Sunday, December 05, 2021

Am I restored?

My Cardio Got Weak. Since my hip replacement in Dec 2018, I have been healthy but strikingly lacking in cardio. I think it got a lot worse with a mysterious bout of something in Nov 2019 which was a sort of deep bronchitis. I got two chest xrays during that bout but nobody really figured out why I was so so sick. I did test negative in the spring of 2020 for covid antibodies so the timing and test make covid seem unlikely. Still....

Specifics on the lack of cardio.When I try to swim a few lengths, I feel weak after about 4 or 5. My tennis is marked by mistakes which are often from a stumble, a weak grip on the racquet, or other signs of fatigue. My recovery time after an intense point conspicuously slows up games. And when I try to jog, I feel dangerously out of breath and energy after 20 yards. I mean like I'm huffing and puffing, my eyes are bulging, and I feel weak. At the start of 2020, I was with a pack of my college friends who noticed as we hiked around Marin County that I was constantly out of breath. They insisted that I get a full work up which I did.

Tests show Nothing, Maybe I'm Deconditioned? The GP, cardiologist, and pulmonary doctors did an array of heart and lung tests and said I was fine. The best they could come up with was a diagnosis of exercise-induced asthma based on family history and my report of symptoms so I got an inhaler. It didn’t seem to make much difference.

What do I think? I had a lot about the weird bronchitis sickness episode in November 2019. Never really diagnosed, I’ve often thought it left me physically reduced. Or maybe, this being my first time getting old, is what getting old is like. I just didn’t know but I felt something was wrong so I did NOT embark on an intense rehab program feeling I would wait it out. Or maybe I didn’t start working hard because I’m lazy. But through all of 2020 and most of 2021, I continued to periodically test my cardio either implicitly by playing tennis or explicitly, by trying some jogs.  The result was always the same: Huffing and puffing like a steam engine about to explode within a minute.

Surprise. I'm back. Today, having put on a few pounds (I dropped from 208 in January to 190 in November), I decided to start exercise walking regularly. I hustled and walked two miles at a ~3.5 mph pace and felt pretty good so when I turned around, I decided to do a super slow jog and see if I could keep it up for a 100 yards.

Surprise!!! I jogged back an entire two miles. Slow but steady. 12-minute pace. How? What changed? How is this possible?

1. My personal belief. Something righted itself. Whatever was wrong with me, perhaps in my lungs from the Nov 2019 bout, has now righted itself. From reading the web, my symptoms match that of long tail Covid and I did test positive for having had Covid before April 2020. But I had a lung X-ray and the telltail signs of lung issues indicating long tail Covid were not detected.  I have tried to learn about this on the web searching against terms like: long tail covid, fatigue, exercise etc. I've encountered new acronym words like POTS, FACIT, PASC, and CPET but frankly, it's a swamp of info that I'm lost in.

2. My wife Carmen’s thought:  it’s the weight. 195 is far from 205 and that ten pounds makes all the difference. Could it be that simple? I did, btw, NOT eat as my key strategy to losing the weight. I didn't change my exercise routine much.  More specifically than non-eating, I went Adkins / South Beachie / Keto and stopped with all desserts and starches. I continued to eat lots of vegetables, fish, meat, eggs, and cheese. I went low on fruit. NO on beer and mixers. And I'm not sure what to do about yoghurt. I mostly skipped meals and tried to drink tons of water and a fair amount of coffee. Please don't ask me to sit in a meeting for a full hour.

More facts: the last two weeks, I’ve been playing tennis much much better. As I think about it, my bad tennis performance the last few years might entirely be from the weird  limited cardio that has be exhausted whenever I made a sustained concerted effort. 

Here’s my Strava from today. I jogged at a rate of ~12 minute miles, maybe 5 mph. Still slow but dramatically different from not being able to jog.


Now I could be wrong and perhaps nothing had changed. Maybe today was different because I jogged super slow. Maybe the other days I was aiming at doing better than twelve minute miles. I suppose I could (and should) check all my old Strava records to see. But the fact is today I did accelerate for a few patches but I did not get that that total overloaded exhaustion feeling.
 
Next, I’ll try biking or swimming tomorrow and see if the limits that I have been living with are gone!

Wouldn’t that been great? If so, triathalons, here I came!!! (Only sprints but still!).  Can I go back to a boxing gym and not be ridiculous? It would be fun. And I've always wanted to learn some BJJ. I'm only 63, why not?