Getting back to fitness after an ICD implant.

This is my story on how I got back to fitness after having a Sudden Cardiac Arrest, you will find some tips and guidelines but remember we’re all different.
You will also come across many barriers as you come to terms with your new life.
After implantation of an ICD (Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator), you can be usually discharged from the hospital the next day.
Depending on your situation this can be a relief, for some, it feels a little too quick.
Usual recovery time for this procedure is between 4 to 6 weeks, there are two different types of ICD.
The recovery time is generally the same for these but ‘cause of the placement you may counter different difficulties.
Subcutaneous ICD is less invasive than Transvenous ICD, the generator is usually bigger than a  transvenous ICD.

Your cardiologist will decide what sort of ICD is suitable for your needs if you require pacing the transvenous will most likely be opted.
I think subcutaneous is becoming more popular due to the fact that it is less invasive and is believed the placement is better suited to patients needs.
A subcutaneous pocket for the generator is created on the left side of the chest next to the rib cage and the lead is implanted just under the skin above the breastbone.
The subcutaneous ICD electrode is placed under the skin and the system delivers therapy without the need for wires implanted in the heart.
The subcutaneous ICD leaves the heart and blood vessels untouched and intact.
Personally, I have a transvenous ICD so unable to comment on the recovery of the Subcutaneous.

A transvenous ICD device is typically implanted in the left shoulder area, near the collarbone, a pocket is made in the muscle. Using X-ray imaging, the leads are fed through a vein into the heart and across the heart valve.
Depending on your heart condition, one or two leads will be placed in the heart.
Once the leads are put in place, they are attached to the heart wall for optimal connectivity.

A couple of hours after having my ICD implanted I woke up in my room full of friends, I think I came around full of emotion that first thing I did was throw up.
I had been in the hospital for 3 weeks at this point, I felt bruised, beat up and now that I had ICD they were telling me that I’m going to be released the next day.
I had been ready weeks ago to go home but having my ICD implanted I was scared to go home, but also relieved to be going home.
The cardiac nurse felt that I wouldn’t benefit by going to cardiac rehabilitation, I think that was my mistake.
Yes, I was 26 at the time, but I didn’t know what I could do anymore, they said I could exercise but never gave me a true indication of what I could do.
So my first tip is to make sure you take up any rehabilitation offered to you, even if you’re really fit, I think cardiac rehabilitation is a good tool to help you adjust to your ICD.

So after being released from the hospital I only had to return 3-5 days later to get my stitches removed, I was then left to my own to adjust to my new life.
I had an early setback, whilst in hospital, I made friends with someone online and they said they wanted to look after me after I got released from the hospital.
So I did go and stay with this person for a few days, I had a sexual encounter with this person, afterwards, I collapsed/ passed out in their bathroom.
That was a week after being released from the hospital, maybe that was too much too soon.

I was back to work within 2 weeks from ICD implantation, I worked in retail management ‘cause I will still healing I wouldn’t do any lifting or reach overhead.
I was pretty much back to normal within 6 weeks and regained natural movement in my left arm.
I wanted to get back to exercise, I wanted to go running, but I was too scared, finally, I had my first pacing test 3 months after being released from the hospital.
I relayed my fears to the technician at the pacing clinic, they put it in my notes and through them, I got my fitness test at the hospital.
So they got me on a treadmill, wired me up and this helped me discover that I could get back to fitness.
In my mind I still didn’t know what level of fitness I could attain too, I still wanted to run.
Running had been my escape, if I was down I would run and I felt I could no longer do that anymore.

Joining a GYM was my next move, all gym will ask you to fill out a PARQ form (Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire).
Working in gym myself now I appreciate the importance of a PARQ form and I feel it is best to be honest when filling one out.
I joined the Gym Group and they didn’t contact me to ask me any questions or to check that it was safe for me to exercise.
A good gym will ask you questions and some might want a doctor’s note or a cardiologist letter to say that you are good to participate in exercise.
Which can be a pain to obtain but if the gym showing an interest in your welfare and not just your money that is a good sign.
Also by filling out the PARQ form honestly if something was to happen whilst you were exercising the staff in the facility will be able to help or pass on your PARQ form to medical professionals.
Most gyms will offer you an induction with a Personal Trainer/ Fitness Instructor and hopefully, they will put you with someone that got cardiac experience or with the doctor referral qualification.
Do take an induction up it is good opportunity to relay your fears, but also they will be with you whilst you workout and they can be the reassurance you need to get you through your first workout.

