amazing physical shape, train in mma, and do more activities than I ever thought I could do in my life.
In the time I battled with leukemia I learned a lot, rejected a lot, and changed a lot about my training. I always challenged prevailing trends and always questioned why I was doing something so that I could assure I was doing what was best for me. Ultimately, though, my body told me what I could and couldn't do. I got real good at listening.
Since then, in the years post transplant I've had deep vein thrombosis, embolisms, severe peripheral and autonomic nerve damage, fibromyalgia, infections, shortness of breath, and dozens of other issues. There were days when the only thing that didn't hurt was my pinky. So I exercised my pinky. Finally, after two and a half years things started to improve. I started to slowly recover and make some physical gains again, albeit with great difficulty.
But even in this electronic age of communication, with so much information, opinion, expertise, and media presentation I was hard pressed to find anyone who could actually explain why the methods preached should be practiced, let alone for a guy in my unique circumstance. So after I really began to "recover" from transplant I started to research and understand- really for the first time- underlying bone, muscle, tissue, and tendon structure. My goal was to rehabilitate a body that had been through the wringer, through times when I couldn't get out of bed, let alone lift a weight. That's when I came across your name.
Someone had written two lines in a forum mentioning you. I can't remember exactly what it said, but it was something like, "This guy explains why we do what we do. Required reading." That brief explanation was enough for me to go to Amazon and read the reviews; I ordered Starting Strength right away.
Even after years of training I found myself learning from your book immediately (by immediately I don't mean the next chapter, but the very next sentence). I had never trained in pure strength and never thought it was for me, but I was sold on the "foundation" idea immediately because I always believed that, I just never trained it from a Starting Strength perspective.
Now I am a 45 year old male who has been through some serious adversity. I am not going to compete in the Olympics or be on the World's Strongest Man competition. I just wanted to be better, stronger. Being stronger would make me more useful in general and harder to eat. Being stronger than I have been in my life didn't even enter my thought process.
But that's exactly what has happened.
I wasn't sure about your training days schedule, the few barbell exercises taught being enough, the Valsalva technique, or the practice of fives as being the right guideline for building strength, but I couldn't argue with any of your reasoning. So I simply followed what you said and here is what I have to report. Now, it's only been two months (using the squat, press, and deadlift), but the results, for me, have been amazing and significant on their own.
I AM getting stronger.
Mark, thank you for your work, diligence, and commitment to understanding physical strength and thank you for Starting Strength: Barbell Training (3rd edition). Anyone who is willing to think, challenge what they believe, and continue growing can benefit from is book.
What an awesome story. My sister was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2011. She fought long and hard for 3.5 years, eventually discovering her love for running. This is what helped her regain who she was before the cancer. She died this past February but she ran almost every day up until the last month of her life. Your story of discovering SS reminded me of her story discovering running. She worked with a team of coaches and runners who helped fuel her passion for running. She was strong. I was so hoping to get her stronger through SS but her cancer beat me to it. YOU, however, were not beaten and you are reaping the benefits of strength training. Awesome.
I trained a high school football player for a couple years. Close to a 500 pound squat. His freshmen year of college ball he was diagnosed with luekimia. He is in his last phase of treatment and we just started training him again. He's still on chemo but went from a 65 pound 3x5 squat to about 135 for 3x5 already. I'm pretty certain he will blow the doctors at Hopkins away with his recovery.
What would you say are the most effective ways to prevent hernias?
Umm…. Squat more?
In general, people get hernias because they have fat abdomens and weak abdominal walls (or prior surgery which makes defects in the abdominal wall - after which they become fat and weak). So, likely the answer is to get strong and don't carry large amounts of abdominal fat. But I will admit that I am approaching this question as a physician, and as a physician, I see a large amount of fat people with weak abdominal walls. Perhaps the people on this forum with experience could relate how common hernias are in people who are strong and lifting heavy weights. I would suspect that the incidence is low, as long as they have proper form and are not lifting beyond their ability (which is likely how most hernias develop), but again, we generally don't see such people in the office...so...
And also, a fair number of hernias are a result of genetics...and most people who don't treat kids would probably be surprised at how common it is for kids to need hernia repairs (although often such hernias will resolve on their own as the kids get older.)
My sense is that hernias occur in lifters, like me, at about the same incidence as in the general population. Inguinal hernias are almost always due to genetic predisposition. Training may postpone the acute incident that makes a repair necessary, but if you have a hernia, you got it from your parents. Blame those assholes, not the barbell.
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