The Fear of Going Too Hard – Atrial Fibrillation Running

One big difference between running in persistent atrial fibrillation and normal sinus rhythm is that, for me anyway, there is a lot of apprehension about over-doing it. The days of charging up a hill may be behind me at this point, and I haven’t done anything resembling a speed work-out in well over a year.


Prior to atrial fibrillation I used to do interval work-outs once in a while. For certain marathons where I had a specific personal time goal I would do a work-out known as “Yasso 800s.” Although some expert dispute that this is actually the most effective speed work-out for marathon training, nobody would dispute that this is a difficult work-out. I would do them on Wednesday nights at a local college track and I always felt they were my most difficult work-out of the week – probably more challenging than my languorous week-end long runs. Certainly this was the work-out where most feared injury.


To be honest I don’t miss Yasso 800s. I never have been a fast runner and never enjoyed short fast races like 5Ks.

But even during LSD (long slow distance) work-outs there usually comes a point where I will feel that the run is becoming difficult and I have to push through that. People often say “push through the pain,” but it isn’t really “pain” per se; but whatever it is it now makes me nervous!

But now that I am in persistent atrial fibrillation I think twice about pushing beyond any thresholds, however they are described. I have a fear in the back of my mind that I am going to make the atrial fibrillation worse, or pass out, or die, or . . . well who knows? This is all new territory for me.

I think this is why I “bonked out” of the second and third (out of seven planned) twenty mile runs I did during my build-up to this Sunday’s Bizz Johnson 50K. I just wasn’t willing to risk it. But if I’m unwilling to risk it it is obvious that I will only get slower and slower each year.


I’d love to hear from other endurance athletes about this topic whether you are in a fib or not, and whether you are risk averse or not. Please feel free to leave a comment.

6 thoughts on “The Fear of Going Too Hard – Atrial Fibrillation Running

  1. Boy, does this hit the nail on the head. My head at least. There’s no question that a fib makes me scared of giving an all out effort. If I put on a burst of speed for any reason, to crest a hill, to pass a hiker, just to try it, I back off shortly after my heart starts pounding and I’m getting breathless. I tell myself that I’ve met my physical limit, but I know it’s more likely mental. I’m not afraid of making the a fib worse, I’m afraid of making it go away permanently, along with the rest of me! Is this a realistic fear? I don’t know. I do know I’ve never been faster than 10 minutes, and that I can live with 12 minutes. Still, I would like to feel like I’ve given an all out effort for an entire race or workout once in awhile. Maybe I need to hire a guy with an axe to chase me.

  2. Very interesting blog. I just found you from a google search. I am a runner and just had mitral valve surgery to correct the severe regurgitation from the floppy valve (had a broken chord). I never had afib until post-surgery. They say many people have it after surgery but it will go away. I’m nervous about it not going away and just the thought that I could someday be out running in a sinus rhythm and then convert to afib and fall out scares me. I’m only 4 weeks post-op right now and on a heavy dose of the amiodarone (1200 mg/day) and the afib has been sporadic and random. I’ll have to read more of your blogs to figure out your details but it sounds as though you can still lead an active lifestyle even when having active afib. That’s reassuring to me in case mine sticks around.

    • That’s interesting. I had a similar surgery in 1994 – I had a repair of the mitral valve, and I also had some ruptured chordae tendineae (“heart strings”) and the surgeon who did it knew I was a doctor and sent me a video of my surgery – very kind of him. I still have it. But I never had (known) atrial fib until eighteen years later.

      Keep in mind that I am in a fib ALL the time. In some ways that’s more tolerable, I guess. Going from normal sinus rhythm to a fib feels terrible!

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

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

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