I had a checkup with my GP today. After writing out the scripts for the usual tests he checked my blood pressure, commenting,
“That’s good … but … 40 bpm pulse … we need an ECG.”
Suddenly he lost interest in the rest of the checkup.
“Could I just be really fit?”
“That is the the pulse of an elite athlete.”
“And I’m 56 years old ?”
They did the ECG. It was “unusual”. My doctor went off to fax the results and was apparently on a phone call with the specialist.
He returned to specifically ask, “How much unicycling?”,
“One hour, three to four times a week.”, and he went back to the call. The heart specialist “will ring me with an appointment”. I am to get a chest x-ray and ultrasound before my appointment next week. The doctor beat me to reception to arrange it.
Well, naturally, despite the obvious, I’ve decided to go with the “elite athlete” scenario, concluding that it is the result of unicycling turning out to be a “supersport”. I have been getting a little more serious for the past couple of weeks with the UniNats coming up in October. And I had commented that the uni felt like it had its own motor sometimes.
Anyone else freaked out a doctor with their resting heart rate?
Last year I went to the hospital with chest pains (I think I had badly strained my inter-costal muscles breathing hard on a Muni ride). I was tied to a heart monitor, and I was left to read a book while the staff went about their more urgent business. After a while the monitor started beeping. A nurse flew in to check me as I was happily catching up on my reading. But she checked the wiring, banged the monitor hard and asked if I was OK. Same thing happened again. After a few false alarms, they just left me and the beeping monitor. It appears that the alarm goes if your heart rate drops below 42bpm. With careful relaxation and breathing, I could get it down to about 38bpm.
“Don’t worry about the monitor, it’s just that fit unicycle guy!”
At the cardiologist, at the electrocardiogram, the trainee connected me 3 times, as she though not all beats were captured, and she did it incorrect.
After a long wait, 3 confused nurses made me afraid I couldn’t go home after the check.
Then when making the echocardiogram they called the tech dept. to ask if they could set it to another resolution: the heart didn’t fit on the screen!
The 72hr monitor showed sporadically curves that did not look like a heartbeat at all. More like a earthquake. The only direction the line didn’t go was to the left.
I’m now not doing any duration sport anymore, for about two decades now,
but still it can get below 39.
Not very reassuring, but I know people who are both - though the chap I know best was characterised by having a very high heart rate on occasion before he got kind of sorted (he’s still limited in what he can do, but no longer about to die).
I wouldn’t think 40 is that ridiculous for being fit for what you’re doing, though it’s on the low side. My resting rate was about 38 at its lowest when I was doing a lot of training and competing at a semi-elite level in multisport, though that was unusual and 42 was more normal. About 48 now I do a lot less - though probably still a bit more than you total exercise! I don’t think it’s something that’s particularly age limited either.
I’ll bet you’re just in really good shape, but definitely follow up with your doctor’s recommendation to put yours and your doctor’s minds to rest. Doctors are mostly used to people at your age being sedentary, so you’re likely outside the norm on a lot of things, which is good.
Not sure how it is in Australia, but here in the US, doctors are extremely concerned about lawsuits, and sometimes when they see anything even slightly unusual, they order tests just to cover themselves. My wife and I have both experienced this for ourselves. In and of itself, doctors ordering tests mean very little.
Years ago, one of my buddies in his mid-50s starting passing out from low blood pressure. Turns out the Tai Chi we were doing actually helped his high blood pressure, and with the meds his cardiologist had him on, it lowered his pressure too much. The cardio dr reduced and then removed him completely from the meds to actually keep his pressure high enough. He thought something was seriously wrong, but it turned out to be seriously right.
Best of luck to you. Hope things work out well. I’m sure whatever the case is, you’ll be fine one way or another.
It baffles me a bit that you guys report getting into such good cardiovascular shape by unicycling. It is only light to moderate exercise unless you hop up long flights of stairs, climb really steep hills or do some sort of insanely over-the-top muni or trials riding.
Lately I’ve been working on wheel walking, which makes me sweat a little bit, or one-footed riding, which is slightly more vigorous, or SIF, which is about the same, but if I were really focused on cardiovascular fitness, I would probably try some other activity.
I do what I consider to be heavy climbing with a 29 inch uni on slopes up to eighteen percent. But “heavy” means different things to different people. Some riders do what still seems implausible to me. I say implausible rather then impossible because I now accelerate where I used to struggle and before that bail out. I have thought every aspect of unicycling as implausible some time along the way. A few months ago I thought it was heavy climbing on a 26 and before that, on a 24.
Unicycling is quite unusual as a load on the body. When cycling we change gears, when running we change the step length but we keep to an efficient muscle contraction frequency of around 100 per minute. By adjusting the impedance, loads are kept to moderate levels. Without the facility, unicycles demand an extraordinary scope of exertion from immense strength on steep climbs to phenomenal cadence on moderate slopes. Uni sprinters extend to well over 200 rpm and even a moderately accomplished rider can reach 150 rpm. No other sporting activity comes close to this variety of activity.
