Sooo…I feel I’m about 8% qualified to input some info about this.
TL;DR – riding hard gave me a bad heart, riding easy gave me a healthy heart.
2019 I had a couple stress tests. First one was the usual treadmill ECG; stoppage due to high blood pressure. Second one was a nuclear test. Same deal, high BP stoppage.
The first stress test came right after I spent 10 months doing almost only hammerfest riding.
The second stress test came right after I did SusPB HV and SSB2 HV and two weeks into a VO2 block (1 rest week in 4 months).
Tests showed perhaps some scaring which indicates previous heart attack. Also showed possible ischemia. Doc sez NO intensity until we can figure this out. Plus take these drugs. Awesome.
For 12 months I was on an exclusive diet of low HR Z2. For 12 months I read all I could about the heart.
Then I had a CT angiogram (“gold standard” of cardio exams) which showed my heart is 99.99% awesome.
2020 raised my HRmax by 1bpm. Take that, genetics!
The athletic heart and the diseased heart share a lot of similar symptoms, but almost none of the same causes. The average medical professional does not know how to tell the difference. This can lead to misdiagnoses. Seek out a performance specialist.
Huge difference between health and performance. By definition, performance is not sustainable, thus not healthy. Health can be sustained for 100 years but will never achieve performance levels. There’s a balance.
Brisk walking might just be the best exercise ever. Do Z2/<LT1 like your l life depends on it.
The heart needs rest. Rest it. A lot. But it’s also a monstrous powerhouse. Use it.
Anecdotally, I tracked my HRV while I was doing all my Z2. I started with totally fired readings, like in the gutter of the muddiest Roubiax. After 4 months of low HR riding, my readings were drastically improved. Z2 is healthy for you, and you can do a ton of it.
Also, don’t be afraid of intensity. It’s what’s prescribed to recovering heart patients.
And mine was abnormal on the scan. As my final cardio doc said, “Lots of problems with those tests. Mainly with the test itself and with the people interpreting the test.” I read one study where a healthy patient was leaning too far forward during the treadmill test which altered his heart function enough that it was interpreted as diseased and by the week’s end he had an unnecessary heart operation. No thanks.
That’s the scary part because you usually don’t know until there’s catastrophic failure. I would say if you are ~50 and plan on doing any kind of HIIT, go get that yearly physical.
The grand takeaway: Masters athletes might just have to face the fact that they aren’t half their age.