Monthly Archives: August 2013

Out and about

It was another cracking morning in the North East of Scotland this morning.  I marked it with my latest venture out on the bike.  It’s the second weekend I’ve been out early, not quite the crack of dawn, but certainly a good start to the day.  It’s definitely a routine to get into!

Beautiful Morning

A cracking morning to be out on the bike!

As a result of my recent “Sore Leg” post, I have received some guidance that the reason my legs have been hurting is because the cleats on my shoes were slightly at the wrong angle.  Having made some subtle adjustments to my shoes, it felt much more comfortable.  Hopefully problem solved… it’s good to share your woes!

This morning’s ride was the longest continuous effort I’ve put in since my Heart Attack.  We went at a steady rate and kept going.  We covered about 16.5 miles in just over an hour (including spending some time trying to correct a mechanical “knocking” sound that turned out to be the lid of my water bottle rattling against the frame!!).  It didn’t feel fast, but it felt quite tough.

Morning Ride

The first of many loops around Westhill – slightly more undulating than the Turbo Trainer!

I do have to remind myself that I’m recovering from a Heart Attack, and back this up with frequent checks of the Heart Monitor.  I am however also making up for about 20 years of physical neglect, so my of my body is at the limit, not just my heart!

It really is great to be out and about though.  It gives me confidence that I’m making good progress.  I’m just about to enter my last week of Cardiac Rehabilitation, so it’s a good time to start to (slowly) push the boundaries!

My poor old legs

I feel a little sorry for my legs.

After years of neglect, I have asked quite a lot of them recently.


My legs have been abused, but not this badly!!!

My legs had little, if anything, to do with my Heart Attack but they’ve been required to play quite a significant role in my road to recovery.  Walking, cycling, cross-trainer… I would have struggled to get this far through my recovery without them!

They have had little in the way of assistance.  Other than the occasional stretch, they’ve been left to their own devices.  Conversely, my Heart has had the assistance of lots and lots of drugs to help it recover, to make it more efficient, to help it out.  My legs have had none.

Over the past couple of weeks my legs have started to fight back.  Little niggles have made getting moving in the morning a slow process.  Aches and pains have come and gone.  Nothing bad enough to stop me from exercising, but sore enough to be a constant reminder.

I’m going to need to cajole my legs into coming along for the ride (quite literally!).  They continue to have an important part to play in my on-going recovery.  Hopefully the niggles will recede in time.  I certainly won’t be taking them for granted again!

Over 40 Health Check

There have been a number of stories in the UK Press recently about the value (or lack thereof) in “Over 40 Health Checks” (example  Given my recent experiences, I feel that I should have an opinion on this.


Cheeky! It tends to be too cold in Aberdeen for this sort of nonsense!

The argument for the tests is that the programme could prevent 1,600 heart attacks and strokes, avoid at least 650 premature deaths, prevent over 4,000 new cases of diabetes and detect 20,000 cases of diabetes or kidney disease earlier.

The argument against is based on the fact that most people who need the test the most are the least likely to volunteer.  As a result, people that are perhaps lower risk go through the stress of the tests and may get offered medication they don’t necessarily need.  The money could perhaps be spent targeting higher risk groups for more direct interventions.

I’ve had a few days to think about this, and I’ve struggled to reach a conclusion.

From a personal perspective, I have never had a test, and wasn’t planning on getting one in the near future.  If I had undergone the test a few days before my Heart Attack, what would it have told me?

untitled (28)I suspect my Cholesterol would have been high, and I would have been told I would benefit from losing some weight.  Maybe it could have told me more, but we would have been dealing with degrees of risk (as far as the Heart Attack was concerned anyway) rather than absolute certainties.  The tests may have been more conclusive.

Who knows?!  I didn’t give it a try.

Having survived my Heart Attack it’s easy to forget the fact that 1 in 3 people in the same situation don’t even make it to hospital.  Avoiding Heart Attacks is a very good thing!

I’m not sure what would have prompted me to take the test in the first place.  I guess that’s the bigger issue.  Perhaps I’m missing the fact that I was one of the difficult to reach, high risk individuals!

Given the tests are available, if you’re over 40, I would suggest you take a deep breath and get yourself checked out.  You don’t have an excuse for not doing it… I’ve told you to!  We can leave it to the policy makers to worry about whether it’s good value for money or not.

Health Check

The summer’s over

The summer’s over.  The girls have gone back to school, marking the end of a rather different summer holiday.

Thanks to my little incident, Disney World was exchanged for Codona’s Aberdeen and Daytona Beach for Cullen.  Thanks goodness the weather was good!  I think fun was had by all.

Who needs Disney World?!

Right on cue the days are getting noticeably shorter and there has definitely been a turn in the weather.  The last three mornings have been greeted with a heavy, persistent fog.  Rather than the refreshing blanket of moisture that started the balmy days of summer, there is no obvious end to the mist, no sun to brighten up our day, just the promise of the darkness and damp to come.

