gym wobbles...: I've got a catch-up... - British Heart Fou...

British Heart Foundation

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gym wobbles...

laura_dropstitchHeart Star

I've got a catch-up with the gym guy in a week to see how I'm finding the exercise programme we've set. He said he's pretty much relying on me to tell him how much I feel I can do since my pacemaker makes heart-rate readings pointless, but I'm not really confident about how much I can/should be doing. At the moment I'm doing ten minutes on treadmill, ten minutes on exercise bike and ten minutes on vario (cross trainer type thing?) all at fairly low effort settings, but reasonable pace. The treadmill and bike seemed fine, lots of sweat and effort but feeling all right and like I could do more, but the vario is horrendously difficult for me. I had to stop three times within the ten minutes because I just couldn't go on. I completed the ten minutes (because I am incredibly stubborn!) but then was worried afterwards that I had overdone it. When I do my exercise test at the hospital (on a stationary bike) and have to keep going until I can't go on, they tell me to go home and put my feet up, avoid doing anything that might elevate my heart rate at all for the rest of the day. The vario feels nearly as bad as the exercise test really, so does that mean I shouldn't be doing it? I really want to work hard and see results, just a bit scared I don't know what I'm doing :( I'm thinking of sticking to treadmill and bike for a month or two (15 mins on each?) and then try the vario again further down the line. Is that sensible or just lazy? I've never been a fan of tiring workouts, so I really don't know. Or should I see if my GP will refer me to see the gym guy who deals with specific health conditions? Any thoughts from wonky-hearted gym bunnies would be appreciated! Thanks.

19 Replies

You're doing really well - haven't you only been going for a few days? Stop being tough on yourself and set some small and realistic goals :) if the vario machine doesn't suit you then stop using it and try something else out. Maybe there are some classes that achieve a similar result? As far as I'm aware it's just cardio so maybe over time you could just increase the amount of treadmill and bike you're doing.

Personally, I'm so malcoordinated that I can't use a treadmill and the thought of a gym intimidates me! However...I do cycle to and from work every day through central London so maybe I'm not easily intimidated after all!

Chin up, and keep up the good work :)


laura_dropstitchHeart Star in reply to Hidden

Cycling through London definitely scarier than a treadmill. My main problem with the treadmill is that I get "sea legs" when I get off and can't walk properly. Very embarrassing! 😂

Hidden in reply to laura_dropstitch

Ha! That's mortifying. It's the same when I get off my bike and try and walk up the stairs to the office!

skid112Heart Star

Morning Laura,

I do the treadmill, the bike but not the cross trainer for the same reasons, cannot physically manage more than five minutes on it and my heart rate soars. So my guy says no more. I find the bike easiest, maybe as I used to do a lot of cycling, so now he sets a target heart rate which i have to keep to, rather than a set five minutes at such and such a speed.

My sessions tend to be five minutes treadmill before core and leg exercises some with weights, repeat three times, then bike and the same.

Will be introduced to the rowing machine tomorrow, so looking forward to it...not

I think in your case, especially as you seem to be able to cope with the treadmill and the bike, to increase the times on these. Maybe look to do some other exercises, squats, a few sit ups maybe some lunges as you get into it.

I know some of the other guys on here will be up with some suggestions too

laura_dropstitchHeart Star in reply to skid112

Thanks. Good to know cross trainer has been too much for someone else too. Maybe it's not the best idea for me. Think I will do as you suggest and stick to the treadmill and bike for time being. I'm definitely too self-conscious to be lunging and doing sit-ups at the moment but will bear it in mind for further down the line :)


Hi Laura, I'm interested in why set a cross trainer, for it to work effectively it requires a level of fitness and co-ordination.

Generally the starting package should be limited to treadmill, bike and another piece of equipment then warm down with lite free weights (No more than 2k).

The third item of equipment should be something that builds core strength through resistance (a cross trainer does this but as part of the larger workout).

So it may help to replace that equipment with something else, upping the time on the treadmill and bike may be just too much right now.

You swim so that would take care of the calorie burn rates.

When you speak to your trainer ask about the alternative calorie burners, lunges and sit ups require high volume and speed to be really effective so using the simple rowing machines can provide the similar impacts.

The key to the gym is target specific machines - have two core strength and stamina tools (bike and treadmill) look at same time set and greater distance.

Then a series of optional to address specific concerns.

Remember the machine is there to assist you not test you.

Most of all keep going, use good sense and if it isn't working with one piece of equipment then move to another. After a couple of months you have a set pattern which works for you.

laura_dropstitchHeart Star in reply to Hidden

Thanks Mark. We did look at some resistance stuff, think the plan was to see how I'm finding the cardio machines this week and then build the resistance work in after that. To be honest, part of the decision process of what to include in the programme was guided by me feeling self-conscious in the gym environment. The bike and treadmill are easy to use and you don't stand out too much as a gym impostor, but doing weights and stretches... Shudder! Will try to overcome my insecurities over the next couple of weeks. You're right that I shouldn't expect to have the perfect programme in place immediately, will probably need to be a bit more patient in trying to find the right balance. Good to be reminded of that! :)

Hidden in reply to laura_dropstitch

Gym's are intimidating places because we assume that everyone is doing better than us, or looking at our performance. It isn't true!

Even when I was in great shape there was always someone that made me self conscious and I felt out of place. It was one of the reasons I bought my own gym equipment and kitted out the garage. No one to watch. No one to measure against. The a main reason was I could train at mid-night or 5 am without issue.

That is why so many train with head phones on.

Eventually the self consciousness goes and it becomes a good place to go.

laura_dropstitchHeart Star in reply to Hidden

Thanks Mark :)

Yes totally agree with all above, you are doing exstremly well.

