I had no idea what to expect as my wife and I walked into Fairview Hospital in Great Barrington to begin the next phase of my recovery. We said goodbye to crew at Vassar Brothers and entered the cardiac rehab and recovery phase a little closer to home.
“My goal for you, is to make you an exerciser,” said my cardiologist toward the end of our first visit.
An exerciser. Yeah, I am not really sure what that means. My doctor explained how people that are into exercising are in tune with their bodies and tend to address health issues before they become serious. I nodded and thought it was refreshing that after medical school and a couple of decades taking care of patients that this doctor was still setting goals, the fact that her goals were now infringing on me was my only concern.
I’ve never been a joiner. Outside of baseball teams in my younger days I have never felt like joining a group or a class, or any outfit that includes more than three people. The idea of being in a club makes my armpits itch.
Despite my reluctance I realized I had already joined a large group, one that includes heart attack and open heart surgery survivors. I can now join one of two factions of that group. The one that takes their doctor’s advice and works toward a healthy future or the one that goes back to their old habits and dies fast and hard.
While I was recovering in the CTICU a friend gave me a book titled “Born to Run.” Thankfully it was not about Bruce Springsteen, it chronicled the Tarahumara Indian tribe that live in the Copper Canyons of Mexico.
The story was interesting, but ditching my life here to go chase some super human runners in remote mountains crawling with snakes and cartel soldiers is not in the cards. But what I did latch on to was the aspect of trail running, or cross country running as those skinny dudes in high school used to call it.
Back in 2009, the last time I can claim to being in shape I would hit the trails at Nickerson State Park on Cape Cod. After walking them for a few months I mixed in some higher impact pacing. I would sprint the inclines and then walk the flats. I would sprint across the sand then walk through the mud. I found the stairs leading to campsites and would sprint up and down until it felt like I was going to pass out.
I looked and felt great back then, my weight was down to 206 and cut most of the evil demons from my daily routine. The stakes are much higher now, fitting into a suit for my sister’s wedding was one thing, but now I have to fit into a body that will carry me into old age.
The idea of trail running excites me. I realize that trail running is just another way to say hiking with a purpose, but I like it. Getting closer to nature, the sights, the sounds, the smells. A new journey each time out, beats circling a track over and over again in my eyes.
We have endured 20 inches of snow this week and more is coming. So braving the trails will have to wait, but I am going to do what I can to prepare my body for the road ahead.
When they slice your sternum open they forbid you from lifting weights, google “how to reduce love handles,” and you can follow along with my current at home exercise program. My somewhat funny wife refers to the area around my waist as my “side chunk.” My workouts and diet need to improve in order to get rid of the extra pounds that I have carried with me since I was a child.
The cardiac rehab starts soon, that will be three times a week for at least an hour so when we add that to my walking schedule I will be off to a great start, and we have the Appalachian trail in our backyard. But that comes with bears, snakes, and heights, all things I don’t particularly enjoy. At first I was thinking about getting a gun for protection, but after some thought I figured I would end up plugging myself in the foot, so I scratched that idea.
Maybe a flare gun? At close range a flare gun could blind a bear, and if I fall down a cliff running from said bear at least the gun could be used to alert the search party. I love things with dual purposes. As for the snakes, I’ll just keep my head up and pretend they are large, angry worms.
I can visualize these improvements taking place and am looking forward to the journey. I too believe in second acts, green lights and going against the current.
Here we go.