Hi again! So, here in Ireland as we have battened down the hatches in the wake of storm Ophelia I figured what else to do than write another blog post (that assignment I should be doing for college can wait a while!!!). The last few weeks have been busy as usual with work and college so in this post I’ve decided to give you guys an insight into how I’ve gotten back into my gym routine and getting my fitness back on track….ish!!
So, really my fitness was how I discovered my PAPVC condition. It probably started when I was around 6 and I had problems with dizziness and sickness after swimming, we ignored it for a long time and thought nothing of it. Then I started Irish Dancing, and as the years went by my dancing got more intense and as did my training. With this of course came the onset of all of my symptoms. I put the dizziness down to not eating enough, the sickness, black spots and chest pain though were things I could never just explain away. When I reached 18 my first thing I did was join the gym. I loved it, like most people who go to the gym it’s a stress reliever for me. Of course, as was following suit, the more I did in the gym the worse my symptoms got. The more it happened the more frustrating it became for me and I became afraid to do anything in the gym, or anything to get my heart rate up. After a particularly bad incident in the gym I started my medical journey to get to the bottom of what was causing my problems. 3 years of chasing doctors for answers we got one. Here I am 4 and a half months post op and getting my fitness back.
As you can tell, my fitness was to thank for finding out this problem, and my fitness is to thank for my recovery. Now, I’m not a personal trainer, nor do I pretend to be. So instead of filling your head with all the sciencey stuff about muscle groups and fitness I’m just going to give you guys the Shauna version of how I’ve done it and hope it helps (I’ve found myself saying that sentence a lot during these posts and still don’t know if it’s helping anyone or if I’m rambling to myself, first sign of madness is talking to yourself I suppose!!!!). Anyhow back to the point. I was on a mission after my operation not to get lulled into the world of eating rubbish and using my operation as an excuse not to exercise. Don’t get me wrong it was not easy and I had to try very very hard to take it slowly but I soon learned that taking it slow was the only way to do it. I was lucky in a way that my operation happened during the summer which meant we had some nice weather during the first few weeks (you wouldn’t think it looking out my window now but the sun does shine here occasionally!!!). While I was in hospital I had a lovely physio who was in with me every day and helped me out of bed and on little walks when I could. These little walks the first two/three days aren’t easy with chest drains, catheters, wires and everything else hanging out of you (including your backside in a hospital gown!!!!!!). As soon as my pacing wires, chest drains and other bits and bobs were taken off there was no stopping me walking the corridors. Firstly, it got me out of my room, but secondly it got me moving, very slowly up and down the corridor but I did it. I think eventually the nurses got sick of looking at me wearing a hole in the floor from pacing and 5 days post op I was let home.
Please don’t underestimate how tired you’re going to be when you get home. Walking up the stairs and having a shower left me needing a two-hour nap after it! Every day I decided to do little by little. I got myself into a routine of getting dressed and walking each morning. It started off at five minutes until by the end of the week I got up to 10 minutes. Each day there was another little win. Don’t get me wrong, there were days where I couldn’t find the energy to go out but when I did it felt good. After about 3 weeks of walking I was up to 30minutes, at this I decided to revisit my local haunt and get back to the gym. Calm down people, I just fancied a change of scenery and was under strict supervision by mammy Leamy!!! But being back on the treadmill for a walk and doing a few minutes on the bike felt good. I know this sounds easy but believe me it wasn’t. There were days when the pain would hit me like a truck and the exhaustion would get the better of me but I had to understand that this was OK, I had to take these small steps to get back on track and that’s what I did. I alternated this routine until my 6 weeks check up with the doctor, when he said he was happy with my progress I decided it was time to try and get my strength back.
I had my fitness going well but my muscle tone had reduced badly. I didn’t know where to go or how to get started but I knew the woman to call on. My bestie Louise, who also happens to be a strength and conditioning coach came to save the day. Its handy when you can have serious laughs during a session but also get the understanding that this needs to be done slowly. Every week we did a session together and every week I got a little bit better. Louise is the one person I know I can call on, no matter what, and this was no different. Working with her got me back to where I never thought possible and the beginnings of my strength and muscle tone returning. We worked through a programme working with resistance bands, self-weighted exercises, there was no free weights used because I was under strict orders to wait 12 weeks post op for that. Having lunch and cake after some sessions aren’t always recommended but it does help…. I think!!! (Keane Health and Performance, check her out on Facebook you won’t regret it!!!! Cake not guaranteed for everyone!). Along with the programmes Louise had me doing I was also in the gym 2/3 days a week. Like everything else I was taking it easy, 10minute walk and 10minute bike followed my some of my programme from Louise. Again, don’t think this will be easy. A lot of the time after exercise came chest pain and exhaustion. I don’t expect everyone to be able to do this, but this is my journey don’t forget, yours won’t be a carbon copy but if you can manage to do some of this you won’t regret it.
Finally, my 12 weeks came around and the minute it did I was back to weights. Let me paint you a picture of how slowly I took this. Before my operation I was chest pressing 24-30KG (baby weights to some but not to me), I was leg pressing up to 80KG. Post op, my I chest pressed 2KG and leg pressed 8KG. And this was OK. This is how it should be, and no I didn’t do it all the time, and no I didn’t go to the gym every day. I listened and took it slowly. I got advice from good, knowledgeable people but most of all I took advice from my own body. If it hurt I stopped, if I was tired I didn’t go and if it was too much I didn’t do it. Week by week, and when it felt right I upped my weights. Some weeks I didn’t go to the gym and some weeks it was really hard. Another friend of mine, Niall gave me my first programme after my operation in the gym. I love when Niall does my programmes, he knows his stuff and makes sure you know it too!! Here’s how hard it is to get back in action, I got that programme 5 weeks ago and only last week I was able to finish it, it frustrated the life out of me not being able to do it, but the reward of being able to finish it was amazing!!!
So, I’ve spoken before about my new love of Pilates and seriously, I love it. I found a girl one on one and have done movements I never thought possible. It uses every muscle group, most importantly your core muscles and you feel it the next day. It wakes up muscles you never thought possible and gives you such a great sense of strength. Where am I now with my fitness? It’s hard, the last week was my first with zero chest pains…… but it was also the first week I did no exercise and wasn’t busy in work. The past few days I had Pilates, went to the gym and was busier in work and I felt it. My chest gets achy and my energy is low, I need to remember I’m still 4 and a half months post op, and I have come a long way. If you are early days post op just be kind to yourself. Yes, try and get a walk in and use some muscles, but be gentle, get in touch with people who know the body and work within your limits. Don’t get sucked into the ‘fitness’ you see on social media, forget about the “gym bunnies” on Instagram. Have they been through your journey? No. Have they walked in your shoes and seen what you have? No. Do what you feel is right, get the right advice.
As always keep on keeping on and we’ll get there.
There I am, hanging out Pilates style!!! #Pilates #PAPVC #Heartsurgery #Openheartsurgery #zipperclub #recovery