Updated: Mar 31, 2020
Before you embark on a coaching journey with me, you are probably asking yourself what makes this guy so unique and sure he can he can help me? Well, I want to share some of the events that have happened to me - as they have helped shaped my approach to coaching. I am really keen to show you that no matter what your situation is, there are always possibilities! I'm not saying it's easy, but I promise you that you can achieve big and meaningful changes if you want to and I want to help you!
- 2 heart attacks in 18 months in my 40s
- 2 other non diagnosed heart attacks
- 6 stents
- Diagnosed with severe coronary artery disease, 90 per cent blockage to main arteries
- 1 Discectomy
- 10,700 tablets a year as medication
- Addiction to opiates
These are some of the "highlights" which have turned my life upside down over the last decade. But I'm still here to tell the tale and to write about it too! There's been a lot of low points during those times too, both physically and mentally. It's been really tough at times both for myself but also for my family who have also been on this roller coaster journey with me! But I have learned a lot about myself and about life too as a result and I want to share what I have learned with you.
What were some of these low points? Before my first heart attack, I was an active and fit man - I trained in the gym 3 times a week and had been doing so since I was 18. Until that event, I always had a slightly arrogant view about my health - as I lived a healthy life and did what the "experts" told us to do - ie exercise regularly, don't drink excessively and don't smoke - I thought I was immune to events such as heart attacks - that's what happened to unfit and old people, just as they show on the TV and movies! How wrong! Fate had some pretty devious tricks to play!
I will always remember my first day back home from hospital after suffering my first heart attack. I had become so weak that I did not even have the strength or stamina to climb the set of stairs at home; I had to take a break whilst I gasped for breath rigidly holding the bannisters. It was so unreal, it was a bit like having an outer body experience - looking down on someone you think you recognise - is that really me looking so old and frail?? I think its easy to feel sorry for yourself, even more so when everyone around you is so full of sympathy for you - "but you're so young, you look so healthy etc etc". Tempting as it was to lap up all the sympathy, sympathy alone wasn't going to help me get my strength back or help me do the every day things I used to do before the heart attack!
So I was determined to get back to normality as soon as possible - that meant getting fit again and training again and getting back to the same levels of fitness I had before my heart attack. I was extremely focused on doing all the exercises and recovery work I was advised to do by the heart association. I had to be patient (no pun intended!) as this couldn't be rushed - I had to follow a strict regime of exercise to allow my heart and body to recover. I just had to accept that my recovery was going to take months not weeks and not get impatient, which was not easy for me! I just felt determined not to let this one "event" defeat me so I was extremely motivated. So as time went on my fitness and strength started to improve, slowly at first but gradually the gains began to get bigger and bigger. Nevertheless it still took 6 months before I finally recovered my fitness and most of my strength.
So what did I learn as a result of my heart attack?
1 When you face despair and darkness, that is the time you learn the most about yourself. There is no place to hide - you have no choice but to confront your deepest fears to move forward. One of my biggest fears was that my vulnerability was totally exposed. I absolutely hated being ill and reliant on other people; it made me extremely anxious. I had to learn to cope with that.
2 It doesn't matter where you are today - what's important is where you will be tomorrow, next week, 3 months time. That's why it's important to have goals - it helps you focus and helps motivate you. I remember going back to the gym for the first time after my heart attack and I had to follow a strict weights regime - but the weights were so light! I felt incredibly slef conscious lifting such "baby" weights and was almost paranoid that everyone was giggling at me. I felt like running out of the gym several times. But I came up with a mental plan to help me - my mantra was "it doesnt matter where you are today. What matters is where you will be next week and next month". That simple mantra was enough for me to focus on doing my exercises and visualising my improvement. It blocked out all my negative thoughts brilliantly!
3 Your mental health and well being is just as important as your physical strength. When you have a setback in life, how well you are able to respond depends, largely on your mental strength; without that, who cares how physically strong you are - if you are not resilient to deal with set backs then physical strength is not important. We are all capable of finding inner strength to deal with setbacks but sometimes we need a helping hand in doing so.
4 Find ways to distract yourself in times of stress and anxiety. For me, listening to music or taking a walk in a park was extremely helpful in helping me to relax. Just closing my eyes for 10 to 15 minutes and listening to some joyous music was unbelievably helpful. I have since discovered, that it has been scientifically proven that listening changes your brain waves and can have a positive impact on people suffering a wide range of symptoms such as anxiety and depression.
5 Small steps ARE important and shouldn't be under estimated. Why? Because lots of small steps accumulate to make a significant difference. For example, if you start exercising for just 5 minutes a day and increase the time of exercise by just 30 seconds each day - by the end of the first week you will be exercisng for 8 minutes and by end of week 2 , 11.30minutes which is an increase of 130%!!
6 Be kind to yourself; don't overburden and over pressure yourself to do things if you are not feeling upto it today - it pays ot listen to your body. Pushing your body too hard when you are not well is a recipe for serious ill health!
7 Turn every event into a lesson or a positive experience. My heart attack forced me to look at my lifestyle and diet - made me improve it in ways I never thought about which has now, ironically, made me much fitter than before my first heart attack!