On Being Slow – Running with Atrial Fibrillation

Being in persistent atrial fibrillation is sort of like being a pickup truck with a four speed manual transmission, but you can only use second and third gear.

If you’re going to continue distance running in persistent atrial fibrillation you’d better expect to be slower.

I was already slow to begin with – my quickest marathon was four hours and forty minutes and it took me an hour to run a 10K. I’ve always avoided 5Ks because people in 5Ks simply run too fast. Once I was a back of the middle of the pack runner, well, now I’m truly a back of the pack runner.


Training Run

I’ve always been a larger runner, and that’s definitely a factor in being slow. I’ve done a dozen marathons at over 6′ 3” and about 235 pounds, and have often felt that people would “mark” me, use me sort of as a target. I’ve felt particularly self-conscious about those people, often found in the back of the pack in a marathon, who will run up and pass me and then start walking – over and over again. This can be really annoying. One guy did that for 14 miles! I finally told him, “please either keep running or keep walking.” I know that these people are simply followers of Jeff Galloway (there are a lot of them in the back of a marathon pack), but it’s still annoying and it happens every race.

But if I was moderately slow before, I’m silly slow now. In an effort to preserve my pace I have actually lost about 40 pounds – but I don’t think I’ve even broken even. I had previously ran ten minute miles in shorter training runs, but now twelve minute miles are more common. As stated previously I had a cardioversion and was in sinus rhythm for thirty-three days – and at my new weight I was delighted to be able to train, for shorter runs, at a nine minute mile if I wanted to – but alas after a quick five-mile run in the thirty-third day I went back into persistent atrial fibrillation. I could feel it immediately and knew what had happened.

I imagine that a lot of athletes who are reading this blog are people who have had episodes of atrial fibrillation, or who go in and out of atrial fibrillation. I think people with intermittent atrial fibrillation become much more symptomatic and have a lot more trouble with training. They might not be able to train at all. But with persistent atrial fibrillation, at least in my experience, I have found that I stabilized and am able to train (a slower pace). You just have to get used to it.


Back of the Pack – Haulin Aspen Trail Marathon and 1/2 Marathon

There are a few major differences, however. Prior to atrial fibrillation, like most runners, I would start out a long run at a fairly quick pace and more or less degrade as far as my pace was concerned as the miles accumulated. But with atrial fibrillation I actually start out quite slow, and after a mile or two find that I have picked up the pace quite a bit. I generally don’t do much interval training, but I imagine that is out of the question at this point. I live and train in the mountains and I can still run hills, but not really very quickly. When bicycling I find I don’t stand up and charge up hills any longer, but remain seated and spin more.

Being in persistent atrial fibrillation is sort of like being a pickup truck with a four speed manual transmission, but you can only use second and third gear. You start out pathetically slow, and your top speed is greatly diminished – but she can still drive as far as you want.


Big Slow Runner – Before A Fib

The most important thing, of course, is that I am still able to continue trail running and mountain biking, and I am still able to participate in marathons and even ultra marathons. I still get to experience the sheer joy of slogging through a long trail run through the forest. I was never going to win any prizes to begin with, so what’s the difference?

Actually, I was delighted to get a medal for second place in my age group at the 2012 Bizz Johnson 50K, which I ran while in persistent atrial fibrillation. That was the first year they had a 50K at that event and there weren’t very many participants. I’m pretty sure that there were only two people in my age group, but still!


Second Place (age group) Hell Yeah!!!!

One good thing about ultra running and marathon running, especially compared to 5Ks, for example, is that nobody really cares if you are slow. I was surprised that there were many people who finished behind me when I ran my first 50K in atrial fibrillation. Although it is kind of embarrassing to be so slow, you just have to change your mindset, and when you get involved with ultra sports, especially with atrial fibrillation, you need to simply enjoy yourself, enjoy the run, enjoy the trail, enjoy the people, and not worry about time.

If there are any other athletes reading this who are in persistent a fib, or intermittent a fib, I would love to hear about your experiences, and I encourage you to leave comments.


218 thoughts on “On Being Slow – Running with Atrial Fibrillation

  1. Pingback: 5K in 20 minutes…19 minutes 18, 23? What’s the difference | the5krunner

  2. Hi
    I have got a diagnosis of paroxysmal AF, and had been told by doctors to “do nothing ” apart from walking. After a year I decided that I needed to change this around so have started running wth my wife.

    It is heartening to hear that you have found your way to keep running. I understand your comments about slowness, as I find my pace dictated by the reading on my HRM .I also have found that I am able to pick up the pace after a few miles of running.

    Recovery is much harder though and I make a lot of use of ice and compression socks after a run . Hoping to do a half marathon in October, afraid the ultras are definitely your domain !

    • Thanks for your kind comment. My personal experience is that I can continue running with a fib, even if it is a bit slower – but I want to emphasize that it is important that you and your doctor agree as to your level of athletic activity.

  3. Pingback: Atrial Fibrillation at Altitude – High Elevation Hiking on the Lares Trek | A Fib Runner – Distance Running and Mountain Biking With Atrial Fibrillation

  4. I’ve been in afib for years and I find your experience very similar to my own. i usually warm up for 2 miles before any race. I need 10 – 20 minutes just to get the heart moving. My Cardiac doc encourages my running. It has kept me on a baby aspirin regimen rather than a blood thinner. And my doc used the car gear analogy with me too. The most annoying thing for me is that I can run a half marathon but a flight of stairs or trying to lift something heavy knocks the hell out of me.

    • That’s it exactly!! – I can run 20 miles or hike all day in the Andes at absurd high elevation – but walking uphill from my car and then upstairs to my office and I’m huffing and puffing like a three pack a day couch potato. Thanks for your great comment.

  5. I am a very active individual and used to run low 16min 5ks. I dont even want to try running a 5k nowadays after diagnosed with AFib. But I do “jog” and do boot camp/aerobics type classes at the fitness center along with strength training.

    Have you gone the cardioversion route? I had it done twice and my AF came back. The cardiologist now scheduled me for ablation. He said it is 80% success rate first time and if AF come back, a second ablation is 100% success.

    When I heard that I was thinking maybe I’ll be doing 5ks competitively again ! 🙂


    • Thanks for your comment. One of my main reasons for starting this blog was to have a sort of forum for athletes with a fib.

