HiiT Kills 15yo Athlete [2]

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Teenage Cyclocross Champion Died in Sleep After Heart Attack


Why was the death of this 15year old a coroner’s case? Because death by heart attack at the age of 15… well that’s just not right is it, so it triggered a coroners inquiry as it should. What did the inquiry reveal? That “high surges of adrenaline left his heart scarred and vulnerable” and led to repeated heart attacks over a period of time.

The philosophy of training that has this effect…

Performing HiiT causes adrenaline surges which can result in scarring of the heart and eventually even heart attacks. How? Excessively intense training will trigger a neural-endocrine reaction which results in adrenaline being released into the bloodstream.

But like believing that it is even possible for a 15year old to die by way of multiple heart attacks, believing that exercise – especially the most hyped exercise of our time… HiiT – was the cause of death… that we do not want to believe. Having been force-fed that exercise – any and all exercise without any conditions or criteria – makes us healthy, to add the detail that healthy exercise is dependent on how intensely we exercise… that is just too much. Most will argue that its challenging enough getting out and exercising without having to concern ourselves with how we exercise, so its easier to believe that exercise in any shape or form is beneficial to our health (aka ignorance is bliss… and it is, until you suffer the consequence of your ignorance, provided you are still alive).

It is only moderate exercise which is healthy, whereas excessive exercise (as in excessive in intensity, duration, and especially both simultaneously) is unhealthy and this reality has been researched and published in physiology and medical journals repeatedly: it is referred to as the ‘J’ curve (because it looks like a ‘J’ or a backwards letter ‘J’ depending on the relationship of excessively intense exercise and a specific disease).  Although the J curve is widely known in the field of electro-physiology, it is less well known in health care, and even less in the fitness industry. In the fitness industry it seems no one has heard of the concept of the J curve because all that’s available at health clubs are HiiT programs: bootcamps, Tabata workouts, spin classes, with personal trainers having no reservation pushing clients so hard that “no pain, no gain” is sold as the mantra to the path to success in health and fitness goals.

The ‘J curve’ is entry level physiology in university. Meanwhile, the cardiologist from whom the article seeks a “second opinion” despite having no involvement in the coroners case thus no access to the medical findings to offer any sort of reliable or valid conclusion, cannot bring himself to state what is already known: again, moderate exercise is healthy, excessive exercise is unhealthy. Why? Because as a cardiologist – like all doctors – he can see only what he has been trained to see… it must have been some undiagnosed irregularity of the heart that unfortunately was ‘missed’ by another doctor. That the athlete through excessive exercise could inflict upon himself an heart irregularity… well that’s just downright impossible (of course, because we have been force-fed that all exercise is good, is healthy, is right).

Are endurance athletes hurting their hearts by repeatedly pushing beyond what is normal? – Velonews.com, by Lennard Zinn

Critical to this point, the coroner on the other hand noted specifically that there was no evidence that the heart condition of this 15year old was in any way congenital.  Point being… if it wasn’t congenital then there is only one other option: it was acquired. How? It was self inflicted or in the case of a 15year old athlete, they were caused to self inflict the damage by way of repeated excessive exercise (i.e. RED ZONE / ALL-OUT training) by an unrelenting ignorant coach/parent.

Neither does the writer address the fact that the cardiologist found to offer a “second opinion” is in a conflicted state. The cardiologist being a medical doctor who is supposed to know ‘how to be’ healthy, who advises patients how to be heart healthy, is also an avid triathlete who likely exercises excessively as most triathletes do, and likely self inflicts similar heart damage to himself. But being an athlete who damages their heart is a conflict that this cardiologist cannot accept… because they are a medical doctor after all, and medical doctors are never wrong. The outcome is that this cardiologist cannot ‘see’ the plain and simple truth before them.

This state of mental conflict in psychology is called:

We have to remember… doctors are human, not demi-gods.  Most of you won’t recall but back in the day it wasn’t uncommon for doctors to be smoking cigarettes during patient appointments. Could you imagine these days if a medical doctor asked you to hold onto their ciggy (aka cigarette) while they listened to your chest while you took deep breathes in their smoke filled medical appointment room. A few decades ago this was normal. Think about that. The thought of the medical profession using leeches to heal may seem primitive, but smoking during patient appointments isn’t centuries old, it happened only a few decades ago.

Meanwhile the research coming out of Australia on atrial fibrillation has shown that atrial fibrillation is an acquired disease, a disease of indulgence:

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Inflammation arises in the body when adrenaline is released because along with adrenaline, cortisol is released and it is cortisol that results in inflammation. Repeatedly stress the human body via excessive exercise to the point that adrenaline is required to “fuel” the performance and along with it there will be enough cortisol that anything even remotely stressed in the body… from ligaments, to muscles, to blood vessels, to the heart itself… will become inflamed.  Repeat the cycle enough times and eventually something will become so scarred as a result of the repeated stress and following inflammation that it will start to breakdown and in time will eventually break.  It can be a tendon, a muscle, it can be a blood vessel, it can even be your heart that eventually breaks altogether.

There is an healthy way to exercise and there are unhealthy ways to exercise… ways that will lead to weight gain, to illness, to injury, even death.

Unhealthy exercise increases inflammation in the body.

Healthy exercise decreases inflammation in the body.

If health is the priority, if health is the point to why you are exercising then find an health professional, a coach, someone who is not sold by industry on HiiT, someone who instead understands and appreciates that your health, your athletic potential, your ability to perform at your peak is related to skill, technique, form and posture, not because you entered ‘beast-mode’, not because of your willingness to enter the red zone or put out repeated all-out efforts.

With that said… there is a trend of exercising not for health, but for “experiences” (aka for the purpose of ego inflation) as the reality is that there are many who would and will continue to exercise as they do, even if they learnt that the way they exercise is harmful to their health and well-being.

Why? Because the experience of their training and racing serves to inflate their ego and has nothing to do with health. The mindset works as follows: because I finished _________ (name the event: typically a marathon, grandfondo, or the mother of all ego events… an ironman triathlon, especially Kona), the logic is… I am therefore a better human being than those who haven’t. And if someone did do one of those events, then you look at their race results and if you were faster than them… the logic is that you are still a better human than them.

Next post… the trend of growing mental impairment in sport (and society in general) where the perception is that self-harm through exercise is normal, appropriate, even a part of an active healthy lifestyle, and where claiming that ego training is the equivalent of training for health.

Engaging purposefully and repeatedly in HiiT – training known to cause injury, illness, & disease – is a state of mental and emotional impairment.

To inflict self harm, irrespective of how “healthy” you may think you are by exercising excessively is not congruent with a state of health. It doesn’t take a medical doctor to diagnose self inflicted harm as not being mentally healthy or stable. If its clear when to perform CPR on a person even if you are not an EMS responder nor a medical professional, then its fair to suggest that there are cognitive-behaviour patterns that would benefit from the equivalent of CPR to attempt to reinstate some higher functioning in executive levels of the brain as opposed to the instinctual self preservation reactions that HiiT causes.

My hope is that through these blogs someone will stop for a moment and consider, will think, will re-evaluate for a moment… whether or not their training is truly healthy. Are you truly benefiting from the exercise you are doing, the training for sport that you are doing, or is there a chance that you are hurting myself, inflicting harm in a way you never thought possible?