As we enter a new phase, I fear it’ll be easy for the memory of my Heart Attack to fade.  I’ve met several people recently who have been through similar experiences and can’t remember the details of the event.  Everything has gradually returned to normal, and the old bad habits have crept back in.

I am very keen that this doesn’t happen to me.  I can be very focused when I want to be, but stamina is not a strong point and I’m not the best “completer / finisher”.  The new health and fitness regime is going well, but I need to make sure it stays that way!

This doesn’t describe me very well! I can do it but it’s hard work.

The current phase of my Cardiac Rehab will be finished in 3 weeks which will mark another big change.  I know it’s going to be increasingly difficult to get motivated to exercise when it’s cold, dark and wet.  I’m going to have to find myself some new forms of exercise to keep my interest up…

It’s a marathon not a sprint!
(and, incidentally, I believe you’re more likely to be successful if you dress appropriately!)

I’ve never been to an Exercise Class at a Gym, but this could be a good time to start!

Getting outside

I finally managed to get outside on the bike on Sunday.  I took the Mountain Bike out for a spin on an old railway line in Aberdeen.  Nice, safe route without too many (any) hills, that didn’t require any real bike handling skills.

It was another beautiful morning, the final death throes of summer.  A great day to get out and get some air into your lungs.  Unfortunately it was a bit too nice (or more accurately, I took too long getting ready and was a bit late), as there were lots of people on the railway line.  A lovely scenic place to park your car, take a walk, grab an ice-cream or a play on the swings and slides, before heading back.  As a result, it was busy.

Hazard… between or around?

I was keen not to end up in a ditch, or to collide with anyone’s favourite child or youngest Chihuahua.  I therefore had to stay very alert, particularly given how difficult it is to see whether a dog / child is on a lead from a distance… plenty of scope for unfortunate incidents!

I was not alone.  There were plenty of other people on bikes (cyclists, I guess you’d call them) making use of the track, as well as runners, zimmer frame operators, wheelchair passengers, etc.  Pretty much any moveable obstruction you can imagine.  There was potential for carnage… ironically, every kind of accident other than the proverbial “train crash”.

Who is controlling who? A cyclist’s nightmare!

The casual strollers didn’t seem particularly happy with the cyclists… at least, some of them didn’t seem very happy with me:  “Bloody cyclists!”, I could hear them muttering not so quietly as I whizzed past… but I was off!  Gone.  Somewhere else to be…  until I passed them again on my return that is, when we greeted each other with pleasant smiles and a fleeting nod!

What fun!

Someone’s going to get hurt!

The ride itself was fine.  I did just under 20km and rode for just over 50 minutes.  A casual Sunday morning cycle.  I was tempted just to keep going, enjoying the freedom, but I know I need to take it easy.  “Don’t do more than you could on your worst day” (Cardiac Rehab Motto).  A bit depressing really as I’ve always thought the best days were the most important.  Still, I don’t want to set myself back, so moderation rules.  Yeah!

A Treacherous Journey

So, Christmas finally arrived for me this morning!

The day started with the ceremonial collection of my new bikes.  This wasn’t without anxiety!  The collection itself was incident free and relatively swift.  However the trip home relied on the stability and strength of a new Cycle Rack (for the car), ably fitted by myself, and was therefore fraught with danger!

As it turned out, the trip was fine.  No structural failures.  No shed loads.  Not even any audible rattles.  Success!  I felt particularly sporty, and a smidgen of pride, as I paraded my new bikes through town on my way home.

Cycle Rack & Bikes

A very proud moment… home safely!

There then followed several hours of slightly inept mechanical “fiddling” as I made the final adjustments.

Bikes aren’t how I remember them.  They don’t have the knobs and levers I’m familiar with any more.  I had to refer to the internet a couple of times to work out how to work the gears (multi-purpose break levers, if you’re interested!).  One of the bikes has disc breaks – heaven only knows how they work!  I’m very relieved I took out some “free labour” cover for them for the 1st Year… I can see me using this extensively!

What I’ve also discovered is that it appears the more you pay for a bike, the less you get.  In some ways, the “less” is good (e.g. less weight), but in other ways, the “less” is bad (e.g. the more expensive bike required me to buy pedals separately).

Fortunately I didn’t spend too much, so it was just the pedals that needed to be added.  I can only dream of owning a bike that requires you to buy wheels, a seat and handlebars!

Bicycles have definitely advanced a bit!

I still haven’t managed to get outside on a bike yet, but it’s on the cards for tomorrow (weather permitting).  Ominously, it felt like autumn arrived in Aberdeen today.  I may have timed the bike purchase perfectly!

Still, with my bikes, the Turbo Trainer, and a Sufferfest video selection, I’m sure the winter will fly by!