      I was cardioverted once with a “one strike and your out” attitude meaning the electrophysiologist didn’t expect it would last. I stayed in sinus rhythm for 33 days. If I had a 80% / 100% chance of success with respect to ablation I would definitely sign up. I think my situation might be different than yours (probably because of my severe left atrial hypertrophy) and I was told that I would have less than 30% chance of success with ablation and even then it would not likely last for more than five years.

      If you proceed with ablation I’d love to hear about it.

      • thanks for starting this. ive had proximal af for a while and its frustrating. good to hear feedback from others. i’m in afib now and conitune to treadmill walk/jog. my workouts are almost as good as without it. i truly wonder if sometimes we convert to normal after good warm up and “feel” like pushing it a little. hoping i will convert on my own. ( usually when i’m in a deep sleep ).

      • I think some people do convert to sinus rhythm when they jog or walk. I don’t. I’ve done treadmill stress tests and stay in a fb the entire time.

        Thanks for your comment. It’s great to hear from other athletes with a fib.

      • My Cardilogist attempted an ablation on me. It was supposed to take a couple hours. I was under general anesthesia for 7 hours. He was not able to locate the area causing my problem. He told my husband I was the most difficult patient he had ever tried to do. He told him the equipment wasn’t good enough for him to see well enough to fix me. They had to cardiovert me twice to get me in sinus rhythm. I went to see my Dr 4 days later and I was back in AFIB. My husband and I decided not to attempt fixing it again. My Grandmother, Mom, and 3 sisters all have AFIB.

      • Wow – That’s a rough procedure and doesn’t always have the anticipated results. That must be stressful for you, as well as the OR staff – could you imagine being in one procedure for seven hours and then having to wake the patient up and say, “well, we tried but it didn’t work.” I don’t blame you for not trying again. If it was the most difficult case ever the first time it will still be difficult for subsequent cardiologists!

  6. I’m continuing to follow your blog. Very interesting that you noted how there are many of us – and how it’s common for middle aged endurance athletes.

    I’m getting the ablation done on September 16th. Hoping recovery will be very quick and I can be back to being active within a couple of days.

    — Originally they wanted to schedule me for Sept 13th. I asked if it was a Friday and when she said it was I said NO WAY !!! hahaha

    I’ll keep you updated with how it goes. thanks

      • I’ve been living with Afib for about 12 years. I have no other issues so I’m labeled lone afib. And for the most part I have no symptons but walking up a flight of stairs, picking up a heavy object, and walking at a mall (leisurely pace) knock the hell out of me. But getting back to the truck analogy I can run ten miles as long as I start slow and let my heart dictate the pace. My cardiologist didn’t think an ablation would work for me. And since for the most part I live without any symptoms except as noted above he didn’t think it was worth trying. I love this forum!

      • That’s been my experience – but only for a year. It is great to hear that you haven’t worsened in that time. It’s fascinating about the delayed warm-up. – yesterday I ran five miles and started so slow I was hoping nobody would see me – then after 3/4 of a mile I felt like I was running an acceptable pace. Another issue – going for bike rides with people who (appropriately) like to stop and talk for a few minutes, admire scenery, etc. Every time I do that it’s sort of like starting over again.

  7. Pingback: Pacific Crest Trail on Atrial Fibrillation? | A Fib Runner – Distance Running and Mountain Biking With Atrial Fibrillation

  8. I’m happy to have found this blog. Please keep it up!

    I started with atrial flutter, had a cardioversion and returned to sinus rhythm for about two months. Finally I had the ablation and it was cured. BUT . . .

    I’m a 20 percenter. I immediately went into a-fib! It’s not persistent, but it’s there. I rarely feel it, and when I do it’s usually at bed time after lying down. Very rarely on a run. The doc says I can do another ablation (or two) but I think I’ll lay off until it becomes disruptive.

    I also am a slow runner, not that I was so fast before. I ran a half-marathon in 2.5 hours before I was diagnosed. The a-flutter definitely slowed me down, but I wonder if the a-fib is really slowing me down or if it’s psychological? Since I don’t feel it when running is it because I’m not pushing very hard or am I not pushing hard enough because my heart won’t let me?

    Fact is, I’m not so interested in exploring it, because I’m not really about going faster. I’m about going longer. I knew there were other runners with a-fib out there, and I’m glad I found some of them. (I also have Type I diabetes and commiserate with a large community of Type 1 runners and triathletes.) Hope to see more of your blog.

    • Hi Terry,

      I have a Garmin with a heart monitor so I can keep an eye on my heart rate and I can push it up to the 190-200 range. Walking I’m in the 80’s and an easy run I’m in the 120-130 range so I can push hard with no ill effects. I just give you these numbers for what I experience. My average race pace is a 9 minute mile and when I push hard I can get to an 8 minute pace.

      My doctor has always recommended doing nothing since like you the afib doesn’t interfere with most of my activities. And like you he doesn’t think that the cardioversion would last. I have problems walking up stairs, liftingheavy objects, and walking at an easy pace (like in a mall) so I avoid those things as much as possible.

      I’m no scientist or doctor but my understanding is that afib does hinder your performance because your heart is not working as efficiently as a healthy heart. Like you I don’t care. I just run for exercise and peace of mind. If I was a world class athlete training for the olympics this would be a concern. But I’m 57 and running so I can eat some cookies once in a while! I’d be curious if you or anyone else experiences the symptons that I experience with stairs, lifting and easy walking. Good luck and thanks for your post.

      • Your siuation really parallels mine – it is nice to meet you via this blog!

        I don’t use a heart rate monitor – I don’t think it really works that well because of my constant irregular beat (a fib) but the main reason is my xiphoid process. The xiphoid process is the funny little bone at the bottom of the sternum (breast bone) and ever since I had open heart surgery in 1994 to repair a leaky heart valve my xiphoid process sticks out and I can’t stand having a heart rate monitor strap around my chest – so annoying!

      • I’m also 57 and run for the same reasons. But I don’t have the symptoms you’ve mentioned. At least not frequently. When I do I attribute them to age, but maybe it’s the a-fib after all!

    • Oh wow – I am scheduled for ablation this coming Monday 9/16. Now I am skeptical and think I might be one of the 20%’ers after reading your post. I had cardioversion twice and a-fib returned within a couple of months.

