The Women's Journal

The Beat Goes On: Your Heart & Pilates

By  |  0 Comments
By Nancy Hawkins Rigg,
Founder and Owner, Forever Fit Foundation

Heart Disease is the leading cause of death in every developed country. Every American, Asian and European has a 40 percent chance of dying of heart disease and a 50 percent chance that his/her quality of life will be damaged by arterial aging disease. Damaged arteries slow down memory, slow the ability of organs to function and slow your sex life. When your heart is working right, it’s an astoundingly efficient machine. You supply the ingredients that dictate what runs through your body; what is going to damage or protect the heart through what you eat, how you exercise and how you respond to social and environmental stress. 

The Anatomy of Your Heart

Another way to think about you heart and vascular system is by picturing a subway or train system. Your heart is the main station, the hub, the place through which all trains must travel. The arteries and veins are the tracks and tunnels- the pathways that flow all over your body, dropping passengers (blood) to stations all over the body (the weekend train down south is especially crowded)! Now, if there’s a break in the tracks – or some kind of obstruction that won’t let the trains through – that’s when the customers get irate. If the blockage goes on long enough, it can put some organs right out of a job. In your body, a station without blood is a station that will shut down – and it could in turn shut down many stations around it. If that “weekend train” doesn’t make it to its final destination, for example, impotence occurs. To understand the concept a little better, let’s pull out the map and take a ride.

forever fit 1qt19

The Beat

When we feel our own pulse pressing upward to our skin, we tend to picture the heart beating like a drum, pushing outward on each beat. But the heart really squeezes or twists more than thumps. It begins like this: Electricity from special cells (pacemaker cells) – starting at the top of the heart and moving down – stimulates the heart muscle to squeeze blood out through the aortic valve. It’s like wringing a wet towel. The wave of blood that has been twisted out of the heart is ejected in the aorta itself, the body’s largest artery, which carries oxygen rich blood to the rest of the body. Once that happens, the heart relaxes – as if your hands had just let go of the towel. As it does, the coronary vessels which lie on the surface of the heart, also relax. Then the space between the tight muscle cells opens up, and the rich oxygenated blood that was just ejected from the heart fills the arteries on the heart’s surface and slips down between those cells and feeds them. Most of the ejected blood goes on to fuel the rest of the body – but not before the heart puts a “tax” on it, taking its first cut of the life sustaining fluid.  

Your heart has a very clever way of ensuring its own survival – and, therefore, Your survival. It takes care of itself first before it takes care of any other organ. Just like a mother eats food for herself before she feeds her baby milk, your heart has to get its fill of blood before it can accomplish its job of pumping elsewhere. It’s as if your body has its own little retirement fund for your future welfare: You pay a little bit to your heart first with each beat, and the better you are able to do that (by pumping blood through the coronary arteries), the better your life will be as you age. After the process of towel wringing – squeezing blood into the aorta followed by muscle relaxation – the heart feeding itself – then sixty or more times a minute, the “pacemakers” send out their next signal, beginning the process all over again.

The Chambers

There are four chambers of the heart. Right and Left Atrium, and Right and Left Ventricle. Just as there are chambers of the heart, there are chambers of the Pilates room. It may sound ominous like The Eagles Hotel California. Not to worry, you can check out any time you like – usually 30 to 60 minutes after you arrive! We have Reformer, Chair, Cadillac and Barrel personal and group training. Each has a special purpose and place in your fitness routine. Each are important for challenging your body in different planes of motion and movement patterns. Remember how important your heart (and soul) are in the role of life and fitness. Come try out our chambers and make your heart happy! 

Nancy Hawkins Rigg is the Founder and Owner of Forever Fit Foundation, a personal training business specializing in Pilates, Gyrotonic, Gyrokinesis, Yamuna Body Rolling and sport specific training. Forever Fit Foundation accepts clients at three sites: Dover and Rehoboth, Del., and Mendenhall Station, Pa., just over the Delaware line. A certified athletic trainer, she earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Delaware and her master’s degree in exercise science and sports medicine from Miami University in Ohio. Please call (302) 423-1816 or (302) 698-5201 to schedule an appointment or for more information.