Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

More Than Just A Resolution

I stopped making New Year’s resolutions long ago.  I simply do not like obligating myself to do things.  My inspiration is simply my will to want to do it.  Exercise is one of those things that is often challenged as a resolution, and as a survivor of so many different health issues, I do not need any incentive to make exercise a resolution.  That does not change the fact, that it is something that I should want to make a part of my every day life.

Even with my physical limitations, there is nothing really stopping me from daily walks except for when climate is involved.  Range of motion prevents my arms from elevating to a certain point, but it does not prevent me using my arms.  So that means really, any kind of limit or prevention that I have to doing any exercise, is mostly mental.

Up until my emergency heart bypass back in 2008, I would consider myself an average exerciser.  Average in that I  would exercise, now and then, and again, and so forth.  Being somewhat overweight, and hearing regular lectures from my doctor about “being shorter” than my doctor, meant I needed to “weigh less” than my doctor, while I was very much interested in building strength, I knew I needed to burn calories in order to lose weight.

I had gained over 70 pounds since my last chemotherapy (and radiation).  Although the pieces of the puzzle at that time had not been put together, it was just assumed that my thyroid had something to do with the weight issue.  Of course it would later be discovered how badly my thyroid was affected during my cancer days.  Anyway, that is another post.

In January of 2008, I made my final resolution ever, to get into shape, to lose the weight, once and for all.   I would spend about an hour doing cardio, and another forty-five minutes in the strength training.  Having done weight training before, I already knew the plan I wanted to follow.  But in order to burn calories, I had to do a little investigation first, which would help me to burn more, and faster.

The eliptical, stepper, or stryder, would be the equipment I would use for that purpose.  With different levels of effort, due to either speed, or tension, I estimated I would be able to burn close to a thousand calories in an hour.  I would spend an hour on the machine, then head over to the gym for strengthening.

On the center grips, there are two metal grips, that sense your heart rate.  Obviously, getting your heart rate to increase to a targeted range, is what would help burn the calories.  That is all I knew.

Here is what happened.

I would start to step, increasing my speed, and tension.  Within less than a minute, I would have a tightness across the left side of my chest, almost like a cramp, much like a side sticker when running in cold weather.  As uncomfortable as it felt, I followed the “no pain no gain” mantra.  After all, the heart rate display was showing, my heart rate was indeed increasing, which I needed it to do.

That said, I am NOT a physical fitness expert, and the level that my heart rate was not only increasing, but the actual rate it got to, was not only safe, it could have been fatal for me.  (please read  my page, CABG – More Than Just A Green Leafy Vegetable and you will read what happened).

My heart rate went from the mid-70’s to 152 within less than a minute.  Unfortunately, that discomfort that I had, went away after a minute.  And with my heart rate elevated like I thought it was supposed to, I just kept on going, for the remaining 59 minutes, and then over to the gym.  No pain, no gain.

I did this for five days a week, until the middle of April when it was discovered that I had a “widow maker” blockage to the main artery going to my heart, blocked 90%.  I would discover this was caused also by my treatments for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

My cardiologist gave me the somber words, “it was not a question of ‘if’ you were going to die, but ‘when'”.  Some how, I got through 100 sessions of exercising with a near fatal condition, not dropping over dead.

Why am I bringing this up?

Because, as a cardiac patient and survivor, I have annual follow-ups, and have had additional issues.  And just as I had to complete cardiac therapy following my bypass, I found myself recently being required to go through additional therapy.  The goal, to get a better control on my blood pressure and perhaps help with my circulation.  In the beginning, it seemed similar to what I had gone through previously as far as exercises… a treadmill, a hand bike, a bike.

After two weeks, I was informed of an additional exercise.

I stood there paralyzed with an unrecognizable fear.  As with other issues that can trigger my cancer-related PTSD, this moment was one of those moments.  This machine literally nearly killed me.  And I was expected to get on it again.  I had refused to even go near this machine with the numerous gym memberships I had, since April of 2008 because of what happened.

I was not being given any choice in the matter.  The cardiac therapist wanted me to maximize my routine and health benefits, and just like before, this was going to do it.

But unlike the last time I stepped onto this machine, I was being monitored.  My blood pressure, and my heart rate were all being monitored by a nurse sitting at a computer station.  And I needed to trust my therapists.  I had seen them in action when someone’s vitals were not right, and they interceded.  I really had nothing to fear.  I needed to get back on to that machine.

It has been over a month now, and this is the result.

That is right.  Exercising at the speed shown, and the tension shown, my heart rate was 121 at the five minute mark, just 7 beats below my maximum.  This was a huge hurdle for me to get over.  I am no longer intimidated, um… afraid of this machine.

The records kept while I have been going through this program show I have been doing the right thing.  The results physically may not show (as far as my weight), but blood work and physiology are showing that I am doing the right thing.  This cannot be a resolution for me.  Resolutions are not kept.  This is a lifestyle I need to keep up when my therapy program is over.

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