I wonder, have you made it clear to your trainer what you've been through & you possible vulnerabilities.

Maybe you are putting on a brave face, there by given the eluession you can handle it.

Maybe do the BHF dvd before you go, then stick to the bike & treadmill like the guys are saying until you've built up your strength & stamina.

You should never take on what is making you uncomfortable & stressed.

If you find it stressful rather than enjoyable. You'll not see the achievements you are msking & you'll eventually give up the good work you have achieved so far.

Well done & best of luck to you, Jo 😆

laura_dropstitchHeart Star in reply to Sina-6491

Thanks Jo. You could be right. On the surface I do look very fit and healthy, maybe I do need to make it a bit clearer to them. The first guy I saw, the one who showed me how everything worked etc, seemed really clued up about heart issues and was very understanding, the second guy was a bit... Slapdash would be a harsh description, but he definitely didn't seem to give my situation too much thought, just set up a "beginner's" programme and set me loose to try it. I think I'm just a bit more nervous than I'd expected about overdoing things, but it's hard to explain your fears and ask everything you want to when you are in an environment that feels so uncomfortable and intimidating, especially because everyone who works there is so at home and so fit, doesn't really feel like they can relate. I tried to speak to one of them about my concerns on my way out and his response was just that the cross trainer takes a bit of getting used to. I suppose I need to take control and make sure my concerns are addressed when I see them next week. Still feeling excited about it overall. And still very proud of myself despite how I sounded in this post :)

Aww you'll be fine lovey, you've just got to be honest about it. And like you said, you need to take control of your own destiny.

You know you were saying everybody looks like they have got it all worked out. They all look so exspireanced etc. Well for one they have all been doing it for a while. And don't forget they all had a first day or days at the beginning.

Just because they look so experienced doesn't mean they are.

And I bet you they haven't evan noticed you. They are too busy worrying about themselves.

So you keep at it girl and enjoy it 😊

Kristin1812Heart Star

You're being amazing. But I would really get a trainer who understands and is trained in cardiac work. Very reassuring, and will, I'm sure, help you with realistic targets and strategies.

laura_dropstitchHeart Star in reply to Kristin1812

I was talking to my gym-going friend last night and she said the same thing re working with the more specialised trainer. I'm lucky a service like that exists in my council gym, so I think I will make use of it. Going to ease up a little bit in the meantime (no more cross trainer!) and ask my GP to refer me to the man in the know. As you say, will be good for peace of mind but also will hopefully give me a more targeted and effective programme to follow. Thanks for the kind words of wisdom :)

Kristin1812Heart Star in reply to laura_dropstitch

I hope it goes really well. Let us know how you get on.

Hi Laura.... can I just say you are inspirational 😀. Now I personally won't do gym exercises... but I too want to get fit and look after myself once recovered from my implant op. I am older (at 55) and so I will be opting for pilates. Strengthens core.... gets all limbs more in shape and tones too. Having read your gym post I am now more focused to do my pilates in 8 weeks time. Perhaps you may want to try a pilates class as well as the gym ?

One thing that I do find is that people see how good we look on the outside and don't always take into consideration our unseen" heart conditions. I would definitely listen to your body and do what feels right for you.

Good luck with the training xx

laura_dropstitchHeart Star in reply to Heartlady1

Thank you :) I had been doing yoga classes over the last few months and was really enjoying it, but figured cardio work is probably a more effective use of the time (and money) I have for exercise. Definitely hoping to get back into yoga (or pilates) once I'm settled in though. My annual membership includes all the council-run classes as well as the gym and pool, so looking forward to trying things out and getting a varied routine going on.

I had been a life-long gym avoider until last week and am still employing a bit of mind over matter to make myself go, but I think the flexibility the gym offers (as opposed to having to go to a class at a set time) is the key for me. Trying out different activities over the last few years (tap dancing, hula hoping, yoga...) has helped give me the confidence to try this, but it's definitely WAY out of my comfort zone.

Good luck with the pilates and thanks again x


Hi and well done for going, I tried it once but it's not for me, at some point I will need to think of some kind of exercise, as I do practically nothing hmm, I hope you get a better routine sorted out which I am sure you will and I am sure the more you go you will feel less intimidated, it would scare the life out of me lol, keep us posted how it goes x

Since my encounter with the cross trainer, I've had terrible fluid retention and been quite breathless. This scares me (I have been back to the gym, but have stuck to the treadmill and exercise bike and taken it much easier) so I asked my GP to refer me to the Live Active scheme for more tailor-made advice and direction. Turns out, however, your GP can't refer you if you have an ICD fitted. Aaaaargh! My GP is lovely and is trying to find a way round this for me, including (again!) asking if there is any sort of cardiac rehab I could take part in. She's also contacting the consultant who fitted my ICD (who has only met me once and knows nothing much about me) to see if they can refer me to the Live Active scheme, as apparently he's the only one who can. I do see why they (the GP and the Live Active people) would be wary, of course, but I don't see why it's OK for me to exercise under the instruction of someone who knows nothing, but not OK to exercise under the supervision of someone with a bit of knowledge. My GP was concerned to hear I'd been exercising without monitoring my heart rate but couldn't clarify how reliable/valid heart rate monitoring was given my pacemaker. My cardiologist previously told me there was NO WAY I could raise my heart rate to 200 bpm (the rate at which my defibrillator would shock me) through exercise, but my GP seemed worried that this was a possibility. (She obviously hasn't seen me exercise! Ha!) I'll keep persevering with the gym, of course, and will ask for some clarification/reassurance when I speak to gym guy on Thursday, but I am feeling a bit miffed and discouraged overall.

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