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My Powerlifting Background
by Gary F. Zeolla
This article is continued from My Powerlifting Background: Part One.
Stiff Person Syndrome
I started lifting weights again in the fall of 2001 after a layoff of about a month. However, the feeling of pulling muscles continued, and not just in the gym but while doing everyday things at home.
The fatigue was also worsening to the point where the slightest activity, such as just typing, would leave me exhausted. So once again I had to spend much of the day lying down, but now due to fatigue rather than back pain.
As a result of these problems, by Thanksgiving of 2001 I once again had to give up lifting weights. In fact, once again, I would experience pain if I tried to lift anything over two pounds, but now not in my lower back but anywhere in my body.
Meanwhile, for quite some time I was noticing I was getting less and less flexible. I first noticed this while doing stretching exercises. But now it was getting to the point where I could barely move. Walking was reduced to taking little “baby steps” at best, and I could barely lift my arms enough to comb or wash my hair. As a result of this stiffness, on December 12, 2001 I was diagnosed with stiff person syndrome (a very rare auto-immune disorder).
Then in January 2002 I began to have episodes where I would be completely paralyzed for several hours at a time. And when I say completely, I mean it. There were times when the only thing I could move were my eyelids. At best, I could move my hand just enough to work the TV remote. But sometimes I couldn’t even do that much.
Meanwhile, my allergies seemed to be worsening to the point where I was reacting to just about everything, and not just in the environment, but also to foods. As a result, it got to the point where I could barely eat. And between not eating and no longer working out I began losing weight. By April 2002 I was down to 106 pounds. This was the lightest I had been since tenth grade when I wrestled in the 105-pound weight class.
NAET Allergy Treatments
The flare-ups of being completely paralyzed always seemed to occur when I was exposed to something I was allergic to. So it was likely that allergies were the cause of my stiffness and possibly even of my pain and fatigue. After much investigation, I decided that my best option to deal with these allergies was an alternative form of allergy treatment known as NAET (Nambudripad’s Allergy Elimination Techniques), developed by Dr. Devi Nambudripad. I won’t go into details here as I discuss NAET in detail in the articles listed at NAET Allergy Treatments and Applied Kinesiology
So starting January 14, 2002 I began going to Dr. Julie Caryl in Pittsburgh, PA for NAET treatments three times a week. And over time, they were very clearly helping my food allergies. I could now eat foods that previously would cause me to become very congested from just smelling them. But environmental items didn’t seem to be responding as well.
Meanwhile, I began to experience severe side effects from the treatments. This was strange as most people who undergo NAET treatments experience little or no side effects. But in my case, But in my case, I often experienced an exacerbation of my fatigue, pain, and stiffness during the 24 hours after a treatment, and on several occasions even spent the day paralyzed.
But despite these problems, over time the NAET treatments seemed to be working, and my symptoms began to gradually improve. Mornings were still a problem when I could barely move. But after a hot bath and a couple of hours, I was usually then able to move almost normally.
All along I had been trying to go for a walk each day. But given how stiff I was, I was only able to go for very short and slow walks. But when I started feeling somewhat better, I began to very gradually increase the speed and distance of my walks. I also started doing stretching exercises again. And over time, I was becoming somewhat more flexible.
I finished with the NAET treatments in the middle of June. However, not all of my allergies had cleared. My doctor said that sometimes it can take months after the treatments are completed for some allergies to fully clear. So I would basically just have to give the treatments time to work through my system.
Lifting Once Again; Then Another Setback
By July 2002 I had improved enough that I decided to try lifting weights again. This time it was after a layoff of over seven-months. I started with very light weights and then gradually increased the weights each workout.
Over the summer, I still struggled with the fatigue, pain, and morning stiffness, and even spent a couple of days paralyzed. But I managed to work out nevertheless. And by the end of August my lifting was going rather well and my symptoms were gradually improving. So I honestly thought my remaining symptoms would just continue to gradually improve, and I would shortly be fully recovered. However, I then had a major setback.
Starting as soon as I got home after my workout on August 28, and for almost the next two weeks, I was virtually or even completely paralyzed. And when I could move, the fatigue was unbearable. Just trying to read or type for a few minutes would bring on indescribable fatigue. I was also experiencing waves of pain throughout my body. When I was finally able to get to my doctor, she determined that the flare-up was caused by exposure to some allergies that were still clearing. But as soon as I was able I started back at the gym.
In October of 2002, I underwent two additional NAET treatments. And after these treatments most of my allergies seemed to clear almost all at once. I can now eat anything I want without problems. However, some environmental items still bother me, but nowhere near as much as previously.
Also at this time, my doctor determined that I had developed numerous nutritional deficiencies. These developed during the time when I was barely able to eat due to being allergic to just about everything. So she recommended I take various supplements to correct these deficiencies, which I purchased from WebVitamins.
Then over the winter of 2002-2003, with taking the supplements and with my allergies basically all now cleared, all of my symptoms gradually improved. They were still a problem, but not as much as previously. However, I did have several flare-ups of my various symptoms, including a few more days of being paralyzed. But such episodes began occurring weeks apart rather every few days like they had a year before.
Through it all, I continued to work out. And simply put, my lifting began going even better than I could ever have hoped, and my bodyweight once again increased to 117 pounds. I even began thinking about competing again.
At the beginning of March, I began looking for a contest to enter. I decided on the IPA Iron House Classic, April 12, 2003, in Newark, Ohio, hosted by the Iron House Gym and sanctioned by the International Powerlifting Association. I was still not fully recovered, but I was anxious to enter a meet. Moreover, the IPA world records for 114s in the amateur, open and master's (40-44) divisions were rather low as compared to some other organizations, so I figured I would have a good chance of breaking several of them.
The best word to describe my performance at the Iron House Classic would be PERFECTION! I won two first place trophies for the open and masters divisions at 114s (picture at right) and broke all six of the IPA world records that I had hoped to break (all four masters records and the open deadlift and total records). I also went 9 for 9 with 27 white lights. A perfect day in my first contest in 21 years!
My lifts were:
Meanwhile, the only one of my symptoms that I really noticed at the contest was I felt rather fatigued when I was warming up for deadlifts. But adrenaline and caffeine pulled me through. I was exhausted afterwards, but I made it! And with how well the contest went, it was all worth it. Full details on my performance at the contest are posted at Iron House Powerlifting Classic - 2003.
Now today (May 14, 2003), I’m still having some problems. But with all I’ve been through it is rather miraculous that I’m able to lift weights again at all, let alone as well as I have been. So I thank God for how well I am doing health-wise and in my training. Most of all I am thankful and excited that after a 21 year absence I am now able to once again compete in the world’s greatest sport--POWERLIFTING!
For an overview of my first 13 months of training, see From Scratch to World Records.
For the continuation of this story, see My Powerlifting Background - Part Three.
My Powerlifting Background. Copyright © 2002-2003 by Gary F. Zeolla.
The above article was posted on this site in October 2001.
It was last updated May 14, 2003.
Powerlifting Training: My Powerlifting Background
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