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Thursday, January 29, 2004

Heart Attack

One of the main indicators that a person is no longer among the living is the absence of a heart beat. Heart disease is one of the biggest killers among adult males. A healthy heart is not going to let you live forever. I’m not interested in living forever, or even for any longer than what is in the cards. I just want to live on my terms as long as my heart is beating and my terms are pretty demanding on the heart.

Studies indicate that leg strength is a factor in cardio-vascular fitness. The heart doesn’t drive the legs; the legs drive the heart. Cyclists have a jump on a lot of athletes in the area of heart fitness because cycling demands a lot of leg strength and it stresses the heart at a high level for a longer period of time than, say, running

I have been using my heart rate monitor in my semi-annual neurotic quest to do something different and demanding in my work-out regimen. A valuable tool in cardio-vascular training is measuring your maximum heart rate. This is the maximum beats per minute that your heart is capable of performing. The standard formula of calculating your maximum heart rate is 220 minus your age, so someone twenty years old would have a maximum heart rate of 200 beats per minute. This formula is fairly flawed so the best way to calculate your maximum heart rate is to rev up your heart as high as it can go.

Often when I am bike riding I am riding at a speed that is completely taxing my heart but I don’t wear my heart rate monitor very often. I did interval training yesterday at my gym on an exercise bike. Interval training entails maintaining a level of almost complete intensity for a brief period, resting briefly, and then repeating this for several sets. This isn’t the best way to hit your maximum heart rate (MHR) because fatigue sets in quickly and your heart will not be able to rise to its maximum level if it has been under a lot of stress. To ideally calculate MHR you begin slowly, build higher resistance over about ten minutes and then pour it on for about two minutes.

On my third interval yesterday I got my heart up to 188 bpm, which, although high, I don’t feel is my maximum. Even so, this rate is ridiculously above the 220 minus age formula. Supposedly, MHR is not a function of your fitness level but simply one of age and your genetic make-up. I’m out to do my own personal research into this matter and this is the beginning of my inquiry.

Another fitness tool is assessing your resting heart rate (RHR). To do this you simply check your pulse the first thing when you wake up, before you get out of bed. A lower RHR is generally a good indication of your level of fitness—the lower your RHR the better. I haven’t done this calculation recently because I keep forgetting or I haven’t slept well enough or long enough the night before to get an accurate reading.

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