You hear of exercise being touted as a cure-all, whereas it can clearly be risky in certain situations. For instance, if you are diagnosed with Type II Diabetes are there amounts and types of exercise that are contra-indicated (not good in your situation)? I bet there are! This is true of age (too much bouncing on a trampoline when you are young may induce Osgood-Schlatter), when you are short of sleep raising kids (too much added exercise may induce stress and all of it’s ramifications), and when you are older (excessive training is rumored to account for older athletes dying in their swimming trunks or running shoes during competition, not to mention knee injuries and the like).
[As an aside: the latter reports of a miniscule number athletes dying during races is never matched, as far as I can tell, by an exciting frontpage headline account of some fat, lazy dude in front of a TV eating potato chips with his fifth beer, and keeling over from a heart attack. Or add smoking and his dying of lung cancer or slowly ‘drowning’ with emphysema. These events just aren’t exciting anymore, just like the average road fatality, as it happens all the time. If it is headline news, I suspect that it is not common whatever it is, including athletes dying in their tracks (happy tracks for that matter!). When people find out that I still enter Ironman races they’ll often tell me some story they read of a person dying in a race, as if it is some kind of wise advice for me to back off from my training, whereas I suspect that they are using the ‘news’ to justify their own inactivity. No, just get a good coach and enjoy your life. You know that old bumper sticker: ‘Work out; Eat well; Die anyway! Well, live well, I say.]
I guess the real question from my perspective is how do you obtain information on do’s and don’ts for your specific condition? In my case it was an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) stent graft. I was told that I could exercise after a few weeks, but not to overdo it. That was it! I wasn’t happy about that limited piece of (mis)advice, so I did some research and then published the one useful paper that I found on this issue on this blog. This paper indicated that a number of things are best avoided if you are in my situation as you may move your stent; a potentially fatal event. These things included car wrecks with a lap belt, a Heimlich maneuver, and intense rowing. You can avoid using lap belts, I doubt risk benefit analysis would induce you to reject the Heimlich maneuver, even if you were able to, whilst you would be well-advised to forego rowing, which is why I dropped the rowing machine from my regular warmup routine at the gym.
I am currently undertaking strength training as I prepare for my next Ironman season, and I recently received a weight room workout from my coach, which included the following exercise:
12. Leg Press (glutes and quads; most important exercise for developing power on bike). Beginning position: Start seated on the sled with your knees bent and feet roughly shoulder width apart. Ending position: Legs extended fully.
So I climbed on the seat of the machine that I preferred (reclined diagonal, not the one in the picture!) before I received my stent, started the exercise, and then I thought, “this is a bad idea, it feels a lot like the rowing machine.” So I stopped immediately as I was feeling pressure in the lower abdomen, even if I kept my knee angle at 90 degrees and above. Here was a clear example of my body saying “DON’T DO THAT!” Was my coach going to know this? No, why should he?My surgeon? Bet he isn’t even that interested as he is too busy! It was, therefore, up to me. I’ll report it back to my coach, so he can keep it in mind for my later workouts. Oddly enough this lower abdominal pressure sensation does not occur in the ‘squat cage,’ so I’ll pick up extra quad work in there in addition to increasing my leg extensions and lunges. No problem and no unnecessary risk!
The bottom line: we generally will have to work it out for ourselves, unless there is a helpful website or online forum (see Useful Links on this site for examples), and even then it is your decision as to what you do at the end of the day, as each case is an individual not a statistic. The real trick is to understand your condition and listen to your body.