Cycling Wed: Explaining the delights of the healthiest elixir

How can I do it? Please…someone tell me.

It’s so important:

for health,

for wellness, (and not just better bio-markers),

for vitality,

vigor even.

All this, and it makes you tingle too.

Yes I am a little giddy.

I just finished riding my bike in mud and grass. There were many other people—nice ones, with good hearts (and legs). People trying to be–almost “normal.”

It was just a Wednesday cyclocross practice.

Did I say there was an orangy sunset, a cool autumn breeze and happy animals buzzing around too? The dogs and squirrels seemed to look at us with envy.

An aging cardiologist, a realtor, a litigator, a new Dad got to duel with high-schoolers. The omega and the alpha. “Go bike, Go.!” Word has it there was even a philosophy major in attendance. Lest you think we cyclists are witless, or Conservative.

So why can’t I convince my patients of the wonders of what their body could do? They don’t have to ride in mud, or slog through an Ironman, or calcify their coronaries by running like Forest Gump. All they have to do is something that makes them sweat–every day that they eat. Something fun.

No pills; just the sweet elixir of trying hard, moving fast, being alive. Check the p-value on that!

It’s so close, and yet so far.

I’ll keep trying to spread the word.

And I’ll keep you posted on my progress.

JMM

9 comments

  1. Loved this post, especially your emphasis on doing something fun. You made me remember that when I was a (skinny) kid, I’d run and ride my bike and jump rope because it was fun. And blood pumping through you feels good! My husband and I are not athletes by any means but after years of talking about it, we bought a tandem bike that we take around a nearby lake when we can. We’re not breaking land-speed records or riding through mud, but we’re having fun.

    Now if I could just think of the elliptical as fun . . .

  2. As a patient let me say one thing about why you can’t always convince your patients to become more active. MEDICATIONS. I have atrial fibrillation and my previous cardiologist and PCP kept adding more and more medications everytime I would complain about no energy, inability to exercise, and being so fatiqued and worn out I had difficulty just going to work and making it back home, nevermind exercising or shopping for healthy food or cooking it. Now just four months (and a new PCP and cardiologist) later I am down from 8 medications to 1 and I’m exercising 1 to 1 1/2 hours a day. I appreciate doctors who advocate lifestyle changes over medication, but don’t always blame your patients for not doing so. Sometimes it’s what the doctors are doing to them that is preventing it.

    1. Great comment. First, no blame was intended. Second, few docs dislike pills more than I. My chief rule in treating non-life threatening illnesses, like AF, is to NEVER make the treatment worse than the disease itself.

  3. Love the post, but let’s not be too hard on pills.

    Exercise is good. Medicine is good. Both can be abused.

    I agree that we doctors spend more time on pills than exercise counseling. Recall, patients can get good advice regarding exercise from a multitude of sources. The only place they can get good advice about pills is from their doctor(s).

    The popular trend to demonize mainstream medicine makes it hard to do our jobs well. As great as exercise is, recall it’s not a panacea. If fact, I’m pretty sure it’s more likely to cause than prevent atrial fibrillation.

    Jay (cardiac electrophysiologist and avid runner)

  4. The most distressing aspect my ongoing afib issues is that it has curtailed my fun. When I am in afib I don’t feel like exercising, and when I’m not, I am afraid to.

    Sucks. Big. Time. But, not as much as most other cardiac issues.

  5. Dr. John, your columns are always so right on. Bicycling has been my elixir for 40 years (yes, I was a baby when I entered my first sanctioned race in 1972). I think it has contributed to not looking (and sometimes, not acting) my chronological age.

    Disappointingly, this past June, A-fib returned 9 months after my second ablation, along with A-flutter, and sinus tachycardia. I kept riding, though, because that’s who I am and what I do. I need my elixir fix.

    I don’t consider myself to be a “pill person,” but in attempt to regain my good patient status (re: long story posted to Yahoo A-Fib group on 4/25/11), I took my recently-prescribed medications. However, it turns out they just made things worse. One morning in early July, 20 minutes after taking diltiazem and flecainide, I passed-out and crashed 1-1/2 miles from home while bike-commuting to work (a route I’ve ridden for several decades). Don’t remember being dizzy beforehand; don’t remember even hitting the ground. Upshot: concussion, bruised rib, three stitches in lip, and the new and improved (truly) cardiologist telling me not to ride a road bike until a third ablation.

    The day of the crash, in a post-traumatic fog, I called the EP’s office and scheduled a third ablation as soon as possible. Wait time: 3-1/2 months. In the meantime, I was relegated to neighborhood walks with my kids and using a spinning bike at the Y, the latter being incredibly boring. It’s been a long summer!

    While off the bike, I missed my solo rides (good for head-clearing and problem-solving) and the BikeMoms’ Saturday morning group rides and coffee, on-going for 13 years and counting. Also pined for little things, like reporting each ride’s wildlife tally to my husband (at various times, skunks, snakes, roosters, coyotes, lots of deer, killer squirrel attacks, and occasional tarantulas) or adding to my collection of weird things found while cycling…

    After two bike-less months, I called my PCP to ask if it would be ok to start road riding again. He was o.k. with this, since there had been no subsequent dizziness, not surprising to me, since as agreed to by the cardiologist, I went off the offending meds immediately after the accident. I’ve now been cycling again for a month with no pre-syncope. My sense of well-being improved significantly. However, the cardiologist told me last week if I’d asked him, he would not have approved of the road biking before the touch-up procedure. Oh well, as I said above, I continue to work on my patient status.

    I have now failed five anti-arrhthmia drugs. The third ablation is in 3-1/2 weeks and I hope it does the trick.

  6. Great read DJ. Though I understand the comments about drug side affects,as I also lived through the same for a time. And even though at the time I felt horrible I pushed on as exercise is part of my life and without it I am miserable.

Comments are closed.