Being aware of what I was capable of doing, I would jump on the cardiovascular machines and go hell for leather trying to get my heart rate as high as I could.
Probably not the best practice but it was my way in finding out how hard I could push myself.
There may be a fear of doing overhead exercises, it is safe to do overhead exercises.
Start with light weights to get used to the movement and with time and confidence increase your weights.
Over the years I have now pushed my body harder than ever but at the same time, I listen to my body.
If I have cold/ illness I take a break from my training, I let my body fully recover.
When you think have recovered from a cold it can still takes up to 5 days for your body to be fully recovered.

In 2010 I finally braved it to go out and run on my own again, it took me 2 years.
In 2012 I started work in a gym called Alive Fitness & Natural Health, I have completed my qualification as Fitness Instructor & Personal Training.
In 2014 I completed Spartan Race, I had to get my cardiologist to sign a consent form, I think if he knew what the Spartan Race entailed I would have given him a heart attack.
In 2015 I completed the Brighton Marathon and I completed it 20 minutes faster than my London time in 2007
I even set myself crazy challenges like how many press ups I can do in an hour, the most I have completed in an hour is 1033.

Things to remember:
There are so many different heart conditions out there, meaning you could also be on medication.
If your medication makes you dizzy or feels sick best not to workout directly after taking said medication.
We are all different and we shouldn’t put a timescale on recovery, there will be other obstacles.
The greatest obstacle is in our mind and the fear of what will happen when we receive a shock.

There is no answer to this, other than it’s not worth worrying about because it may never happen.

Look after your body:
You have a foreign object in your body, the muscles have to adapt to this object.
Your muscles have been pulled and stretched and this will affect other areas of your body.
I suffer from a really tight back and my left shoulder is always knotted, after doing a little research and talking to other people with ICD I learned they suffered too.
Even if you don’t exercise you may find that you have a tight back, there is a couple of ways to break these knots you will need a friend/ partner.
Get them to put apply pressure on the knot with their elbow and this will slowly breakdown the knot.
Another option is to purchase a handheld massage ball like the one below priced between £5-£10.
You will need your partner to roll over the knotted area but my god it feels good.

Please do not attempt this until you have fully recovered from your surgery, give your body at least 12 weeks.
I hope that you find this information useful, don’t forget there is support out there, we’re here to support each other.

My Love Hate Relationship with Running

I really do have a love-hate relationship with running, I started writing before my last marathon on Sunday 12th April.
I promised many that I will never a run a marathon again and that little voice in my head is already telling me it is a lie!

In truth I will never stop running, my love for running started at school, cross country running, back then I knew one day I would run The London Marathon.
It was one of my dreams alongside my close school friend Daniel Juett, to my knowledge he has never run a marathon.
During my teenage years, I put on a lot of weight and lost my desire to run.
My manager at Alive Toby saw an old picture of me, and his comment was that I was a right burger!

My desire to run returned in 2006, my long term relationship to Shawn ended and I saw a poster in Prince Regent Gym to run the London Marathon for Mencap in 2007.
I pledged to raise £2500 for Mencap for my place in the London marathon.
I thought myself to be in good shape and the idea to run a marathon was a welcome distraction of my broken heart.

When you enter a marathon you have to put the miles in, I joined the Brighton Shop Jog runners every Sunday for a run, and I would go running on my own when I had the chance.
This is when I learned how much I really loved running if I was ever down I’d go for a run while running I would forget my troubles, some would say running away from my troubles.

