Cardiac Rehabilitation

I'm attending Calgary's cardiac rehabilitation programme which is sponsored by Alberta Health and run by Total Cardiology at the Repsol Sport Centre, formerly the Talisman Centre. I've been looking forward to returning to physical activity and getting back in decent shape for a long time. When I found out about my heart problem a couple of years ago it really took the wind out of my sails in terms of sport and fitness. 

Six weeks after my surgery I started the rehab programme. The first part is two classroom sessions that frankly seem like they were planned in a pre-internet time. That said, many of the people attending them might not have extensively researched all this stuff, but for a well-informed person these are long days presenting not a lot (but definitely some!) good new information. 

The first physical activity is a 'ramp test', at least that's the cycling term for this sort of thing. You're put on a treadmill that incrementally increases in speed and incline, and it's your job to keep up as long as you can. In this cardiac rehab context, you're wired up with lots of electrodes and your blood pressure is taken regularly mid-test. Tests like this get hard at the end, no way around that. Since this was the first physical effort over a brisk walk after my surgery I was very glad to be in a thoroughly supervised medical environment while I was doing it. 

The test is followed immediately by a visit to one of the programme's cardiologist, who reviews the data from the test. In my case he saw a couple of funny electrical blips, but nothing that raised any eyebrows. He said he was happy with my results and that it was basically what they hope to see at that point in recovery, so that was a relief. This was the appointment when I was sent for an x-ray about what turned out to be a pleural effusion, as I wrote about in an earlier post.

Also, they impose a hard systolic blood pressure limit of 160. At my maximal effort mine was under 150, so we're not worried about that number during exercise, and my medications are working well.

At the second classroom session I got two highly-anticipated pieces of information: first, my target heart rate zone for safe and effective exercise (110-140), and my rehab time slot (11:00 on Mondays and Wednesdays). 

At each session you check in and have a chat with a nurse or physiotherapist. Blood pressure is taken, and it's an opportunity to ask any questions. Then it's off to your exercise! I'm fussy about bikes, so I'm choosing to always run on the track for my activity there. The formula is always a 5-minute warmup, then your main work interval, then a 5-minute cool down. Sometimes someone form the programme will come exercise with you and check in about your work at rehab and at home. I'll detail how my own rehab is going in a later post.

Each session is ended with either a stretching routine or resistance training using bands. Pretty simple stuff, nothing fancy. I can go over those in detail if anyone's interested. 

All in all, I think it's a great programme. The level of personalization and one-on-one time is great, and it's so reassuring to be well-supervised while getting back to exercising.