Calling cyclists and fitness enthusiasts - AF Association

AF Association

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Calling cyclists and fitness enthusiasts


Hi all,

I’m Mark, and was diagnosed with AF (paroxysmal) in 2014 and have been taking bisoprolol, flea indie and 75mg aspirin since then. I’m a keen cyclist and work out regularly, often pretty hard. I’ve just turned 50.

In the past few months my AF has become permanent and will soon be getting my first (hopefully last...) ablation, and the forums here have been really helpful in understanding people’s experiences.

I realise everyone has a slightly different experience post-ablation, and some are really diverse. My question is about trying to find those of similar age, who cycle and work out, and get a view on whether (and how much, and for how long) there might be an impact on my ability to train hard. I’m no elite athlete, but like to push myself. The problem at the moment is I’m 130-135bpm at rest and often hit +175 when I’m working hard.

I know I need the ablation, but not quite sure where to set my expectations. Any words of wisdom greatly appreciated !

15 Replies

Hi mharvie and welcome to the forum. This is a question which is frequently asked and not easy to answer. My personal view is why would anyone want to return to an activity which made them ill in the first place. Ablations do not cure AF, all the indications are that it can and does return if people continue lifestyles which may well have caused it in the first place. That said, I can understand that some younger people particularly, can become obsessive about their sport and find it hard to contemplate life without pushing the envelope, but there is a huge price to pay if they do not moderate their activities by listening to their body (a commonly used phrase which makes a lot of sense). Hopefully, you will hear from “kindred spirits” who will share their experiences.

One other thing, although used for some heart conditions, aspirin is not used in the UK for AF due to the potential bleed of luck.

mharvie in reply to FlapJack

Thanks for this. Interesting about the aspirin, as I'm based in the UK and it was the cardiologist who prescribed it ! I'll ask him again when I see him.

I've no idea when I got AF. It was discovered via ECG when I as under general anaesthetic for an ACL reconstruction on my knee (obtained playing football !) in 2014. The anaesthetist said i could have had it for a long time.

You've given me some lines of questioning for my pre-ablation consultation, so thank you very much !

FlapJack in reply to mharvie

Enter aspirin into the top right search box. NICE recommendations about 4/5 years ago are worth checking too

mharvie in reply to FlapJack

Thanks. Surprised that hasn’t come up in my AF reviews. Will definitely bring it up.

I am 52 years old. I had Af paroxysm and I had an ablation 8 March. Now I run two times weekly 5 km average bpm 150-155, I go to gym three time weekly with light weights (12 per set minimum) and I play competitive football every Saturday 90 minutes. This was happen periodically...nothing first week, walking the second and so on.No Af only some ectopic daily.I try to eat healthy, no caffeine,no alcohol and my BMI is 26% try for 25%.Also I am trying to reduce the stress.

mharvie in reply to logec

Thanks for this. I plan to monitor things closely and although i eat healthily and have cut down the wine, still plenty more I can do. Will report back once I’ve had the op (3 weeks). I do pretty heavy weights and a lot of HIIT, so will take it very easy at first and try to find my new threshold.

jondeanp in reply to mharvie

I am 49 yr old male. Keen runner & gym user in the past, but frequency and fitness dropped off about 15 yrs ago due to work, kids, life etc. I'm carrying about 21 lbs more than i'd like to.

I was on the road to getting back into my running when AF hit me. Initially diagnosed with AF but more recently diagnosed with flutter. My episodes have always been persistent each time

After a few cardioversions and a recent flutter ablation in February i am trying to get back to fitness. I'm not bothered about returning to similar performance as i've had previously, but just want improve fitness generally and to help get the weight off. I am doing some strength training, HIIT sessions and treadmill runnning at home.

My weights and HIIT sessions are going ok, with no concerns.

I have noticed when i run however that my HR (using a Polar HRM with chest strap) goes up into the 150's and drops sometimes to the 80's before settling after between 5 and 10 mins. This is running at a very easy pace. I mentioned this at my post ablation review and they didn't seem that bothered, but i pushed a little and they agreed to get me on a 48hr holter monitor. This is booked for next month.

It may be that this is normal for me but probably in the past haven't been scrutinising my HR readings as much.

Resting HR is usually between 55-65 bpm and relatively hard effort running takes me up to the mid 150's. My running targets at the mo' are just completing 5km on the treadmill 3 to 4 times a week. Times are not critical but i am trying to push myself a little each time to slowly increase my speed. I'm only averaging 12 min/mile pace, according to treadmill numbers, but want to at least get into the 9 min/ mile pacing. I had got to this point about 12 months ago in between AF/ flutter episodes. Over the coming weeks i plan to get off the treadmill and back onto the pavements.

I'm on no meds by the way

All the best for your ablation and recovery

38 yo male keen cyclist and runner, had PAF for 6 months, and ablation 3 months ago. Was wiped out for 1 month post ablation, but gradually building back up again now. I asked all my doctors about recovery time, but no one knew for sure. I found it quite simple, my body and mind knew when it was time.

You may be interested to read 'The Haywire Heart' by Dr John Mandrola. He is a cyclist, EP and has some personal experience of AF.

