I recently blogged about finding the right fit(ness), learning from and dealing with injuries, and wanted to conclude this series with a current topic that is garnering a lot of press and online exposure, as well as marketing hype.
Much has been discussed over the past couple of years about testosterone, or rather, its potential deficiency. With an increase in advertisements for erectile dysfunction drugs, the rapid growth of anti-aging clinics and treatment centers with little to no real evidence of one person’s actual “low-T” levels (compared to what? Another guy or to one’s levels 20-30 years ago?), I too fell for the marketing hype and fear of “do I have low T?” After all, I did exhibit some of the symptoms.
It started with a friend of mine a few years back who felt his testosterone levels were low. Strong, youthful-looking guy approaching fifty (but you’d never know). Then another close friend and mentor, discussing similar symptoms. And yet another just a few weeks ago. I hit the big “40” just a couple of months ago, and I noticed that:
– I was getting unusually tired.
-My strength levels were stagnating, and my muscles were not responding to stimulus. Plans I would design for clients would yield nearly 100% results for every single one of them, yet zilch for me. I even sought the help of other trainers to design me something and that would bring marginal results.
-I would get irritable, depressed.
I probably could access hormone therapy and get my hands on testosterone injections, or HGH, but I couldn’t bring myself to the hypocrisy associated with steroids and my philosophy of training and jeopardize my integrity. Nor could I justify the cost when I need to be able to provide for my family for something that would pure vanity (when I’ve been preaching the opposite for years). Those campaigns do seem attractive yet confidence-shattering. While women feel under pressure because of the Hollywood skinnies, men will see a guy like Hugh Jackman looking better and more cut sat 45 than he did at 31 (and his alleged 16-week cycle of “juice”) and experience a similar sense of dysmorphia. So, I always knew I’d never pull the trigger and start this never-ending cycle of expensive hormone treatments, and simply decided to go back to Earth and take a good look at my life.
And I got hit by a nice wave of common sense! I’d been working on a start-up for over 3 years, with the most challenging scenarios of juggling a marriage, one kid, then another, dwindling savings, increased sweat equity, manufacturing, legal and financial obstacles, a training business, 20-hour days, no vacation, pushing past limits of normalcy not allowing a body to recover. That’s not Low T, that’s being overworked! Constant fight or flight mode will keep you on edge. Fatigue will make you irritable. Lack of recovery will impair muscular growth and performance. What would a higher T count really do for me? Raise my libido (and that one’s fine, btw, thank you for asking).
So, if my immune system is fine (I rarely get sick, knock on wood), my libido is fine, what’s wrong with my testosterone then, and more importantly, my free testosterone levels? I had to know and got tested. Turns out: nothing’s wrong. Numbers are in range. Not high, not low. Better than last year. Better than last year, but my life’s crazier and my body’s feeling like it’s breaking down more and…?
Duh!!! Occam’s razor!
Yeah. So, I decided to make some adjustments. It was my lifestyle. The stress. The stuff I preach. I’d been doing it so much for others, I couldn’t see my own issues. Or rather, I could see them, but I was too busy to take care of them. Just like when I have a nagging pain, I’ll push a little too far, till my body says “stop”. My body’s been screaming, but my brain wasn’t listening.
I scaled down on my start-up and decided to embrace the skills of others to progress it. I’d neglected my personal training practice’s development, so I refocused on its marketing. I stopped listening to all the hype and decided to train the way I always knew was right for me (I found my right fit). In a matter of just days, my body started to respond (muscular growth and overcoming skill plateaus while not giving a F$#@ about who’s stronger or better than me). I played with my older son better, and paid more attention to my infant son more, not just being functional, but a happy participant. I even learned a thing or two form them about being in the moment, things I’d forgotten. My doctor suggested I meditate more (which I did by going surfing twice in 2 days, something I hadn’t done in over 6 months, which was my personal thing -remind me to tell you how to find out who you are to your core, it’s a simple test that is very revealing). I let go of a lot of the things that bothered me.
So, before you fall prey to the marketers of what it truly means to have low testosterone, if you’re over 40, take a look at your life. How many hours do you work, stress over it, run errands, chores, worry, overtrain etc. Aren’t those symptoms of the rat race instead? If you removed the negatives, would your body respond better? If your immune system ain’t destroying you and you’re still going strong, your sex drive is still good (interest alone, even with lack of activity, is a good sign you’re OK, you just have no game or no time). And if you happen to feel like you need to get some help, please find qualified people, not money-hungry yes-men doctors to give you what you want, rather what you need. That can be simply a new perspective. Don’t go by one number, one test. Do a few tests so you can get the whole picture. Then decide. Approach it like an investigation, not like you’re trying to prove your own point. Be smart, please. Otherwise, this is exactly the same behavior some overweight people exhibit when looking at a fat loss pill instead of choosing a healthy lifestyle.