With many things in life—books, cars, that online recipe you tried out the other night—something looking good from the outside doesn’t mean everything’s in order under the surface. But, in the end, isn’t that all that really counts? If your heart and lungs are being overworked and your stress level is shooting through the roof, does it matter what size pants you wear?
“The thing with resting heart rate is, what you’re trying to recondition is an entire system,” says Brazil. “So it’s the entire cardiac system, but it’s also the respiratory system and the nervous system and how this entire system controls heart rate.” When workouts get too intense, the heart can go overboard trying to pump blood to the muscles. Consider this another reason to strengthen muscles in the entire body. “If you do a nice full-body workout, the muscles get stronger,” he says. “They act more efficiently, and less oxygen is needed to make them go at a very high rate, so your heart doesn’t have to work as hard to make your body move.”
In addition to the body, try to avoid stress on the mind as well. For this, Reiner suggests yoga, meditation, and other activities that encourage mind-body connections. These help fit-seekers develop practices they can use in their everyday lives to calm down. “Also, find a kind of cardio—perhaps a low-impact or moderate level of cardio—that you enjoy,” she says, “and spend time doing it. Find a TV show that you like or a book that you enjoy reading and bring it to the gym. Use exercise as an oasis rather than an obligation.”