As I read about Former Ironman Dean Mercer who just recently died of a heart attack and with my own heart attack following my first triathlon while I was training for my own Ironman attempt, it made me do more research into what might be going on.
Dean Mercer died after suffering a cardiac arrest and crashing his car on the Gold Coast August 28th 2017. Mercer who was only 47, was taken to Gold Coast University Hospital but could not be revived, after paramedics who tried to save him at the scene performed CPR for an hour.
Mercer was in great shape and had won a string of Ironman titles, including two national championships and five New South Wales championships, as well as the World Oceanman series.
He competed in Ironman from 1987 to 2010, beginning as a professional at the age of 15, and competed in his last Coolangatta Gold when he was 40. He also won an Order of Australia for services to life saving and was inducted into the NSW Surf Life Saving Hall of Fame.
Though at this time of writing this blog I can’t find any medical feedback as to why he had a heart attack in the first place, but I have been asking and researching about heart attacks after surviving what some call “the widow maker” myself just less than a month ago on July 30th.
Most recently I have been reading about Doctor Kenneth Cooper, a Dallas physician who is the nation’s most famous fitness expert. Dr. Cooper is who is responsible for giving a PUSH to all Americans to start exercising again. Aerobics, Cooper’s 1968 best-seller, that made the earliest case for getting in shape: “Vigorous activity,” he wrote, “has more and more proved worthwhile both as preventive medicine and as a cure.” In the book’s appendix there are a slew of charts detailing how a person could achieve the target level of exertion by following his system of aerobics. Basicly more exercise, more points, and more was better.
For the past year, the 64-year-old Cooper has been arguing the opposite however. Vigorous exercise, he contends, is bad for you. The challenge comes from what is “vigorous” and as you build your capacity for MORE – “vigorous” becomes a moving target. There is a study of cyclists that shows that free-radical damage can be measured in the amount of pentane (a residue of free radicals) in their breath. Cyclists who exercised for twenty minutes at less than 50 percent of their maximum exertion level had a normal amount of pentane, but those who exercised at 75 percent of their maximum level had a nearly twofold increase. One 1988 study showed that the blood of ultra-marathoners who ran a 50-mile race had an unusually high level of thiobarbituric acid reactive substances, or TBARS—a marker for oxidative stress. By contrast, a 1990 study for a runner who ran a 13.1-mile race showed no rise in TBARS.
It seems to me that we need to build up to sustainable levels of fitness. Not everyone is the same, and we still need to be cautious when we reach Maximum outputs. Maximum outputs put strain on any kind of system, but what once was maximum, with training and conditioning can inch up. But as individuals our maximums are different. What is “Vigorous” to one is not so to someone else, and our body chemistry is proof of that too.
So work out hard? Yes (check) Eat right? Yes (check) Pay attention to what our body is telling us? Yes (check) Continue to read and research health and fitness? Yes (check)
I don’t think there is one “diet” that is 100% right for all of us, nor do I think there is one way to work out is that right for everyone. I also know that NOTHING exempts us from the risk of a heart attack or of cancer or of any kind of fatal illness. There is no exception when it comes to death however, and that is what makes LIFE and living so precious. But we can do things to survive better.
We put on our seat-belts on in our car not to prevent an accident, we put them on to survive if we have one. We eat right and work-out not to exempt us from illness, but we heal better, and have a higher rate of surviving when we have added IMPORTANCE to our health and fitness.
Years ago I started #502KeepsFit as a Facebook Group and Instagram Page, and have added it to YES Louisville as a place to inspire fitness and health. It is with caution that I write this now, that I do not recommend anyone one doing TOO much! But I also know that 80% if not more of us are able to do so much more – there is always room for improvement and there are higher levels of fitness and always ways to tweak our diet better.
So let’s all choose to inspire one another, and keep on PUSHing to healthier lifestyles. Let’s look at diets and workout plans not as “answers” but as guidelines to get us started on the road to improvement, because improvment like “vigorous” is a moving target. Let’s always ask how we can #BeBetter, and how we can #inspire more and more people around us to LIVE and not just exist.