View Full Version : Competing at high level with cardio issues

September 17th, 2009, 12:22 PM
I'm 63 and now cleared by my Drs. for swimming (not running or biking) after some major medical problems. Vascular and cardiovascular side effects from treatment come into play as I begin building endurance in the pool.

I'm fortunate to have the best coach (and the busiest) in the country to work with. As important as what my coach will do to bring me along, will be the help of a sports oriented Cardiologist.

Does anyone safely compete at a high level with ongoing guidance and input of a Cardiologist with satisfactory results? By satisfactory I mean age group competitive.

Are there reliable wrist heart monitors on the market? I haven't been in a pool in so long, I wasn't aware that the swimming community is made up of such great people - they're so much more laid back and sociable than marathoners.

Sorry if this topic has been discussed elsewhere. I'm still getting familiar with all that's available - it's intimidating.


September 17th, 2009, 11:32 PM
Hey Steve - I have an autonomic nervous system disorder which affects my heart. I exercise under the guidance of a cardiologist, so I think I can somewhat relate to you. I have what is called postural orthostatic tachycardia. One of the symptoms of this medical condition is exercise intolerance. I have to be careful with how much I do and the type of workouts that I do.

I was diagnosed in August 2006 and have been seeing the cardiologist once a year since that time. Each time I meet with him, he has me go over my current exercise program, typical workouts, response to workouts, and competitions I have participated in. Since my diagnosis, I have obtained a top ten time in 50 LCM fly. I have had to focus on shorter events and have to be careful to not overdo it on yardage as fatigue only aggravates the condition I have. During peak training, I keep my workouts to 4 times a week and average 3,000 yards a workout. In some workouts, I will do 4,000 yards of aerobic type work and in other workouts, I will do 2,000 yards of intensity or drills.

As my cardiologist has stressed, the main thing is to be sure that I am well-hydrated with a gatorade type (or Accelerade) beverage before I swim. I keep a bottle at the end of the lane and sip on it throughout my workout. A big no-no is going too hard in excessive heat. If the pool temp is above 85 or 86, I generally keep my workout to easy drills. I use a Timex Digital Ironman Triathlon HR Monitor. Seems to work fine in the water. Some guys complain about the strap flopping around when they push off though.

I have a blog if you want to get more specifics. You will see in my posts that there are times I talk about having to back down due to my condition. So far, things seem to be progressingly along. It has been an adjustment to not train for longer distances or triathlons, but I have learned to be grateful for the fact that I can swim and compete. Lately, I have started to run again and have been very pleased that I am able to do it. It is not something I can do a ton of because of my condition, but ironically, a little bit seems to actually help me with orthostatic intolerance.

In any case, I hope some of my swim workouts will be helpful to you. I wish you the best of luck in your training and hope that you can achieve your goals.

Allen Stark
September 18th, 2009, 01:02 AM
Dave Radcliff had a heart attack about 10 yr ago and I know he worked closely with a cardiologist in his recovery and now.at 75, he is setting WRs left and right.My friend Bob Smith also has a heart anomaly and he consults with his cardiologist and is smoking fast for a 66 year old.

September 18th, 2009, 08:53 AM
...Are there reliable wrist heart monitors on the market?...
Don't know about wrist monitors, but I've used the most basic model of Polar heart rate monitor for a few years with no problems. Occasionally the signal disappears for a short while - maybe it isn't sitting tight enough to my chest, or perhaps the salt they use in the local pools disrupts it. (The manufacturer does not recommend it for sea water at all, which is a lot saltier). Men sometimes have more trouble because their suits don't hold a chest strap in place, but a triathlon-type top might help for that.
With any monitor, you want to make sure you don't push the buttons while your arm is under water.

September 18th, 2009, 09:00 AM
Some heart monitors available have an earpeice that "tell" you your HR while swimming.

One thing interesting is that due to your position and external body surface pressure while swimming, your HR will be lower in H2O than it is on dryland for a given level of exertion.

Just curious, is the heart monitoring needed to make sure your not exceeding a certain BPM, or is there a specific behavior/abnormal HR you're looking out for?

September 18th, 2009, 10:55 AM
Great comments/observations - thanks! I'll use this info as I continue shopping for a sport oriented Cardiologist.

Steve, I am looking to use a HRM to watch BPM until I have a full understanding of my problem. Over the decades, I have been winging it re: things health related (dozens of serious marathons, some 65k miles on the roads). It always worked, but then I had a resting pulse of 40 and VO2max over 70. Now after treatment for inoperable stage IV throat cancer, all my scans refer to calcified coronary arteries and clogged carotid arteries. Last week after a hard workout, I had constant chest pains the following day, but no post training discomfort since then after backing off last Friday, Monday and Weds. I'm anxious to see what today will bring in the pool.

Is the Finis' Aqua Pulse available yet? Thanks, Steve

james lucas
September 18th, 2009, 05:47 PM
Last week after a hard workout, I had constant chest pains the following day, but no post training discomfort since then after backing off last Friday, Monday and Weds ...
Is the Finis' Aqua Pulse available yet? Thanks, Steve
When swimming, I use a heart-rate monitor like this one:
Amazon.com: Mio Zone Plus Heart Rate Watch: Health & Personal Care

This monitor gives a pulse reading when you press a button. I put it on the pool deck - it performs poorly when it's in the water - and I check it every now and then. Most often, however, I leave the monitor at home and check my pulse with my finger and the pace clock. The monitors with chest straps don't work for me: the strap slips every time I push off a wall. The Aqua Pulse is a promising idea, but I haven't seen it yet in the Real World.

