Getting My Energy Back
5/9/2014 9:24 AM
By Katherine Buchanan
I biked up the steepest hill on campus yesterday morning after leaving my last fitness class of the semester. After my open heart surgery this Christmas I decided to come back to school and take a personal fitness course, hoping to build my strength and endurance to better than it was before the operation.
Our first class was a little over a month and a half after my surgery, and so my abilities were pretty limited. I was slower than my classmates, and while I did feel more energized than I had first semester, I was still sluggish and tired. However, as time distanced me from the surgery, I gained more energy and ability. My arms got stronger with every day of pushups and I began to see some semblance of abdominal muscles after the numerous repetitions of abs exercises.
Cardio-wise, each day I could sustain a slightly lengthier activity. Still, it was not until I finished my final workout, which consisted of a Zumba dance mash-up, followed by the bike ride up the hill, that I really recognized the change in my energy level from before the surgery.
As I finished the last portion of the hill, pushing my feet against the pedals with all my might, I understood the difference. Approaching the top of the hill, I looked back on the changes I had experienced, noting how I was able to sustain a full class of Zumba, complete a set of 45 pushups, and still have energy to spare for a quick bike ride, date night and mountains of homework. I realized, for now at least, I had overcome the hill placed in my way.
Before the surgery, and before I completed my recovery, I could never have imagined fitting so much into one day. Never in my wildest dreams could I have foreseen being able to balance so many different aspects of my health and life without a nap or two in between—yet here I was, finally living my life to the fullest without the pesky tiredness getting in my way.
I know my valve replacement will not last forever, and the surge in energy I have experienced is not permanent. But for now, it is my reality. As I finished trekking the hill and reached the relief of flat ground, I prepared to ride on, full of the energy and promise of my mended heart and ready to live my life to the fullest with every ounce of energy my valve replacement has given me.
Note: Always make sure to check with your ACHD cardiologist before beginning any exercise routine.
Katherine Buchanan is a sophomore at Wofford College pursuing studies in French and religion. A lover of singing, swing dancing, the South Carolina shag, and traveling, she enjoys living life to the fullest. Katherine was diagnosed with a cleft in her mitral valve and an atrial septal defect as an infant. Her most recent surgery replaced her mitral valve with a bovine valve. Now with the surgery behind her, Katherine is looking forward to exploring the world in the coming months, traveling to Italy, Greece and France to test out the newfound power of her mended heart.