Practicing What I Preach

My name is Scott VanZanten, and I am a physical therapist living in Byron Center and treating patients out of our Byron Center office location.

I try to live the healthy lifestyle that I “preach” to my patients. I work hard to manage my stress well (through prayer and reliance on God), avoid poor health habits, and exercise a minimum of 3 days per week. I enjoy walking, running, biking and resistance training, but despite my efforts to live a healthy lifestyle, I ended up in the hospital over Labor Day weekend with concerning chest pain.

After a number of tests, it was determined that I had suffered a mild heart attack and that I was in need of open heart surgery to bypass two obstructed vessels. One of my vessels was 100% blocked, and the other was 60-70% blocked. Obviously, this was a shock to me and my family…I am ONLY 44 years old 🙂

Well, the medical team…and ultimately God…brought me safely through surgery and for that I am most grateful. Due to the nature of my job, I was taken off work for 12 weeks based on lifting restrictions. After 4 weeks, I started cardiac rehabilitation, which consisted of 45-60 minutes of aerobic conditioning to strengthen my heart. Although challenging at the time, I look back now and am so thankful for the structured time to “focus on getting myself better.” Since I wasn’t working, I had nothing but time to devote to exercise, up to twice a day. The exercise classes were scheduled for me, two to three days per week, so I had built in camaraderie and accountability.

Unfortunately, reality hit at 12 weeks when I returned to work. I was discharged from cardiac rehabilitation based on my progress and my work schedule. Physically, I felt great with everyday activities, but with regards to my fitness level I was ONLY back to 40-50% of normal. This hit me hard the day before I returned to work. How am I going to make it the rest of the way? As I was “complaining” about this to friends/family, someone indicated I was now like everyone else in the world, having to fit exercise into an already busy schedule, with many important things vying for my time.

And then it hit me… HERE IS WHERE I NEEDED TO PRACTICE WHAT I PREACH TO MY PATIENTS…continued commitment to meet long term goals. If I wanted to get past 40-50% of normal, I was going to have to keep working.

I am having success as I continue farther down the “rehabilitation road,” so I want to encourage you in your journey and share what has worked well for me. This isn’t anything you haven’t seen or heard before, but it may be a message that you need to hear right now.

  1. Discuss the importance of rehabilitation/exercise, as well as the details (when, how often, and how long) with your family and receive their support and understanding. This is important from an accountability standpoint. It is also important as it decreases the likelihood of conflict based on whose time is more important and/or valuable. With communication and defined parameters, the likelihood of long term success improves.
  2. Schedule exercise into your day. Whether early morning, lunch hour, or after work…set blocked time aside for this specifically. If you don’t, other relevant and important activities will come up, and you will allow those to fill your schedule.
  3. Find someone to exercise with. I have had the blessed opportunity to have a wife that enjoys exercise and doesn’t mind getting up early and getting out in the Michigan weather with me. I also have friends that share some of the same interests (hiking, biking, and running) and we use that as “hang out” time.
  4. Set appropriate, measurable goals and relevant timelines to achieve them. “If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time.” Make sure the goal is reasonable and there is a way to track improvement and overall progress towards it.

My goal?

Run a 5k by the end of spring…don’t hesitate to reach out to see if I achieved it! You can find me at our Byron Center location.

To learn more about HJPT, and how we strive to practice what we preach, click here. 

Learn More About
the Author

Scott VanZanten