Training Your Most Important Muscle – Your Heart
What is the most important muscle in the human body? Your heart! The heart is the organ that supplies blood and oxygen to all parts of the body. Without it, we could not survive. It has to last a lifetime – so learn to take care of it.
Training the heart or cardiovascular (cardio) workouts as they are so affectionately called, are indispensable to an effective training program as well as general good health. By definition, cardio workouts can be any exercise – jogging, running, biking, swimming, stair climbing, even jumping rope – that raises and maintains your heart rate over a predetermined amount of time. By doing so, you strengthen your heart and lungs and lower your resting heart rate, which means that over time the same effort that produced a 10 minute mile will produce a 9 minute mile. Cardio workouts burn fat and cardio fitness is what gives you endurance and the ability to persist in sports and in life.
Follow these essential practices when performing cardio workouts:
– Drink water before, during and after cardio workouts.
– Try and perform your cardio workouts on an empty stomach (carbohydrate depleted), preferably first thing in the morning, for maximum fat-burning benefits.
– Always include a warm-up and a cool-down, consisting of a brisk walk or slow jog, at the beginning and the end of each workout.
– Many pieces of cardio equipment have heart monitors that are built into the machines. Use these to monitor your heart rate. Or consider investing in a heart rate monitor, available at sporting goods stores.
– If you don’t have a monitor, take your pulse for 6 seconds and add a zero. This number represents your targeted heart rate and exertion level.
When you are trying to shed fat aerobically, you must exercise at a moderate intensity and never, ever get out of breath. Because a sufficient oxygen supply is necessary to stimulate the fat releasing enzymes and burn fat, your rate of breathing and delivery of oxygen are extremely important. Your breathing has to be increased, but if you are huffing and puffing, exercise is to hard and oxygen demands cannot be met through respiration. End result: your fat cells feel threatened and your body uses sugar and muscle for energy instead of fat.
There are two ways to tell if you are exercising moderately – one is by feel and the other is by your heart rate.
– By Feel: When exercising aerobically, if you can carry on a normal conversation without too much gasping for air or having to take a breath for every syllable, you should be in the proper fat-burning mode.
– By Heart Rate: Measure your heart rate by using the following calculations:
Maximum Heart Rate = 220 – (Your Age)
Your Lower Target Rate = 65% x (Your Maximum Heart Rate)
Your Upper Target Rate = 80 % x (Your Maximum Heart Rate)
Therefore, the calculation would look like this:
– (220 – Your Age) x 65% = Your Lower Target Heart Rate
– (220 – Your Age) x 80% = Your Upper Target Heart Rate
Example One: Male, 50 years of age.
(220 – 50) x 65% = 110.5 = His Lower Target Heart Rate
(220 – 50) x 80% = 136.0 = His Upper Target Heart Rate
Therefore, in order for this 50 year old male to achieve maximum fat-burning capability during his aerobic sessions he will have to train his heart at a rate between 110.5 and 136.0 beats per minute. As the upper target rate is reached, more emphasis is placed on the cardio aspect of training and fat-burning diminishes.
Example Two: Female, 32 years of age.
(220 – 32) x 65% = 122.2 = Her Lower Target Heart Rate
(220 – 32) x 80% = 150.4 = Her Lower Target Heart Rate
Therefore, in order for this 32 year old female to achieve maximum fat-burning capability during her aerobic sessions she will have to train her heart at a rate between 122.2 and 150.4 beats per minute. As the upper target rate is reached, more emphasis is placed on the cardio aspect of training and fat-burning diminishes.
In order to maintain optimum fat-burning, keep your heart rate between your lower and upper levels. Stay in this fat-burning mode for at least a solid 30-40 minutes. Men will be within their most efficient fat-burning mode after 20 minutes of aerobic activity, while women can take up to 30 minutes to reach it. This discrepancy is largely due to the presence of the hormone estrogen, in women.
For maximum cardio performance, keep your heart rate closer to the upper level. This allows you to attain a much higher aerobic benefit. However, approach this level slowly. Go according to a pace that you feel comfortable with. Allow your body the time needed to adapt to the progressive stress.
To summarize, train within your upper and lower target heart rates in order to obtain your maximium fat-burning potential, and closer to the upper target rate for increased aerobic benefit.
As with any training program, please consult with your Doctor first, in order to ensure that you are capable of performing strenuous exercise activity. When you get the clearance, go out and enjoy yourself. Never neglect to train your most important muscle, your heart. Remember, it has to last you a lifetime … You can do it. All you need to do is, ‘Believe In Yourself’.