Since my diagnosis, I have not had any atrial fibrillation episodes per se, but I have had many skips and palpitations, some so forceful that I call them cartwheels. And I occasionally experience a pounding heart beat that feels as though my heart will thrust itself right out of my chest and I am not doing a thing but laying in bed. Not fun.
Because I have regular reminders of my condition, I live in fear of having an a-fib episode, or a stroke or that I will just drop dead one day soon. It's always in the back - or the front - of my mind. Also, not fun.
The fear has been keeping me from exercising vigorously. For months on end, the extent of my workouts have been occasional 30 minute walks at a moderate pace with a few hills. As soon as I feel my heart pound in my chest, as it should do when I exercise, I pull back.
I decided today, after having an internal heart-to-heart with myself and my heart, this self-prescribed laziness has got to end. I am being irrational, overly dramatic and worried about my condition when my cardiologist has already told me it's okay to workout.
Why today of all days? My friend Christy (not her real name) invited me months ago to a circuit training class at a local fitness center. I canceled not once, but twice. My reasons were legitimate, but I was secretly relieved when I rescheduled. Today was the big day. I had no good reason to not attend this morning.
I woke up feeling queasy with nerves, forced myself to eat some breakfast and headed toward the fitness center, all the while giving myself pep talks.
When I arrived, the energetic owner greeted me and asked me a few questions about my fitness level. He asked me to rate my cardio fitness from 1 to 5. I told him I was a 2 (which is probably generous). His response to that was to tell me I would not be taking his class today. It's for people who rate themselves 3.5 and above.
I admit this was hard for my ego to hear. After all, I used to be a personal trainer and taught a fitness class several years back. But I knew he was right and I was more than a little relieved to not participate in the class.
Instead, I watched from the sidelines while walking and sometimes even jogging on the treadmill for over an hour. The circuit class is no joke! It is a super intense, non-stop workout that lasts a full hour. The students wear heart monitors and their stats can be seen on different tv screens around the facility. These people are working to their maximum! I so admire them.
Now I want to get strong and take this class, too.
The owner and I came up with a plan to get me to that goal. First, he told me to ditch the fear and get excited about working out again. Then we decided I would spend the next two to three weeks getting back in cardiovascular shape by using his treadmills and elliptical machines regularly. I signed up for a one month trial membership and have decided to take the circuit training class on March 3rd. Eeek!
For my heart health, I will continue to take my daily aspirin, magnesium supplement, get enough sleep, keep stress at bay, limit caffeine and alcohol and stop worrying about my heart all the damn time.
Not only do I want a strong and healthy heart and to overcome my fears around vigorous exercise, I want to look and feel great this spring and summer. Did I mention the Tuscan villa has a pool? It does and this is what I want to be wearing while I lounge by it:
I am excited by my new found interest in working out and look forward to overcoming my numerous heart-related fears.
Are you a vigorous exerciser?
If so, do you ever worry about overexerting yourself*?
* euphemism for "dropping dead in the middle of a workout"