Understanding Your Heart

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Love your heart

Pilates is excellent for improving posture, strengthening the core and balancing muscles in the anterior and posterior of the torso and limbs. However, studies show that even if a person feels Pilates is working them at a high intensity, they are probably only working in a 60 per cent range of their heart rate.  They are still working muscles intensely, especially as Pilates works muscles that aren’t always used in other workouts but it is important that we factor in heart rate because of the sedentary lifestyle that has evolved in recent years. As Pilates on a mat or reformer doesn’t raise the heart rate enough, I encourage my clients to add interval training cardio to their lifestyle. For those who are in good physical shape I can add interval training on a trampoline or a jump-board to add cardio to their workout and improve bone density..

I have had a few conversations with people in the last few months that exercise regularly. We talked about their heart rate and I realized they didn’t really understand how they should be using their exercise to improve their health. This may be why many people don’t experience the results they would like from exercise. If you are in good health and have clearance to exercise, interval training which gives you short bursts of exertion and longer periods in a lower heart rate zone is very effective. The majority of people who work out can experience this during cardio or strength training..

In very simple terms for the purpose of why we do cardio exercise, we sometimes need a reminder that our heart is also a muscle. It pumps blood which regulates body temperature, transports oxygen, hormones and nutrients, and eliminates waste. It can also help fight disease, and ironically it can also spread disease and toxins.

There are recommended heart rates for minimum and maximum heart rate during exercise which will protect you from over working the heart and help you get the most from your workout, it’s important to understand how this works. Your heart rate is measured at beats per minute. So your maximum heart rate is what your heart could not should beat per minute during maximum exertion. Your resting heart rate is best taken before getting up in the morning and having any stimulant such as coffee. Your target heart rate is a percentage of your maximum heart rate. Depending on your level of condition and your goals depends on what range you should be working in. The most important thing is to minimize risk of overtraining and injury.

If you haven’t worked out for years you should talk to your doctor and discuss your heart rate during exercise. You will need to discuss your condition and whether any medications you are taking interfere with your heart rate. You may be taking allergy medicine, asthma medicine, or using beta blockers to lower your heart rate. You should never feel so out of breath you can’t talk when starting exercising. You work up to this and always remember that elite athletes train specifically for their sport!

The general public needs to begin exercising with caution. As a fitness trainer nothing frustrates me more than seeing deconditioned people working beyond their fitness level and with poor form. If you take a few months to work up aerobically and learn good form, you’ll experience far greater benefits than somebody who keeps pushing themselves with no understanding of body mechanics. The, “ no pain, no gain,” attitude is not for deconditioned people Be aware that most group fitness establishments are a business and their main purpose is to make money. You need to be responsible for your well-being, not someone else.

A simple way for healthy individuals to work out safely is to subtract your age from 220, so if you are 45, your maximum heart rate will be 175. You will NEVER want to work at this rate. A beginner exerciser will want to work at 65-75 per cent of their maximum heart rate. The longer you have been out of action the more conservative you should be. When you have taken your age away from your max heart rate you then use a calculator to work out the heart rate zone you should be in. A 45 year old would start at around 113 and not get higher than 131. As you get fitter and can work out in this level for 30 minutes, three times a week, you can add a little more until you are within 80-85 per cent of your max heart rate. This is where interval training is introduced. Interval training involves taking your heart rate up to a maximum rate and being able to recover to your base rate quickly. Don’t be in a rush to get here as this will take about 3 months in the 60- 75 range and the next level is near anaerobic where your body can no longer produce enough energy for the muscles and produces higher levels of lactic acid. This is where we burn calories, so our fitness goal is to reach this level safely. The 80-85 per cent range is where most of us should stay. This is where we consider calories taken in daily to calories burned daily if we want to maintain our weight or lose fat. Those people who have exercised regularly for a long time may train at 86-90 per cent of their max heart rate. This is very high intensity and should only last for 10- 60 seconds.

Consider buying a heart rate monitor if you want to be accurate when doing cardio or weight training. You can also think in terms of 1-10 although this isn’t as accurate. 1 would be the easiest and 10 would feel intense to you, so a beginner would want to be at a comfortable 1-5. As you get fitter try and go up and down in intensity. It takes the boredom out of cardio exercise for me, and makes for a more efficient way to exercise. If you are in the first few months of exercising just make sure you can hold a conversation. If you can’t, reduce your intensity and always listen to your body.

For more information on private personal training sessions and Pilates, call or text Katharine on: 832-867-1059 or email: info@westendhoustonpilates.com