      Cardiologist recommended ablation and said the 80% success rate and if go back into af do it again and be 100%. Now I’m not so sure 😦

      For the most part I dont even realize/feel I have any irregularites with my heart. I am active 5-6 days per week. So maybe I will end up living with it
      if the ablation doesnt quite do it.

  9. Yes, good luck with the ablation. As for me I think it is the afib that gives me a hard time with steps, easy pace walking and lifting things. It’s my heart’s gear shift not working as well as a non-afib heart works. when I run i can manage my pace according to my heart and shift gears as my heart is ready to shift. Good luck to everyone and keep posting.

  10. I had the ablation done today – back in normal sinus rhythm now and hoping it stays but time will tell. It left me sore in my groin area where they inserted the tubes and right now my fingers are getting numb very easily. Im hoping the numbness goes away. the soreness i expected. The anasthesia they gave me left me with what felt like a hangover x100 – for 2 hrs afterwards. ugh. I’ll let all know how i do going forward. thanks

  11. Pingback: The Fear of Going Too Hard – Atrail Fibrillation Running | A Fib Runner – Distance Running and Mountain Biking With Atrial Fibrillation

  12. I am a 61 year old fit (ish) guy. I had cardioversion twice and ablation twice. all 4 procedures “cured” my condition for 3 months each time and then the AF returned. Other than being short of breath on hils and steps all else OK with HB at 65 BPM at rest. I have always been big. 6feet 2inches and 16 stone ( sorry I am English). By accident rather than planning, I just lost 8 pounds and it has made a tremendous difference to my breathing. Very suprised no doctor ever suggested this.

  13. — Update on my AF after 2 ablations .
    So sept 16th I had the first ablation. Was in rhythm for approx 6 days. went into AF but then reverted back to normal sinus rhythm within an hour or so on its own. About 2 weeks later I could tell something wasnt right. I could barely feel my pulse and when I could it was really rapid-my resting heart rate was 151bpm. I continued to go fitness center, do spin class, HIIT / bootcamp class, etc – felt beat. But never had any palpitations or anything aside from just feeling out of shape 😦 I had a followup with the EP Oct 14 and when he saw my resting heart rate he scheduled another ablation on Oct16h – for “flutter” he said.

    Its been about 3 weeks since that second ablation and I have been feeling great – workouts are awesome now. I feel really strong after Spin classes, Tabata/HIIT/boot camp classes .
    Really hoping it stays


  14. Pingback: Oregon Outback Bike Tour and the OC&E Woods Line State Trail | A Fib Runner – Distance Running and Mountain Biking With Atrial Fibrillation

  15. Pingback: Rejoice – Not All Runners in Atrial Fibrillation Are Slow | A Fib Runner – Distance Running and Mountain Biking With Atrial Fibrillation

  16. Pingback: New Blog – Colombia Travel Journal | A Fib Runner – Distance Running and Mountain Biking With Atrial Fibrillation

  17. Any experience with the mini-maze procedure? already had ablation which worked for 3 yrs, but have had constant afib for past 2 yrs. Am taking beta-blocker, aspirin. As a long disctance runner the slowdown is disappointing, energy level in general way down.Age 62 male.

    • I have been in constant Afib the last 2 years. Took a beta-blocker for past yr prescribed by a general doc. It seemed to do very little for me. My running was pitiful. I too, a longtime ultrarunner, could barely manage a good labored jog. Went to a good EP cardio man who prescribed amiodorone. Am almost afib free after 10 days. Running is almost as good as pre-afib. No more dizzy spells or labored breathing. Resting HR was 65 this morning, as it was 85-95 most of last 2 years. Caution, the amiodorone has it’s own side effects, therefore the EP only uses it a couple months before considering either a electro conversion or ablation. He says the heart hast to be stablilized and rest a while before attempting full conversion. I am hopeful of running more ultras in the future, currently just turning 62.

      • A fib for two years and then sinus rhythm – wow! Congrats – I am amazed. When I had cardioversion I went into sinus rhythm for about a month. What a difference – training was a real joy. It’s true: you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone.

  18. Pingback: Next Event – Veronia Marathon Sunday, April 13, 2014 | A Fib Runner – Distance Running and Mountain Biking With Atrial Fibrillation

  19. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you
    I am not alone. I am a triathlete and went into persistent fibrilation about 11 years ago. Had a Cardio version and was good for the next 10 years. Went into persistent fib about a year ago and the cardio version worked for about a year. I came to the conclusion that I was going to have to adjust and learn to live with it. Your story gives me comfort and I am looking forward to my more relaxed training.

  20. Thanks for this blog. At age 51, I went into a fib two nights ago shoveling snow. My main symptom was feeling extreme fatigue and short of breath. In the decade of my forties I ran eight marathons, including a Boston qualifier. At 50 I ran a trail 50K. This past spring and summer I ran a trail series in Central PA, five races with a total of just over 70 miles. When I checked my ECG yesterday I had a heart rate of 130. The cardiologist started diltiazem for rate control because in her experience athletes tolerate this calcium channel blocker better than a beta blocker. Although the medicine brought my heart rate down to 60-70 range, my chest still did not feel normal. My cardiologist described this as rate control but symptomatic. Today I had an echocardiogram that identified a congenital defect between my atria. They did a cardioversion that worked, but as a physician, I know it may not hold. My cardiologist wants me to return to running and other physical activity. She will keep me on the blood thinner Xarelto for at least one month before considering aspirin because of the increased stroke risk after cardioversion. I will stay on the diltiazem as well. She said in my case I have a greater than 50% chance of staying in rhythm. In a few weeks I will meet with an electrophysiology cardiologist to discuss the option of ablation. Because I have symptoms with rate controlled a fib, my cardiologist wants to treat the rhythm. If I did not have any symptoms this morning with rate control, they would let me stay in a fib.

    Thank you all for sharing your experience. Your stories encourage me. Between developing symptoms Wednesday night and seeing the cardiologist Thursday morning I ran five miles. Similar to the experience of others, I ran at a 12 min/mile pace instead of my normal 9 min/mile pace but attributed this to the snow on the surface.

