Meet frequent FHIXer, Cardiothoracic Surgeon, and our August FHITspraiton, Angelo R. Through taking class in our studios and on Fhitting Room LIVE!, Angelo has become a FHIXture in our community both IRL and virtually. At the onset of the COVID pandemic, Angelo underwent emergency open heart surgery. He worked hard to regain his strength and was back FHIXing by the end of May…
Angelo’s story makes him a FHITspration in our community. Get to know Angelo as he shares his FHITness and recovery journey with us, along with some advice on how you can stay strong and healthy at home.
Hi Angelo! How long have you been FHIXing at Fhitting Room? What was your first class like?
In the spring of 2017, I was looking for a change in my exercise routine, and I had been very curious and interested about Fhitting Room for several weeks prior to taking my first class. I had been looking at your website as well as online reviews, and I remember I was not sure if I would have the fitness level to get through a class. I was a bit intimidated – I’m not going to lie. However, I decided no risk, no reward, and I took my first Fhitting Room class on June 4, 2017.
I remember that everyone was so inviting and hospitable at the Upper West Side studio on that day. Registration and check-in was a breeze. The studio was pristine, clean, and spotless. The FHITpros were very welcoming. Pre-class orientation helped me get over some of my initial anxiety. Once we got started, the class itself was amazing. Hard but doable. I realized very quickly that everyone – from the other people taking the class to the instructors — was there to support and help you throughout the workout. From that point on, I was genuinely hooked on the Fhitting Room and the total body workout that the class sessions provide.
How has Fhitting Room helped you crush your fitness goals?
From a very young age, I have always had a desire for exercise and to feel fit. At the time that I started going to the Fhitting Room, I had felt that I had hit a ceiling in my fitness level and workout routine. Fhitting Room classes and all the instructors that have helped me just explode through that plateau. With help from Fhitting Room, between 2017 to early 2020, I ended up getting leaner (I lost about ten pounds) and stronger in ways I never knew that I could accomplish.
When I was growing up and I would get discouraged about something, my Dad used to tell me, “Don’t give up. Nothing hard is ever easy.” All those kettlebell exercises and burpees and end of the class FHIXes were hard, but I never gave up. I tried to get through and to give each class my best effort every time.
You recently underwent major surgery. What was the experience like and how did you get back to fitness in recovery?
At the onset of the COVID pandemic at the end of March and beginning of April, I had emergency open heart surgery. I was completely asymptomatic — no chest pain at all, and I had a totally negative exercise stress test. But, because of a workup done for completely benign reasons, blockages were found in my coronary arteries. The number and location of these blockages put me at risk for a significant cardiac event. So, on March 26th, I had 4 vessel cardiac bypass surgery.
I, myself, am a Cardiothoracic Surgeon, and — even though at the moment, I perform mostly non-cardiac thoracic surgery — I have performed cardiac bypass operations many, many times in my professional life. It was very different, and eye-opening to be the patient and not the operating surgeon. I work with the team that operated on me, and I was very comfortable and confident with their expertise.
All those Fhitting Room classes, all those burpees and squat thrusts and time on the Assault Bikes, were a tremendous help to me in the postoperative period. They gave me the determination to get up out of bed early in the morning of the first postoperative day. I walked to the end of the hallway in the ICU twice on the afternoon of the first postoperative day, with all the tubes and drains hanging all over me. And, thankfully, those sessions helped me be strong enough to get discharged on the morning of the fourth day after my bypass surgery.
I feel that I was getting back to fitness from that first postoperative morning when I got out of bed and into a chair. Once I got home, I started doing laps around my apartment. The first day home, I could barely do one lap without being completely fatigued. But, each day afterwards, I made myself double what I did the day before.
One lap became two, became four, became eight. Soon enough, within a week after surgery, I was doing 20 air squats on my coffee table in the living room. In ten days, I started walking around the block and in Riverside Park just outside my home. In one month, I was able to walk from 72nd and Riverside to Central Park around the Reservoir and back. Six weeks after surgery, I asked FHITpro Simon L. if he would help me with my recovery, and we began working together in Central Park at the beginning of May.
I can’t say enough about how much I credit getting back and feeling strong at this point – four months out from surgery – to everyone at the Fhitting Room, and especially to Simon for his support and encouragement. When we first started doing our Central Park sessions in May, I couldn’t do even one push up because my sternum was still healing from the surgery. Four months later, we did 60 total push ups (six sets of ten) and 215 consecutive hops on a jump rope in our last session!
That is incredible! Thank you for sharing your recovery program. How are you staying FHIT at home now?
I have been doing Fhitting Room LIVE! Classes, which are great. My first LIVE! class after surgery was with Melody S. on May 29th. And, of course, I have been doing sessions with Simon since the beginning of May. With the gym closings, I have also re-incorporated jogging into my exercise routine. I run for distance not for time. I set up about a 2.5 mile course in Central Park that I do about 3 times a week. It takes me about 40 minutes or so to complete the course. But that’s fine.
As a doctor, can you share any tips or advice on how to stay healthy at home with our FHIT community?
During this time of COVID and coming into the fall flu season and the risk of potential coronavirus resurgence, I can’t stress enough how important it is for everyone to wear masks, socially distance, and to be smart about gathering in groups, both outdoors and indoors. This is not a political issue. In fact, a mask protects not only the wearer but also everyone else in the community.
Furthermore, hospitals have maximum precautions and protections in place. Patients and families should not be afraid to see their doctors for medical issues or in case of a medical emergency, or to come into the hospitals. I am living proof that major surgery can be performed safely in this time of COVID and that hospitals are safe.
A big thank you to Angelo for sharing his story with us. From all of us at Fhitting Room, we’re honored you’re a part of our FHIT community.