Strengthening the Heart Muscle
Like any other muscle in the Body, our Heart also needs some sort of training, not only for its proper functioning but also for its development and Strength. Every part of our Body takes rest at certain times, but our Heart never. When it stops, we stop! And naturally, with such a constant strain upon it, we should expect it to have a tendency to break down at certain points. The real wonder is that it breaks down so seldom; but it has great powers of Endurance and a wonderful trick of recovering its break-downs and adjusting itself to strains.
Although The Heart has these wonderful powers of recovering and adjusting, but like everything, Heart has its own limits. You must be aware of these limits, so as to put your first step toward the Care of Your Heart.
Understanding the Blood Supply Limits of The Heart
Every kind of work, be it Physical or Mental, done in the body throws more work upon The Heart. For e.g. when we Run, or Fight, or do Exercise, our Muscles contract, and need more food-fuel to burn, and pour more waste-stuff into the blood to be thrown off through the lungs; “so The Heart has to beat harder and faster to supply these calls”. When our stomach digests food, it needs a larger supply of blood in its walls, and the heart has to pump harder to deliver this. Even when we think hard or worry over something, our brain cells need more blood, and the ever-willing heart again pumps it up to them. This is the chief reason why we cannot do more than one of these things at the same time to advantage. If we try to think hard, run foot races, and digest our dinner all at one and the same time, neither Head, Stomach, nor Muscles can get the proper amount of Blood that it requires; we cannot do any one of the three properly, and are likely to develop a Headache, or an Attack Of Indigestion, or a “Stitch in the Side,” and sometimes all three. So the circulation has a great deal to do with the intelligent planning and arranging of our work, our meals, and our play.
Strengthening The Heart Muscle (or Increasing Its Limits)
To increase our endurance, we must increase the power of our Heart and blood vessels, as well as that of our muscles.
“The real thing to be trained in the gymnasium and on the athletic field is the Heart rather than the Muscles.”
Fortunately, however, the Heart is itself a Muscle, alive and growing, and with the same power of increasing in strength and size that any other Muscle has. So that up to a proper limit, all these things which throw strain upon the Heart in moderate degree, such as running, working, and thinking, are not only not harmful, but beneficial to it, increasing both its strength and its size.
“The heart, for instance, of a thoroughbred Race-Horse is nearly twice the size, in proportion to his body weight, of the heart of A Dray-Horse or Cart-Horse; and A Deer has more than twice as large a Heart as a sheep of the same weight.”
The important thing to bear in mind in both work and play, in Athletic training, and in life, is that this work must be kept easily within the powers of the Heart and of the other muscles, and must be increased gradually, and never allowed to go beyond a certain point, or it becomes injurious, instead of beneficial; hurtful, instead of helpful.
“Over-work in the shop or factory, over-training in the gymnasium or on the athletic field, both falls first and heaviest upon the heart.”
At the same time, the system must be kept well supplied through the stomach with the raw material both for doing this work and for building up the Heart muscle. When anyone, in training for an event, gets “stale,” or over-trained, and loses his appetite and his sleep, he had better stop at once, for that is a sign that he is using more energy than his food is able to give him through his stomach; and the Stomach has consequently “gone on a strike.”