I have been working out with a heart rate monitor this summer. At first it kind of freaked me out. Watching my heart respond to the stress I was putting it through was crazy, and sometimes discouraging. (I think I might be a hummingbird) The worst was determining my max-heart rate, which is usually somewhere around 220 minus your age but can be higher or lower. I took my road bike up a steep mountain road as fast as I could and three-quarters of the way into the climb found out just how fast my heart can beat. At one point I was convinced it was going to explode.
Usually when I ride I am focusing on speed and cadence. How fast I am going and how many times in a minute my pedals are turning. Now I am not just thinking about my legs and lungs while riding, I am also watching my heart. One article I read suggested that long rides keeping your heart in a low zone are better for you than just constantly riding yourself into the ground. Though it seems counterintuitive, by riding slower you can supposedly become faster.
As a result I have taken a number of rides where my goal has been solely to keep my heart in certain zones. This has been harder than I would have thought. On the flat roads it’s not a big deal as I found my typical riding pace kept me in the sweet spot naturally. But downhill I have to work like crazy to keep my heart from dropping too low.
The most difficult and at times humiliating, has been anytime there is an incline in the road. Since this is Montana (mountain in spanish) that is very often. I love to accelerate and bound up hills but if I do that my heart goes too fast. On steep sections I have to slow down so much that it is hard to stay upright, my heart just one beat away from breaking into a zone I am trying to avoid. On one of these hills I was actually passed by a chick–a soccer mom on a ten-speed. It bothered me more than I care to admit.
God has been speaking to me through all of this loud and clear. A few weeks ago I was cruising up a false-flat and sped up, but then I noticed my heart began to race and I let off and as I did I muttered to myself, “it doesn’t matter how stupid this feels, all that matters is that I keep my heart in the right place.” As the words escaped my lips I realized this wasn’t about exercise. This was about life.
As the miles ticked by all I could think about was how it is so easy to focus on metrics that don’t matter. How much I believe I am accomplishing, how fast I am going, or the way I stack up compared to others. When you let those things set your pace you quickly get out of your zone. God wants us to ignore every other impulse and keep our hearts set in the right direction.
“Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life.” Proverbs 4:23