The Athlete’s Heart

athletes heart

 

The heart. It’s pretty standard equipment in all human bodies. This amazing organ tucked inside your body pumping blood to all your cells and organs has been beating since your mother was only four weeks pregnant.  Did you know that ??

As I’ve gotten more athletic it’s become more important to me to understand things like my heart rate, my training heart rate, and my resting heart rate.

This incredible organ we must remember, is a muscle and it needs trained and conditioned just like the muscles we can visibly see if we flex our arms. Perhaps conditioning it is at the TOP of the importance list.

The best way to exercise your heart is by doing cardio exercises ( stuff that makes you breath hard and sweat. This is what most people don’t enjoy doing because this is when they realize they are “really” out of shape)

Ok that being said, I mentioned in a post a week or two back that I had gotten the new Garmin Vivoactive HR  which has a heart rate monitor built into the watch and I can literally track my heart rate in normal day activities, training times, and when I’m at rest.

I’ve been fascinated with the fact that endurance athletes begin to develop lower resting heart rates from all of the physical training they go through… it’s that cardio stuff again 😉

I will try and not get to complicated on terms and what not but….

the interesting cause of an endurance athlete having lower resting heart rates than the general population is basically how the heart adapts and basically enlarges due to the training the body undergoes.  Heart rhythms for which the elderly require pacemakers are normal in the trained athlete. This slowed heart beat is a condition called  sinus bradycardia.

Athlete’s heart most often does not have any physical symptoms, although an indicator would be a consistently low resting heart rate. Athletes with AHS often do not realize they have the condition unless they undergo specific medical tests, because athlete’s heart is a normal, physiological adaptation of the body to the stresses of physical conditioning and aerobic exercise.

Athletes tend to have lower resting heart rates because training programs that build speed, fitness, muscle and endurance also train your heart muscles to pump a higher volume of blood with each heartbeat. Ultimately, it takes fewer heartbeats to power a well-conditioned athlete during intense training as well as during rest.

During intense exercise, the hearts of highly trained athletes pump as much as twice the volume of blood as the hearts of untrained people.

While the normal resting heart rate for adults ranges from 60 to 100 beats per minute, conditioned athletes and other highly fit individuals might have normal resting heart rates of 40 to 60 beats per minute. This indicates a high level of cardiovascular fitness.

This is where I’ve found having my heart monitor on my new watch to be rather fascinating. In the month I’ve had it, it has tracked my heart rate in daily activities, during my workouts, and my resting heart rate.  Maybe I’m a little nerdy but I kinda like all those stats 😉

Thus far, my resting heart rate seems to land in the high 40’s to low -mid 50’s. Although I’ve had a few nights were my numbers were 38 and 34! My rate in my normal activities stays in the 60-70’s.   Needless to say, I’m in triple digits in heavy workouts 😛

This again is proof and reminds me that my heart is a muscle that needs worked, trained and challenged to stay strong and not have to work as hard because it’s “in shape” too. It also gives me an idea of my fitness level.

My husband has been in the cardiology field for many years now. So of course, you know, I’ve asked him questions and bugged him about this. When I feed him my numbers his usual response to me is… ” you have an athletes heart”. He tells me if we saw a ” normal” person with some of those numbers we would be looking to see why they had them ( as in, it would indicate possible heart problems)

There are some non athletic individuals who might naturally have a low heart rate that can simply be a product of genetics.

Others, if there is a consistent low heart rate might indicate possible problems and should be evaluated by a cardiologist.

So bottom line, your heart is not only amazing in that it pumps blood, non-stop, your entire life, it has the ability to grow, get stronger and change to work more efficiently while neatly conserving energy.

Even if you have no plans to become an endurance athlete, your heart still needs good doses of cardio too! Make sure you’re getting it at least 5 days a week, 30 minutes a day.

And I’ll close this with a few fun facts about your heart you might not know….

A kitchen faucet would have to be turned on all the way for at least 45 years to equal the amount of blood pumped in an average lifetime.

The “thump-thump” of a heartbeat is the sound made by the four valves closing.

And finally, if you need any more encouragement about heart care consider this…

the heart does the most physical work of any muscle during a lifetime. The power output of the heart ranges from 1-5 watts. While the quadriceps can produce 100 watts for a few minutes, an out put of 1 watt for 80 years is equal to 2.5 gigajoules.

 

Are you an endurance athlete? Have you seen your resting heart rate change?

If you don’t work out, do you find cardio work challenging? Do you understand the need to train our heart as much as  the outer muscles we can see?