I completed the London marathon in 2007, hitting the walk around the 18-mile mark when you hit the wall it is hard to find your feet to run again.
My ankles were caked in blood, I used to have a habit of kicking my ankles whilst running, a habit that I thankfully kicked out of.
I completed the London Marathon in 4hrs 46mins 55 seconds time that I would beat myself up on for years!
Everybody knows the story that I didn’t raise the £2500 for Mencap, so I felt a bit of failure and put in over £800 of my own money to make it up.

After the London marathon, I decided that I didn’t want to run anymore; then I got an email regarding the New York Marathon for CF Trust.
CF Trust is Cystic Fibrosis and one of my friends Mikey suffers from this condition and I wanted to do it for him.

This time I wanted to do it properly, I wanted to follow a strict plan and this time make sure that I would complete the New York Marathon without hitting the wall.
So I slipped on my running shoes again 4 months after I said that I wouldn’t run again.
So as a part of my training, I decided that I needed to run as much as I possibly could, I entered the Hastings Half Marathon on Sunday 16th March 2008.

The week before the Hastings half marathon I had a cold, at the time I didn’t think much of it.
On race day I felt alright, although I text a number of people saying something wasn’t right, and that I would text them after the race.
I never sent that text because that day my life changed, I collapsed at the finish line and had a cardiac arrest.
If you think about it running saved my life, I have a condition where it is common to die in my sleep.
My condition decided to show itself on a day that I was running, a day that defibrillators were at hand a day that I could be saved, so yeah running saved my life.

I was then diagnosed with a heart condition called Brugada Syndrome, doctors/ cardiologist/ specialist said that I would never run a marathon again.
It was tough to take in, the idea of not running again, even though I came away with my life.

I wouldn’t run again until 2010 after some support from Myheart crew I finally found the courage to put on my running shoes again.
It did take a lot of courage to put my running shoes on again, I had a cardiac arrest whilst running, and I feared it would happen again, that is a hard hurdle to climb over!
I never knew how far I should or could run; no-one would/ could give me those answers.

My burning desire to run another marathon returned in 2014 when I volunteered to cheer on C-R-Y runners during the Brighton Marathon.
So with my mind made up I decided to sign up for the Brighton Marathon, I was honest when filling out the application, a part of me wanted them to refuse me entry for the marathon.
They took my money and I was really doing this marathon, though I had decided from the beginning if there was any incidents or warning signs I would pull out of the marathon.

My first challenge came with the Spartan Race in October 2014, the main challenge was getting permission from my cardiologist, without permission C-R-Y wouldn’t allow me to take part.
Thankfully my cardiologist gave me permission to take part, though he said if it was a marathon we really would need to talk he commented at the time, I just kept quiet!

The Spartan Beast Race is a 20km obstacle race, which we also had to wade through water and mud. I found this event to be more gruelling than a marathon, so I began to build in confidence towards my challenge in 2015.
The Spartan Race also saw an end to my running shoes, the very shoes that saw me through the London Marathon and the Hastings Half Marathon, it was sad to say goodbye to them.

A little break after Spartan Race I purchased my new running shoes, I would then step up my training for the Brighton Marathon, I wanted to run without hitting the wall.
Unfortunately, my training didn’t go to plan, having a condition I have to listen to my body, so if I felt unwell I would take a week break from running, minor injuries that included tight hamstrings and shin splints slowed down my training too.
I had my pacing test in February and nothing showed up during The Spartan Race or on any of my running days, so that is when I decided that I would be really doing this!

Saturday 11th April 2015 a night that I won’t ever forget the night before the Brighton Marathon, I am being very generous by saying that I had 3 hours sleep the night before the marathon.
I had run many miles before the marathon day, but I did have a fear that this would really be my last run.
I felt bad because my sister was pregnant at the time and I felt that maybe I was being selfish.
I also had my parents in a tailspin not wanting me to run this marathon.
I had to do this for myself, though I really wasn’t sure what I was trying to prove.
That night I talked myself out of running a million times, and yet I laid in my bed until my alarm went off, though I really didn’t need it!
I was a bag of nerves all morning, my poached eggs on toast were a struggle to eat, the toast dry which wasn’t pleasant to eat with a dry mouth.
I then showered and got changed into my running gear before I had the last of breakfast a bowl of porridge, which went down better than the eggs and toast.