    • Thanks so much for your kind words. Sounds like there are a lot of similarities between our stories. A fib has been frustrating for me but I guess I’m doing fine. I ran eleven yesterday and felt fine. I felt slow, though. The only med I tak is Pradaxa (similar to Xarelto).

  21. Pingback: Too Much Water? Not Enough Salt? Hyponatremia in Marathon Runners | A Fib Runner – Distance Running and Mountain Biking With Atrial Fibrillation

  22. I’m 85 & started with A’F. about 2yrs ago. Cardiologist recommended cardioversion with permanent warfarin. I didn’t fancy either & started to develop my walking until I could mange to prgress to jogging & can now manage up to 6m at ‘an old man’s pace’. I have a daily aspirin & take ramipril to control BP. My resting pulse is low 50’s. Main problem is can’t breath sufficiently deeply to exceed a slow pace with need to walk anything resembling a ‘real hill’. I need 4/5 days between runs, but try to have a brisk walk including some steepish climbing on as many days as possible. Would like to think I can improve my performance, though appreciate that at my age, I may have to be pleased just to be able to enjoy the exercise & manage an odd 5k or 10k.

    John N.
    Windermere, UK

    • Yes John, you certainly have a “double whammy” being 85 years of age and also being in atrial fibrillation so you’re going to slow down a bit – yet you are still walking/running! Persistence is admirable and the sheer joy of movement is worth the effort. Congrats, my friend. We are kindred spirits.

      By the way – in Europe the incidence of a fib at age 85 is 17.8% so you are not alone.

      • A conversion , in my opinion, is better than suffering with the condition. An electrocardioversion is quick and can be affective. I’ve previously had one, gave me more energy for daily living and running.

  23. I was a runner since 15yrs of age and now i am 46 yr old mom with 4 kids. At 43 i had Atrial flutter while playing floor hockey. Why me? I could literally run forever. I had catheter ablation and was told i also have afib. So i have been on nadolol and lost my adrenaline high.
    I get So tired and I have gained weight because my body was so used to working out religiously. I would drink coffee and took many vivarins during my Army days. Maybe i caused my own electrical problem. When i have a bad flip flop and try to catch my breath it just ruins my day and my attitude. I journaled for a while but nothing makes sense. I almost never drink caffeeine anymore. I speed walk but running tires me out. I do also wonder if its psychological. But let me tell ya, I would rather die exercising than lying on the couch. I also wish i could talk to someone in my condition. I have done this all alone. I dont know anyone. So thank you for listening and having this blog

    • Thank you Cathy. I would be able to have a conversation with you. I (have been) an ultramarathon runner, completing many races from 30 to 100 miles. I have had afib problems off and on in last few years. Had an ablation which gave me 3 perfect good years with no medication. 2 years ago the afib came back, and I have days of no energy, and days of some energy where I can run a little, but pitifully slow. I do take some medication and have an excellent cardiologist EP who is helping. Chances are I will have a second ablation this year. Your ablation should have removed the problem completely or almost completely. I think my problem area just grew back. Stress can be a factor, in my case the trigger this time was the simultaneous death of my mother and father 2 days apart 2 years ago. My afib returned about 2 weeks after the funeral.

    • Cathy,

      One of my goals on this blog is to avoid giving medical advice (I am not a primary care physician) but I can tell you from my own personal experience that a beta-blocker (nadolol, for example) has quite a negative effect on athletic performance. It is important that you and your doctor agree on your therapy – but you might ask if there is an alternative to the beta-blocker.

  24. Hi Cathy,

    I also had an ablation for my atrial flutter, which then also converted to a fib. I am told that it is not a failure of the ablation, but the onset of a related, but different condition. Essentially, the electric short moved from the right atrium to the left atrium. (My wife thinks it’s B.S.)

    Anyway, my activity is not as severely restricted as yours sounds, but I’m likely going to have a second ablation, with a 20% chance I’ll need a third, this April. My condition is not debilitating, but it’s not going to get better, it’s annoying and I’m fortunate to have good enough insurance that I can afford it. I hope you’re in a similar position. Insurance-wise.

    Best of luck,


  25. I’ve always done endurance exercise, biking, skiing, and most recently last 6 years running. Usually 10-14 hours/week. I am 55 years old. No heart disease in my family. I’ve done many ultramarathons and am in quite good shape for my age. Several days I went into afib. I could feel it right away and knew what it was (I’m a physician). It is a very unpleasant feeling to have my heart thumping irregularly in my chest. I went to the ER the next day and they checked labs which were normal. My rate was 70-80 (my resting heart rate is 45). I had an echocardiogram which was normal (except the afib). My atrial size was normal, no clot. Since the afib had only been going on about 15 hours they cardioverted me and put me on aspirin for a month. I plan to see a heart arrhythmia expert in the next week.

    I think it is clear that my many years of endurance athletics has caused this condition, as I am young with no other risk factors and a fib seems to occur more likely in younger endurance athletes.

    I’m not sure what the future holds. I don’t want to go back into afib, and also want to keep doing what I am doing. I will see what the cardiac arrhythmia specialtist says and let you know. I am resigned to the fact that I have to change my lifestyle unless I want to deal with more afib which I don’t want to do; but it is not clear to me if more afib will occur no matter what I do ie whether it is inevitable.

    In general it seems afib progresses over time and eventually you either live with it on blood thinners or have ablation after which it still seems to recur over time.

    Does anyone know of someone who just had one episode of afib that never recurred? Or had ablation and didn’t have it recur (over 5 years)?

    Thanks for listening,


    • I think this blog:

      might be helpful. The author is an electrophysiologist who has had one episode of a fib himself.

      In retrospect I wish I had known I was going into a fib and had pursued ablation as a therapeutic option. At this point it is unlikely to help. But then again – is ablation an option for a single episode of a fib (as in your case.)

      BTW – I’d really appreciate it if you could write a guest blog article for this blog. I’d appreciate your unique insight and background.


