Of the last 685 days (since my heart attack), I’ve worked out on 627 days, beginning the second week of April – those early months were light. I worked out exclusively under supervision by the Cardiac team at the University of Missouri Hospital. After 12 weeks of observed/monitored exercise, I was cleared for doing it on my own.
By September 2016 I tried to do a heavier workout every other day. In January of 2017 I began to do those workouts daily. I am up to 359 days (including today) of “full” work outs – 45 to 60 minutes of elevated heart rate and an average of 4.6 miles of walking/running. Maybe that doesn’t seem like much. Even to me it doesn’t seem like a lot… but when you factor in my medications and how they change my energy and recovery, as well as the time it takes to get to and from the gym, shower, coordinate schedules with my wife and kids and teaching… yeah, it’s a major commitment.
In the past when I was more of an athlete and worked out consistently (before we started a family), my endurance and strength were much higher than they are now. But I’ve always been prone to overuse injuries – both rotator cuffs have problems from those years in my late 20s/early 30s when I lifted weights. Now I work on weight machines for only a small portion of my workout and try to keep impact to a minimum. I generally cycle through squats at 80% of my body weight (I press between 180 and 210 lbs), pectoral presses at 120, 100, and 80 lbs, curls at 100, 90, and 80 lbs, abdominal crunches at 150, and tricep presses at 150 and 130 lbs. The most important part of this work out is the squat portion, since my hips, knees, and ankles are pretty weak and painful. I’ve definitely grown in strength, endurance, and bodily comfort over the last year. I feel better than I have in 5 or 6 years.
Most of my workout time is spent walking, running, biking, or using an elliptical (I cycle through the different exercises over a few days). I also do some rowing and stair stepping from time to time.
So what’s the point of sharing this? I don’t have any big triumphs. I’m not reaching my ideal weight. I’m not prepping for a marathon. I’d be one of the first to be cut down in the Zombie Apocalypse. I still struggle with eating right (though we are mostly vegetarian in our daily diet as a family). I still love beer and carbs. I’m not sure that all of this effort is really helping me physically. But I do feel my awareness of my self and my experiences of living are more present in my mind these days. I do think it makes a difference for my heart health. Beyond all of this, though, the time spent working out is time for reflection and thinking about what interests me. It’s personal time. It’s mental health time.
Now if I could only manage to sleep more…
The most important aspect of your working out is the consistency with which you do it. Day after day of a reasonably thorough workout is infinitely better for you and your heart than a once a week or twice a week workout where you push things right up to or slightly past your limits. With your consistency has come higher limits. That should always be the case.
You mentioned something suggesting that the medications you are on effecting what you might expect from yourself, that they either make you efforts more difficult or your endurance greater or lesser. I can not speak to that. But I will tell you that if you continue on a very regular schedule, even if everything seems to stay right where it’s at….for a long time, even a year, if you continue you will improve. That is simply how it works.
On October 22, of 2015 while driving back to Evanston from a job on the Southside, I fell asleep at the wheel on the Kennedy, went off the road and hit a tree. It was 4:40 in the afternoon. I had to be cut out of my car. I broke 8 bones all in an instant. Both my legs, including my left femur, and my right arm at the elbow. Yes I am right handed.
There now is a rod in my femur and a plate in my arm. I had been to the YMCA something like 420 of the previous of the previous 480 days, over 6 days a week. I was at Masonic, a hospital for twenty eight days. Then I had to do three months of physical theropy before they would let be start going to the Y again. Improvements come slowly, they come over time. I was pretty well pumped when I went down and that helped me to a huge extent but it was not the biggest motivator of all.
That came at the hospital where in the rebab section I met two different guys. Both diabetic, both over 350 lbs.
I was probably 225 when I hit the tree. Pretty big, not obease. These other two guys, both obease and beyond, both of them had lost a foot, amputations due to diabetes. They were both so utterly, hopelessly depressed, I doubt either one of them is still alive. They were both unable to claw their way back to the surface. They faced a much harder opponent then you or than me. They were unable to see beyond their own biggest problem, themselves. You have everything in Hand to do what is needed. And you are doing it! Depression is an armed attacker, it will kill you for sure. Keep doing the workouts and you will surprise yourself. This is an absolute, it is for certain.
Thanks Geo – we keep rolling. I need to visit you next time we pass through Evanston…
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