My Stamina Sucks & And Other Technical Blatherings

I simply cannot be this unfit (not as in the she is “unfit to be a mother” category). My endurance compared to little, old (emphasis on both) women and men is shameful. 85 pounds lighter should have me breezing through my treadmill/bike routine. Nope. Instead of just breaking the mirrored walls around me, I decided to analyze why the heck I am performing at lower levels than my personal trainer thinks I should be, based on her fitness assessment. Finally, it hit – the damn beta blocker that I have been taking for about 7 years is the most likely culprit.

Back when I was probably weighing more than 300 pounds, I kept having “asthma” attacks, which my primary care doc thought was a strange resurrection of a childhood condition. After a particularly devastating event during a viral infection when my lips turned blue (even my anesthesiologist-sweetie was horrified) followed by a few episodes of chest pain, I referred myself to a cardiologist. I failed an exercise stress test – gasping for air (turns out I had gone in to pulmonary edema and had acute heart failure) my ECG looked as if I had coronary artery disease. Not asthma at all! Given my family history and weight, not a big surprise but scary. (Have I mentioned docs are weenies when it comes to their own health?)

Next up, a cardiac catheterization. I was relieved to find that my coronary arteries were “clean” but was diagnosed with a condition called “diastolic dysfunction” that could cause acute heart failure during heavy exertion or stress, such as with the the viral infection. This type of heart failure is often seen in women of a certain age (cough), and is associated with high blood pressure (not me), diabetes (nope), coronary artery disease (nuh-uh), and diseases of the heart muscle (no). Obesity can certainly be a contributing factor. My inquiring mind and the outstanding cardiologist reviewed all the available research on appropriate treatment. Given that this is primarily a condition of women, not surprisingly there were few quality studies to guide the choice of medications (do not get me started on the bias in medical research against women as participants in studies). We seriously discussed weight loss surgery, which I dismissed after meeting with the head of the WLS program. A beta-blocker was chosen, and my symptoms improved remarkably with about a 30-pound weight loss and the medication. Beta-blockers are also good for my migraines and an anxiety disorder (sigh, starting to reveal more than anticipated), so the drug has been a good one for me.

Fast forward to today. Not only can I not get my heart rate above 80 with vigorous exercise (read that as sweating profusely and a beet-red face), but I poop out waaay too early. The last time I saw a cardiologist was about 1 year ago. My diastolic dysfunction had completely resolved even with minimal weight loss, and she suggested that I could try to slowly wean off the medication, as one cannot stop beta-blockers abruptly. Given that I get other benefits from the drug, I was not keen on this. The obvious solution right now – march myself back to Dr. Bates (who is a fitness fiend), get kudos for my weight loss, and discuss the pros and cons of quitting and continuing my good ol’ beta-blocker. Gah, I hate going to docs, but she is too cool, her office is a fun place to visit, and it’s always fun having people react (positively) to my new body. Appointment made for 9/20. Guess I’ll just have to modify my exercise expectations until then.

cartoon - My doctor tolde me to avoid any unndecessary stress, so I didn't open his bill


11 thoughts on “My Stamina Sucks & And Other Technical Blatherings

  1. You know all this stuff, but I think you’re on the right track. I think you’ll end up having to change meds. Obviously some of the issue is de-conditioning, but OMG if the trainer is pushing you trying to raise your HR on a beta blocker, no wonder you feel awful.

    This however does not mean you cannot keep up with the exercise. Just do it easier. Any amount, as you know, will increase your pulmonary function and cardiac fitness which will decrease your diastolic dysfunction.

    So no getting off the hook with me. Keep swimming, biking and walking, but do it at a pace you can tolerate and don’t pay attention to your pulse, but how you feel. Keep going…..

  2. Thanks, Ann for the clinical voice of reason. When my personal trainer starts cranking up the treadmill’s incline, I just want to slap her skinny behind into the lat pulldown. I’m working on a more gentle script to keep her hands of my machine!

  3. Boy, that Ann is tough! 🙂 But she’s right, which you know already. Good for you for keeping your trainer under control. There’s pushing and Pushing, and she needs to learn the limits. It’s up to you as to whether or not you let her know when those limits can be eased. 🙂 I was tempted not to tell my trainers when my podiatrist cleared me after toe surgery. Part of me wanted to keep on doing the seated workouts forever.

  4. You have your whole life ahead of you to crank up the workouts – so no point in trying to make it all happen in the first month. Do what you can for now then deal with the meds and see how much more you can do in the future.

    • I have decided to drop the length time and intensity of my workouts so that I don’t try to shoot for an unachievable goal. Still working for 6-days a week, minimum of 30 minutes though. I think the circuit training will be on hold for now – reverting to some home free weights for toning my flab, err muscles. I can do those with my significant other and get support and giggles.

  5. Karen, you would think in a smallish city that has a medical school and a zillion doctors per capita (most of them specialists) that it wouldn’t take almost 1 month to get an appointment with an established physician. Hopefully, she is off on vacation – last year she took an amazing hiking, biking, kayaking 3-week trip during September – which might be the cause of the delay. Guess I could see someone else in the office, but like most folks, I prefer continuity of care unless it’s a true emergency.

  6. Hi I’m new to this blogging thing and just wanted to say that I found your site professional (especially compared to mine which looks like a five year old had a go at it) and inspirational. Having struggled with my weight after several major spine operations I can appreciate and empathise with your efforts. Good luck with your continued efforts.

  7. Good luck with this. I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes last August, and it has taken me a whole year to increase my stamina, watch my food intake, and keep my blood sugars under control. I will be following your progress!

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