Zwift and health - long introduction

I’ve been using this forum more recently, mostly complaining about connection issues, and I thought it would be a good idea to post why Zwift is so important to me. Some background: I’m 61, male, and around 6’, 190-200lbs. I’ve been exercising regularly for at least the last ten years and daily for the last several years. I don’t plan to race and don’t really like to compete, I just want to stay fit. I started out swimming laps and when I plateaued switched to running and then added body weight exercises to the mix.

3 years ago I was running a 10minute mile on longer runs, (45min – 1.5 hr) and pushing a 8 minute mile on shorter runs. I noticed my heart rate was getting high especially on the kick at the end, over 170 bpm. I didn’t think too much about it because I don’t know that much about what my heart rate should be and figured it was because I was just getting back to running and it would get better if I worked harder. I got a chest strap monitor and started watching it. As time went on the rate kept getting higher and higher for longer periods and at lower levels of exertion. I started slowing down and never went below 10 minute miles. About 2 years ago on a 1 hr long run I saw my heart rate peak at over 220 bpm and hit in the 190’s for extended periods. I was wiped out for the rest of the day.

After that I cut back on the running and got a training stand for my bike and started using Zwift over the winter. That went better for quite a while but I was still trying to run occasionally and finding that on some days I would hit a wall at a certain point and have to walk home. Eventually I started seeing my heart rate climb on bike rides too. I slowed down both running and riding to keep it below 160 bpm and blamed it on getting old and heavy.

Last fall I was at an event that had a 5k run. I had never done a 5k and hadn’t run a race since high school cross country so I thought I’d give it a try despite only running a couple times over the last month. After the first couple km I felt really tired but figured I had gone out too fast. By the end I just couldn’t run as fast as I wanted, or felt I should. I was able to do a brief kick at the end but then I had to sit down for about 15 minutes because I felt light headed. I wasn’t wearing a monitor but my time was 28:14 which I felt was pretty good, considering, but I knew something was wrong. So I got an Apple Watch to keep better track of my heart rate. In December last year Apple came out with the A-fib warning and I started getting alerts from my watch. I upgraded to the most recent watch that did the ecg’s just to be sure but it looked like I had A-fib. Thank you Apple.

So I went to the doctor and after wearing a monitor for a month at one time and being hospitalized for having a 150bpm heart rate for 5 days they did a cardioversion and got the heart beating back to normal, six months after I first went in. And got me on several meds.

I hadn’t run during this time, only doing body weight stuff. The day after the cardioversion I started running on my treadmill with Zwift again and was feeling better than I had in quite some time. Then, after a month, the a-fib came back. The local cardiologist recommended a procedure called cardio ablation. I had some concerns about how he described how they would do it, so I made an appointment at the Mayo Clinic for a second opinion. I went up there one time for a bunch of tests and then a month later for a couple more and a consultation. During this period I was still running on the treadmill with Zwift, just really slowly. Like 4mph.

I don’t think this doctor would have recommended doing the ablation given my age and that I rarely had any symptoms unless I was physically exerting myself. But when I explained that it was really interfering with my exercise routine and that it felt like I had to take baby steps when I ran he decided to do the ablation.

I had the ablation done November 1 and last Monday, a month later, was the first day I was allowed to do any exercise while the heart healed. I’ve been running a half hour a day on Zwift since and have been increasing my pace each day. I feel better already than I have in several years. There’s no guarantee that it won’t come back but until it does I’m taking advantage of the reprieve.

I go back for a follow up in two months and if all goes well I’ll be off all meds, including blood thinners. The doctor kept saying that I would have to stay on blood thinners for ever, until he took a second look at my medical records and realized I didn’t have any risk factors for stroke, except for the a-fib, if they fix that I won’t have any risk factors at all.

The point of all this is that having Zwift through all this has made it much easier to train, even when I had to slow down for health problems. When I couldn’t run I could ride. I didn’t have to worry about stopping somewhere and having to walk home or it being too hot or cold or icy outside. Because I’ve been doing this all these years I don’t have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes or any other health problems. When you get to my age you have lots of friends with these and I have several friends with a-fib that will be on meds and physically limited the rest of their lives because its just one problem out of several. This way the doctors only had one thing to try to fix, didn’t have to worry about other drug interactions or whether doing the procedure would improve my quality of life. Ablation tends to work better and longer if you don’t get overweight and you exercise so its more likely to work for a longer time for me.

I love being able to see a big color coded heart rate on my big screen TV when I’m running. That’s why I use Zwift even when my milestone foot pod won’t properly connect and my avatar stands and stretches the whole run and I don’t get any data out. I found through all this that when the heart rate on screen changed color I tended to notice even if I wasn’t paying attention and I could slow down if it was doing something unexpected. Thank you Zwift.

Great story mate. Hope it goes really well for you! Ride On!