James l. Young II - The Will To Walk
James ignored classic heart failure symptoms, but once faced with a frightening prognosis, he made major changes to turn his health around. Today he volunteers as an ambassador for our Rise Above Heart Failure program.
That moment when your doctor tells you it’s OK to begin exercising after dealing with heart failure for several months can be promising but also frightening at the same time.
After spending a multitude of weeks being sedentary - mainly due to the medications I had to take on a daily basis - I longed for the moment to be given the green light to do something ambulatory.
With precautionary instructions, my doctor told me I could do “some” exercise, however that didn't mean to find the nearest gym and start lifting 500lbs nor running the maximum speed on the treadmill. She told me I could do something as simple as walking, but nothing more. Take it slow. Also, to not spend any more than 20 minutes walking.
Initially, my goal was just to move and not conquer major distance. Walking was the best choice for me and the most economical. In fact, it was my only choice based on my physical condition. I can walk anywhere – down my residential street, the mall, the park or the local high school track.
I started off slow being mindful to not over exert myself. Even if my intent was 20 minutes of walking, I took breaks when necessary, when feeling out of breath, tired, or having chest pains. Due to having fluid retention in my body, I initially needed someone to walk beside me so I wouldn't fall due to my equilibrium being off balance. Don't over exert yourself . If you begin to feel these symptoms, stop. Rest. Start anew the next day.
I walked very short distances for quite some time before adding more steps. I was in no rush or hurry. Sometimes, people become frustrated because the anxiousness of wanting to see results quickly and if they don't, they quit. Most cases of heart failure are due to diet and lifestyle which means the development of the disease was not overnight, so results won't be seen overnight as well.
But whatever you do, don't give up. Starting to exercise was extremely frustrating, especially realizing how long the road to recovery would be for me. However, one thing was for certain, going back to the lifestyle that led me to heart failure was not an option. So, the only route for me was to continue moving forward. As Vince Lombardi once said: winners never quit and quitters never win. We need more winners in this fight to eliminate and/or minimize cardiovascular disease in this country. I found my will to win and just how I discovered mine, you can discover yours – just take that step and walk.