That Number Doesn’t Lie
The heart is a wondrous, multifaceted apparatus. This pumping station is working 24/7, circulating blood to the trillions of cells that compose the human body. Now, for a pop quiz. What two essentials are delivered via the blood? (The theme music from Jeopardy is now playing). Answer: oxygen and nutrients. They are the catalyst and the fuel that combine to drive our body minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day. It is imperative that there is no interruption to this process. Remember, we can live weeks without food, days without water but only minutes without oxygen.
Less Is More
You are looking at a continuous operation without even a coffee break, a kind of perpetual motion machine. Every minute of your life your heart is circulating your ‘life’s blood’ as your cells repair, regenerate and rejuvenate. So we want to optimize the heart’s ability to function and the best way is to reduce the number of beats per minute. There is an old wives’ tale that your heart has only so many beats in it. Well, the research actually backs that up. When you can slow the heart down minute to minute, the statistics show it will last longer. A heart that is contracting at 90 beats every minute will wear out sooner than a heart that can carry out its duties with only 60 beats per minute. You don’t need a medical degree to know that is just common sense. From your heart’s viewpoint, that reduction in the number of beats actually gives it more moments to rest.
And the Solution Is…..
….straightforward. Whether it is jogging, basketball, hiking, tennis or biking, anything that raises the heart rate is going to strengthen the heart, which is just one big muscle. It is a smooth muscle which is different from a bicep, hamstring or deltoid muscle, but it is still a muscle. The bottom line is that you are strengthening the heart, enabling it to pump more blood per beat when you consistently perform some type of regular cardio exercise. The analogy would be to look at the heart as a distribution center where trucks are loaded with merchandise (oxygen and nutrients) and are directed to their final destination (the cells). As you become more conditioned, the heart is able to pump a larger volume of blood with each beat. You could look upon this as if the trucks were getting bigger, going from a 20 foot trailer to a 30 foot trailer to, eventually, a 40 foot trailer. More merchandise can be delivered with fewer trucks, or in the case of the heart, the demands of the body for oxygen and nutrients will be met with fewer beats per minute.
Keeping a Record
You need to get a baseline of where your fitness level is, no matter what your present physical state. To get that baseline you should know your resting heart rate (RHR). Your RHR is simply the number of beats per minute when you are at rest. Recording your RHR is a simple procedure. When you first wake up in the morning, find your pulse while still lying down. Do not sit up. Look at your night stand clock. Count the number of beats in one minute. That number is your true RHR. I always tell my clients to keep a record of their workouts, both resistance and cardio. In that same vein, keeping a record of your RHR will provide concrete evidence that you have succeeded in improving your heart, lung and circulatory synergistic complex. This is particularly revealing if you are just commencing your fitness journey because the differential you will see, after being several months removed from your starting date, will be noteworthy. (If it isn’t, you may want to revisit your exercise strategy). Now, you don’t need to check daily. Once every 1-2 weeks is sufficient. My RHR has consistently been tracking between 45 and 50 beats for over a decade.
Numbers Don’t Lie
Your RHR is useful on several other fronts. Once you have established what your normal range is, if somewhere down the road you see your RHR rise 5 or more beats above normal, you will want to review your workout load. That higher RHR could be a sign of overtraining. Are you trying to do too much? Your body may be telling you to gear it back a notch. An extra day’s rest or a reduction in the workout load may be just what the doctor ordered. Another reason for a higher RHR could be an increased level of stress from the holidays, an accelerated workload or out-of-town visitors. These are temporary situations that will eventually pass. Finally, your RHR provides this most fundamental value, a reasoned way to track your fitness for years to come. And that number doesn’t lie.
Good Luck and Good Health!
Your Personal Trainer
Ultimate Best LLC
Tae Kwon Do 1st Dan 2nd Stripe
ACE & AFAA Certified
“Do not lose courage in considering your own imperfections, but instantly set about remedying them – every day begin the task anew”
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