Five minutes with Olympian Roger Black

Olympian Roger Black standing outside on a balcony

Roger Black, Olympic silver medallist and world champion, is our latest Research Ambassador. He answers our questions on his changing exercise regime, top tips to stay active, and what motivates him.

Roger, 50, was diagnosed with congenital heart disease at the age of 11 after doctors discovered that he had a leaky aortic valve. Despite originally being told that he couldn’t take part in competitive sports, doctors later agreed he could participate but he would need to be closely monitored through yearly hospital appointments to keep an eye on his condition. He has been attending these appointments for the past 39 years, missing just one in 1996 to attend the Atlanta Olympic Games, where he won silver in the 400m and 400m relay.

1 Has your exercise regime changed as you have got older?

As I have got older I am more aware of my heart condition. I have dependants and children and I am very aware. I can’t push myself like I used to.

People think I’m pumping it out, I’m hitting it, but it’s not like that anymore. I’ll never do a marathon again. I don’t have a goal. I’m not going to put my heart under strain.

2 What are your top tips on keeping active?

I am a great believer in small amounts of regular exercise. My wife and I try to do a half an hour jog every day. My wife runs a youth theatre, and we always go out jogging together. For her it is an absolute necessity (to keep fit so she can carry on with her physically demanding job).

The single most important thing is to keep moving, I’m always moving around

And it’s also about getting out in nature. We run in the woods. I don’t run on the roads.

The single most important thing is to keep moving. I am always moving around and I probably have a healthier diet than I used to. I have to respect my heart condition. Especially now I’ve hit 50.

3 What motivates you to stay fit?

When I was an athlete being fit had nothing to do with vanity, body shape, fitness. It was all about running to win the prizes. It was all about performance. Now as I get older it is about still being able to run around with the kids. Chase them.

I stay healthy so I can live the lifestyle I want to live. It’s about being fit enough to have the high quality of life I want to have.

It’s about being fit enough to have the high quality of life I want to have

4 Do you have any other family connections to heart disease?

Dad had a heart attack when he was 50. Mum found him in the garden, but he survived that. He had atrial fibrillation and took warfarin for that. He eventually died of a brain haemorrhage.

5 Why do you support the BHF?

I have a story that I want to share if it can help people. [My heart condition] is not a secret, but I’ve not made a big deal of it. I got the diagnosis aged 11. I don’t really remember my reaction to it. It probably wasn’t good. All I can hope is, if anyone gets a diagnosis (my story shows) it’s not an end. Be intelligent. Get support. It didn’t stop me pursuing my dream. But you have to remember that I have had no symptoms. I have been very lucky.

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