By Connie Cook | Guest Columnist
Is love really a many splendored thing? If that includes drama, giddiness, heartbreak, lust, anger, happiness, fear and pleasure, then I would say, “Yes. It is.” No matter what your take on love, one thing for sure is that everyone feels it—good or bad—in their heart.
The heart is an amazing organ. Not only is it your body’s lifeline, it’s the one organ where you can actually feel the emotions related to that little thing called love. For its size, the heart does a tremendous job of keeping the blood flowing throughout the body. The average human heart, at 72 beats per minute, will beat approximately 2.5 billion times during an average 66-year lifespan. With that in mind, you should maximize the strength of every beat to make each one as strong as you possibly can.
Training your heart is as important as training the rest of your body, but sometimes the “out of sight out of mind” aspect comes into play. If we all truly wore our hearts on our sleeves, then we could see exactly what kind of shape they’re in. Is it as buff as our biceps or as lean as our legs?
The only way to get your heart in tip-top shape is to train it with cardiovascular conditioning that elevates your heart rate for an extended period of time, such as walking, jogging, biking, jumping rope, swimming or rowing. Which one is best? The answer is one you enjoy the most and will do consistently. Here are three of my favorite cardio workouts:
Sit and spin
Hopping on a bike in a cycling class is one of the quickest ways to get your heart pumping and have a great time in the process. You won’t be popping wheelies, but you will be monitoring your heart rate and cadence along the way. My favorite cycling class is interval training. It alternates between high and low intervals of intense work followed by short rests. It is one of the most effective ways to increase your cycling speed and endurance while challenging your heart. Plus, you burn a ton of calories in the process and develop endurance and strength in the lower body along the way.
Go for an indoor hike
Want to mimic the great outdoors with a challenging indoor hike? Hop on a treadmill and turn the incline up. I’m amazed how many people don’t realize how steep treadmills rise. Maintain a steady walking speed and increase your incline every five minutes or so and you’ll be surprised how the pitter-patter of your heart gradually increases with the rise of the treadmill. Walking a steep incline requires considerably more effort than a leisurely stroll on flat terrain. It not only challenges your cardiovascular system but also burns more fat and calories. You also get additional toning benefits to your posterior thigh and calf muscles.
Row, row, row yourself into a cardio frenzy
It’s interesting to see some people tiptoe around the rowing machines and not even give them a second thought, when rowing is a full-body cardio workout that is hard to beat. Apart from the cross trainer, this is the only cardio machine that fully engages the upper body. It can be a little tricky to establish your rhythm, but once you’ve got it, it’s downright cool. By creating your own rhythmic style and rowing to your own groove you’ll get a great heart-pumping cardio workout that works your whole body.
Taking care of your heart should be your number one priority and the goal of any cardio workout should be to elevate your heart rate and get it pumping to make it stronger and more efficient. Remember, if you can’t make it to the gym, you can always try fooling around. Your heart (and partner) will thank you for that, too. Sex can give you a great workout.
By some estimates, a vigorous roll in the hay can double a person’s heart rate and burn up to about 200 calories, or the equivalent of a brisk 15-minute run. Think of it as preventive maintenance and put a little love in your heart.
—Connie Cook is a fitness and athletic director with over 20 years experience in the fitness industry. After extensive experience in the top fitness and athletic clubs in Houston, Texas, she developed and launched the cutting-edge fitness club, FIT Athletic. At FIT San Diego, Cook is naturally the Fit Athletic Corporation’s Fitness Director as well as teacher of several exercise classes. Certified in multiple national group fitness certifications, she also appears regularly as the featured fitness correspondent for San Diego’s Fox 5 morning show.