Monthly Archives: November 2013

The Heart Attack Predictor

Today’s UK News featured a new imaging technique that could find people at highest risk of a Heart Attack:

  • When fatty deposits, known as plaques, build up in the arteries and rupture it can cause a Heart Attack.  The new test detects the fatty plaques on the brink of rupture.  There is currently no way to identify these.
  • In the UK, 200 people die each day from a Heart Attack.

The research that resulted in this breakthrough was funded by the British Heart Foundation.

I already know from my angiogram that one of my arteries is partially blocked.  I also know that a rupture to the plaque in another of my arteries caused my Heart Attack.  The good news is, the various drugs I take each day will reduce the chances of me having a repeat episode.

It’s easy for me to forget what I’ve been through and how lucky I was to be treated so quickly and efficiently.  It’s also too easy for all of us to take medical advances for granted.

Today’s News served as a reminder for me: a reminder of my good fortune, and a reminder of why it’s important for me to keep training, complete my ride and raise some cash for the British Heart Foundation.

Please feel free to chip in:  http://www.justgiving.com/heartattackwaitingtohappen

Totes Emosh

Today I received some fantastic news…

I recently presented the medical form for my Charity Bike Ride to my Doctor for his consideration.  I had two main concerns:  (1) that he wouldn’t think that embarking on a 300 mile cycle was a sensible thing to do less than a year after having a Heart Attack and (2) that his insurance company might have an issue with the wording of the statement I was asking him to sign.

A “No” would have left me lacking direction somewhat!

On one level I would have understood if either of these issues had arisen.  I was potentially asking a lot given my recent medical history.  I would even have understood if he had asked me to come back in a few months so he could see how my health and fitness have progressed.

On another level, I would have been totally gutted if he had said “No”.  It would have thrown the ride into some jeopardy.  Given it’s been my main focus for the past few months (at least as far as motivation for exercise is concerned), it would have felt deflated.  I think I’m progressing well, and I want to stay motivated.  Having something to work towards really helps.

***

Today I received the form back, signed and stamped by my Doctor.  As far as he is concerned, I am “good to go”.  I just need to continue to gradually build up my training and listen to my cardiologist.

For the record, I have never used these words before!

It was just some ink on a bit of paper, but I felt quite emotional as I left the Surgery.  I’m not sure exactly why.  It may have been the removal of doubt about whether he’d sign the form.  It may have been the fact that the ball is now in my court as far as the ride is concerned – no excuses.  It may also have been the small vote of confidence that he recognises the progress I’ve made and trusts that it will continue.

Whatever the reason, it reinforced the fact that the ride is important to me.  180 days to go!

An “and” day

Recently I’ve been trying to be more of an “and” person rather than an “or” person…

We spend a lot of time and energy making difficult decisions, forcing ourselves to choose between different options, working around the constraints.  Often we forget that there may be an option that allows us to do both…  “and” rather than “or”… all we need is to be positive and think a bit differently.

Working on the principle of “and”, today was my first double exercise day…

Monday’s have become my designated rest day – I’m always tired after the weekend.  It takes me a day to properly get back into the swing of a working week.  So, I don’t do any exercise on a Monday.  Hopefully this allows my body to properly recover and set me up for the rest of the week.

A cold, dark and very frosty start to the day!

Having had a day off, I set my alarm early this morning so I could swim before work.  I left the house to be greeted by a heavy frost, the first of the winter.  As well as double exercise, it turned out to be a double scrape day – I had to scrape the windshield before I could head to the pool, and again after my swim before I could head off to work.  Great!

Louise (my wife) was also faced with a frozen car as she set off to take the girls to school.  I have agreed to clear the garage to create space for her to get the car in, making the school run as straightforward as possible.  Unfortunately the arrival of winter has beaten me to the punch.  I now need to pull my finger out and clear space for the car… space that is currently occupied by my bike and Turbo Trainer.

It did turn into a beautiful day… if a little chilly!