Lately I’ve been working the full range in preparation for the UniNATS where I plan to race in the sprints to the 10K. Maybe this unique variety of fast and slow loading really is special for optimum cardio development.
Anyway the latest from the doctor is that they want me to do a stress test wired up with the ECG on a treadmill. I don’t expect them to find anything to worry about.
Maybe I should ask if I can ride a uni on the treadmill?
ANY form of Muni riding on hills will work your heart really well. Trying to ride 20 miles of bike path fast is great aerobic cardio workout, but not compared to Muni.
If I think back to my time living in NY, I was practicing to learn new (Freestyle) tricks, and put together routines. That runs the heart rate up really well also. In addition I was working on 24" “road miles” riding the Jones Beach Bikeway from Cedar Creek Park (in Wantagh; we lived about a mile from there) down to the Jones Beach Theater. Another great aerobic workout, but flat so still nothing compared to Muni on hills…
I had a “heart incident” in December 2014, which turned out to be a coronary artery blockage. The blockage was gone by the time we got to the hospital, but they checked me out anyway, including an angiogram. Happily, the doctor used the words “pristine arteries” to describe the condition in there. More recently, when I had another medical issue apparently related to my gall bladder, there was a question of heart problems. They told me to call my Cardiologist. He said “Nope, you have a strong heart, and I would not suspect it had anything to do with what happened to you that day”.
Well the imaging reported a clean bill of health. Stress test on Friday where they will do an ultrasound while I run on a treadmill. They can somehow measure blood flow through the valves and the aorta from the ultrasound, probably using Doppler techniques I imagine.
Tonight I rode with the wireless heart rate monitor that comes with the ROX5 cycle computer. I had never bothered to use it before but seemed the thing to do under the circumstances. I did my usual 12.85 km route and got home to find my tail light missing so I rode back to find it, covering over twenty kilometres. My maximum heart rate was 153 which seems pretty tame. However I never felt under any real duress.
Doctor says if I pass the stress test and the ultrasound video looks good they special will probably say “you have a low heart rate, interesting, goodbye.” I hope my private health insurer is getting good value. It will also end up costing me a bit but I will be happy with a copy of the video.
New medical imaging equipment has obviously gone head like the rest of imaging. I guess it usually does no harm to get specialists to check the pictures out. For all I knew I could have been like a friend whose doctor told him at an “I don’t fell so well” visit, that he was going straight to the hospital because his heart was failing. Oh well, maybe not.
I’m still expecting this to all be a curious experience that confirms that I have an excellent heart. My father was told in his late sixties that he had a heart of a man thirty years younger. All he did was jog a bit and run the odd marathon. Chip off the old block?
While many of us take leisurely rides, unicycling involves more muscle (core) than other exercise. Even uni-juggling for miles can seem leisurely, but that’s about my only exercise for years and it makes me show up to the doctor looking like an athlete.
Something’s going on here that we may not understand.
Yeah, once you learn to ride well, you do kind of become unconscious of all the work your body does to stay balanced. Still, unicycling doesn’t get me out of breath unless I climb a steep hill. Sometimes I hop up 76 steps without dismounting. That definitely gets my heart racing, though if I were better at one-hop-per-step it might be a bit easier. Sometimes I can go up two or three steps in a row with one hop for each, but after that I always have to pogo stick for a moment to stabilize. That’s when I really get out of breath.
An hour of uni-juggling per day is pretty good, though, especially if it’s with clubs. That’s definitely a full-body workout on par with skipping rope, but requiring more arm strength and more concentration, and probably evoking far more frenzied reactions from bystanders. I’ll have to give it a try one day.
Today I had the stress test at the heart specialist. It had been delayed a week due to the bad cold that I am still trying to shake off.
Heart measures up perfect, though today I didn’t see it go below 47 while I was waiting for the stress test. I put that down to being unwell and less relaxed. He took it up to 145. He also said that according to the measurements they had taken, my maximum performing heart rate should be 163. Interesting bit of information in itself, however they arrive at it.
Then says, “Some people have a slow heartbeat. Probably because you are very fit. Keep up what you are doing.”
He also asked “What happens when you fall of a unicycle? Those things scare me just looking at them.”
Had a heart stress test about 13 years ago. Dr said nothing is wrong, I’m just out of shape… That’s when I started unicycling… Then about 3 years ago, I took the same stress test. The Dr just kept saying Wow! as he looked over the results… I was glad to hear that my improvements were impressive.
A year or two ago, had an ECG. The Dr seemed surprised as he told me that I had an EKG of an athlete.
Unicycling has been very good to me. I unicycle 2-3 times a week, about 3 miles each time. Age 62 this October.