Competitive athletes make the mistake of overtraining more often than undertraining. For some, it can be a matter of life or death.
Rich Stanfield had heart surgery in 2008 and is currently at risk for atrial fibrillation, a condition in which the heartbeat can rise rapidly to unsafe levels.
"We runners tend to push ourselves at the end of a race or a workout," says Stanfield, 65. "I think that's what ultimately led to my heart problems."
Under his cardiologist's guidance, the Phoenix resident continues to run and race, but he needs to keep his heart rate below a specific count. He's able to accomplish this with a heart-rate monitor: a flat, plastic device the shape of a silver dollar attached to an elastic strap that wraps around the chest. The monitor detects heart beats and transmits the count to a wristwatch.
"With heart monitors, you can actually set a chime on them. If you exceed a rate and if you're not staring at it, that chime can go off and let you know you're above where you want to be," explains Stanfield.
While most of us can feel when our heart rates are unusually high, that's not true of some cardiac patients.
"He's on medication to lower his heart rate," says Dr. Bruce Patterson, a Medford cardiologist who treats Stanfield. "So he can't always be aware of it (elevated heart rate) during exercise."