Hi Mark,

You remind me of me. I think my AF was caused by exercise; in the 80s i used to TT on the bike, run half marathons, swim, go to the gym and play squash. Sometimes two or three of these on the same day.

My tested max HR was 185 and I used to exercise/race to HR readings. In 2014 I started to get the occasional high HR blips, but they lasted for only a few seconds so I ignored it, thinking it was a reader problem. In late 2015, these started to last for longer periods, but I was largely unaffected so I blamed the strap again. In October 2015 I started to experience very high readings, lasting for minutes and affecting my exercise capability.

Eventually my PAF became persistent and I was diagnosed. Long story, I had two ablations, the second in October 2017 and have literally just returned to normal. (The long story can be seen at )

After a cardioversion and both my ablations, I was told by Cardiologist/EP that I would be able to get back to normal in a few weeks. But my normal was not normal, so I have been very cautious. I was so debilitated at the start, and most importantly, my cycling was so badly affected that I did not want to end up back in the same state as I started.

initially, to remain involved in cycling I trained with BC as a track commissaire and have since officiated in the local league and some regional and national events. I mothballed my race bikes (I live in the peak district) and started to potter along the local canal trails on a fixed gear cross bike. I was restricted to a HR of 130 after the first ablation, allowed up to 140 after the second. I am now feeling 100% normal, but am banned from racing and HIIT. I am currently working to a max of 160. I am back on the road bike, and the lower hills but on a much reduced gearing and lower speeds.

What I have now is not as good as it was a couple of years ago, but is 1000% better than I expected. This may not be the reassurance you were hoping for, but I promise it is worth holding back to gain the benefits of the ablation.

I am 60. Had PAF for 5 years and then developed Arterial Flutter as well. Became progressively worse and had double (AFib and AF) ablation just 12 months ago. I am a cycling fanatic and cycle between 200 and 300 km per week and have done so pre and post ablation ( I was heavily medicated before). I've researched the hell out of arrhythmia and endurance sports and, yes there is a link. However, I subscribe to the need for quality in my life and cycling gives me that (I don't smoke or drink alcohol, drink little or no caffeinated drinks, drink plenty of H2O and sleep 8 hrs a night). Post ablation I was able to ride "normally" again after about 4 weeks, building my confidence on the turbo. Since then I've improved my FTP and lost a little more weight.

My AF has returned and I'm back on PIP meds, but it is different from before my ablation (I am back at the cardiologist in a couple of weeks). I have kept a diary and there is no correlation between exercise and MY episodes. My best guess is "reduced sleep" as this is the only thing that correlates to an episode. People will tell you all sorts of stuff on this and any other forum; at the end of the day you are on a personal journey. As I came round from the ablation I told my partner that if I needed another 1, 2 or 10 to keep fit I'll take that option as the benefits far outweigh any discomfort.

For those who feel that this is "irresponsible", two things (1) my personal choice and (2) I don't smoke or drink alcohol, drink little or no caffeinated drinks, drink plenty of H2O,, I am not overweight and sleep 8 hrs a night!

BTW, there is no "luck" element to AF!


69 year old exrunner now keen cyclist who has learnt to live with the problem and not let it affect my love of getting out on the bike. See earlier posts for some of my experiences. It is a long journey but with a bit of compromise there is a way forward. However we are all different.

Hi, I read this with interest as I too seem to be in the same boat as yourself st them moment.

My AF sent my HR to 207 bpm, just on an ‘exploratory’ 2 mile ‘easy’ jog shortly after developing the condition. I used to run 5k at 165bpm in 17.44 mins prior, ran up to 65 miles a week and cycled too. I am now in sinus rhythm but only because of Amiodarone. I seem to have gone from not being able to keep my HR down to not being able to make it rise sufficiently to do the training I want.

All the advice seems to be to get used to doing ‘moderate enjoyable’ exercise. This falls short when you want to be racing or taking part in endurance events. I have resigned myself to the fact I’ll never race again but will just keep myself fit.

Unfortunately, hard endurance related workouts are a factor in making AF return or worsen.

Good luck with the ablation, I’m listed for one too so I hope it works for you.

Can't understand why you are not taking an anticoagulant instead of the aspirin. I am 67 year old keen club (but not competitive) cyclist, just diagnosed with paroxysmal AF for the second time. I had a successful ablation in Oct 2010 and cycled regularly after that including 100 mile sportives with no problems although I wear a HR monitor and try not to go above 160. I am currently on the list for another ablation but have not modified my cycling with the blessing of my EP. I take warfarin and 2.5mg bisoprolol. I have taken an extra dose of the bisoprolol when my HR stays elevated in AF ( trigger does not appear to be cycling related). Currently resting HR is 50-55 and under exercise I try to keep it at 140 max the average is 113 over a 4 hour cycle ride. Good luck with your treatment Mark.

I met a slim fit cyclist, clean eating, clean living who peddled his way to a heart attack. When I see joggers I cringe. The body only need short bursts of exercise or moderate regular walking. But we all live and learn. You cannot exercise your way out of a bad diet. Some people abuse their bodies and survive. Over exercise can be the other side of the coin. I am not judging anyone. But a balance is better than a cure.

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