Full disclosure, this blog is more personal than nutritional. Many of you may know that while still running recreationally, I no longer race. This end to racing was not voluntary, but rather, forced after a gamut of tests and several cardiologist consultations. This all started when I was forced to drop out of a race when my heart did what I can only describe as “going crazy.” All of a sudden, my heart rate went extremely fast, my power output drastically dropped, I was out of breath and light headed, and hardly able to hold up a jogging pace. I was forced to stop. I had had this happen several times before, but never during a race. This DNF forced me to go to my family doctor to make sure nothing was wrong. I assumed that it was just anxiety or overtraining, but that wasn’t the case.
My cardiac MRI revealed that I had a dilated right ventricle, and my electrocardiogram also showed abnormal findings. My enlarged right ventricle could be from endurance training (AKA athletes’ heart). On other hand, it could be something genetic like Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Cardiomyopathy (AVRC). I did some DNA testing, which showed I was negative for the AVRC gene. However, this does not mean that my enlarged right ventricle is not genetic or AVRC since they can’t test for all the genes that could cause AVRC. The next logical step to determining if my abnormally large right ventricle is genetic or purely the result of training, is “deconditioning.” Hence, my New Year’s resolution to get out of shape. I am to have two months with no exercise that raises my heart rate. After these two months, I will have a repeat cardiac MRI to see if my right ventricle shrinks back to normal size.
I am going to be completely honest, the thought of two months with no running terrifies me. I have worked so hard to maintain my strong fitness level, and I hate the idea of getting “out of shape.” I also truly enjoy running, so I worry about my mental health. There is nothing I enjoy more than getting out in the fresh air each day. I am also concerned about trying to start running again after these two months are over. However, I am trying to look at this from a positive angle. Why?
- You most certainly do not need to run X number of miles. I am not all of a sudden going to be unhealthy just because I’m not in running shape. In fact, the optimal level of exercise for health benefits is actually only 30-60 minutes per day. I can still go for walks, engage in resistance exercise, and maybe (while unlikely) I’ll even work on my flexibility with some yoga classes.
- It means no winter running. The two months that I will be taking a break (January and February) are probably the best months to not run simply because I hate both running in snow and on the treadmill. I hope we have a snowfall record this year. I may even take a try at some winter activities like skiing.
- I am looking forward to focusing on other areas of my life. Endurance running takes up a lot of time. I look forward to using this time to engage in more meaningful activities that have been neglected.
I think that it’s ironic that my “getting out of shape” coincides with New Year’s Resolutions that usually revolve around weight loss and fitness. While there is nothing wrong with wanting to hit a fitness goal or become healthier, the way that social media and the diet industry suggests pursuing these goals is often disordered and harmful long-term. Your New Year’s resolution likely does not involve getting out of shape like mine, but do ensure that the changes you’re making are sustainable and align with your long-term goals. What’s your New Year’s resolution this year?
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