Using the principle of “and”, this does not mean that I will lose the use of my bike.  I just need to find the next best place to locate it.  Fortunately, there are a couple of options inside the house.  The main considerations will be (1) to keep it out of the way and (2) to minimise the chances of me over-heating when riding.  There’s the minor consideration of sweat and oil pollution too, but I’m hoping a couple of towels and some carpet offcuts will do the trick there!

In the immediate term the bike will stay where it is.  Shifting the kit around can be something to look forward to doing at the weekend.  So, I successfully completed my ride, and my double exercise day – a ride and a swim.

Pushing the boundaries

“You can learn new things at any time in your life if you’re willing to be a  beginner. If you actually learn to like being a beginner, the whole world opens up to you.”
Barbara Sher

Difficult as it has been, since my Heart Attack I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that I am not immortal, and I’m far from super human.  I have become much more aware of my limitations and more willing to admit to myself and others that there are some things I can’t do (or can’t do yet).  As a result, I have started to be more open to, and take enjoyment from, trying new things.

Some might view this as me enjoying the comedy factor that being a beginner often provides.  Perhaps there’s a degree of truth in this, but I think there are two other factors that are more important:

  1. Doing new things adds variety and interest to my life.  As I tend to become a little obsessive about things, why not become obsessive about doing new things, and expanding my horizons, rather than focusing on only one activity and narrowing my focus?
  2. I’m really looking forward to developing my capabilities, progressing to an “intermediate” level, and exploring the opportunities this might bring.

So, as the days shorten and the winter weather starts to kick in, I’ve looked to try different types of exercise that are suitable the dark, cold days.  This has required me to dig deep, to admit I’m a beginner to a bunch of strangers, and to begin…

I have already added swimming to my fitness regime, and I’ve been  practicing my Free-style breathing for a few weeks, but I am still very much a beginner.  The combination of  my “agricultural” technique, my general fitness level and coming to terms with not being able to breathe when I want to, means I need to briefly rest after each 25 metre length.

untitled (51)Friday saw me setting my alarm extra-early and heading to the local swimming pool for a pre-work swim.  This meant swimming in a lane for the first time… with other people.  Four other people, in fact.

I was comfortable with the principle of swimming in a lane, but uncomfortable with the finer details;  Was there some etiquette that cannot be communicated via the arrows on a small, white board?  Was it OK to rest?  (I’d be in real trouble if it wasn’t).  I guess the nightmare scenario would have been if I had come into contact with another swimmer!!!  Surely “touching” is not acceptable, particularly given the general lack of clothing.

As it turned out, I needn’t have been worried.  Everything was very civilised.  We all pretended each other didn’t exist, of course, but the swim went off without incident.  In all, I managed 800m in total, 32 times 25m lengths.  Of course, I’ll try to build my stamina over time.  I might even try for my 50m badge in my next visit to the pool!

***

My regular cycling companion has been under the weather this week, so rather than setting out for our weekly Saturday Cycle, I headed to our local gym for an RPM Class.  Louise (my Wife) has been encouraging me to go to an RPM class pretty much since I started cycling.  Today was my first.

I have to admit, I spent most of the class wondering whether Louise is aware of what I have been through, and what rehabilitation from a Heart Attack entails!  I found the session “intense”.

I hit my maximum Heart Rate after about 5 minutes, and struggled to bring it down  throughout… and I sweated… profusely!!!  And that was without standing up to cycle.  By the end of the session, the pool of sweat beneath my station was substantial.  There was little evidence of similar levels of effort from other participants despite the fact that they all worked a lot harder than I could!

There were a number of contributory factors to me finding the session tough.  Not least that, although I’m getting fitter, I still have a way to go.  The fact that I didn’t know the routine meant that I wasn’t able to effectively moderate my effort to increase / decrease on demand (I hit “Maximum” about three notches on the dial too early!).  Apparently this will all come with practice.

My big take-away for the next session is that I should take a towel with me!!!