I packed my little bum bag with 3 clementines and 3 nakd bars, this was the fuel that I had trained with.
This time I trained without running gels, they taste horrible and I wanted to know what I was putting in my body!
I walked to Preston Park starting point of Brighton marathon, on the route passing so many people that were on the same path as me, yet a very different journey.

At Preston Park I waited around anxiously until Charlie Elford and Dan turned up, Charlie hugged me and could see that I was shaking uncontrollably, I think this caused a moment of concern for Charlie.
They called us to line up for the marathon, I had one last pee by this point I had been to the toilet 5 times already.
I then lined up with all the other runners, my nerves building up more than ever, I knew once I start running that I would be fine, it was just the waiting.
Once I started running I knew that I would be fine, I had felt fine all the time, tired due to lack of sleep but fine.
The first mile in and I had to go pee again, the rest of the run I managed to keep my bladder under control.
I high fived Tony Hawkins on London Road, though I don’t think he remembers.
I loved every single minute of running, through the city that I love, the place that I now call home.
What also felt good was all the people that I was overtaking, damn that competitive side came out of me!
I was doing a good time, Charlie informed me that at one point it looked like I would finish in 3hrs 45mins.
Around the 17-18 mile mark I started thinking to myself I’m going to get around this course without hitting the wall.
Sadly I got a bit ahead of myself, even before the race I had a mental barrier of 18 miles ‘cause that is all I had done in training.
19-mile mark my legs gave in and I had to start walking, I text Charlie to let her know, from this point forward I would walk 5 minutes and then run 5 minutes.
The 5-minute runs felt like the longest run in the world, and the walking time went far too quickly!
The run along the seafront was hard, the crowds were big and when you get people cheering you on, you want to keep on running and not slow down to walking pace.
I completed the Brighton Marathon marathon in 4hrs 28mins and 43seconds which is 18 minutes faster than my London time in 2007.

I have made a promise to my family and friends that I would never run a marathon again, I’m unsure how true I will be to that.
I have no intentions to run a marathon again, I just may get that itch, I need to avoid Brighton marathon weekend.
I think Charlie was amazed that I got around, she even feared the worst when she saw someone get stretched at the finish line.
I want to thank everybody that sponsored me during my run, it really means a lot to me.

My main charity was The Royal Marsden Cancer, I chose this charity because in 2010 I lost one of my childhood friends Stuart Chestney to cancer.
When I found out about his passing, I wanted to do something in his honour, he was one of the sweetest guys you could ever meet.
Life is not fair, and all we can do is play with the cards that we’re dealt with, some people have used the words that I’m an inspiration, I’m not, I do what I do because that is what I do!
I wish I had raised more money for this charity, end of the day I can be proud that I completed the Brighton Marathon, something my doctors said I would never do and I’m glad I did it for Stuart.

I want to thank Charlie for being there on the day, and Matthew for meeting me at the finish, Kylie, Rob, Diana, Austin, Dan, Alex and all the other people that I saw on the day.
Thank you for the continued support from everyone at Alive Fitness & Natural Health, thank you, Benny, for the PNF stretch after the race.
I hope that I can be a role model to my nephew Elliott Timothy Spratling born on Friday 8th May 8.37am, I’m so proud of my sister 😛

The things I hate about Running!

  • The training, people do turn up at marathons without training, but I would never advice that you need to know if your body can do it and prepare the body for it.
  • Runner etiquette, the having to smile or nod at all other runners (Runners acknowledgement, yes I’m a runner!), one time I had a guy try to high five me! I just want to run, I don’t want to smile or nod either, but it really bugs me when people don’t follow the runner etiquette.
  • Traffic lights, I hate having to stop whilst running, so I jog on the spot waiting for the green man.
  • The injuries, the tight muscles after a long run.
  • People especially when running towards people, they see me coming can they not step aside, of course not I have to run around you…Cunts!!!
  • Other runners, the ones that run past you with ease, though on the flip side that sense of joy when overtaking someone.

