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Archive for February, 2014

❤ Happy Valentines Day! ❤

When we think of the heart we tend to think of love and romance.  Yes we feel love in our heart, but our heart is not just about love.  Our heart is a hollow muscle that pumps the blood through our bodies ceaselessly day in and day out, nearly 100,000 beats per day, about 37 million beats per year, 3 billion over a lifetime!.

When the heart muscle is strong, each pulse pumps more blood per beat, therefore our heart beats less often the stronger it is.  When we don’t work our heart muscle it gets weak just like any other muscle in our body.  And just like any other muscle that becomes weak, it can become a problem (susceptible to heart attacks, etc.).

A normal resting heart rate for a healthy adult ranges from 60 to 100 beats a minute.  A lower heart rate at rest means more efficient heart function and better cardiovascular fitness.  For example, an Olympic athlete would have a normal resting heart rate closer to 40 beats a minute.

To measure your resting heart rate, simply check your pulse:

Best to do this first thing in the morning when you wake up and haven’t exerted yourself in anyway.

  • Place your index and third fingers on your neck to the side of your windpipe.
  • To check your pulse at your wrist, place two fingers between the bone and the tendon on the thumb side of your wrist.
  • Do not check your pulse with your thumb as it has it’s own pulse.
  • When you feel your pulse, count the number of beats in 15 seconds.
  • Multiply this number by 4 to calculate your beats per minute.

Your resting heart rate will give you a general indication as to where you are at in terms of your cardiovascular (heart) health.  Remember the higher the number the “weaker” your heart is.  (This is for a healthy person, if you’re on medication, etc, this may not be a good indicator for you – check with your doctor).

I think most of us know where we’re at by just reviewing how much cardiovascular exercise we do on a regular basis or just walk up a flight of stairs and notice if you get winded, that’s a good indicator right there.

So how do you workout your heart?

Basically any exercise that increases your heart rate, cardiovascular exercise, better known as “cardio”:

  • Swimming
  • Jogging/Running
  • Biking
  • Dancing
  • Aerobics
  • Hot Yoga

Now I’ve been guilty of going to the gym and sitting on the stationary bike with a magazine and getting totally engrossed in the magazine and not putting a lot of effort into the biking, sometimes barely even breaking a sweat.  So when you’re doing cardio, with the purpose of working out your heart, you need to put some effort into it.  You need to feel your heart-rate go up and you need to sweat.  A general rule is you want to be a little breathless but can still carry on a conversation.

Now if you really want to be sure you’re working your heart, you can work at your target heart rate.  This is the heart rate range you want to hit so you know your heart is getting a workout.

The general rule is to take 220 minus your age and then work within 50% to 85% of that.  If you’re just starting out, start out at 50% and then over time slowly increase it as you get stronger.

Here is a simple TARGET HEART RATE calculator, just type in your age: CLICK HERE

Most cardio machines have this information printed on them and some even have heart rate monitors that will take your pulse for you when you hold onto the handle bars.  If you’re really gung-ho you can purchase a chest strap with a watch to monitor your heart rate.

How often should I give my heart some love?
Ideally you would sustain your target heart rate for 20 minutes at least three times a week.  But remember, one time a week is better than none, two times a week is better than once, etc.  Set realistic goals that are attainable so you will stick with them.  Maybe for you that means taking one flight of stairs up to your office everyday, then the next week add another flight and so on.  Don’t set yourself up for failure!  The key is to be consistent and have patience with the results.  Try to make cardio a regular habit for the rest of your life, yes that’s what I said, the rest of your life.  You’re not getting any younger.
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Not only is cardio good for your heart muscle, it’s also good for your emotional heart.  It clears toxins from your system, physical and emotional, is great for circulation and overall leaves you feeling good.
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Recently I’ve been trying two types of cardio:  Hot Yoga & Spinning.

Hot Yoga:

Hot Yoga is Yoga done in a hot room.  I love the heat, so I quite like it.  You sweat profusely, like you’ve had a shower, so I find it very cleansing – like a little detox.  Originally I did not think of Hot Yoga as cardio, but when I tried it I noticed my heart was racing even though I was not moving quickly.  Because of the heat the heart rate goes up.  So it’s a great cardio workout without any stress on the joints.

If you’re going to try it make sure you drink 2 -4 glasses of water within a couple of hours of going and bring water with you into the class.  Go at least ten minutes early and lie down and let your body acclimatize to the room temperature before the class starts.  Make it your goal to just stay in the room for the first class, even if you have to lie down most of the time.  Like any exercise it gets easier the more you do it, as long as you’re doing it regularly.

If you live in Vancouver, I recommend Moksha Yoga and YYoga.  The Moksha studio in the mini-mall on Alma & Fourth is very nice; it’s a small boutique studio and has lots of free parking.  YYoga is more upscale & larger, parking is not as easy.  The Kits studio has an infrared sauna which is a nice bonus.  I do not recommend Bikrams.  I find the room is too hot, disgustingly smelly and the style of teaching very pushy.  I always felt Bikrams was kinda slimy, now I know why.

Spinning:

Spinning is a class where you ride a stationary bike to music for 45 minutes to an hour.  The instructor calls out drills.  It’s an excellent workout and can be quite challenging.  If you’re new to spinning make it your goal to just stay on the bike for the whole class, don’t worry too much about the drills.  As you get stronger you can start working more on the drills.  If you don’t bike at all you may want to start by just biking on your own a bit first, first for 15 minutes building up to 30 minutes, then 45 minutes, etc.  Going to a class right off the top might be a bit much.  Both Kits and Dunbar CC’s offer spinning classes.

High Intensity Training

This seems to have come into popularity lately, you may have heard of HIT training or TABATA training.  It involves short intense intervals with active rest intervals.  There are many different variations you can try, you can read more about it HERE.

I have found it to be a very effective training technique, so I do recommend it.

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Whatever you choose to do I hope you will give your heart some love on a regular basis.

Sending some love from my heart to yours,

xo Ali

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If you’ve been having a bit of the winter blues, here’s a little respite:

(this one always brings tears to my eyes)

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