Stay on Track With Exercise

April 10, 2008

Exercise routines for a cardiac-recovery patient can be upsetting for several reasons.

Last month, the exercise schedule that I had adhered to so well since emerging from cardiac rehabilitation right after Thanksgiving of 2006 was interrupted.

My schedule switched, and after working so many years at night in the newspaper business — your morning paper arrives in your driveway or on your porch as the sun rises due to a group of nocturnal journalists – I began to work for an area firm in the light of day.

Give my other work in the spring and summer takes me to various ballparks in the evening, the question arose as to when I should schedule my workout; sitting at a desk in a cubicle replaced my former 10AM activity.

So, after a few weeks of trying to figure it out — and my gym wondering with concern if I had dropped out – I came to the conclusion that an early morning workout, around 8 o’clock, was my best bet before heading to my job around 9:45.

Given my cardiologist has impressed upon me just how important exercise is in the whole scheme of things, I found it best — and enjoyed the return – to the gym.

Many gyms open as early as 5:30AM on weekdays to cater to us who, for whatever reason, aim to be physically fit. After all, a stretch is often the most exercise you get at your office desk. But exercise routines for a cardiac-recovery patient can be upsetting for several reasons: an illness is one; an episode with an instance of rapid heartbeat or something similar is another, and can sideline such an individual for a few weeks while monitoring takes place.

So your patient's schedule was interrupted for whatever reason, medical or other. Finally, they are back, ready to resume the workout they did previously. If your patient happens to be past the age of 25, my advice is to take things slowly. Several weeks away from the treadmill, cross-trainer and various weights they might be working with take their toll. Chances are, they still will be close to condition, but not in condition.

And your patient shouldn't be surprised if muscles they thought were toned are sore and tight like they were when they began their exercise program. That’s part of the game for a lot of us in the 50s and 60s crowd. On the positive side, if they slide back into their routine at the right speed — those trainers in the gym who know you are on a cardiac step-down program will guide you and tell you at what level to work – they will be back in form within a few weeks.

I’m still working on "getting back," having concentrated on the cardio part of my program the past two weeks. I had myself up to 40 minutes of such exercise three times a week, and am back to about 34 minutes right now.

I plan to start with my six weight exercises — a mix between legs, abdominals and pulldowns – this week. Instead of doing two sets of my usual mandated 12 or 15 repetitions, the program calls for one set for a few visits. Over a week or 10 days, I look to work back up to two sets as normal.

In all, and a break happened to me once before, it takes about four weeks to regain the edge. The workup will bring a little pain, but also a lot of satisfaction... and a determination to avoid any more interruptions.