Bob Harper on Exercise After Heart Attack: Gaining Confidence and Strength

“You’re never going to be the same, but you can still be a better version of yourself.”

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“Getting back into the gym was an adjustment; it was scary for me,” says fitness expert and heart attack survivor Bob Harper. “All I wanted to do was to get back to my old routine. I wanted to be my old self again.”

When doctors gave Harper the green light to start working out again after his near-fatal heart attack on February 12, 2017, he says he had a full on anxiety attack. “I was the guy that had the heart attack in that gym and people were looking at me—it just made me very uncomfortable.”

To regain his strength and confidence, Harper knew he had to make some adjustments to his famously intense fitness routine. Before his heart attack, the former The Biggest Loser trainer was that guy you’d see at the gym every single day doing high-intensity workouts. “I’ve always been a CrossFit guy, so my workouts have been very intense—that has changed,” says Harper.

Harper’s workouts today are longer, and more mid-level intensity. “I’m doing a lot more yoga, I’m doing cycling classes, [and] boxing. I don’t rely on those high-intensity, shorter time domain workouts anymore,” says Harper. “Fitness is still super important to me, but it doesn’t define me the way it used to.”

After recovering from his heart attack and making some serious changes to his already-healthy lifestyle—including a post-heart attack diet makeover—Harper wanted to use his experience and learnings to help others. Harper teamed up with the awareness and advocacy cause Survivors Have Heart  (supported by AstraZeneca), which helps educate other heart attack survivors on the importance of working with their healthcare provider, and staying committed to treatment and the lifestyle plan prescribed by their doctor.

Before getting back to the gym, Harper just wanted to be his old self again, but that’s changed too. “I think that a lot of people think that after you have a heart attack, you can never go back to doing the workouts that I did, or you’ll never be the same. You’re never going to be the same, but you can still be a better version of yourself,” says Harper.