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Sometimes when you try to do something you hit a brick wall. After four months of trying to get into shape, Owen Salisbury has done just that. Yet he’s not prepared to give up


Life is a funny old thing — a politer way of saying that whirlwinds of crazy and awful can descend without warning. Put simply, getting the shit kicked out of me opened my eyes to a very real health risk I may face, and one that men around the world are facing in ever-greater numbers.


After four months of working out, not as regularly as I should, without moderating my diet as I should, yes, and with an unplanned two-week hiatus, I have not seen all the types of results I should. We’re all different, and we all develop at different rates.


And yet this is worrying. Luckily, trainer Dan knew all about it; he’d been through something similar.


When Things Don’t Go Right, Learn Why



Let’s take stock again. After these four irregular months of lifting weights three days a week, I am putting up double, even triple the weight I did when I began. My endurance is up — I keep up with Dan’s workouts. My sleep is better; my chronic shoulder injury doesn’t hurt.


All good so far, right? This is about where you should be, if a bit on the lower side of expected gains.


What hasn’t happened are the things I most wanted when I began. My health is still crap. I am sick as I write this; I have spent six of the last seven months battling one infection after another. I still feel awful; my energy levels are still low, even my ability to concentrate has taken a hit.


Hell, even the fat-loss and muscle building have slowed. After four months, people cannot tell I go to the gym regularly by sight. This is, in a word, humiliating.


Or, to use the word Dan tells me: “Testosterone.”


The Decline and Fall of Testosterone



Specifically, low levels of it — something that affects millions of men in the US alone, and is getting worse. Since the 1980s, according to a study by Dr. Thomas Travison of the New England Research Institutes in the US, the average level of testosterone dropped in US men by about 1% per year. In other words, an American man in the 1980s had roughly 30% more testosterone on average than an American man today. No conclusive cause has been found, and studies in other countries show similar results.
“Testosterone is essentially the essence of manhood,” Daniele says when he brings it up.


Mr. T


We all know about testosterone in a vague way. After age 30, it declines by about one percent a year. For some men, levels can drop precipitously. Injuries to the testicles can do it, as can head injuries, diseases like HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis (neither of which I have, thank you.)


It can also decline for no reason. The effects can be harsh.


“Without it a man cannot exercise his masculinity and will fall prey to extended bouts of depression, lethargy, emotional instability, irritability, decreased sexual desire and performance, attention deficits as well as a complete loss of joie de vivre,” says Daniele.
It’s frightening how well the list of symptoms fit. Not completely, but enough. If your life doesn’t change when you hit the gym and work on your diet, keep looking.


One More Possibility


Any number of other conditions could cause them, but it’s one more possibility to tick off as I try to get my quality of life back. That’s my goal. Do things thoroughly where your health is concerned.


So, I’m looking into HRT at the ripe old age of 37.


Will it work? Do I need it? Who knows. I thought the gym alone would work, yet here I am, after four months, still looking for answers. The lesson, of course; don’t give up.


I’ve got two months left in this experiment. There’s time to turn this franchise around, especially if the testosterone tip pays off.

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Owen Salisbury

Owen Salisbury is a fairly typical example of Homo Expatrius. Originally from California, he moved to Vietnam in 2011. He loves to write, take photos, travel, eat well, and learn.