Mr Grumpy

People keep asking me:

“Are you alright?”
“Yes, I’m fine.  Why?”
“You just look unhappy.”

As any amateur psychologist knows, being told you look miserable is not great for morale!

Mr Grumpy… smiling inside!

It’s got me thinking… am I less happy now than I used to be?  Am I indeed miserable?

Having reflected on these important questions, I’ve concluded that no, I’m not unhappy.  Neither am I less happy than I was before my Heart Attack.  So what’s causing the perception of misery?

I can only conclude that the default expression on my face must have changed…  Perhaps my additional chins used to force my mouth upwards into a fake smile.  Maybe the unhealthy me gave off an unnaturally positive glow.  Who knows!

Under normal circumstances, I’d prescribe happy pills to cheer me up (or a stiff gin perhaps!), but I’ll have to focus on happy thoughts and make an extra special effort to be Mr Happy!

Check Up #2 (FD +61)

Another beautiful morning in sunny Aberdeen… the summer just keeps on coming!

imagesCAZ3SE22This morning saw my first visit to the Doctor since 27th June.  It seems slightly strange to be so conscious of all aspects of my health but to have limited direct, regular medical oversight.

I’m not sure what I would have expected, but somehow taking the “let us know if anything changes” approach somehow seems a little “light”.

Is it this type of thinking that creates an unnecessarily high demand on the NHS, I wonder?

On arrival at the surgery, I was slightly surprised to discover that the entertainment was BBC London News.  I can understand the News aspect, catching up on the breakfast news seems like a reasonable thing to do.

What I couldn’t fathom was why we should be interested in the traffic around the M25 (London Orbital), or how smoothly the various London Underground lines were running (the Northern was experiencing minor delays, incidentally).  I can only assume that someone in the Surgery has a cheeky weekend in London planned and is trying to get into the mood a little early.  If that’s you, the game’s up!  (But have a great weekend anyway!)

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London Underground Map… particularly useful if you’re planning on spending the day in Aberdeen!

The Doctor’s consultation itself was an uneventfully positive affair:

  • My BP (medical speak for “Blood Pressure”) is fine – artificially kept low to reduce the workload on my heart.
  • My liver and kidney function is “normal” – good news, as a potential side effect of the drugs is that they “break” something else that was working fine before, in particular my liver or kidneys.
  • My cholesterol is “abnormal”… abnormally low I guess.  My total cholesterol reading was 2.9 mmol/L (Good if less than 5 mmol/L) and my “bad” cholesterol is 1.6 mmol/L (Good if less than 3 mmol/L).

Follow the link for more information on High Cholesterol:

So, it’s all good!  The drugs continue to work!

I was just left with a not so subtle reminder not to rush things or push too hard!

OK… I hear you!

My heart is not allowed to do this… yet!

A Lifetime First

1989… a classic!

1989 was a year that changed the world… the end of the Berlin Wall, Tiananmen Square, The Dalai Lama won the Nobel Peace Prize, the Hillsborough disaster, “The Simpsons” started, the Madchester music scene… I finished school, went on my first lads holiday and started at University, while my family emigrated to Wales… temporarily, as it turns out.

I think 1989 also marks the year in which I last owned a bicycle.  I can remember borrowing other people’s bikes at University, but I have no recollection of transporting my own back and forth each term.  I definitely haven’t owned one since, so I conclude that 1989 was the year!

I was always a little bit jealous… until now!

As children. all my bikes were second hand, sourced from the ads in local paper, the Maidenhead Advertiser… eagerly awaited each Friday evening.

On one occasion, I remember my brother getting a new bike… a Raleigh Grifter XL.  Why the situation warranted a brand new bike, I can’t remember, but I do remember it being a big deal!

I have never owned a brand new bike… until now!

The cycling has been going well.  I still haven’t moved out of the garage, but my sessions are getting longer, and I’m getting stronger.  I realised yesterday, that I’m now working as hard during my rest periods as I did at the peak of my early bike sessions.

Up to now, I’ve been using a borrowed bike which is slightly too small for me.  To exacerbate the problem, and having tried “everything” (including WD-40, heat treatment, and a large hammer), I’ve been unable to raise the seat.  As a result, I’m restricted when I ride.  Given I’m getting ready to venture outside on a bike, we decided it was time to invest in a bike I can call my own.

I decided to go for something a little more conventional than this!

I say a bike, but it turns out buying a bike isn’t quite as simple as that!  It turns out that there are too many choices;  Where will you ride it? How long will you ride it for? How often?  Do you want a Road Bike, a Mountain Bike or a Hybrid?  What brand?  How big?  Too confusing!

In the end, I made my decision…

I decided to buy two bikes.  One for the road.  One for the dirt.


All I need to do now is wait until Saturday for them to be built!

It’ll be like Christmas!

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