Strengthen This One Muscle To Improve Your Running and Your Life - Chi Living

Strengthen This One Muscle To Improve Your Running and Your Life

Posted by Katherine Dreyer on Wed Feb 11th, 2015, 12 comments

Strengthen this one muscle to improve your running and your life.

"Even at rest, the muscles of the heart work hard—twice as hard as the leg muscles of a person sprinting" - PBS, Amazing Heart Facts

Your heart is, of course, the most important muscle in your body. Beating an average of 100,000 times a day and over 36 million times a year, it is by far the hardest working muscle you have. When you run or walk, you are getting lots of cardiovascular benefits which make future exercise easier and more enjoyable. So, the more you exercise, the easier it becomes. You can then run longer or faster because you've the strengthened the main muscle that allows both to happen.

The cardiovascular benefits of exercise include:

  • Strengthening your heart and cardiovascular system

  • Improving your circulation and helping your body use oxygen better

  • Lowering blood pressure

  • Improving cholesterol numbers

  • Shortening your recovery time

The health of your heart involves much more than just the physical health of your heart. Your heart truly responds to your emotional well-being, as many scientific tests and studies have shown.

Stress, sadness or other emotional trauma have been shown to be physically detrimental to the heart. On the other hand, love, connection, and happiness contribute very positively to your heart’s and your whole body’s health and well-being.

To strengthen your heart's emotional health you can start by simply listening more closely to it’s longings and desires.

I love this section of Paulo Coelho’s book The Alchemist:

"Why do we have to listen to our hearts?" the boy asked, when they had made camp that day.

"Because, wherever your heart is, that is where you'll find your treasure."

"But my heart is agitated," the boy said. "It has its dreams, it gets emotional, and it's become passionate over a woman of the desert. It asks things of me…”

"Well, that's good. Your heart is alive. Keep listening to what it has to say." Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

Running and walking provide the perfect opportunity to listen to your heart. When you first start moving you can feel it beating faster. Then, as your heart settles into that higher beat and rhythm, you can continue to listen to what it has to say.

With practice, you will be able to distinguish between the voice of your heart and the voice of your mind. The voice of your mind is concerned with details like speed, distance and goals. The voice of the heart can be more tender, and often has some longing in it. Your heart’s voice is the one that feels connected to the natural world around you and is touched by the beauty of it. When you hear that voice, shift your attention to it, and listen carefully to what it has to say. Allow yourself to be filled up with what the heart loves and enjoys.

You do not always have to follow your heart’s desires, but it is important to at least listen to them; to hear and acknowledge that those desires are there and sometimes crying out to be heard.

“You will never be able to escape from your heart. So, it's better to listen to what it has to say.”

Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

When you use your runs and walks to listen to your heart, exercise will no longer be a chore or something to fit into your schedule. It will become a part of your day that enriches your whole life.

12 CommentsLeave a comment below

Beautifully put; and really quite helpful.
Thank you.

Very nice. Thank you.

Does that mean running with a heart rate monitor?
I rarely use one, going rather by feel,  backing off when my heart tells me to.

Elizabeth Bacon-Smith Feb 11th, 2015 05:29pm

Hi Nikki ~ !

This entry exemplifies what I saw in you and could only repeat “You are so beautiful” ~ “You are so strong” after you finished at the Iron Horse Run this past weekend.  I sat with your family and friends waiting for you and your husband to arrive, and then had to leave to give medications to my very ill cat. 

So, I drove home and after I had given her her meds [she had missed one set of doses and was late on the second set], I couldn’t stop thinking about you and your sheer determination to finish. 

The same as I wanted while I sat with your people awaiting your arrival, I returned and sat with them until you came across the finish line.  I was and remain SO glad that I returned to experience those moments of watching you come in and across!  To see your bliss of having done it!  I was SO happy and SO proud of you… and wanted SO much to get a photo with you, but felt this was your time to celebrate with your family and friends and didn’t want to intrude on that. 

