So my Cardiac Athletes running shirts finally showed up. I’m very excited for race season to get here so I can wear my shirt and hopefully inspire other cardiac athletes to challenge themselves to overcoming some of their life’s obstacles.
My mileage this week has been at an all time low with my only runs being slow treadmill runs with only one exception. I did do one run that I started at 6 mph for the first mile and steadily increased 1 mph per mile until I reached 10 mph which I stayed at for two minutes, then I did the same in reverse, slowing down 1 mph each mile, then tapering down one mile per hour per minute; within two minutes of settling down at 4 mph, my heart rate was down to 120 bpm. Once I slowed to 3 mph and maintained that speed for another three minutes it was below 100 bpm. This is a huge improvement, and undoubtedly shows that training with Tony continues to pay off big, showing huge improvements even though my running mileage is currently very low.
Our plan is to increase my mileage beginning in February to correspond with a full marathon training plan to see me through my first full marathon in June. I will run enough between now and then to hopefully keep my body accustomed to running the longer distances I have build up to over this last year. It wasn’t that long ago when just reaching the ten mile mark seemed a long way off; a goal which almost felt impossible. I definitely struggled at first, began by running very slow and conservatively. At that point, my core wasn’t even close to being up to the task, so by the time I made one hour on my feet, my back would cry out in agony and I would end up spending the rest of the day propped in a chair or lying on the couch totally shot.
My muscles easily became over fatigued from any hard physical exertion back then and when I over did it, I would be wiped out for a couple days or sometimes even more. It was really rough going the first year I decided to start running. As I have mentioned before, I ran with a heart rate monitor back then which I very closely monitored to be certain I never exceeded the specific heart rate my cardiologist recommended, which during that first year I tried to not exceed 140 bpm.
Besides all the obvious problems running with a heart rate monitor entails, I also got very frustrated since mine only worked half the time. I must have gone through at least four different monitors before finally finding one that would last a year. I also didn’t have the slightest clue what my max heart rate was or how just how close I was getting to the upper limits programmed in my ICD. I tried asking practitioner’s during my pacemaker checks but their responses were vague at best. I was told, “don’t worry, due to heart failure, your heart rate isn’t going to get anywhere near what is was pre-heart attack.” One nurse came right out and actually said she would guess I couldn’t get my heart rate above 120 bpm. She was wrong.
During my first race that first year, I recorded a max heart rate of 178 on my Garmin heart rate monitor/GPS. After going for my routine bimonthly ICD checkup, the technician interrogating my ICD actually noticed that race and thought it had to be a cardiac episode. She asked me, “what were you doing on such and such a date? Your heart was beating very fast, only a couple heart beats away from where your device is programmed on top.” She asked if I could remember anything from that day and I explained that I had been racing. I showed her how the episode she was referencing, corresponded to the 23 minute race I had ran on that day. It had been a 5K race so my heart rate hit its max just a couple minutes after the start of the race and stayed there until I crossed the finish line. This was actually the “beginning” of when my doctors noticeably began to pay attention to what I was telling them, and finally set the upper limits of my pacemaker to accommodate my running and exercise routine. Prior to this, no one seemed believe I was actually running and going to the gym. Again, wrong.
Beginning sometime earlier this year, my ICD began pacing my heart at the bottom level because it was set to pace my heart faster if it dropped below 50 bpm. By the time my running mileage maxed out, prior to racing Whistle stop this fall, my average resting heart rate in the mornings when fully recovered had dropped to an amazing low 46 bpm which caused my ICD to pace me all night instead of letting my heart rest. I noticed that I wasn’t sleeping as well but couldn’t figure out why until one day I was finally looking over the results from a previous interrogation on my ICD and noticed it had been pacing me during times I was trying to sleep. None of the techs told me it was pacing because they thought it was the usual status quo.
Currently, now that I have backed off on mileage, my heart rate is only dropping to about 50 but I expect that will change once again as I begin building up the miles starting in Feb. I have started to measure out my food portions now, eating at least six times a day now but in smaller portions. My goal is to slowly start reducing body fat between now and spring. So far, I seem to be doing okay with the new schedule and actually have noticed I don’t feel as hungry as I used to. I am also supplementing my protein intake with “Nutiva hemp protein powder” which may be one reason. I generally put four tablespoons in my smoothies which I have 3 times a day; one in the morning, another after the gym which I mix in a shaker bottle and another in the evening after dinner. Another change I have been making is backing down the amount of red meat in my diet. When I first started weight training I ate meat everyday for protein but have slowly scaled the meat back to only a serving or two per week. I still continue to make pretty big gains in strength so for now I am going to stick with what I am doing; only tweaking the portions as needed which I base on how hungry I feel and how much energy I seem to have while getting through my workouts.