The Gym

The gym can be a scary place for some people and stepping foot into a gym can be a big step.
We all have images in our mind of people with big muscles, posing, making grunting noises whilst they push out that last rep.

Some of that does exist, we like to stereotype people.
First thing is we shouldn’t worry what other people are doing, you’ve made a decision to better yourself.
People that go to the gym weren’t born with a dumbbell coming out of the womb, they were once like you.
We all have to start somewhere, maybe one day you will grunt, pose, and make the gym a scary intimidating place for others.

I’ve worked in a gym now for over 7 years, when selling a membership I always say to the prospect you should consider a couple of things.

  • Is it close to where you live or work? Us humans are good at making excuses not to go if you pick a gym that far away. Be serious are you going to leave your house on a cold wet day?
  • Atmosphere… Can you see yourself working out in this environment? This could be various things from music to lighting and energy of the place.

To get a feel for the place, ask the gym if they do a free trial, most gyms will happily let you try out their facilities in the hope of getting your sale.
If the gym doesn’t do a free trial there are many platforms out there that get you access to venues in your area like MoveGB, Hussle, when joining these platforms do read the small print.

Once you have picked your gym and brought your membership don’t be afraid to ask for help.
All gyms should offer you an induction and some will offer you regular program reviews, make sure you are asking these questions when signing up.
An induction with gyms will vary, some gym will just show you how to use the equipment and then leave you to your own devices.
Other gyms will write you a program to follow, and explain what a repetition, what a set is and how this will help you on your fitness journey.

I finish this post with my first experience in a gym, I hadn’t a clue what I was doing, I didn’t ask for help.
I watched people and learned from watching people exercise.
To make people think I was lifting heavier on the resistance machines after I finished my sets, I would move the pin a couple of stacks down.
I didn’t want people to think that I was weak and a part of me liked seeing the next person go on the machine having to move the pin back up ‘cause they couldn’t lift my weight. 🙂

Night cramps

The other night I received a very painful cramp in my calf if you ever had night cramps you know that are painful and can keep you awake from your slumber.
The next 24hrs I found it hard to put any pressure on that leg and found my calf muscle to be very stiff.
So I decided to do a little research on night cramps, see if there is anything that I could do to help.

There is no real reason to why we get them, there are many theories which include overuse of the muscle, dehydration, ageing, muscle strain, lack of magnesium and potassium.
Cramps could be underlying to other medical conditions for example diabetes, or nerve, liver or thyroid disorders.
For the ladies that may be reading this post, it could be a sign that you are with a child has leg cramps can occur during pregnancy.

If you do suffer from cramps on a regular basis, or if they last longer than 10 minutes or if they keep you from sleeping at night to seek medical advice.

Things that we can do to help reduce the chances of leg cramps during the night:

  1. Avoid dehydration drink plenty of fluids throughout the day.
    Fluids help your muscle contract and relax and keep the muscle cells hydrated and less irritable.
  2. Stretch your muscle.
    Stretch before and after you use any muscle for an extended period.
    If you tend to have leg cramps at night, stretch before bedtime.

    If you get a cramp in your leg things to do to relieve the pain:

  1. Stretch and massage.
     Stretch the cramped muscle and gently rub it to help it relax.
    For a calf cramp, put your weight on your cramped leg and bend your knee slightly.
    If you’re unable to stand, sit on the floor or in a chair with your affected leg extended.
    Try pulling the top of your foot on the affected side toward your head while your leg remains in a straightened position.
    This will also help ease a back thigh (hamstring) cramp.
  2. Apply heat or cold.
     Use a warm towel or heating pad on tense or tight muscles.
    Taking a warm bath or directing the stream of a hot shower onto the cramped muscle also can help.
    Alternatively, massaging the cramped muscle with ice may relieve pain.

    The other day when I suffered from my leg cramp I felt that I couldn’t work out on it, but I did keep on moving, I don’t want to stiffen up so going for a walk helped ease the pain for me.

  3. Please feel free to comment below with your thoughts.

  4. Today- Joseph Richard Tanner

Should you train with a cold???

