Aerobic training after open heart surgery as a child

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  • #42275


    This might be a bit left field / out of the ordinary but thought I would ask anyway!

    I began taking my fitness for running seriously since about the start of March where I have been building up my weekly volume to what is now around 8 hours per week. A few weeks ago I read “Training for the Uphill Athlete”, got myself a HR chest strap, worked out my MAF HR (149), and have been doing all my training at or below that since to build up my aerobic base etc. Pretty confident I have ADS as I have been used to doing all my running at high intensity for a few years now but will properly diagnose using the 10% test shortly.

    I am going to do a HR drift test for AeT and an AnT test next week to work out my actual values for these important zones however before I embark on long haul HR based training I was wondering if anyone has any knowledge or experience of carrying out this training after having had open heart surgery (albeit for me it was in 1993!)? I had a ventricular septal defect (hole in the heart) surgically corrected at 11 weeks old (I’m now 26). I’ve been clear from the hospital for 11 years now with the doc saying all is well and that I can do whatever I want to do, however he did say that my heart may well operate a bit differently to a normal heart, but that it was nothing to worry about. Being 15 at the time and not training I didn’t ask for more info and since then I have had no heart trouble and have been fairly active ever since.

    Does anyone have any useful info on this from their own experience or any anecdotal info? My resting HR according to my watch is 47bpm which seems fairly normal and I think my max HR is around 194 which is also fairly normal.. Im inclined to just proceed with the tests as normal and see what happens unless anyone has any specific advice around how I should expect different results due to my history.

    Thanks in advance, apologies for the essay / life story 🙂

  • Inactive
    Anonymous on #42305

    …moving this to the Sports Med forum.

    Thomas Summer, MD on #42315

    Hi Joe!

    Your HR seems to respond well when you are training, so I think your history should not affect the results of the tests.
    But what is probably more important, is, that now, when you are starting serious training I would highly recommend having a follow-up appointment with a cardiologist. This way you make sure that there is really no problem. Moreover, you can get an exercise lab test done, to determine your fitness level and HR-zones.
    What is your training history? If you only started endurance training in March, then 8 hours per week is quite a lot.


    joefisher513 on #42318

    Hey Thomas,

    Thanks for your speedy response. Seeing a cardiologist does sound like a good idea, just to be sure. Lab test is on the cards for when i’m not in lockdown anymore so will follow that up also.

    Re my training history I probably should have been clearer before. I have dabbled with structured training on and off for the last few years but outside of that I have been running, rock climbing, winter/ice climbing, alpine climbing and hiking for about the last 10 years. Most of this has been in the UK so winter climbing / hiking in Scotland and rock climbing across the UK but I have also been to the Alps regularly for summer alpine climbing and then to Cogne for the last few years for icefall climbing. Ive also done a couple of expeditions; one into the Central Alaska range and one to Kenya. Running wise I have dabbled with fell running for a few years and have completed distances up to around marathon length before with one 12h relay/lap ultra under my belt.

    Since March I have been in lockdown in Wales so have had the time and terrain to focus on structured training for longer distance hilly endurance events such as a hilly 50K or the Welsh 3000’s (40km, 3000m ascent) hence why I have been reading up on the aerobic training along with increasing my weekly volume up to what is now c.8h. I feel fine with the increased volume to be honest. Have increased volume gradually over time and the increased amount of Z2 training seems to be easily absorbed, likely helped by many years of being fairly active and ‘hill fit’.

    Anonymous on #42342

    I had open heart surgery to correct an atrial septum defect when I was 45yrs old. I had an 11mm hole in the wall between the L and R atria. Crazy that I had been competing in high level sports my whole life with no noticeable ill effects even though the cardiologist told me that with that size hole as much as 25% of my blood never went through my lungs to become oxygenated. I wish I’d known this 30 years earlier.

    I continued training hard and at high volume after this surgery. I did notice a drop in max HR after the surgery but this is also to be expected as we age so I can’t say for sure that it had anything to do with the surgery.

    My experience would lead me to say you can do pretty much anything you want. But I concur that getting a cardiologist to give you the all clear is a good idea.


    Thomas Summer, MD on #42344

    Scott, this is very interesting! Did you notice any other change after the surgery? Any cardiologic follow up? How big was the drop in maxHR? An impaired HR-response to exercise is not uncommon after surgery for ASD or VSD. I don’t think it’s the case for Joe. Joe, nevertheless, I recommend seeing a cardiologist and doing a cardio-pulmonary exercise test. This way you make sure everything is ok. And you get some good information for your training.

    joefisher513 on #42373

    Thanks both – really interesting that you went so long without being diagnosed Scott. I shall carry out the tests as detailed but will follow up with a cardiologist in due course just to be sure.


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