Training During Chemotherapy

Training During Chemotherapy

From the moment he found out he had a rare form of Cancer, he didn't give up. Alan is stronger than he has ever been and he did it all whilst going through the gruelling torture of Chemotherapy, so what's your excuse?

Life's a game of inches.

I've been given a rare opportunity to write something that i am hoping will resonate with people on a personal level in the hope that you can persevere through challenging times and know that you can still be who you've always wanted to be.

August 16th 2013 i had a particularly bad day, sitting there, on my own, tears in my eyes knowing i had to tell my new wife of just three months that i had just been diagnosed with cancer.

My initial reaction was, well I've been bald since i was 18 so that's one less thing to worry about I suppose!

As i waited for my wife to arrive, who was expecting to hear that i had pneumonia, i tried to fathom how the hell this had happened.

I was in the best shape of my life and had just got myself "shredded" for my wedding and honeymoon, i had never been stronger, fitter or more confident about myself, but yet this had happened to me?!

As you can imagine the two hours that came after were soul destroying, telling my wife such news is something I will never forget. Its something that does and always will haunt me, but it became my fuel.

Wake Up Call

I lay there at 3am YouTubing (as you do) and i stumbled across a speech i knew well from Al Pacino out of the film 'Any Given Sunday' about how "life is a game of inches", and you "have to fight for those inches!" Because that's the difference between living and dying.

BANG... That was it, my wake up call.

I was over this. I was over it and nothing was going to stop me beating this, nothing.


Fast forward two weeks, i had received my biopsy report back with instructions to IMMEDIATELY report for my chemotherapy, something wasn't right.

However my response was on the phone was "Okay. I'll set off shortly, I'm just in the gym!"

This moment also had great significance to me as i had just set a very ropey squat PB, which wasn't bad considering i was at that time the type of chap that would have the tendency to skip a leg day or five, and don't even get me started on why I didn't do deadlifts!

I arrived at the Christie Hospital, family in tow to be told my cancer wasn't what I’d beenTraining During Chemotherapy expecting. It turned out to be something much more aggressive, rare, and unfortunately had a three year treatment process - a tiny jump from the 4 month regime i had been expecting!

Lymphoblastic Lymphoma is what i was diagnosed with, one step shy of Lymphoblastic Leukaemia, fortunately my bone marrow was unaffected, which stopped me having full blown Leukaemia. However, unfortunately for me, my treatment regime was exactly the same - joy!

I'm not sure what kind of first impression i gave the Dr's, but to be given a bollocking by me when they tried telling me what I could and couldn't do was something that didn't sit well with them, i mean come on i was going to lose all my hard earned "gainz"! Even after that all the Dr's kept repeating to me was "you shouldn't do anything".

They meant it, as they hit me with a bombshell that I'd have to spend the next four weeks at the Christie in an isolation room.

So, i summoned the Dietitian, Physio and anyone else i could to discuss what it was i was going to do to get through this. I took resistance bands with me, about two tubs of my BBW Performance Whey Protein and i spied the Kosher Menu at the hospital that offered better quality food with real meat and that's it - I was on on it!

I was all set for my four week stay and the start of my chemotherapy treatment.


I had a little white board in my room which would have the same work out on every single day, this was my score card. This was what i had as information for the Dr's when they did their rounds, when they asked how i felt, my little work out was the indicator. if i couldn't complete it, or cope with it, i had something to tell the Dr's all about.

They thought i was insane, regularly dropping and asking what i had achieved that day!

However, it must of worked, as with a shock few words from my consultant in week three saying "we just didn't anticipate you or your body" i was let home a week early, something that i'm told was quite unprecedented.

As Christmas time rolls around i was given some good news, I'm in complete Remission! However the bad news was the treatment carries on the same all the way til May 2015, a conveyor belt of drips, intracheals, blood transfusions and more horrific Chemotherapy.

Treatment protocol after protocol the chemo built up inside me, and basically ripped me a new one. I made out that i was fine, as you do! I had to though, too many people worry about me, so you tell them your okay so they don't worry.

I was told i would pick up so many infections due to having no immune system and it was going to a tough ride, yet, somehow, nothing, i only had to endure the Chemotherapy!

May 17th 2014 i endured my final chemotherapy treatment of this regime, i was an absolute mess, fat and barely able to walk up stairs. I couldn't stand the way i looked in the mirror and i had that chemotherapy rounded yellow face, it had been a horrendous 10 months, so what did i do to get over it?

Two days later i returned to full time work.

My treatment wasn't over however, 15 consecutive days of Radiotherapy to come and then two more years of Chemotherapy, Oral Chemotherapy treatment every single day, and every 3 months Vincristine via a drip and a pleasurable Intracheal (injection into the spine) but none the less i was cracking on with work, my personal training and the re building of myself!

