Put money in your heart’s bank account

If going to the gym for hours on end to do the same thing over and over doesn’t feel right, you’re on to something. Because it isn’t natural.

Forcing your body to perform the same continuous cardiovascular exercise by repeating the same movement, at the same rate, thousands of times over, without variation, without rest, is unnatural.

This type of demand does not exist in nature. You never see animals moving that way. Our ancient ancestors never moved like that – unless they were under great stress.

Yet endless moderate exercise is what you’re told will be the only way to make your heart “healthy.” In fact, this is “National Heart Month” and you’ll see endless advice like this for the next few weeks. Just today I read an article advising that “2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate aerobic activity is recommended each week.”

But moderate aerobic activity for long periods of time is the opposite of what your heart needs for top performance.

Today I’ll show you what I mean, and how you can easily boost your heart’s power by using a simple alternative.

You see, your body adapts to whatever you throw at it. And so, when you do “cardio” at the gym, your body adapts… but in the wrong direction.

Cardiovascular endurance exercise “downsizes” your heart. Your output shrinks, and what you get is efficiency. That means you economize your heart’s power so you can go long distances.

The problem is, no one ever stopped to think if training like this – building endurance – was the right thing to do.

And as it turns out, you give up something much more valuable by training for endurance with cardio.

The first question you’re probably asking is, what’s wrong with increasing your endurance?

The problem with it is, instead of building heart strength, it robs your heart of vital reserve capacity. Your heart’s reserve capacity is that portion of its highest possible output that you don’t use during usual activity.

Think of it as money in the bank. If you have $50,000 in your checking account, you won’t be bothered by a $1,500 repair you didn’t expect. But if you only have a tiny amount in reserve, any surprise could mean disaster.

Your heart works the same way. If your heart is in good shape and you only use 40 percent of its capacity during your normal daily routine, you’ll have enough reserve power to help you when you need it. But if you give up your reserve power by running and doing long-duration cardio, a sudden stressful event can trigger a heart attack.

Heart attacks don’t occur because you lack endurance. They occur when there’s a sudden increase in demand that exceeds your heart’s capacity to handle it.

Giving up your heart’s reserve capacity to adapt to unnatural bouts of continuous, prolonged, durational exercise only increases your risk of sudden cardiac death.

And endurance exercise doesn’t just weaken your heart, it mimics the effects of stress, poor diet, and aging.

A groundbreaking study of long-distance runners showed that after a workout, the blood levels and oxidation of LDL cholesterol and triglycerides increase. And as I read further into the study I found that prolonged running disrupts the balance of blood thinners and thickeners. This has the effect of increasing inflammation and blood clotting – both signs of heart distress.1

Cardiovascular endurance exercise is bad for your bones, too. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism found that long-distance runners had reduced bone mass. This is true for both men and women – and women had an increased risk for osteoporosis, as well.2

So, instead, if you want a heart that’s ready for action at a moment’s notice, with the extra capacity to deal with stress, you can use a simple alternative to endurance exercise.

Think “cardiopulmonary exertion.” This means that in place of exercising for longer and longer, you make your workouts brief but “progressive.”

What do I mean by progressive? You start off easy at a level that’s comfortable for you, and then increase the difficulty (pick up the pace or increase the resistance).

The key is, don’t increase the time you spend exerting yourself. Just increase the challenge a little bit each time. In this way, you’ll be training your heart, lungs and muscles for strength and peak capacity but not endurance. This reprograms your body to cut fat, stay lean, prevent pain and build real heart strength.

In fact, here’s a capacity-building movement you can try right at home. It’s straight from my PACE Express DVD Program and it’s called a Jack Knife. The trick to getting the most out of the Jack Knife is to keep your legs and arms completely straight through the entire period of exertion.

jacknife

1. First, lie with your back on the ground or floor. Lay your arms and your legs flat so that your body forms a straight line.

2. Lift your arms, with your palms facing the ceiling, and your legs off the ground 12 inches.

3. Inhale as you lift your straight arms and straight legs up so that your hands touch your shins, and your body looks like a closed folding knife.

4. Exhale as you lower your limbs back down quickly – but don’t let your arms and legs touch the floor. This is very important to work your muscles enough to deplete their glycogen and enter the supra-aerobic zone.

5. Lift again, keeping your arms and legs straight. Do this for as many repetitions as you can, for three sets. Remember to recover fully between each set.

If you’ve never done a Jack Knife before, start with just a few. Vary how fast you do them and how many you can do for a true cardiopulmonary workout.


1. Liu M, Bergholm R, Makimattila, S, et al. “A marathon run increases the susceptibility of LDL to oxidation in vitro and modifies plasma antioxidants.” Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab.1999;276(6 pt 1): E1083-E1091.
2. Hetland ML, Haarbo J, Christiansen, C. “Low bone mass and high bone turnover in male long distance runners.” Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. 1993;77(3):770-775.