Ever since, however, I’ve wished that I had.  You were HUGELY inspirational to me in your determination and in how you ran!  You came across as a woman of such high calibre and the beauty I was seeing inside you, as well as in your face, compelled me to comment repeatedly.  I now understand through reading various things you’ve written why that was so.  I felt I ought to have said, “I KNEW you could do it!”  I KNEW you would do it!  I TOLD you you could and would do it!” 

But, that seemed redundant, as you CLEARLY knew you would do it, no matter what it took, when you left out of Aid Station #3, as well as when you came down the final stretch.

I’m so very happy I met you and your brother, and your family and friends, Nikki.  If I were younger and didn’t have a compromised knee, I would be inspired to start running, too.  However, I AM inspired to WALK.  That I can do. 

Had I had my photo taken with you, it would have gone on my mirror as a message of, “If she can RUN 100, I can WALK 5!”

I will NEVER miss an opportunity to be a Volunteer for Aid Station #3 and have plans to do MANY more things to make it so much greater for all of you next year!

In fact, I would like very much to be able to get in touch with your sister/friend/pacer [?/?/?], as she had given me some suggestions and I don’t want to forget any of them.  I’ve also had ideas of my own, and would love to get her feedback on them.

So wonderful to have met all of you!

All the best,

Rick Setzpfand Feb 11th, 2015 06:25pm

The heart indeed is more important in running than the feet, but with getting better through exercises, workouts and races it’s all the time about what landing, pronation, balance, reaction force, etc ... that requires attention: the running form in the early stages of training requires so much attention, that the voice of the hearth is easily forgotten.

But it are my heart and my mind that almost every day want me to start running, which I do when I have time. But all so often, others feel that I run too much ... “Why again? ... You already ran last Sunday…?”

I cann’t make them understand, give up and take my Hokas, chasing Sunset ...

Happy running!

Alan L. Welsheimer Feb 11th, 2015 08:09pm

Hi, threw me there but sure, it is our heart.  I am a lucky soon to be 75 old guy and enjoy a resting rate of 42 of which I have been told and have read could, I some folks, necessitate a pace maker but I keep a close watch with my doc and just keep trucking with lots of walking, mostly and light weight exercise.  Exercise and diet have been a way of life for me without being fanatical about it.  Consistancy is the word.  Thanks for asking me to talk about myself.  Ha. Life is good here on the Oregon coast.  Bye

Elizabeth Bacon-Smith Feb 11th, 2015 08:15pm

Hi Katherine ~

I mistakenly thought that Nikki Blanton had written this blog entry.  Is there any way that you could either email it back to me, so I could email it to her, or could you send it on to her? 

Meanwhile, I love what you wrote!

Thank you so much! 

All the best,

Wow - that is so POWERFUL! In our talking heads, scientific-obsessed society we need the reminder to tune in to our heart.  It is the source of our inspiration, connection, creativity and love. And yes, emotions and thoughts do affect your physical health.
Love it.  Thank you smile

Wonderful Katherine! Thank you so much for sharing these ideas.

Mark Cucuzzella Feb 13th, 2015 07:35am

this is so true and was the original emphasis of the first cardiac rehab developed by Lydiard in New Zealand in the early 1960s…this is when we told heart attack patients to “rest” in the US.  Mark Cucuzzella MD

Toni Ferguson Feb 16th, 2015 08:16am

Perfectly said. Thank you for sharing.

Thank you and blessings to you: your insights are a gift to those who are fortunate enough to be connected to your uplifting energies.  Helps with our running too!

What are your thoughts?

Please enter the word you see in the image below:

Top 100 Runnning Blogs award
A Chi Running Love Letter image

A Chi Running Love Letter

I am 51 years old and always wanted to be a runner (even had recurring dreams about running), but I always walked so heavy that when I ran even for 3 minutes, I invariably got shin splints. My boss told me about Chi Running and I downloaded the book on to my Nook ...

Read This Story >

Over a million happy runners can't be wrong.

Watch our FREE video series and run easier and better than you ever imagined. Feel the difference in your next run!