Your Heart; the invisible power house…


By Amy Build & Balance


Anyone who knows me knows how much I LOVE strength training. It is my bread and butter, the love
of my fitness life, but last year I had a stark jolt of reality to make me realise how important another
component of fitness is; Cardiovascular training.

Early last year my mother-in-law had a heart attack and 3 cardiac arrests in the space of 2 weeks.
She thankfully survived the whole ordeal and that was all down to her heart, battling through and
having the power to survive! She had started to exercise and eat healthier around 2 years previous
to her attacks and due to the repair of the damage originally done earlier in her life, her heart
battled through the attacks and won!

This situation made me realise how important it is to be proactive in protecting the health of our
heart! Although we can’t consciously control directly the function of our heart every minute of the
day, our lifestyle plays a huge role in influencing its health and effectiveness in keeping us alive! One
major thing that we can do to help our heart stay healthy and happy is cardiovascular exercise!
When we decide to get “fit” there is some major components we think about to motivate us; visible
abs, lean looking limbs, stronger muscles… but sometimes we neglect to realise that all of these
things are not possible to obtain without one seemingly invisible power source; OUR HEART!

I often refer to the brain as our body’s memory stick, containing all of the critical information helping
us learn, move and make decisions, in turn I refer to the heart as the battery pack. It is a part of our
body that works continuously, every minute of every day without being told what to do… and that’s
pretty amazing if you ask me, so why not strengthen it like every other muscle!?

The less we use something the less it learns…

Have you ever felt out of breath walking upstairs, or running to catch the bus? This is because in
modern society we spend so much of our time sat down, ordering everything to be delivered directly
into our hands and not thinking about the consequence that has on our body inside, not just on the

Imagine if in your current job, you were told you had to learn on the job but you were only very
rarely given work to do. Every time you were given that workload, you’d get it done but potentially
not as effectively as if you were doing the work continually.

Now imagine, one day your boss gave you a mountain of work to do, way more than you’d ever
been given before and said it had to be done in a shorter time frame than any of the other previous
workloads you’d been doing! You would be overwhelmed, working at a faster rate but without the
quality you know you could achieve, if you’d just had more time to learn to do it more efficiently in
the first place.

Your heart is exactly the same. If you live a lifestyle where your heart doesn’t really have to work
much, it won’t learn how to do its job effectively!

Cardio… the word we love to hate…


When you hear the word cardio… what do you think? Burpees? Mountain climbers? Long distance
running? Cardiovascular health and fitness is actually much more than just HIIT classes and 10ks
(although they can help us over time). Cardiovascular fitness is the ability for our body to take in,
utilise and transport O2 around the body in the most efficient way and it is very personal to us
depending on lots of different factors!

Other added benefits of cardio training are;

– Increased good cholesterol
– Increased blood supply to your muscles (meaning every movement you do becomes easier)
– Lower Blood pressure over time
– Stress management
– Defending against T2 diabetes
– Reducing your risk of premature death

Progressive overload; your heart is a muscle to be trained too!

If you have trained with me, you may have heard me, use the phrase “progressive overload”, this is
where you continuously build up the intensity of the challenge to your muscles in order for them to
change and grow, resulting in stronger, leaner muscle tissue that works more efficiently to produce

It is so important to build you heart strength in the same way. Your heart is a muscle too, some
would argue the most important one in your body! So treat it that way!

If you are not used to exercise start with becoming more active, moderate intensity exercise 3-5
days a week for 30 minutes. Then begin to challenge yourself more when you know you are ready,
with more intense forms of exercise. All of these things will help to increase your hearts efficiency to
do its job!

Moderate Intensity activities that can improve your heart health include;

– Active travel (walking or cycling to work).
– Walking the dog.
– Climbing stairs.
– Active and physical work.
– Gardening.
– Golf.
– Cycling for pleasure.

Once you’ve worked yourself up to being more active in your daily life not all cardio is HIIT classes
and burpees, these are some amazing ways to improve your cardiovascular health more vigorously;

– Rowing.
– Swimming.
– Hard cycling.
– Circuit training.
– Running at 7 mph.
– Hockey, squash and tennis.
– Hill walking.
– Skipping.
– Rock climbing

All in all you can have all the abs you want, the most lean toned physique, the strength of the gods,
but if your heart is weak you will only have a certain amount of time to use all these things in your
life. Your health is your wealth and the more we begin to think about the health of our whole body
the better you will feel, the more confident you will be and the longer you will be around for!