Most people, including myself up until about two months ago, have no idea what cardiac rehab is, and possibly that it exists at all. But after surgery and a bit of recovery time, I got to figure it out!
Cardiac rehab is a type of specialized physical therapy…sort of…I mean it is, just not how you typically think of physical therapy. There are not nearly as many places that offer cardiac therapy as physical therapy and it’s not as hands on, and by that I mean the physical touching and manipulating that occurs in physical therapy. Cardiac therapy, boiled down to its most basic level, consists of using various gym equipment while hooked up to a heart monitor. It is more involved than that with frequent blood pressure tests, building up of your strength, restrictions on what exercises you can do based on where you are in your recovery, one therapist tracks the monitors while the other handles the patients, etc., but it’s all still you with electrodes stuck several places on your torso carrying a monitoring battery pack around in a pouch that looks like a bib while walking on a treadmill or using a seated elliptical. If you had visions of those futuristic monitoring setups while running like a sports star on a treadmill right before they take a big swig of whatever sports drink they are promoting then you are in for a rude awakening. You’ve also VASTLY over estimated your post-surgical strength and stamina. I am a somewhat competitive person. I’m not one of those people that turns everything into a competition and I’m more competitive with myself than with other people, but being the youngest person in the class it was a bit of a blow to my ego when my older classmates were walking faster and using high resistance than I was my first week. Since most people who have undergone open heart surgery are in their 70s, it make sense that I would be the youngest. It also makes sense that, as it took several weeks for me to manage to get out of bed on my own and my recommended minimum of 30 minutes continuous walking still made me a bit winded if I was setting a halfway decent pace and/or walking up any sort of incline, I would not be anywhere near the level of physical fitness that I was at before surgery and that my classmates, who had been doing cardiac rehab for some time before I started, would have progressed beyond their starting points. But none of that logic junk mattered and my ego was rather bruised to be stomped on the treadmill by a lady, a very sweet lady that I have become friends with, but still a lady that is a fair bit older than me, on my first day of class. Since starting cardiac rehab I’ve made a great deal of progress and some fun new friends, including Jon who provides us with our weekly jokes. I’m still slower than I want to be on the treadmill and after class I am wiped, but it’s all been really great. I’m always a bit tickled when my resistance level and/or walking speed is higher than a classmates. Yes, I know they’re older and I should be less competitive, but I’m not so what are you gonna do. When I tell people where I’m going, cardiac rehab is so…clinical. And I can’t just say I’m headed to rehab because that sounds like I have a whole other set of problems on top of everything else that is actually going on with me and I’m enough of a mess already, I don’t need to be making up new issues. So I channel a little Richard Simmons and say I’m going sweating with the oldies.