A year later

18.17 Over the course of the next twelve months I had several false training starts where my shoulder, lower back, sciatica in my left leg, and knees forced me to stop training. I was little or no better than I was in the autumn of 1992. I still could not train, jog, walk anything more than what was needed to do basic errands and general activities, sleep on my right side without discomfort, or play active games with my children.

18.18 In July 1993 I sought the opinion of an orthopedic surgeon. I had recently done about three minutes of laughably gentle work on a stepper, and had a terrible reaction. ^e doctor diagnosed severe chondromalacia patellae. He advised me never to squat or deadlift with anything other than very light weights—even after the arthroscopy which he deemed a must to get my knees somewhere back to normal. I was so desperate at the time that initially I decided to have the surgery. But I quickly changed my mind after consulting the chiropractor I use—Dr. Papadopoulos. He informed me of the probable negative effects of the arthroscopic surgery that the surgeon neglected to tell me about.

18.19 In late July 1993, after a couple of weeks to recover from the mini bout on the stepper following a long layoff from leg work, I started performing some freehand squats to give some activity to my knees and thighs, but using a different stance to what I had used before. In August I started to squat with a bare bar over my shoulders. With a stance about 6 inches wider than normal, toes flared to about 40 degrees (as against the usual 20 degrees or so), and no inward travel of my knees, I found a more comfortable groove for my knees. I added 5 pounds every week to the bar. My knees felt much better, and I could soon sit up and down without getting much knee reaction. ^is was great progress. But then I would have very low weeks when the soreness would reappear and I seemed back at square one.

18.20 During two weekend breaks in the summer of 1993 I could not dive into a swimming pool, and could not jump in no matter how carefully. I went into a pool once during both weekends, and the reaction from my knees made me regret that single entry.

18.21 Here I was, someone who had never smoked, never had a single beer, had not eaten meat for about fifteen years, had been very careful with his diet for twenty years, had been taking vitamins for supposed health benefits for many years, had exercised consistently all his life (except since July 1992), and still looked quite athletic and fit (but did not feel it). But I would not have been able to out-run my little daughters, or out-play a five-year-old at soccer, without incurring considerable discomfort for a week or two.

18.22 In the fall of 1993, well over a year since ending my last serious training cycle, my toe, shoulder and lower-back injuries were still incapacitating me. ^ere was a bit of progress in my knees, and the discomfort in my left leg due to the lower-back problem has eased a little, but that was it.

18.23 I was now so desperate that I started to think my training days were now behind me, and retirement at age 34 was in order. I had long known that I was not genetically gifted to do great things with weight training, and I was never interested in using steroids to shore up genetic short comings. Perhaps now I should have given up the thought that I could ever get into even "keeping in shape" training, let alone hard training.

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