It is that time of year when the common cold hits and it feels like everyone we know got a cold.
Luckily I have dodged a cold this year so far, I have now cursed myself.

I have been asked over the years many times should I work out when I have a cold?
My answer is simple, I’m not a doctor, how do you feel?
There is a common rule to the cold, and that is above the neck rule; if your symptoms include a runny nose, dry cough, or sneezing you should be fine to exercise.
At the same time please consider people around you, nobody wants your cold, maybe take this time to let your body rest.
Don’t exercise if you have a fever, fatigue, or widespread muscle aches

I’m sure we’ve heard all the myth about sweating out a cold, the idea of using heat/ exercise makes a cold go away faster.
Sweating out a cold may provide temporary symptom relief, it does not shorten the time that you’re sick.

If you do decide to work out with a cold, reduce the intensity and length of your workout, let your body guide you.
If you attempt to exercise at your normal intensity you could risk injury or further illness if you’re suffering from more than a cold.

If you have taken a break from training due to illness, don’t assume that you can get right back to where you were, so if you’re not pulling the numbers that you usually do, don’t push yourself, you will get back to where you were with time and patience.
A cold is just a minor setback from our training, it’s better than having to recover from a full-blown injury.

Personally, myself having a heart condition, I take a step away from training, I know my body and I don’t want to put the extra strain on the hardest working muscle in my body, which is the heart if you didn’t know.
Did you know that even when you feel better/ feel fully recovered it can an take up to 5 days for your body to be fully recovered, so I don’t rush back to training.

I learned the hard way, I had a cardiac arrest at Hastings Half Marathon in 2008.
The week half of the half marathon I was suffering from a cold, at the time I didn’t know I had a heart condition.
I feel that is one of the reasons I had my cardiac arrest I put too much strain on my heart.

I will train clients if they have a cold, throughout the session, I will ask how you are feeling, this is to remind you to be thinking about your body and what your feeling, there is no failure in knowing your body.

Nutrition & Personal Training

A personal trainer is not a nutritionist, and if a trainer is making you food plans ask to see their credentials.

My relationship with food is a mixed relationship, I am very lucky that I have a partner that does most of the cooking, he loves cooking fresh food.

When I was single I had a poor diet which would mostly consist of processed food, partly due to being lazy, after work I was unable to find the energy to cook for myself.
I think also being single and this is an excuse when looking for recipes always for 4 or more people, nothing is aimed at one person.
I know I could have frozen the meals but like I said it’s just an excuse.

We all make excuses for our poor diet choices, though for some it’s not an excuse we just don’t know any different.
My processed food diet came from my parents they rarely cooked fresh food, so a part of me didn’t know any better, though there comes a point that you have to take responsibilities for your choices.

So can Personal Trainers give nutritional advice?
Yes, a Personal Trainer can give you nutritional advice, they should be able to give you the advice to support your training goals/needs.
If you are not achieving the goals you set yourself, the trainer may ask you to make a food diary.
Doing a food diary is good for you and the trainer to get a good idea of your relationship with food.

If you’re asked to do a food diary don’t lie, the only person you will be cheating is yourself.
The trainer won’t slap your wrist if you eat what is considered bad foods, we’re only human, the trainer might make suggestions for reducing certain foods, replacing them with healthier options.
The diary might give you an insight into when you eat, why you eat what you eat, moods etc it could be an eye-opener.
Small changes to a person diet can sometimes make the world of changes.

For example, I use to drink tea with 2 sugars, I reduced it to 1 and then over time I cut out sugar in my tea completely.
That small change I saw changes in myself, and my tastebuds also changed with this.
Recently I tried tea with sugar and the only word that comes to mind is vile.

If you don’t make any changes to the way you eat don’t expect to achieve the goals you set yourself.
If you have made positive changes to your diet and follow your training program and you’re still not seeing the results you might have to consider seeing a dietitian to look at other possible causes.

Remember you have started this journey for a reason, so don’t throw in the towel, there will be ups and downs.
I’m here with
Today Personal Training to see you through this journey.