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Struggling to get in shape, Owen Salisbury tries another tack and gets himself down to the doctor. As he discovers, nothing is ever straightforward


The nurse gestures at my pants. Her English is limited but her meaning clear. I hesitate and she makes another pulling motion.


One bed over, a young man strokes a woman’s hand. She moans softly. There are no screens.


My mind floating in 10 different directions, I bare my ass. She rolls me onto my side, swipes my flank with iodine and jabs the needle in. The pain is fleeting. The confusion isn’t.


Facing the Unexpected


This month’s column won’t have much to do with the gym.


I never expected my life to tilt so sharply, but who does? As much as I had expectations, I thought this would be a straightforward column; the diary of a guy in his mid-to-late 30s trying to get some basic fitness back. I thought my health would improve, and it has. I thought I’d gain muscle, which I have. I thought I’d lose weight… still trying.


But as I mentioned last month, things never quite gelled. And life is never straightforward.


At the advice of my trainer, Dan, I went and got my testosterone levels tested. He’d been through it, and my general malaise looked all too familiar to him.


Though still too early to be certain, it looks like this change will be for the good. It has also revealed new battles, new challenges that won’t make their way into these pages.


This is new for me, and I’ve struggled a lot. Should I be totally honest and open about all this? Forget the column; this is my life and the internet is forever.


Answers Lead to Questions


A blood test I took last week shows that I have low testosterone, approximately half of the lowest amount considered acceptable for a man my age. If I want to feel normal I will be on hormone replacement therapy (HRT) for the foreseeable future. A needle in the ass, twice a week, forever.


The other unexpected result is that I probably have some form of anaemia. Is it benign? How long has it been going on? What’s caused it? How do I get better?


The implications are only beginning to sink in.


How much will my health revolve around these two shots? How much will my life?


Will I be able to travel all the places I want to travel? Will I be able to take needles and steroids to, say, Europe? Japan? China?


Getting serious about my health was the impetus behind this whole experience, behind spending thousands of dollars on a personal trainer. If this therapy works, then believe me, the money is well spent — and I have to commend trainer Daniele Morretti for his sharp judgment. Having lived through it himself, he spotted it fairly quickly, but it took a while for him to be certain enough to offer specific advice.


When Your Number Comes Up


But as I wrote last month, if you’re a man and you begin to experience lethargy, lack of motivation, lack of libido, weight gain, muscle loss, depression, anxiety, you should get your hormone levels checked.


If you’ve ever had a head injury (as I have) or testicle injuries (thanks, mixed martial arts and random crazy girls!) then you’re far more at risk for low testosterone levels. All told, as many as one-third of us deal with this, wittingly or not. One in three. My number just came up.


Women, too, need to specifically check their hormone levels. I urge you all to take stock. If you think something isn’t working, if you just don’t feel right, talk to the experts. Get a second opinion. Get tests.


Knowing is always better, because then you can do something.


A Technical Success


Next month, I should be able to tell you if the treatment is working. So far I feel nothing, but I’ve had only my first injection. Next month, I should have answers to some of these questions, and I should know where matters are headed.


It will be a fitting way to close this column; I set out to change my life, after all.

More in this category: « The Gym Diaries: Part 5
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.

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