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My Experiences with Exercise and CHD

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

By Jorie Malone

This year, I made a large “impulse buy” mistake. My new gym caught me in a weak moment after I had a complimentary personal training session. I was a relaxed teacher on winter break, and on top of that, I was feeling the post-work out euphoria of a heart patient who was finally able to be fully active again. So, I signed up for a few sessions (and by a few, I mean too many to share) and embarked on the journey of having a personal trainer.

At first, it was nerve-wracking and uncomfortable. I was afraid my personal trainer did not understand my heart condition and was pushing me too hard. On the other side, I was unsure whether or not I was just out of shape or unable to do certain activities. In the beginning stages of my personal training, I learned the necessity of open communication. I also gained confidence in listening to my body. Now, I can almost always tell the difference between pushing my heart too hard or me just being out of shape.

Most recently, the workout we have been focusing on is interval training. My cardiologist recommended I focus on this area of training, and my personal trainer developed a program for that specific need. With interval training, I will spend time in one-minute rotations of three different activities: running, walking on a high incline, and doing a core strength/toning type of exercise.

What I like about this is that each exercise is done quickly. Running at a faster pace freaks me out a little, but knowing that it is over in less than a minute keeps me motivated to finish. Working on abdominal exercises, like flutter kicks, toe-touches, or planks, is something I loathe. However, when it’s split up into shorter increments, I can make it through.

The bottom line about working out is that even though it is tough to get motivated, it is absolutely necessary for me as a heart patient. Growing up, being active and playing sports was part of my life. It was a way to socialize, and it helped me in every aspect of my life. I truly enjoyed participating in sports and therefore, stayed active without even thinking about it.

As an adult, it has gotten harder to work out because of time and other obligations. Being a heart patient makes it even more challenging because there is often fear associated with exercising. For me, it’s not always easy to gauge what I can and can’t do, so sometimes I stop before my body actually needs to stop.

A heart condition can also serve as a great excuse. If I feel tired after a long day of teaching, I might justify skipping a work out to give myself some rest. At times, I do need rest, but I know my body and most of the time, my body is ready and craving more activity.

Even though personal training has not transformed me into a new person or given me a new passion for exercise, it has been a consistent reason to stay active. As the summer months are approaching, I find it hard to head to the gym and be on a treadmill. Would I rather sit on a patio with a margarita and guacamole? Absolutely! But, I have a refreshed appreciation for the feeling I get after a workout. I know that exercising regularly is going to bring me so much more long-term health and happiness than any quick pleasurable fix.

So, as the weather gets nicer and our days get longer, I urge you to join me in trying to find a way each day to be active!

Note: Always make sure to check with your ACHD cardiologist before beginning any exercise routine.

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The opinions expressed by ACHA bloggers and those providing comments on the ACHA Blog are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of the Adult Congenital Heart Association or any employee thereof. ACHA is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the ACHA bloggers.

The contents of this blog are presented for informational purposes only, and should not be substituted for professional advice. Always consult your physicians with your questions and concerns.

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