I knew my training philosophy had to change, Bodybuilding as i enjoyed was impossible, too much volume and not enough oxygen in my body to cope due to Chemo being cardio toxic. With that i knew i had no strength, which immediately needed addressing, so my route was Powerlifting, the big lifts, squats, bench and Deadlift and throw in some over head presses - all of which i hated, and was generally pretty crap at.

June 16th 2014 I started with the bar for everything, this to me was embarrassing, but also a metaphor, i was literally starting again. The muscle soreness i encountered was just ridiculous! I had to address my recovery and optimise everything i did. I started using Bodybuilding Warehouse PeptoPro and Performance Charge. These genuinely were Training During Chemotherapymassive for me in enabling me to move forward and actually finish a session, recover and then attempt a second session. It was a huge battle for me mentally as I'm thinking i haven't got the energy to move let alone train some days, but i wasn't going to make any progress if i didn't do something about it and those supplements gave me the extra percentages i really needed.

Now fast forward again to Jan 1st 2015 i finally hit some numbers i was familiar with after some grueling months. I hit my old squat PB of 140kg, (i did say previously my old PB was a ropey one at best as i had a tendency to miss a leg session or three) but this was it, i knew i was back to something like my old self! I didn't want to be something amazing at this time, i just wanted to be me, my old self, the man my wife married!


As the weeks passed and as PB after PB fell i set myself a challenge of doing something physical on the anniversary date of me finishing my ukall 14 chemotherapy regime. At this time i had no idea what it was to be, all i know was it wanted to something that tested me as an individual, and low and behold an opportunity arose to enter a first timer Push Pull Powerlifting event, at Body Power no less.

I got in touch with the BPU Powerlifting federation and an amazing lady called Emma James (the president of the federation) gave me a huge welcome and before i knew it i was registered for the competition, me, someone who isn't particularly strong at body power competing, f***.

However, what an unbelievable day it turned out to be, life changing in fact!

I was the only newbie lifter there that day, surrounded by some of the UK bests and some absolute units.

After a tentative warm up, i was welcomed in by a few lifters, in particular a man called Mike Towers, who genuinely took me by the hand, as i knew piss all and guided me through the warm up, bar set for the bench press height and other bits, what an absolute legend.

The day started great, hitting my openers with ease and then getting a PB on my feeble bench press by 5kg, a 4th round lift, an unofficial lift (as you only get three attempts and then 4th for fun)

Then the deadlift came round..

I stood looking at the bar for my final lift, a PB attempt of 10kg (again a 4th attempt after just hitting a PB on the 3rd.)

Everything i felt before i under took that lift was hitting my at once, the announcer Kalle Ylitalo (an amazing Powerlifter himself) getting the crowd going for my lift, i nearly cried before i even attempted the lift... How far id come from finishing my main treatment, my wife watching, and thinking, what the hell am i doing here with all these amazing lifters?!

250kg flew up, inch by inch as that lift went up i realised what this meant to me, every kilo that i add to the bar, or i lift, push or pull is a huge step forward from a day that i couldn’t raise my head from a pillow, and i needed an ambulance to take me to hospital as i was too weak to get myself there.

That lift was pretty much the biggest lift of my life in so many different ways, and even writing this i can assure you i have tears in my eyes thinking about.

I placed the bar down, i barely had the energy to celebrate.

I turned to my wife who was crying, and that was me, straight over to tears also.

An unbelievable moment, and a life changing day to which everyone involved in that competition i have an immense amount of gratitude towards.

The Future

Today, I have planned more competition for the future hoping for a 670kg total by next Feb/March at 90kg or 82.5kg body weight.Training During Chemotherapy

I am entering the BPU British Grand Prix in Kent for the deadlift where i am hoping to pull 272.5kg (600lb) with ;a goal to next year make it to the European champions held back at Body Power, my two year anniversary of ending my main chemotherapy treatment, i will f*cking be there!

Since January the 1st i have added 70kg to my squat, 100kg to my Deadlift, and also 50kg to my bench.

I have never been this strong at any stage in my life, not even close, still on chemo treatment, still not 100% still fighting for that inch, the six inches in front of my face... Still getting stronger, always improving myself and my PT business, and each day believing i can still be something amazing and helping people become amazing.

I will never be the strongest man in the world, but can i be the strongest man on chemotherapy? Ha, who knows, its certainly going to be fun finding out!

If i can do this, anyone can do this, its a case of one foot in front of the other, i am NOTHING SPECIAL, I'm really not.

I hope in some small way this can resonate with you and maybe just maybe help in you if you need it, if and when you do need it.

Alan Wilson.

Posted 24 May 2023