Monthly Archives: August 2013


Stress, noun
1.  Pressure or tension exerted on a material object:
2.  A state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances:
3.  particular emphasis or importance

A typical Cardiac Rehabilitation Relaxation session

At the end of each Cardiac Rehabilitation session, we have 30 minutes of “relaxation”; gentle music, overlaid with softly spoken instructions to focus on eliminating tension from different parts of the body (“now we’ll focus on our thighs…”), breathing deeply and generally chilling out.

It feels good, indulgent.  It rounds off the Rehab session before heading out into the big wide world.

According to Wikipedia; “the body’s way to respond to stress is by sympathetic nervous system activation which results in the fight-or-flight response”

I’m not entirely sure where lying down with your eyes closed, chillaxing fits in to this evolutionary response – I’m sure it will become clear in time, but we haven’t done our “Stress Management” education session yet!  (It was actually supposed to be last week, but it got switched with “Medication” at the last minute!)

I guess that we are made to deal with our challenges face on, or to turn tail and run away!  Biologically, we’re not made to dwell some things too much.  Relaxation is a good way of re-establishing a sense of calm and stability after doing what you need to do.

The bottom line is, we all face stressful situations of differing degrees every day.  They cannot be avoided.  Even locking yourself away can be stressful for most of us (“What’s going on outside?”)

untitled (20)Which brings me to my stress of the week…

We recently received a Planning Permission notice for a house to be built at the top of our garden.  Seven houses in total, in two plots, but it’s the one that will overlook our house, replacing a nice wooded area that I’m concerned about.

Fortunately, there’s a simple solution that will allow the development to proceed without giving us too much cause for concern.

Unfortunately, the people that have applied for the Planning permission seem to think it’s OK to ignore us, and have been doing so for several years!

It’s very frustrating!

I find I need to think relaxed, warm, calming thoughts each time the potential development enters my mind…  slow, deep breaths…  “You are feeling relaxed”.

We will fight.  There is a course of action we can follow.

I will practice my relaxation, and hope they have a section on “responding to unwanted planning applications” as part of the “Stress Management” session when it’s eventually held!

Not enough hours in the day

It’s 20:50, and I’ve just eaten, sat down and put my feet up for the first time today.  I appreciate lots of people don’t get a chance to relax at all… caring for others, working late, second job, studying, etc.  I’m lucky to get a few minutes to myself, watch the golf, and chill out before I turn in for the day.

Apparently he’s often mistaken for me!

On “normal” days, I’ve got into a routine where exercise is the number one priority for me when I get home from work.  A good routine to get into given my recent medical history, but one that is increasingly eating into my day.  As I get stronger, I am able to do more exercise.

Today I did a cycle session that took just over an hour.  I wasn’t cycling constantly, and I never went over my maximum Heart Rate, but it took time.

I think that during my recuperation I got used to having almost endless amounts of time.  A little exercise, a little TV, a little read, a little snooze… and all before lunch.  Fantastic!

My gradual return to work similarly gave me a feeling of extra time… strict 8 hour days, working from home after Cardiac Rehab, regular rest… long relaxed evenings incorporating moderate exercise.  Just what I needed to help get back on track.

Over the past week or so, things have felt like they’re returning to “normal” at work.  I’m working with a couple of clients, not being asked to do too much or pushed too hard (in fact, they’re being incredibly understanding), but I’m working on some interesting stuff.  The kind of work I want.  The kind that I find difficult to “put down”.

imagesCA1KXOM9As a result, my work days have extended a little.  Not by a huge amount, but back towards a “normal” work day.  In combination with an extended work-out, my days are feeling shorter.

(I suspect this is mentally exacerbated by the ever shortening days).

From where I’m sitting, I can’t see a huge number of options to create more time:

  1. Sleep less – Not a particularly viable option for me.  I need at least 8 hours sleep a day, ideally more.
  2. Work less – The only thing I can commit to is to be aware of time, and what I’m spending it on.  I need to earn money.  I also enjoy what I do.  There are plenty of people watching out for me to help ensure I don’t go mad!
  3. Do less – Having just rediscovered it, and needing it to help prevent future health issues, I’m not about to start cutting back on exercise.  What I do need to do is build up a selection of options that provide a mix of intensities / duration.  In time I’ll finish Cardiac Rehab too which will give me some extra time, but I do need to make sure this doesn’t result in every day feeling the same… I’m enjoying the variety the morning sessions gives to my days.
  4. Suck it up and get used to it!

Any other ideas?  Suggestions appreciated!

Ch… Ch… Ch… Changes (FD +50)

Doesn’t time fly!

It’s the big Five-Zero!  Fifty days since I had my Heart Attack.  Seven weeks and a day.  Forever, and no time at all.

Doesn’t time fly when you’re having fun!  🙂

To say a lot has changed would be an understatement.  Some changes have been forced on me.  Some have been voluntary*.  Others have been a consequence of circumstances.


“It must have been scary!”…  No, not really.  At no point over the past 51 days have I felt like my life was in imminent danger.  However, it doesn’t take much imagination to see that things could have gone that way.  In the UK, one in three people who have a Heart Attack don’t make it to hospital.

