The other day I was working in this garden, digging up and planting large clumps of these Black-eyed Susans, when my body suddenly scared the bejesus out of me.

My heart was pounding fast and wouldn’t slow down when I stopped moving. After I sat down to rest and drank some water I noticed that my heart was pounding so hard, my chest appeared to be jostled by something.

So of course I googled my symptom and found this from the Mayo Clinic:

Heart palpitations are the feelings of having a fast-beating, fluttering or pounding heart. Stress, exercise, medication or, rarely, a medical condition can trigger them.

Although heart palpitations can be worrisome, they’re usually harmless. In rare cases, they can be a symptom of a more serious heart condition, such as an irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia), that might require treatment.

Seek emergency medical attention if heart palpitations are accompanied by:

  • Chest discomfort or pain
  • Fainting
  • Severe shortness of breath
  • Severe dizziness

And one of the possible causes listed is strenuous exercise.

My panic subsided and within a few minutes the pounding did, too. And I’ll talk to my doctor about it but I don’t really need her to advise me to slow down when I’m working in the garden. Because like everything else I do, if it’s possible without getting arrested, I’ll do it in high gear.

And I doubt my doctor knows how strenuous gardening is – hell, nobody but gardeners knows – so I’ll tell her that it’s digging, lifting, hauling, pulling and cutting, among other things that aren’t daintily filling my flower basket with blooms for an indoor bouquet. Except for watering, it’s all strenuous.

So I’m consciously slowing down and taking a breath between tasks. It’s frustrating, and humbling. (My ego’s saying, “Me, slow down? Are you kidding?”)

Other reputable google results told me I could reduce the chances of a repeat occurence if I make sure I’m not dehydrated or have low blood sugar when I do any strenuous exercise. So I’m trying to get some protein and water in my system before heading out to the garden. More slowing down.

Not Giving Up – Building Up!

But that’s not all, because I’m not resigned to letting my body simply decline with age. We start losing muscle mass at about 30, but that can be largely reversed with resistance training, something that has been missing from my exercise routine of cardio, stretches and abdominal work.

So I’m gradually adding upper-body weight training, and trying to up my protein intake, which as a pescetarian can be hard to do. (My vegan friends may tell me it’s a myth that non-meat-eaters don’t get enough protein but when I keep track of my intake, it’s usually too low by a lot.)

I’ve resolved to be stronger by next spring when my next birthday rolls around. And it’s a doozy.

Couple of resources:

  • Most inspiring for me has been the book Becoming Ageless by Strauss Zelnick. I bought it after hearing the author interviewed on the 10 Percent Happier Podcast.
  • My at-home arm-strengthening workout video. (One listening was enough; I mute it and listen to music instead of her yelling at me.)