In the second of our `top tips’ series for a healthy run, Dr Shrilla Banerjee, a consultant cardiologist at Spire Gatwick Park Hospital in Horley, sets the pace with heart advice.
“Since the pandemic, more of us have transitioned to sedentary jobs working from home. That quick jog to the train station and up a flight of stairs at London Bridge is no longer part of our daily routine. So, if you are inspired to take part in Run Reigate, remember that planning and training are key. A sudden decision to sprint round the block after a day in the home office could be ill-advised.
Think of your heart as one big muscle. Like all muscles, exercising your heart will make it stronger and put it in better condition. Studies have shown that regular runners can have a lower resting heart rate, lower cholesterol levels and lower blood pressure. There are also additional benefits such as better sleep and reduced anxiety. But all muscles need warming up first- the key to a healthy heart is to build up your training routine gradually.
Easy does it
If you are not used to running, try a training app like Couch to 5k or Couch to 10k, which will guide you on how to start slowly, how to pace yourself and use a combination of run and walk techniques to gradually bring your heart rate up from its resting state.
Aim for your maximum heart rate
Exercising at the right intensity is the key to improving heart health. Once you have warmed up with a gentle jog, try and ensure a steady state where your heart rate does not exceed your advised maximum heart rate. This reflects the highest rate that your heart should be beating at during exercise. A rough calculation is to minus your age from 220. So, a 50-year-old woman would have a maximum heart rate of around 170 beats per minute. The maximum heart rate may be lower with certain cardiac conditions and with certain medications. Most people use a smart watch to monitor their heart rate during their run.
Remember to recover well
Just like your other muscles, your heart needs time to recover in between training sessions. Alternating hard runs with easier workouts will help your heart to grow stronger. You will find that, as you become fitter, your heart rate will return to normal quicker after a run (also known as the Recovery Time). But don’t come to a sudden halt when you cross the finishing line at Run Reigate. Continue with a slow jog, rehydrate and stretch until your heart rate returns to normal.
When the heat is on….
When outdoor temperatures rise, your heart works harder to pump blood to the surface of your skin to cool it. We’ve recently witnessed temperatures in Surrey hit 30oC-plus but, unless you are a Sahara Desert runner, I would avoid training in high heat. Either choose a cooler part of the day or avoid running that day altogether. Instead opt for a spot of yoga in the shade of a tree to stretch out those muscles.
Flu and Other Viruses
If you have a cold or flu, take a break. There are no medals for exercising when you are under the weather. In actual fact, exercise can damage your heart in these situations.
When to seek medical advice
If you have a family history of coronary disease, be extra cautious and seek the advice of your GP before starting any vigorous exercise. When you are running, listen to your body. If you become incredibly breathless, have pain in your chest or start to feel dizzy, stop running and seek medical advice.
But remember the key message…. the heart is a muscle, and like all muscles it benefits from exercise. Please do consider entering Run Reigate – it is a great day and such a special heart-healthy experience!”