The next time you’re in a lift with two other people, imagine one of you not making it to your floor.  I was in that lift.  I was lucky.  I didn’t realise how much danger I was potentially in until afterwards.  By that stage, the immediate danger was over and the ball was in my court (more or less).

A new Dad (in reverse)

In some ways, it feels like part of me died when I had the Heart Attack.  Not in a bad way.  In a way that created space for new parts of me to grow in their place.  In fact, its probably more correct to say “dormant” rather than “new”, many aspects of the “new” me have been there before.  A very long time ago!  So long ago that only close family members and very old friends might recognise them.  As far as the girls are concerned, I am a new, thinner, slightly bizarre, “active” Dad.

Even knowing what I know now, I’m not sure if there is anything that would have convinced me to make some of the changes I have done in advance of something “happening”.  It still all seems slightly surreal.  Perhaps if someone I knew well, who I could easily relate to, had been through the same thing as I have, it might have been enough for me to take action.  Perhaps.

The bottom line is, if you want to, it’s not that difficult to convince yourself that it won’t happen to you.  That you’re low risk.  Different from people like me.

Awareness isn’t enough!

You need to take action to make a difference.

It doesn’t surprise me that prevention of Heart Disease is such a challenge.  For many (me included) it requires big changes to make a difference.  I guess the key is to keep any changes small, to recognise when you’re veering of course and make minor corrections to keep you on track.  So many people are so far off course that small changes just aren’t enough.

For me, my broken heart has been fixed, the course has been corrected and I’m looking to the future.

Catching up

I have some catching up to do – a holiday with the family (although Florida must wait!), recognising the patience of my colleagues, repaying the goodwill of our clients, and sustaining the lifestyle I’ve adopted since leaving hospital so none of us have to go through this again!

Here’s to the next 50 days… and making it count!


*Voluntary is probably a bit strong.  I’m not sure I had a huge amount of choice in any of the changes, but I guess even the perception of choice makes them more palatable.

Another minor milestone (FD +47)

I feel like I’m making real progress on the exercise front.  Some of it is down to exercising.  Some of it is down to understanding the kit and exercising better.

Although I’m still a complete novice, I feel like I’m in a position to provide some advice on cycling (at least cycling in my garage):

Cycling Lesson 1:  It hurts less if you have the right kit!

The shorts, gloves and shoes all made a substantial difference to last nights “ride”.  Why didn’t I think of it earlier!

Yesterday saw the introduction of another training aid too…

I got a tip from a guy at work to try out a Sufferfest video.  Specialising in Cycling Training Videos, they have the motto:

“I will beat my ass today to kick yours tomorrow”  (IWBMATTKYT for short)

They have a range of “entertaining” videos targeted at the stationary cyclist market.  They create training sessions where you follow / copy / compete with professional cyclists performing in competitions (World Championships, Tour De France, etc., listening to fast music, and following instructions “shouted” out via text on the computer screen.

It might sound strange, but the videos provide some useful pointers for the novice cyclist and also create a major distraction from the clock.  In my limited experience, the biggest challenge with inside cycling is clock watching.  Every minute seems to last forever!

For me the intention is clearly not to have a Sufferfest, in fact not to suffer at all!  That’s not really what my exercise is about right now.  For me I’m treating it more as a Recoverfest (Trade Mark pending!).

Irrespective of what the on-screen cyclist does, or the instructions I’m given, the Heart Monitor is the most critical piece of equipment for me.  Keeping below my 118 bpm threshold is essential.

In time, I’m looking forward to testing / pushing the boundaries, but I have to keep reminding myself that I’m still only in week 3 of Cardiac Rehabilitation. Much as it would be nice to kick Bradley Wiggins’ ass in a Time Trial (albeit virtual), my goal has to be to put in the miles, to get myself fit and strong, to lay the foundation for the future.

Anyway, the video worked for me.  I would highly recommend checking out The Sufferfest if you’ve not discovered them already.

Breaking news…

All the exercise and hard work has resulted in another minor milestone for me at Cardiac Rehabilitation today…

drum roll…

wait for it…

I was allowed to jog on the treadmill!!!

I’ve got another 5 weeks of Rehab to go.  I’m hoping I might be able to fly by the end of it!


Someone’s going to get hurt!

Honesty is the best policy (FD +46)

Honesty is the best policy!

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve noticed people looking at me with a little sympathy in their expressions.  I had assumed it was because they knew I had been away recuperating after the Heart Attack, and they felt sorry for me.

I could understand it… if I was in their position, I’d find it difficult to know what to say.  I’d probably have mixed emotions.  I’d be glad they were “OK” and back at work but relieved it didn’t happen to me, and a little concerned that it could happen in the future.   That made sense.

Today, someone was honest with me…

“I thought you look like you’ve lost weight because you’re really sick!”

I didn’t realise trying to get fit would result in such a harrowing experience for others!  Sorry!

I feel good.  Better than I have in a long time.

As I’ve said previously, I tend to lose weight in my face first, so a little weight loss may look a bit more extreme than it is in reality.  I can assure you, there’s still plenty of scope for slimming down before I get anywhere near my fighting weight.

I guess it’ll just take a little time for people to get used to the new, evolving shape of me… and get comfortable with the fact I’m not just fading away!