This week, I want to talk about the most important muscle in the entire human body: the heart.
There’s a reason why we talk about “heart” so much in our lives (and not just in the anatomical sense). The heart of someone is often used to refer to the core and spirit of a person - their very essence. Obviously, this makes sense since our anatomical heart is the core of our physical selves and responsible for all other systems’ functioning in the body. In endurance coaching, I think about and talk about the anatomical heart a lot, but what many people don’t realize is that I also think about the “heart” that athletes need to pour into their training and their workouts to be successful and reach their goals. You need a strong heart - in every conceivable way - to be successful in endurance sports.
First and foremost, your heart has to be in it. You have to have a “why.” Working towards a goal (and as we all know, goals come in many, many forms) that lights you up is going to make you much more successful than if you are striving for something that someone else chose for you or that you aren’t excited about.
Once your heart is in the game, it’s important to get your anatomical heart in the game. Athletes who are newer to exercise will have higher heart rates when they exercise because they have a physically small heart. It takes more for that small heart to push large volumes of blood to the rest of the body.
After about 12 weeks of exercising consistently for five or more hours a week (think: walking, running, swimming, cycling, etc.), an athlete’s maximum heart rate will come down. Why? Because their heart muscle has physically grown larger over that 12 weeks, and as a result, it’s able to work more efficiently to pump blood. Specifically, the left ventricle grows larger and the outer walls of the heart muscle become thicker. This may seem scary or crazy, but it’s honestly a normal physiological adaptation that the body makes to consistent endurance training.
So, my tip for you all this week is to grow your heart. Open your heart to dreams and goals that inspire you, and put your whole heart into what you choose to spend your time on. And once you decide what those goals are, have patience and work to grow your actual heart so that it can steadily provide you with the blood, nutrients, and liquids you need to keep going as you chase those goals. :)
“And what happened, then? Well, in Whoville they say – that the Grinch's small heart grew three sizes that day.” -How the Grinch Stole Christmas!
Coach Laura Henry
Laura Henry is a Syracuse, NY-based coach who is a USA Triathlon Level II Long Course and Level II Paratriathlon Certified Coach, USA Cycling Level 2 Certified Coach, VFS Certified Bike Fitter, and has successfully completed NASM's Certified Personal Trainer course. Coach Laura is passionate about helping athletes of all ability levels reach their goals and has coached many athletes to success.