Redefining Success With Peloton After a Cardiac Event

Redefining Success With Peloton After a Cardiac Event

It’s all about patience and persistence.

By Alyssa SybertzUpdated March 23, 2021


This wasn’t supposed to happen to me, you might think. I worked out. I stayed active and pushed myself. I did everything right.

Nonetheless, over one million Americans experience some sort of cardiac event (or any incident that can cause damage to the heart muscle) every year—and that includes people who are fit and exercising on a regular basis. Sound familiar? Here, Suzanne Steinbaum, M.D., a cardiologist and Peloton Health & Wellness Advisory Council member, shares how shifting your outlook and adapting to your new normal are key to finding renewed success in fitness after a cardiac event.

Accept Where You’re At

You’ve been through a lot, and it may be frustrating to deal with new limitations when it comes to exercise. But you’ve got to go easier on yourself during workouts, Dr. Steinbaum says.

“Even though a patient may have been active throughout his or her life, it is important to define their functional capabilities based on their new normal since the event,” she explains. “It could be harmful to begin exercising with the same goals from prior to the illness.”

Cardiac events can affect the heart in different ways, often impacting how hard and how long you can push yourself during workouts. That’s why every element of your cardiovascular fitness must be reevaluated when crafting an exercise plan. “One size does not fit all when it comes to your heart,” Dr. Steinbaum says.

Set New Goals

So how can you tell what level you’re at and how hard you should work out? “It is important to work with your cardiologist to get a symptom-limited exercise test,” says Dr. Steinbaum. “It should be done three to six weeks after the cardiac event to see at what heart rate level to begin.”

The exercise stress test, she adds, will yield an initial heart rate goal that you’ll want to hit for 20 minutes, three times a week at first, slowly working your way up from there. Pushing past that level too soon can be dangerous—even if the level seems frustratingly low in comparison to your max before the event.

Focus on How You Feel

Speaking of heart rate: The numbers on your heart rate monitor and the other data on your Bike or Tread screen should no longer be the primary way you judge how hard you’re working. “After a cardiac event, exercise should resume based on functional capacity and perceived exertion,” Dr. Steinbaum explains. That means that your old PR may be out of reach for a while, and that’s okay. Instead, focus on how you feel during and after a workout, plus how well you’re hitting the goals that your doctor set out for you.

One good way to do this is with Peloton’s Power Zone workouts. “Power Zone training allows you to start slow and build up fitness,” Dr. Steinbaum says. “It could be a way for someone who has had a heart event to start slowly.”

Indeed, slowly is the key word. “Getting healthy after a heart event needs to have a true focus on how the person feels,” Dr. Steinbaum says. “Pushing too hard too soon will lead to exercise intolerance and a setback in progress.”

And while it may feel different, simply getting on the Bike or Tread and completing a class free of symptoms (such as chest pain, dizziness or shortness of breath) is progress. “It’s about patience and persistence,” Dr. Steinbaum says. “Every small goal in those areas needs to be a win.”

If you’re looking to set new fitness goals after a cardiac event, you may want to reset your PRs on the Bike or Tread. It’s time to start fresh!

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