  26. Since my previous A-fib blog posting, my heart went back into afib/flutter for one day of one week, and then two days the following week. My cardiologists and I decided to proceed with the right side ablation for flutter as it hadrelatively low risk and the cardiologist that performed by echo and cardioversion thought I had flutter, not fib. In the ablation procedure the EPS cardiologist determined I definitely have fib. He cited an article I already knew, a 60% chance of success from the right side ablation over two years. He started me on flecainide in addition to diltiazem and Xarelto. I will follow up after one month, and then again with my primary cardiologist in six months. I had one episode of recurrence for about one hour last week but then returned to sinus rhythm. This weekend I ran a 15Km “race” with my wife and her running partner. We enjoyed this event as preparation for a half marathon the first week of May. My primary cardiologist emphasized the need to return to running after both the cardioversion and ablation procedure to maintain my heart ventricle health (the lower chamber not involved with the atrial fibrillation). I no longer train to compete (interval training) but find I enjoy the workouts much more.

    • Burdett, thank you for the update. I am sorry you had a recurrence. I am not familiar with the different types of ablation. Is the 60% you quoted for R sided ablation different than L sided ablation? Am I correct in assuming ablation for a flutter is different than for a fib?

      • Sorry, I am a physician (self-diagnosed my a-fib when it occurred initially) and sometime begin typing in medical terms without explanation. As explained by my cardiologists, atrial flutter occurs in a loop on the right side of the heart as from an electrical standpoint has more organization. If that was my primary problem they hoped for a good outcome with the relatively low risk right side ablation. During the procedure they diagnosed my left atrium easily goes into a-fib, with disorganized electrical activity. In the future we can consider a higher risk left sided pulmonary vein isolation ablation. However, I am hoping the additional med combined with the procedure will work. Even though the procedure creates a scar in the right side it can still disrupt propagation of the atrial fibrillation. I had a high risk of recurrence after the first cardioversion. I am more hopeful about the odds with the combined right side ablation and meds.

      • I had the right side ablation 18 months ago and went into a-fib within a week. Very disappointing to go from flutter to a fib so quickly. Melds won’t help me due to my already low heart rate (51) so I’m considering the left side ablation. My running is suffering not because I’m slower, I’ve always been slow, but because I’m not enjoying it anymore.

      • The atrial flutter resides in a loop in the right side of the heart. The lower risk right side ablation does well for this procedure but still may help my left sided problem by organizing the electricity for me. Hopefully this combined with the med will allow me to avoid the higher risk left side procedure. However, several persons I know underwent the left side procedure a few months after the right side and did well.

      • Hi can i ask your age? And do you still run? Because of my ablation procedure for a flutter they also found a fib on my left side. I really think because they jack your heart rate up so much that they make something else happen. What if they did it to an average joe?
        I am not sold since i have been so healthy and a runner since i was 15 and now 46yr old mom of 4. I hate the meds i am on and i was never asked anything prior to about my lifestyle.And that bothers me because i should have been put into reseach to find out why this happened to me and to help others.

      • I am 52 and my cardiologist encouraged me to return to running. I ran a 15K last weekend and hope to run a half marathon the first weekend of May. They placed me on diltiazem for rate control, a calcium channel blocker. They chose this because athletes usually tolerate this much better than betablockers. Betablockers can make you feel slow, without energy. I slowed my pace and stopped speed training, plus I decreased the size of weights for lifting. My cardiologist still wants me to go back for the left side ablation. With regard to what happened to us, for over a decade we have known endurance athletes including marathoners and cyclists have a 4-5 fold increase in the risk of atrial fib. In the past 5 years this apparently became a topic at conferences. An Italian cardiologist reported his large group of patients with a fib, all veterans of the Tour de France. In my forties I ran 8 marathons, almost yearly, with #7 a Boston Qualifier and #8 Boston. I ran a 50K (33 miles) to celebrate turning 50. That is when I discovered the medical literature about our increased risk. Last summer I participated in a series of trail races, but all under 20 miles. I ran a very competitive series. My cardiologist explained that endurance activity distends the pulmonary veins returning blood to the heart from the lungs. This stretching produces the electrical activity that causes a fib. Back to your situation, you may need to find a more supportive cardiologist. The calcium channel blocker diltiazem can control your heart rate but allow you to run and exercise. You can still have a meaningful life WITH exercise and a fib.

  27. I’m sorry, what a drag. Please keep us up to date with what your plans are and outcomes. We are all learning. One thing I think I’ve found is that the ablation procedures are very user dependent. I think you want your “ablater” to be someone who has done a lot and the procedure is very routine at his/her institution. I’ve been reading and learning a lot from this guy who is an electrophysiology cardiologist: http://www.drjohnm.org


  28. I ran my first 5K this morning after an ablation last October for AFib, then another ablation in December for flutter. Was worried at first but did ok (I havent run a fast 5k for long long time – prob 8yrs when I’d run low 16min, I was 35yo back then) – I ended up running just under 25min. First two miles+ prob 10min pace then last mile someone passed me and I didnt really care, just kept his pace as he passed me. He kept looking back at me so that kind of lit my competitive fire and I sprinted past him (still 1mile to go) and then got worried I was gonna blow up so I kept a strong pace – prob 5.30 min/mile it felt like. then sprinted last tenth. Felt wonderful to run like that once again. I may try to train now – wondering how crazy it’d be to try for 17min 5Ks?

    • Nice race and finish. I think it is great you are running again.

      I’ve been running after my 12 hour episode of a fib 8 days ago. Probably ran 30 miles last week. I’m having some ectopy but no fib/flutter. I’m meeting with the cardiologist next week.

  29. you guys are inspiring. My husband this morning said why arent you running if you miss it so much. I told him my legs feel like concrete. I will ask to change my betablocker. I did take calcium/magnesium vitamins but they gave me heart palpatations. I can tell you guys that all of my army days and competitive running was all adrenaline and i was a caffeine junkey. Maybe that caused my Flutter. But i could run for hours and not feel a thing. Could you guys tell me your pre running food and stretches for leg circulation? I just feel like the blood is not returning from my legs back to my heart. Could it be from where they cut the veins in the groin to go up to the heart for the ablation? Thanks

    • Cathy,
      I doubt the groin incision is causing your problem. I would heavily suspect the beta blocker for not allowing your heart rate to climb naturally as you begin exercising. Could you also be out of shape? I don’t know anything about your hx. I would talk to your doctor to see if you can try some different meds.

