Clawing My Way Up Hill Repeats With Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD)

hill repeats with peripheral arterial disease

It is possible to fight peripheral arterial disease using intense exercise, aka training. I do this by training for Ironman races. Currently, half Ironman distance is the best I can do, but I did make third in my age group at the World Half Ironman Championships in Lahti, Finland, a few weeks ago. Here’s my finish photo by FinisherPix (thank you).

hill repeats with peripheral arterial disease

I missed the 8:30 cutoff, but they kept the course open for this old guy, which was much appreciated. I do need to fix my run, however. How am I managing to do this when several physicians have failed to find a pulse in my right foot, due blockage of my right popliteal artery? It’s all about how you do the measurement. They each used the same approach, assessing the pedal pulse on top of my foot, with or without ultrasound.

They found nada.

hill repeats with peripheral arterial disease

Each physician looked mystified about my healthy pink toes and feet. Image Source.

That foot seems to be supplied with blood almost entirely through collateral arteries I’ve built up over years of training – swim, bike, run. It’s the run that really helps, when combined with lots and lots of walking, plus the tips in my book, “How to Fight the Crippling Pain of Peripheral Arterial Disease.” If you go to my website, Wrong Name Books, scroll down, and you will find a free download button for the ebook. You’ll have to go to Amazon for the paperback, I’m afraid. I also added a couple more tricks described in a recent video, at this link.

I’m constantly pushing the envelope, it’s the only way.

How do I assess blood flow in my healthy pink toes?

Like this!

hill repeats with peripheral arterial disease
Pulse oximetry works, because it detects blood flow waves in the capillary bed, fed via collaterals, not by branches of those blocked popliteal arteries.

IMPORTANT NOTE: If I back off on running, I start to struggle with claudication and numb feet while walking, especially up hills. If I maintain my extremely painful and tricky running program, I have no problem walking long distances, even uphill. It is always most tricky when I start out, as I have to get those collaterals opened up each time.

Remember: collaterals “don’t want to be there.” They’ll go away if you don’t push, push push.

Isn’t aging, the ultimate endurance sport, fun. Never give up is my advice.

-kev aka FitOldDog

hill repeats with peripheral arterial disease
MRI scans through the thighs of three guys. Grey is muscle, white is fat, clear ring around the central white spot (bone marrow) is the femoral bone. Note the loss of both muscle and bone mass in the sedentary guy.


  1. Inspirational stuff Kevin -you’re a star and you have inspired me to try and get vack to my few minutes of interval training to shove that blood into this collaterals before I walk for longer . I cant get my pulse oximeter to register anything with my toes ! But I will keep trying –
    Looking forward to reading the book thanks

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Disclaimer: As a veterinarian, I do not provide medical advice for human animals. If you undertake or modify an exercise program, consult your medical advisors before doing so. Undertaking activities pursued by the author does not mean that he endorses your undertaking such activities, which is clearly your decision and responsibility. Be careful and sensible, please.