Almost a year ago, Bob Harper was at the gym when he suddenly collapsed on the gym floor in the middle of his workout. When he woke up in the hospital two days later, the beloved Biggest Losertrainer was shocked to learn that he’d experienced a severe heart attack.
The heart attack prompted Harper to switch up his workouts, adopt the Mediterranean diet, and start taking Brilinta, a medication that lowers his chances of having another heart attack. He’s also partnered with AstraZeneca on a “Survivors Have Heart” campaign and published a new book, The Super Carb Diet.
“Everything about my life is just different now,” Harper says, reflecting on the year since the near-fatal incident.
“I’m more relaxed. I’m a lot easier to be around, I hope,” he continues. “I’ve always been a very type A person — I’ve been very driven; I’ve been very focused and regimented with my workouts and diet — and now I’ve let loose the reins. I don’t feel like I need to be in control as much as I thought I needed to in the past.”
In a phone call with Men’s Health, Harper opened up about his new life as a heart attack survivor. Dr. Warren Wexelman, a cardiologist on the faculty of the NYU Langone School of Medicine and Medical Center and the President of the American Heart Association in Brooklyn, was also on the line to provide some heart-healthy tips for guys. Our conversation has been edited for clarity.
Men’s Health: Bob, you said one of the hardest things about recovering from your heart attack was learning to trust your heart again. What did that mean for you?
Bob Harper: If you think about it, your heart’s been beating in your chest ever since you were a little bitty baby — that’s the one constant in your life — and all of a sudden on February 12 of last year, mine stopped. That relationship that I’m building with my heart comes into play when I go to the gym now — especially in the beginning when I started working out again, thinking, ‘Am I going to have another heart attack? Is this going to happen to me again?’ And you just have to just build that relationship again. It’s like with any other relationship — it takes nurturing and time and patience.
Where are you with your heart now? What’s that relationship like today?
My relationship with my heart has gotten a lot better. I recently was in the gym, and I normally have my heart rate monitor, and I’ll always be very aware of where my heart rate is, and I didn’t even check my heart rate. I never even really talked to anybody out it and I just kind of thought to myself, ‘Well, look at me, I’m just trusting my heart again. I didn’t even need to look at my monitor.”
What do your workouts look like these days?
They’re different than they used to be, as far as intensity. I’ve been doing CrossFit for a long time, and I still love CrossFit, I still want to do CrossFit, but I don’t do it at the intensity that I used to do it. I don’t do that high-intensity, shorter time domain anaerobic activity as much as I’ve been doing aerobic mid-level longer time domain — just building the strength in my heart again.