      Joe J

      • Hi Joe During the winter months i do the precor stepper at the gym and weights or semi run the treadmill. My heart rate measures 154 tops. My incident during floor hockey when all this started my hr was 157 out of sinus. Thats when i found out i had a flutter 3yrs ago. But leading up to my episode, everytime i played floor hockey, i was getting dizzy periodically for no reason so my teammates keep saying it was low blood sugar. Then I had pulled both of my hamstrings which took about 6 months to heal. Ever since then i had always felt like concrete legs. So i probably had symptoms back then not knowing it was the start of a flutter. I have always worked out and just thought age was playing a toll on me. At my next appointment i will talk to my electrocardio doctor. He is very blunt and to the point so it is hard to have a mental conversation with him. He suggested to do another stress test last year. I truly feel it is the meds. I also have a slow heartbeat as it is 60/90. I contributed that to my physical fitness level of running so long. Any suggestions for different meds? I wish i didnt have to take any at all. I wish we can eat something or take a vitamin instead. thanks for listening

  30. I’ve been in Afib since 1999. I was diagnosed in 2001. At that point a review of older EKG’s showed that a previous doctor had missed the Afib. I’ve been taking a baby aspirin and have very few symptoms. I’ve been able to run and stay active. On a good day I can run an 8 minute mile in a 5k and a 9+ in a half marathon. A flight of steps causes shortness of breath, lifiting something heavy causes shortness of breath and lightheadness and walking at a leisurely pace (around a shopping mall) is very hard for me. But I’ve been able to run. I have to warm up and get my heart pumping but then I’m able to run and feel good. Last fall I tore a calf muscle and was unable to run for 3 months (Oct – Dec). Since January as I’ve tried to come back I’ve been struggling. I can no longer find that groove when I’m running. It’s very hard to get below a 10 minute pace. And afterwards I feel tired when before I felt energetic. I wonder if it’s all in my head or if something has changed. I was 44 when I was diagnosed and I’m 57 now. I’m going to see an arrhythmia doctor this Friday. I’d welcome anyone’s thoughts.

    • Sounds familiar. Your question boils down to,”is my a fib becoming unstable or is this simply age related?” I have the same exact issues. Fortunately you are seeing the electrophysiologist soon. I hope yr EP has some empathy for athletes. Let us know how it goes.

      • The other thing I didn’t mention is the anxiety. I think that’s part of the denial! This change has brought with it increased anxiety. Again is it my heart, my mind or what? Looking forward to seeing the doctor on Friday..

  31. I don’t know how you guys do it. When I was in afib it was VERY unpleasant. My heart rate was only 80-90 but I could feel my heart thumping around. I suppose if that’s the way it always is I’d have to get used to it. I’m meeting the EP cardiologist next Monday.

    I’ve been running again but not as much and now taking every 2nd or 3rd day off completely. I’ve been experiencing some skipped beats every now and then but no recurrence of the afib.

    Joseph Jameson

    • Joseph, I think I was one of the lucky ones. I had very minor symptoms until recenlty. Good luck with your visit next week

  32. What a great thread! At 65, my runner’s head is having trouble dealing with my second ‘episode’ of A-fib in 8 years. I won’t go into details, but it didn’t help my 5k time on Saturday. It’s good to hear all of the stories and encouragement from fellow runners with this annoying problem.

  33. To bring you all up to date, I am 55. I am a life-long endurance athlete (10-15 hours/week for 35 years — I did my first double century bike ride at age 18 and never looked back …. until now). I had my first and only episode of afib three weeks ago. It lasted 15 hours and ended with cardioversion in the ER. I’ve had no a fib since but have had some irregular beats. I’ve been running but not a lot (well, maybe a lot I ran >60 miles last week). I cut out alcohol to 2-3 drinks/week (was drinking 8-15 drinks/week). Also cut out caffeine but my cardiologist says that is probably not a causative factor though could cause some irregular beats.

    I met my EPS (electrophysiologist) cardiologist yesterday. I have no heart disease, high cholesterol, family history, etc basically no reason that I had/have a fib except long distance endurance sports (if you don’t know google a fib and endurance athletes). Something about all the exercise can cause a fib. At present I plan to cut back on my running to 30 mpw, cut out most alcohol. I have some rhythmol (single dose of 600mg which should convert the a fib) which my cardiologist wants me to take if I go into a fib again. He says I’ll most likely have more episodes but maybe not if I cut back my running, cut alcohol, and get plenty of sleep. Only time will tell. If I have more episodes in spite of making these changes I will have ablation.


    • Also I don’t need a blood thinner if I go into a fib because my CHADVASC score is zero (If you don’t know your score you should look it up). You DO need a blood thinner after cardioversion because the cardioversion can cause a temporary prothromic state.

  34. Pingback: Race Report – Vernonia Half Marathon & Marathon | A Fib Runner – Distance Running and Mountain Biking With Atrial Fibrillation

  35. Pingback: Some Experiences of Heart Problems with Distance Running | Running Blog

  36. Pingback: Mountain Bike Injury – Thigh Impaled by Brake Lever | A Fib Runner – Distance Running and Mountain Biking With Atrial Fibrillation

  37. Pingback: Emergency Pack for Trail Running or Mountain Biking While on Anticoagulants (Coumadin, Xarelto, Pradaxa, Plavix) | A Fib Runner – Distance Running and Mountain Biking With Atrial Fibrillation

  38. I am 62 years old, had heart ablation in dec 2013, and my running sucks! Last year I ran my 10 k as an 11 minute average, this year, it’s 14.

  39. Hi guys, I’m a 42 y.o male nurse living in Qld, Australia. Had some stress-induced HT in 2009, felt it now and then past 5 yrs, but always sinus rhythm. Out of nowhere 3 wks ago the PAF came & the rate is under 100 bpm but the palpitations are very uncomfortable. My whole life I’ve always been fit & run up to 32km at my peak age 30. However, I was never running more than 60km/ wk and since kids arrived the last 10 yrs have been full of 5k runs each week, not the distance you guys have been doing.
    I have read heaps on aspirin not being effective so people on aspirin may want to discuss with their physician drugs like rivaroxiban, pradaxa etc being better if your risk of stroke is moderate or higher.
    I am getting an echo tomorrow ( finally) as no-one will put me on anything regular before the echo is done. Haven’t run for 2 wks and mood low.
    Being fit you never think these things will happen to you, Are there any other AF sufferers out thereyounger than 42?
    Thanks to all bloggers, this is a great site.

