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Tell me if this story sounds familiar: 

You strap on your shoes and head out running, but before you are even a half mile down the road your heart is jumping out of your chest and it doesn’t come down until you back off to a super-slow walk that is embarrassing.  You don’t want to look slow so you ramp the speed back up, the same thing happens, so you grind it out and chalk it up to being out of shape. 

Yes, you are out of shape but let’s train a better way than the “gut it out” method and incorporate “heart efficiency” training.  But, let’s back up a minute.

The Goal:  Develop a MONSTER!                                                     

We want 2 things to be true of your cardiovascular system:  1) it has the endurance to sustain activity over extended amount of time, and 2) it can recover quickly after bouts of more intense work, and when activity stops.  To develop this we need to train you heart to be a pumping MONSTER—every  beat delivers a surge of blood and uses the least amount of energy and effort to do this. 

Why is training your heart to operate at a lower BPM important?  Visualize bellows – that air-blowing device used to puff up the flames in your fire-place, and compare them to your heart.  Place 2 sets of bellows next to each other that are the same size and work equally well at building a flame but are operating much differently:   #1 uses strong, long puffs, delivering max air each complete cycle, and #2 uses tiny, quick, shallow puffs to do the same work. 

We want our hearts to be like #1 – a monster with strong, efficient surges.  Yes, #2 is getting  the job done, but it’s using WAY too much energy to do so, limiting how long it can work, and running the risk of breaking.  You only get so many “puffs” at that rate before something bad happens.

So let’s train to develop a MONSTER by falling out of love with mileage, and focus on BPM’s and time, using the first 4 weeks teaching your heart to LOVE operating at a lower BPM.

Here’s the assignment: 

  • Run/Jog ≤ 75% of heart rate max (HRM) =(220-Age)x.75
    • Beginners:  10-20 min, 2-3 days/week
    • Advanced:  10-15 minutes longer than normal run 1 day/week, keep other cardio routine the same
  • Week 2:  Add 10-15 min  to each workout @ same HR
  • Week 3:  Add 10-15 min to each workout @ same HR
  • Week 4:  Add 10-15 min to each workout @ same HR

WARNING:  This type of training is BORING!!!  The first time you train like this you may be shocked at how slow you are moving.  And you will look slow, it will be embarrassing, and you may think “I put my spandex on for this?!?!”  Remember, you are laying the foundation which takes time and patience…the fun will begin as you ramp things up, so deal with this, do the work, and focus on passing people later as you and your MONSTER go out to eat up the course!

Written by Mark Moreland

Owner/Personal Trainer

This is a FANTASTIC time of year to be outside and many of you have already answered the call of the great outdoors.  But along with the fun, exercise, and social activities comes another call…the call of your yard.  It demands attention and you have begun the seasonal wrestling match with your property.

Now, I’m not an expert on landscaping or home repair and will gladly defer to other, more knowledgeable heads and greener thumbs on that topic.   But I know the human body really well, especially when it’s working hard, and yard work can easily be considered a rigorous workout.  Like any workout, it can improve your condition when done properly, or set you back if you over-do-it.  So pay attention to your body and use these tips to care for yourself while laboring in your yard this season.

  1. Hydrate.  Your body needs water all the time and not just when you are sweating.  Make sure to pump in the water to meet your work demands.  Avoid carbonated beverages, and hyper amounts of caffeine, salt, and alcohol as these choices steal water away from your body creating a laundry-list of problems.  (stay tuned for an article entirely dedicated to hydration)
  2. Dress for the temperature.    Protect yourself from overheating with clothing that is lite in weight, lite in color, and which can hold some water.  Wicking fabric seems like a good idea, but good ol’ fashion cotton holds water (sweat) against your skin which keeps you cooler.
  3. Caution:  Heavy lifting. Rule 1:  Assess the load and know your limits.  If you think you can lift it safely, then get into a safe body position with your feet wide, chest up, and lift with your legs.   Rule 2:  Ask for help.  Don’t be a hero.  If you think it’s too heavy get a friend to assist and save your body.  The primary injuries I see this time of year are lower back and knees, and most of them are due to heavy lifting and could have been prevented by calling a buddy. Rule 3:  Breathe!  Avoid holding your breath whenever you are lifting, which can cause a quick, dangerous rise in blood pressure.  As you prepare to lift, tighten your tummy, then breathe out in a controlled manner as you lift.  Don’t blow it all out in one “whoooosh”, but instead, release your air in “puffs” of breath or with one steady exhale.  Encourage your lifting buddy to breathe too.
  4. Repetitive motion.  Don’t be fooled by lite loads.  Unlike their bigger sibling, lite repetitive loads might not injure you right away but can leave you sore and slow-moving for several days.  Take breaks often and change the motion if you can by switching hands or your stance to spread out the work to “fresh” body parts.
  5. Static positions.  Don’t stay in one position for too long, especially awkward positions like being down on your knees in a flower bed.   Movement promotes circulation (good stuff in, bad stuff out) and static positions restrict blood flow causing you to feel stiff.  Take breaks, change positions, and or change the motion to encourage circulation for muscle and joint health.

This is a great time to labor outside.  Not too hot, not too cold, not too humid…yet.  Whether you enjoy doing all the work yourself or just like to dabble, you will find yourself performing more exterior work so enjoy the extra exercise but make sure to care for yourself. 

Written by: Mark Moreland

Owner/Personal Trainer