This week we are featuring BigHeartedGuy, who has the most literal username on the site. His heart is actually enlarged due to a chronic heart condition, but it’s his figuratively big heart that makes it stick. Consistently positive and supportive, he brings sunshine and a little bit of punk rock into our lives. Do you have someone you would like to nominate for a Fitocracy Member Spotlight? Email firstname.lastname@example.org!
Username and level
Male, 44 years old
How did you get started in fitness and training Do you have any pics to share?
Only one recent picture to share:
For a number of years I walked every day and did some light weight lifting (but didn’t really know what I was doing or push myself, so it was mostly a lot of time wasted). Then in the past two and half years several things happened that really changed things for me: First I was diagnosed with a heart condition called Dilated Cardiomyopathy, and second I was turned on to a life changing site called Fitocracy!
The cardiomyopathy was discovered secondarily during other routine tests, and I was extremely fortunate that it was caught early and that I’ve responded very well to medication (and diet, exercise, etc.). Basically DCM is where the wall of the heart (in my case the left ventricle – the chamber that pumps oxygenated blood out to the body) is weakened and is unable to pump enough blood. Since it cannot pump enough blood by force, it enlarges and tries to pump more blood by volume, but this often leads to further weakness, other complications, and increased chance of tachycardia (a rapid heart arrhythmia, potentially including ventricular fibrillation, etc.) The condition leads to heart failure if untreated, and can require implanted assist devices or heart transplant. (Please note, this is by no means a text book explanation, because I am not a doctor – although I’ve been told I look like a guy who plays one on TV.) Mercifully improvements in medication over the last 5 – 10 years means that people often do quite well, whereas I’ve been told it used to often be a veritable death sentence.
When I was first diagnosed with DCM, my initial cardiologist told me to stop lifting completely, and even then (when I was less addicted to it) it just wrecked me to have to let it go. Mercifully I was able to start back slowly and to start running again, which I had not done in years. For a long time I was afraid to push myself too much for fear of what it meant for my heart condition. Over time I’ve learned that if I listen to my body, it’s almost always only my head telling me that I “can’t” do something. I don’t want a chronic health condition to limit me, and I refuse to let heart disease define me. I want to excel and achieve and thrive in ways that go beyond being 42 or being “a guy with a heart condition”. Bring it on!
How did you find the site? How has it changed your workouts?
I was invited to the site by a good friend who hasn’t really been around as much as I wish he was. (I won’t name any names, [cough]idealone[cough]) but I was hooked right away. Initially I was drawn to trying to maximize the number of points I could get for workouts, but it quickly became much more about the attitudes and support and knowledge of the community here; it amazes me still. My workouts went from a lot of screwing around with worthless lifts or just staying at the same level to focusing more on increasing strength and pushing myself to new levels.
Do you have any long term goals or direction you plan to take your training?
Well, one thing is to (at some point when I can finally afford it) join a real gym. The little H.O.A. gym I work out in is sorely lacking in free weights. For example, there are no barbells, so I currently do deadlifts with a curl bar loaded with every plate in the gym and it’s not enough weight, and I will soon have passed the 50lb dumbbell mark for bench presses, but there are no bigger dumbbells. At this point, I’ve met the goals I had set when I joined Fitocracy back in September, so I definitely need to set some new ones so I don’t stagnate or slack off.
What are things you’ve learned through trial and error? What areas do you hope to learn more about?
Initially I learned everything through trial and error, and one of the things that I love about Fitocracy is it is so much easier to sort out the BS and the bro-science from what’s real. Even without much of a comprehensive plan, just hanging around this site caused me to start picking up good habits and drop bad ones. I would like to learn more about nutrition, and once I can join a proper gym, learn some more big, compound lifts.
Currently, where would you say your weakness lies? Where do you excel?
My biggest weakness is probably diet; I often don’t eat enough and/or I don’t get enough protein. I really need to start logging my food intake and paying more attention to eating in general. Also, I workout after the kids go to bed, but I run in the morning before helping get them ready for school which means, I often need to get more sleep! Where I excel most at this point is in commitment, if I miss a day or two for some reason, I don’t let it decrease momentum or drive, and I make sure to jump right back into things.
What motivates you?
My amazing wife (tothefitterend) and my 3 super awesome kids (11, 8 and 2). My smart, funny, beautiful wife who faces each day with courage, humility and grace (and puts up with me) has been so encouraging and supportive of my exercising and getting and staying fit. Also, being a dad is (in my humble opinion) the most important job any man will have, so I really want to be in
the best shape I can to be the best dad I can be (and for as long as possible, thank you very much.)
Are you using any supplements or special dietary changes to achieve your goals?
No supplements really, other than whey protein shakes after workouts. I’m very hesitant to use or try much else, because a lot of things can mess with the heart medications, etc. I would love to try some different things with diet, but my main focus here is improving my protein intake and staying within my acceptable range for sodium (I’m supposed to stay at under 2k mg a day, which it turns out is damned challenging!)
If you could give advice to someone starting off, what would you tell them?
Whenever you struggle or fall, just keep getting back up on the horse, and don’t give up before you fall in love with it. I really believe that if you try enough different things and keep at it, anyone and everyone can find fitness exercises/sports/etc. that they love. Also, hang around this joint a lot because it’s chock full of smart, helpful, super-awesome people who will help and encourage you.
In addition, try to keep a positive attitude and realize that there is joy and potential awesomeness all around you every day, all the time, so keep your eyes open and seize it at every opportunity.
Finally, believe in yourself. We are all capable of so much more than most of us realize or believe that we are.
What’s your ‘secret weapon’, the thing that pushes you or you feel gives you an edge?
Gratitude. I am thrilled to be here, walking around, able to do all things I want to do. There are people with Dilated Cardiomyopathy who cannot walk across the room without getting winded and tired and having to sit down to rest. That I can spend most days getting up at 6 to run 3 or 4 miles, and then going to work with a 2 mile walk at lunch and then come home to play with my kids and go to the gym is a gift that I try to be grateful for every hour of every day. The absolute worst day on this side of the grass is still far better than on the other side.
What has the overall impact of Fitocracy been in your life?
Fitocracy has brought my commitment to fitness and the joy I get from it to a whole new level. Seriously, it’s been amazing, and I’m not sure how to say it more clearly than that. It’s huge! I’ve done things (and will do more!) that I never would have thought that I could do and it’s because I’ve learned so much here and because so many people have been positive and encouraging and supportive.
One thing I want people to take away from my story is…
You may get a tomorrow, or you may get hundreds of them, or you might not get one at all, but no matter what future lies ahead for you, you will NEVER get another chance to make today amazing. Also, try to remember that taking care of yourself and your relationships with other people are the only things that really matter and everything else is just noise, so take every opportunity to tell the people that you love that you love them.