Ultramarathons. What , why and how are the questions I'm most commonly asked. Hopefully you find some answers here from my own personal perspective. My other blog at www.mile27.com.au/blog is full of information on running and health and fitness in general.

Friday, 15 May 2009

Do we have a limited number of heart beats and if so am I using them up in a hurry?

One theory I've heard mentioned to me is the concept that we all have a limited number of heart beats after which we die. The people espousing this thoery to me claim I am very quickly using up all my available heart beats and will come to a grinding halt well before my time. I thought about this for a while and decided I should look into it a bit more just to reassure myself that I'm not heading for an early grave. The results are very interesting



If we compare three people - me, someone who is moderately fit and trains for 3 hours per week and someone who does no exercise at all.

First of all lets consider the resting heart rate which is basically your heart rate when you are asleep. Mine is around 32( I've heard Lance Armstrongs is 28), an average fit male of 40 years of age is 60 and unfit would be 80.

Looking at exercise - I exercise an average of 12 hours per week, an average person 3 hours and obviuosly 0 for the unfit person. For the sake of comparison I'm assuming that for most of the day our heart rates are fairly constant and around 20 beats higher than resting and I'm assuming heart rate is another 20 beats higher than that when we walk to the tube, argue with our boss, get stressed driving in the car etc etc. I'm also assuming an average heart rate of 145 during exercise.

Here's the figures for a week.

Total hours = 168
Sleeping assuming 7 hours sleep = 7 x 7 = 49 hours
Exercise - me 12, average 3, unfit 0.
Time at 40 beats above resting - 2 hours per day = 14
Time at 20 beats above resting is whatever is left over.

Here is the total hear beats per week for each of the categorie
.......................................Me.......Average.....Unfit
Asleep ..............................94080...147000....176400
Exercising..........................121800....26100...........0
time at 20 above resting ......273000...428400....567000
time at 40 above resting.......67200....84000.....92400
Total heart beats per week...556080...685500....835800

Result is my heart beats 129,400 less times per week than an averagely fit person and 279,720 less times than someone unfit.

This means my heart takes 8.6 days to beat the same number of times as someone of moderate fitness beats in a week and 10.5 days to beat the same as someone who is unfit.

If we assume a lifespan of 75 for an unfit male, this equates to 3,259,620,000 heart beats. The average fit person will take 91 years to use this number of heart beats up and I will live to the grand old age of 112! So if anybody is around in the year 2081 come and look me up to see if my thoery is correct!

Obviously I have made some rather big assumptions for these figures but I think it illustrates the point that even if there is some truth to the theory of a finite number of heart beats then the fitter you are the better your chances of living longer!

Monday, 11 May 2009

Want to get away from it all?

It seems at the moment that there is no escape. We are either going to go bankrupt or lose our jobs because of the recession, will die of swine flu or be flooded out due to global warming. Every day there is another headline in the papers that if you believed was 100% accurate you may as well slit you wrists now rather than wait for the inevitable to happen.

No matter how much of an optimist you are it is difficult to ignore the constant bombardment of negative messages we are exposed to every day. What can we do about it? Well apart form the obvious i.e wash your hands regularly, cut down your spending and recycle I think running offers a fantastic way to get away from it all. Not just any old run however.


Our lives are run by routine – we wake up the same time at least five days a week, go to work, do essentially the same thing every day, see the same people, eat the same kinds of foods, go to the gym and do the same kinds of exercises or go for a run along the same route we always do. Obviously each day is different and you don’t have exactly the same thing to eat every day, each day at work is a little different and you don’t run exactly the same route but when was the last time you ate something you’ve never had before? How often a day at work is so different that you come home shocked at what happened at that day? How often do you do something completely different at the gym? How often do you go for a run somewhere completely different? The answer I am guessing is not very often.

You might argue we are all creatures of habit and we function better when we do the same thing all the time. If that is the case why do so many of us want to go on holidays and get away from it all. The truth is most of us, although spending most of our time doing the same activities, actually crave something different. We love to do things that really excite us and no matter how much you love doing something if you do the same thing every day you will soon tire of it.

So where am I heading with all this and what has it got to do with running? Well having moved house recently my regular running routes have changed and I haven’t enjoyed running so much for a long time. Not that I wasn’t enjoying running before but I have been looking forward to my runs more than usual. The amazing thing is, it is not as if I have moved to a totally different environment. I’ve moved approximately 2 miles away so am still well and truly in the middle of London. But just that small change has forced me to change some of my regular routes and made me explore different ones and even to see the same routes but in a different light. That hill seems a little harder when its 10 miles into my run instead of 3 for example.

Running somewhere different is a feast for the senses. You’ll see, hear, smell and touch different things and some of them might not be that great but at least they are different and every now and then you’ll discover a hidden gem which will leave you with a big smile on your face.

Recently I followed a path I hadn’t run along for well over a year and found myself running through fields and parks with no-one else around, no traffic noises, the sun was out and the sky a perfect blue. I was enjoying myself so much, instead of turning around after 90 minutes I added another 30 minutes onto an already long run just so I could enjoy the experience longer.

So if you want to get away from it all but your next holiday isn’t for a while simply try running somewhere different. You will see whole different neighbourhoods, or the same neighbourhood in a different light, discovers parks you didn’t know existed, find new hills to run down instead of up or vice versa and if you’re lucky you’ll discover a place that makes you leave the world behind and has you enjoying just being right where you are!