I started moving toward the pool about 10 years ago; I quit competitive swimming 35 years ago, ran and rode bikes for a while, and took up golf in the 1990s under the theory that, because it was a sport, I would get some exercise. I've had a cardiologist for about 15 years, and my goal in getting back into the pool was fitness, pure and simple. I started very slowly: at first, 10 years ago, I started walking, then built up to a few miles of running. That's when I started wearing a Polar monitor with a chest strap - it has an alarm to warn of a high pulse. The next step, which took a couple of years, was to start swimming again: I swam three or so times a week, usually between 1,000 and 2,000 yards at a time - and always feeling that it was a stretch to go beyond 1,700 yards a day. My original plan not to swim master's. But along the way, my gym added a master's team a few days a week, and that came at about the same time that I was trying to step up my yardage. For a while, I avoided meets, and my first meet was the SCM meet at UCLA almost three years ago. These days, I swim 5-6 times a week. I've been told to avoid weights, and sometimes I feel a bit of pain after sprinting, so I don't do a lot of speed work, and stick more to aerobic conditioning. My inclination, learned in my youth, is to "swim through" the pain, but this is extraordinarily bad advice for anyone who is not a very fit kid. Instead, I think it pays to have a bias toward care and caution ... In my case, if there's any sign of pain, I just stop, figuring that I can come back another day if I'm still standing today ...

Maui Mike
September 18th, 2009, 05:56 PM
Excellant thead! Thanks to all of you who have posted.

September 18th, 2009, 06:51 PM
Are there reliable wrist heart monitors on the market?

I think the answer is no. I have looked into this and without the chest strap, the reviews find the write based monitors unreliable.

I have two untried suggestions. Get a chest strap based monitor, and buy a cheap tech suit that goes up to your neck. This will hold your monitor in place.

The other untested suggestion is the Finis Aqua Pulse, but it keeps getting delayed.

September 18th, 2009, 07:06 PM
Mike, I'm going to look into that tech suit so as to use a chest strapped monitor. Might also help with my low body temp. - I freeze in a therapy pool.

James Lucas - helpful insights (from an old guy) lol. I think the last pool I was in was the L.A. Athletic Club's in maybe 1979. I ran 1,000s of miles around that track and am still dizzy. Parry O'Brien was a good friend. His death in a pool a few years ago was tragic and an eye opener for me. Thanks.

Elise, I left a message for you on your blog. Steve

September 18th, 2009, 07:46 PM
Mike, I'm going to look into that tech suit so as to use a chest strapped monitor. Might also help with my low body temp. - I freeze in a therapy pool.


If that is a serious problem, you could even look into the light tri open water swim suits to a full on wet suit. We actually have people training in wet suits regularly on my team and at the club I have seen more people in wet suits than briefs.

There is a Finis thread that has cheap body suits, and if they are sold out in your size, geochuck can probably get you a Yingfa for not too much more than the Finis are currently going for.

September 18th, 2009, 08:41 PM
I'm 63 and now cleared by my Drs. for swimming (not running or biking) after some major medical problems. The first question that pops in my mind is : Why swimming and not Cycling?

james lucas
September 19th, 2009, 02:53 AM
I think the last pool I was in was the L.A. Athletic Club's in maybe 1979. I ran 1,000s of miles around that track and am still dizzy. That's my pool on weekdays. It's the pool that most closely meets the seven-minute rule: if the pool is more than seven minutes from my office, I'm not likely to get there.

For those who don't know the name: Parry O'Brien was one of the greatest Olympic-level shot-putters of all time, developing the technique that revolutionized the event. He died in a master's meet in Santa Clarita in 2007. I never met him, as my first masters' swim was half a year after the meet in which he suffered a fatal heart attack.

September 19th, 2009, 08:19 AM
Solar, I love my mountain bike, but they're many reasons why it gathers dust for now. Cold intolerance (under 65 degrees) is one, but mostly why biking's impractical is I get lost and bump in to things. Head and Neck Cancer treatment fried my brain so bad, I measure moderately to severely cognitively impaired. I am a danger to myself and others on trails. Maybe some day I'll be back in the saddle.

RUNNER'S HIGH (or Swimmer's High) is what I am hoping to experience in the pool. Drs. want me to take Retalin, or Paxil or other Alzheimer's type drugs to deal with my Chemobrain. I'm pretty certain releasing endorphins into my brain is better medicine than more drugs and their potential side effects. Maybe later I can add biking to my daily routine.

Is there a comparison to make between Runner's High and Swimmer's High?

James Lucas - Does the LAAC still have their month long October Marathon? Do any old timers like Miki Gorman still run on the track? Steve

September 19th, 2009, 08:41 AM
If chest straps slip in the water, you could try replacing all or part of the elastic with gripper elastic:

http://www.seattlefabrics.com/Gripper%20Elastic_small.jpg (http://www.seattlefabrics.com/Gripper%20Elastic.jpg) Gripper Elastic
"Elastic designed with bikers and skiers in mind. Gripper Elastic has a rubber compound added to it to stop bike shorts and the cuffs of skiwear from slipping. Available in black."