    • I was diagnosed with AFIB in my early 40’s. It was odd because I had no noticeable symptoms. One day after a routine physical my doctor had an odd look on his face. I was expecting an “everything’s fine we’ll see you next year” but he discovered through a routine EKG that I was in Afib. I lived with it with no changes until recently. I only began seriously running after the diagnosis so I don’t have a before and after sense of running. I was able to do an 8 minute 5k until a couple of years ago. Now I’m 57 and I’ve slowed considerably and the miles are tougher. But I still get out there even if I have to run at a 10 minute pace.

      • I am 62 and noticed a decline in my running abilities and wondered what was wrong with me, just couldn’t keep up with my 11-12 minute miles. Diagnosed with AFIB in Sep 2013 because I got some serious dizzy spells one day and my heart rate was going up and down. Ablation in Dec 2013 and still trying to get back to my old pace, but having a slow go of it, I run 13-14 minute miles now. Will keep on trucking cause I really love to run! Good luck and keep on enjoying those runs, even if they are slower.

    • I was diagnosed with Afib about 5 yrs ago. I am 88 and have run for over 70 yrs. AF appeared the day after I’d I’d run c 5m – a first run after having time out with ‘flu’ – a lovely day tempted me to go further than I ‘d intended! I refused offer of cardioversion or ablation. I take Ramipril to control BP & Warfarin to thin blood.. After being reduced to slow walking I gradually got back to gentle running, but found 10k’s too much of an effort, so now concentrate on regular Saturday 5k Park Runs where my aim is to get to 2x the winner’s time. My PB is 33.30. In general I marshal one week & run the next and, with minor exceptions, keep to a few brisk walks up a nearby hill inbetween.

      Having a wife with dementia and a 97 yr old sister to help the P Runs offer welcome relaxation and some pleasant socialising..

      John Nettleton Windermere, UK.

  40. Pingback: Runner’s High – A Gift? | A Fib Runner – Distance Running and Mountain Biking With Atrial Fibrillation

  41. I had an ablation over two years ago.L have been running 30 to 35 mins.a day for the past 2 mos.. I sometimes think the meds. are keeping me slow. L am taking warfarin,lisinopril,metoprol,and a cholesterol pill, Does any one else feel the meds. have a major impact on their training?

    • My cardiologist just put me on a beta blocker. I had my last run without a beta blocker today. I expect that the new med will slow me quite a bit. I’ll be writing about it soon.

      One of the meds you are taking (metoprolol) is a beta blocker. Runners hate beta blockers – but sometimes that is the best treatment for your heart. You should ask your doc about the beta blocker – but please don’t stop taking it without checking with your doctor.

      • I had an ablation in Dec 2013 and was put on inderal before the ablation and after, and it certainly made running so much harder for me, I told my doctor I felt like a slug, well I am finally completely off the inderal even though I may get an afib once in a while and I’m on Eloquis and I have to say that my running is slowly improving and I feel soooooo much better since I’ve been off the inderal, that stuff just made me so lethargic, no energy and no motivation to do anything. It is definitely a slow road to recovery, I am definitely not back to my old self when first diagnosed with AFib in September 2013. When I run and do aerobics classes, I always wear my heart monitor which is the Alpha MIO, love that heart monitor! Good luck with your recovery and meds, hope they can get the right combination to help you!

    • My experience with two ablations six years apart, the doc wants to wean you completely off the thinner and heart meds over a four to six months time frame if you have no current afib symptoms, in other words if the ablation worked, meds are not needed. My afib probems the second time was triggered by multiples deaths in my family over a short period, and the accompanying stress.

  42. Hi guys its Cathy Wassmann. I wrote replies in April and Mike told me to ask about my nadolol beta blockers. I found a female electro cardiologist and she definately said i should not be on them or the baby aspirin. I am now drug free for 5 days and my exercise has been so wonderful and stress free. I am wearing a monitor for a month. Please pray everyone that this works for me and that my ablation 3 yrs ago actually worked. I have been on beta blockers since my ablation so i never knew the feeling. Today i had a couple skips and flip flops but they seem to stop quickly, but i also drank a SOBE water which i shouldnt have. Drinkable vitamins/ magnesium and B vitamins do not agree with my heart. Gods Blessings to all of you. Life is going so fast we need to catch it while we can. I always said that I’d rather die running than sitting on a couch.

    • Hi Cathy. That’s great.

      I, regrettably, just had to start a beta blocker. I started last night and did a mountain bike ride today (a real mountain bike ride on an actual mountain) and it wasn’t as bad as I had expected. I’ll be writing an article about it soon.

      I never had an abaltion and am in permanent atrial fibrillation.

      • good luck to you…let me know how you feel after a week on those things! All circulation seemed to be in my core so that was why my legs could never kick in. It was like i was over compensating. I am so happy that i am off them.

  43. Pingback: Running with Atrial Fibrillation – It’s Okay To Be Slow! Forget These Pearl Izumi Advertisements | A Fib Runner – Distance Running and Mountain Biking With Atrial Fibrillation

  44. i am 62 and in constant afib and I bet everyone reading this blog is probably addicted to running afib or not; i know i am. i have been running for 25 years and after being diagnosed i went from running 8.5m miles to 13s and it stinks. I still love getting out but the afib has stopped the long distance runs and confines me to between 2.5 and 5m at best. it just isn’t that enjoyable at times and since i am not entering any competitions i figure all i need is some decent exercise. So now i run 3 miles 4 times per week and call it a day. The afib may have killed my local race participation but certainly not my love of the sport.

    • Eliot, you expressed thoughts I didn’t know I had! I’ve been running with afib for 15 years with no symptons. This year it caught up to me and I’m experiencing a very similar lack of pace. But I still get out there and still love it. Thanks for your post!

