Winning the biggest race of my life

Reading time: 4 minutes

The week’s blog comes from Simon Chodziesner, a K2 Performance Coach based in Melbourne. For those of you who are avid blog readers, you may remember a blog from Simon back in October, just before he underwent major heart surgery. Back by popular demand, Simon shares his rehab experiences, taking of course, a high performance lens to reflect on his recovery!

11 weeks ago I had open heart surgery to replace a faulty aortic valve. The surgery was successful and I now have a lovely new mechanical valve which should not need replacement for about 30 years. Given that I am 53, I’m going to assume that this is a one-time procedure.

The surgery was fairly major; I was in hospital for 8 days, and then went into an intensive 6 week outpatient cardiac rehabilitation program. My recovery from the surgery has been very successful but the rehab period has challenged me to the full. To give you an insight, I was able to comfortably run 30 km 4 weeks before surgery. For 3 months after surgery, it’s been walking only (and very short distances to start with). For an addicted long distance runner, an inability to do previously normal activities – household chores, lifting my son, driving, walking – let alone running, has tested me to the full.

Being Ready

What helped was knowing, expecting and accepting this before the surgery. I spent time really understanding what “the field of play” was going to be, and then getting ready for this. That involved preparing others and doing some practical things to help. But it also involved thinking about how I’d keep positive, motivated and sane during the post-op period. As per my previous blog, I’d planned how I was going to stay motivated during the rehab period; here’s my reflections and learning on how that’s gone!

Fuelling my confidence

One of the key triggers for my confidence is being able to see progression and improvement. Having a plan for my recovery and then diligently sticking to the plan has given me huge confidence. Advancing from a 15 minute walk each day to a 20 minute walk, to a 30 minute walk has helped to reinforce that progress is being made. Any pre and post surgery comparison is a fruitless exercise and one that would not be useful to my mindset so my focus has been on progress not perfection.

Talking to others about my progress in my rehab group has also given me confidence that I am on the right pathway. Setting small goals around my routine on a daily and weekly basis means that I am constantly looking for the next level of improvement.

Building and maintaining control

Having a level of autonomy for my own recovery has been critical. I made myself aware of the general cardiac guidelines and then built my own plan within these guidelines. I was able to set my own goals for my recovery. These goals were monitored by my cardiac experts (doctors, nurses, physios, occupational therapists) but they were my goals and gave me a real focus. I set these goals a week after leaving hospital and I review them on a fortnightly basis. I have also adjusted these goals based on the progress I have made. I feel like I’ve been leading on my rehab plan – I’ve felt like I’ve been in the driving seat and making decisions (albeit with some expert input) – and at a time when I’m physically incapacitated, that’s been very helpful.

Staying Connected

One of the benefits of being a patient is the extra time that I was able to spend with my family. My daily walk, which has gradually increased in distance and pace has been an excellent opportunity to spend time with my wife and kids and also solve most problems of the world along the way.

Whilst I was unable to work or run I made a conscious effort to stay in touch with these activities and colleagues through visits, coffees, phone calls, and social media. Feeling that I was still part of the team has been a key factor in keeping me motivated.

Motivation is not a matter of good luck

Being motivated is not just a matter of being fortunate or being born with the right genes, it is something that we can create through planning, discipline and persistence. By focusing on the 3Cs (Confidence, Control and Connectedness) I have been able to stay positive and continually look at ways to improve my recovery. Being motivated has increased the quality of my recovery, helped me learn more about myself and also enabled me to enjoy the ride.

Check out this Guide to learn more about motivation & the 3Cs

get to grips with motivation