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From Heart Patient to Lifter

I have known Scott Davison for about 20 years. A former columnist at our local newspaper, I used to read his opinions before he got fired for being on the wrong side of a local election. Prior to that, he had worked for the Strategic Air Command as a B-52 pilot, a job that provides interesting stories to this day.

A more interesting story is the tale of his journey from heart patient to lifter -- his first 300-pound deadlift occurred last Friday, and I’m pleased to report that it will be just one of many more PRs.

Scott is 65, and being in the military he has been exposed to sub-optimal exercise his whole career. Being in the Air Force (the Chair Force, as it’s known in the other branches) starting in the 1980s, his PT was even more sub-maximal than it could have been. And combined with a lifetime of sub-optimal nutrition and sub-optimal genetics, he developed a degree of cardiovascular disease.

Scott’s CVD was discovered before a heart attack could occur, and on September 30, 2016, he had open-heart surgery. Two bypasses (with thankfully no heart muscle damage) and a few weeks of extremely conservative “cardiac rehab” later, he told me he was ready to take me up on that offer I’d made him every year for the past 20 -- he decided that he was scared enough now to be ready to train.

I have trained heart surgery patients several times, and I know that one of the things they all are is scared -- sometimes this is useful if it acts as motivation, as in Scott’s case. But scared can also interfere with the process, especially if the patient has bought into the standard medical dogma ladled out to scared people who have just had their chests cracked open: “Long slow distance wins the race.” “Don’t lift heavy weights -- you’re too old for that anyway.” “You need to work your heart, not your muscles.” “You had a heart attack, not a muscle attack.”

After he was “released” to full activity by his cardiologist, we started with an extremely conservative approach to a novice strength training program on March 9. Scott had no previous history of strength training whatsoever. This was his first attempt at an organized exercise program since basic training, and certainly his first shot at intentionally getting stronger. So we started out very easy and relied on the slow accumulation of strength to do the job it always does. He trusted me on this, since there is a lot of propaganda to the contrary, but I was able to make my case convincingly -- he is intelligent and I am persuasive. Strength is the basis of health, since strength training provides both strength and conditioning, especially for someone in Scott’s disadvantaged position -- as he was about to discover.