  45. Hi Everyone….I’ve had A-Fib for about three years now. I live in the Tropics and Cycle, run, do weights. I train five days a week but not hard or too easy. I believe I got into this mess when I cycled up our small mountain here on the island I live on three times a week back then. I would only drink reverse osmosis cleaned water consuming about four liters just going up the mountain. I’d do weights in the morning and cycle in the afternoon and believe me it gets hot and humid. It’d take me about two hours to cycle up to the top of this very very steep course. (approx 5k to the top) In hindsite now I guess I’d been overtraining terribly and not putting back pottasium and minerals into my body at all. I happened by luck (or fate) to be given a heart monitor and thought it was cool to use it on my cycle ride up the mountain. I set the max at 185 and started off….as soon as I started up the steep hill after a five KM preamble the damm thing started beeping….it was at 205 and I just started up the hill! Like an idiot (ha ha) I kept going and it would not shut up. Did it the whole way up and for the next month it was like that. Can’t believe it now I did that but as I’m in constant A-Fib now the reality speaks for itself. Been put on Beta Blockers and have to take Warfarin. I suffered a sever Influenza sickness last year and it really took a toll on my ticker. My LLEF was only 17% when I finally went to see the Cardiologist here as the Echo showed. Fast forward now to a month and a Half and I’m back up to 35%. The goal is to get back to 55%! I love running and exercise and like some of you wrote would rather plonk on the trail then sit on the couch, so be it. I used to run with the goal of just finishing the run and was happy about it. Then I got into times, was happy about that too. Before my illness last winter my times were at my all time best. Slow for a lot of runner but for me great. After all I run to please me so I accept what ever pace I come home at. Not a biggie. The Doc was amazed at how fast my heart recovered and I even saw the difference on the screen of my heart’s movment. The echo I had before it looked like Jabba the hut sleeping. I think I attribute this to doing a LOT of research on the internet getting informed of what I was dealing with and trying it slowly with my Doctor always in the know. He was very sceptical of the suppliments I was taking but has done an about face now. I also believe the coconut water I drink everyday now has helped in a big way. I noticed I don’t have an amonia smell anymore when I sweat. I always had that smell when I drank the Osmosis water. I drink a mineral water now along with the Coconut water. Anyways…..I do prattle on. The thing is not to Panic and get informed! I wear a Polar T-80 watch with GPS and follow the Zone rules. Yeah, I’m running about four mins slower than normal but I feel great after a run now and do not dread the next one. Hoping my pace will kick up a notch as the info says it will as the body adapts. This forum is great may I add and it sure is reasuringn to read of Pep’s in their 80’s who’s lived with A-Fib for 20 or so years and keep running. Hopefully one day soon someone will find a cure for this curiously annoying ailment.

    • Wow – what a comment! 17% ejection fraction – what does that feel like? Certainly you weren’t running then! What does 35% feel like? Would you be willing to expand on this comment and write an article for this blog as a guest blogger? Let me know.

      • Hi Michael: Hope this helps peps understand a bit more …..When I had 17% ejection rate it happened really fast. The time line is like this….on a Friday I ran a very fast 5K run for me. Once of my best times. I then later that day flew to spend three days with a friend. After returning home I got ill and by Wed was full blown into whatever ailment I had. (Influenza) Tried runing a week later and could not even go further than 50 yards! Stopped and decided to rest a week, do nothing and fight this illness. Well, it got worse and worse…..lungs started filling up with fluid and at night I could hear bubbling in my lungs. Fast forward a week of no sleep, ect ect…and went to a doctor was put on Biotics….didn’t get better, still same symptoms. (Turns out the heart because of it not beating properly causes the fluid to back up and then it seeps into the lungs so any of you with these symptoms see a doc. You can do a thumb press on your shin and if the indent stays and is deep you’ve got fluid retention and need a diuretic)

        After a couple more weeks of this I decided because of previous symtoms I felt there was something wrong with my heart again. Seemed to be doing the same old symptoms of A-Fib. I thought I was free of it for almost two years or else it was Silent A-Fib and I did not know it! My Cardiologist gave me an echo and all he said was “What did you do”….man you don’t want to hear that from your doctor.
        Like I said before I even could see my heart wasn’t doing anything. Just sort of sittin there….Legs up….arms crossed!

        He put me on med’s again and the dreaded Warfarin. They worked almost right away! I was on Codarone for only a month and everyone should know that this is a dangerous drug! Long half life and it’s like shaking hands with the devil. Used a lot as a last resort. But!….for short periods works miracles. Using it over six months or more can have repercussions.

        Well, that day I came home from the Doc’s I tuned up my MOuntain bike and went for a very short ride. I was out of breath the whole time. Did this for a couple of weeks and got stronger. Started weights again, and just started using the bars with no weights. Did this very very slowly and now after two months I’m almost back to benching 200. (ha ha….good for me anyways) The last check up the doc said my heart was up to 35% and I saw the differance in the video as well! Made me feel very very happy.

        So now I’m trying something I never thought I’d do. I bought a Polar T-80 Heart monitor with GPS and run and cycle in the Zone. I exercise according to my heart rate. I’m finding I’m no longer exausted during the rest of the day and overall feel better, stronger. It’s taking time to lose that competative spirit though…ha ha ha….I’ve got friends who are in their 70’s running faster than me. My slowest times in years but I’ll stick to it and see if my times automatically come back up as the research suggests. This has to be done. I love being active but I hate being dead more so I have to accept and live accordingly. Don’t Panic!

        A heart pumping at 33% efficiency feels a lot better than 17% I can tell you. I do more things than most of my friends. It still amazed me though how I can do weights for a hour, run for an hour then eat….chill and later in the day walking up a flight of stairs takes my breath away. It’s like a reminder….oh yeah I’ve got heart problems. A friend wisely told me that it could be like losing weight….fast in the begining then slower. I hope the heart Fraction % will keep increasing till 55%. Considered normal. Then I’ve got to deal with the A-Fib.

        A very important footnote is….I used to drink Beer everyday for years! Love the Amber fluid. After my first A-Fib about five years ago I stopped for about three months. Then about two years ago I only drank on Fri-Sat. For two years I did this. No exceptions. I’m 51 now and even this was taking it’s toll I believe. Now I’ve cut it out completly and will go the distance….sort of sucks but I’m close to the three month period now and will keep going. My next visit to the docs is in Aug so I’ll hopefully remember to post what transpires.

        If anyone is interested in what I’ve been taking for suppliments, eating, drinking, and exersicing. Please leave a message on this blog and I’ll be most happy to share. One thing I’ve always found frustrating with most blogs is when I’ve read what someone has done and it worked there was no follow up. I’ll try and keep posting on this one. Great site! Peace out…………….don’t Panic : )

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s