Dr. Andre La Gerche – Time for Testing
Rapha presents Life in the Peloton
How does exercise affect the heart, and what does that mean for elite athletes when they stop training? Is it true that you need to ‘de-train’ the heart when you retire? I head into the lab with Dr. Andre La Gerche to put my heart through its paces and get some answers.
If you’re a regular listener to the pod, you might recall the episode around this time last year where I caught up with Sports Cardiologist Dr. Andre La Gerche, to learn more about how the heart functions in elite athletes. We went through the physiology of the changes that happen in elite athletes’ hearts, and what some of the routine cardiac checks are looking for.
I first met Dr. Andre La Gerche while doing my UCI pre-season E.C.G testing with Team GreenEdge in 2013. Through his work as Head of Clinical Research at Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute in Melbourne, Dr. La Gerche has worked closely with numerous high-level athletes including many professional cyclists. He also has a 2h 29’ marathon to his name, which I think you’ll agree qualifies him as pretty athletically gifted himself!
During our last chat, I brought up the idea of repeating the cardiac testing one year on from retirement. I was really keen to discover what happens to a trained heart when – like I did just over a year ago – you retire. Would my heart simply go back to normal? Or is it true that a pro athlete needs to ‘de-train’ their heart?
So here we are, one year on. I was a little apprehensive about lining up and putting myself through the pain of this testing now that I’m no longer pro. But, in the name of research, and a good pod, I put my heart through its paces with a host of tests including a fasting dexa scan, blood tests, a resting E.C.G electrocardiagram, a Vo2 Max test, and a supine cardiac MRI while pedalling, which checks for scarring of the heart.
For the episode, we studies the test results, and had a fascinating chat that delved into the changes that have occurred in my heart since retiring, and drew some comparisons between myself and other pro cyclists, as well as the average healthy person of the same age, and other changes that have occured now that the intense stress of training has been removed from my body for the first time in 20 years.
Dr. La Gerche’s incredible knowledge of the workings of the heart in an athlete, and his insight as a keen athlete himself, made it a really fascinating chat for me, we covered many more topics around the heart and exercise which answered a lot of burning questions. So sit back and enjoy the listen, and I hope you learn a thing or two along the way (like me!)
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The theme music for Life in the Peloton was composed by Pete Shelley, who was lead singer of the punk band Buzzcocks. It was commissioned by the production company behind Channel 4’s coverage of the Tour de France in the 1980s and was used as the theme music for the nightly highlights show. Pete died in December 2018. We were given permission by Pete’s widow and his manager to continue using the music for the theme tune to Life in the Peloton. To hear more about the music, listen to the Andre Greipel episode of Life in the Peloton.
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