Today we are speaking with the amazing Rhonda Catt as she shares about her personal experience with heart health. We will dive into how her close connection to this topic has radically shaped her day-to-day life, and influenced the way she uses her platform as a facility owner and trainer to positively impact others.
Let's get started, shall we?
Question: Who are you, and what is your role at the Training House?
Answer: I am Rhonda Catt, and a Co-Owner of the Training House. I have been in the industry since the early 90's, and I have been a facility owner since 2011.
Q: What is your favourite part of the Training House community?
A: The ability to feel safe and be authentic. I have met some of my best friends due to my career here.
Q: Today we are discussing heart health, and I want to hear why you believe this topic is important for people to understand? A: My high school sweetheart and husband died of a heart attack two weeks after his 46th birthday. November 2015. -- I definitely have a deeper appreciation for heart health and mental health since that happened.
I believe that one of the biggest failures in the fitness industry is our focus on fat loss instead of starting with the basics and keeping it simple. If we emphasized the importance of heart health alongside someone's specific goals, we can encourage and equip them to live a healthier, more well-rounded lifestyle. Cardiovascular function is what allows us to perform well, and improving the capacity of the heart will only benefit us in all aspects of sport and life. Health and fitness marketing is about fat loss, and the public is so concerned about their ability to lose fat that they don't stop to pay attention to what is happening on the INSIDE! What we cannot see! How the heart can function. The efficiency of it to pump blood throughout the rest of the body.
Being active can give you a false mindset of invincibility. Traditional marketing regarding heart attacks can leave so much information out of the picture, such as stress and hormones, and testosterone levels. It can become very generic (ie. family history, smoker, obesity, high cholesterol, etc.) which takes away from heart disease being our LEADING KILLER!
My husband was the "picture of perfect health". No traditional markers and yet he died of a massive heart attack. It's what they call "the widow maker" due to the location of the blockage.
Q: What are three steps that someone can take to get healthier? A: 1) Start with improving aerobic capacity. Slow and steady state cardio. This is your number one resource for improving the capacity of the heart to pump blood efficiently. To pump blood with more force in one beat. To pump more blood in one beat.
2) Get regular checkups with your doctor. 40 isn't too young to start! If something feels different, do not ignore it! Our body can show so many signs that aren't extreme yet they can be ongoing. Nagging signs that something just isn't right. Extreme fatigue is something that can be blamed on so many things yet no one thinks that it is a sign that the heart is struggling to do its job!
3) REDUCE STRESS! Stress is the silent killer! It increases inflammation! Our negative reaction to stress puts us into a fight or flight sympathetic state. This is a stressed state. There is good and bad stress, and it is when we cannot recognize the bad stress as well as how we react to it that plays a role in declining heart health. BREATHING can be the best way to shift into a relaxed state and help reduce stress. Finding breathing strategies to reduce stress should be a high priority.
Monitoring heart rate variability (HRV) is another huge way to track stress, and learn to become resilient towards it. The greater variation of activity between our heart beats, the more we can tolerate stress. There are many different tools and apps we can use to monitor this; see below for our list of helpful resources.
Q: How has your personal experience with heart health shaped your day-to-day life?
A: My husband's death has given me a new, deeper level of appreciation for mental health. I was very much a go go go person, push the body, bottle up negative emotions and never truly realized how I dealt with stress. Peter's death destroyed everything about me. I fell into a deep depression, dealt with a high level of anxiety and fear, sadness with no idea how I was ever going to survive it. I wanted to quit my career and hide from everyone. Emotionally I was destroyed and doing all I could to be a good mother to our boys. They were the only reason for me being alive today.
All of the emotional turmoil played a number on my physical health. From heart palpitations, to sleep issues and memory loss... it wasn't until three years after his death when I started to look at what was happening to myself. I pushed everything to the side through physical exercise but I wasn't taking charge of the strategies for improving my mental and emotional health.
Emotionally, we must take charge! We must find ways to increase relaxation and breathing strategies, and decompression through low strain movement. I still struggle but at least I recognize the importance of it. Heart health is impacted by our stressful behaviour. It can kill! Something as simple as recovery breathing can improve heart function.
I have become more open about my struggles through grief because the more we talk, the more people we can help. I have kept pushing the message of heart health through "Peter's Story" which is a heart health awareness campaign. The more I talk and share, the more families can be spared from our mistakes.
We are not invincible. Just because you lead a healthy lifestyle and eat healthily, doesn't mean you are guaranteed a long, healthy life, especially if you are not paying attention to the mental and emotional side of health.
Educate yourself as much as possible. Stop thinking of exercise in terms of fat loss or inch loss. Start thinking of improving your health on the things that you CANNOT SEE!
Give your heart top priority!
More resources surrounding this topic:
-Facebook: Peter's STORY
-Blogpost by Rhonda Catt called "The One About Signs" which discusses the telltale signs of a heart attack.
-App that is built to "help people stress less, breathe more and even sleep better ... skills learned in just a few minutes a day" ~ Headspace: Meditation & Mindfulness
-App for "real-time heart rate monitoring" ~ Polar Beat
-App to manage stress & energy: Welltory
-Sleep & activity tracker: Oura Ring
*If you or someone you know is grieving from a loss, here is the number to the British Columbia Bereavement Hotline: 604-738-9950.
Tune in next month for a post by Ryan Sarazin on training your mindset to reach your highest athletic potential.
See you then!
-The Training House Team