The Experiment Continues…PART ONE: Heart Rates


The experiment continues.

Over the last couple of weeks, my plan has consisted of swimming, biking, running and strength training sessions.  I’ve logged the workouts in an app that I LOVE, called Training Peaks, recording within the application all of the data that comes along with 21st century technology (heart rate monitors, triathlon GPS watches, and my IPrecious).  I’ve completed a number of training sessions in all four disciplines, so that I have a fairly decent-sized sample size in order to crunch some numbers that will actually mean something to my training and improvement.  My next few blog posts will briefly talk about the data.  I’ll start off with one set of data points that I find increasingly interesting and even…dare I say…helpful.

Heart Rates

I’ve figured out what my threshold and max heart rates are.  I cannot stand wearing a heart rate monitor, since it feels like a wrestler with the skinniest arms in the world has just snuck behind me and is constantly attempting to back suplex me in order to win the WWE Intercontinental Title.

woooo

(That’s the Nature Boy, Ric Flair….the most awesomest wrestler of all time, ever…period.)

I began wearing a heart rate monitor daily during my running and cycling sessions.  I did this so that I could create a data sample and see what the numbers tell me.  According to some calculations, an athlete’s max heart rate is supposed to be 220 minus the person’s age.  I’m 45 years young, so that makes my maximum heart rate 175.  Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve had some challenging training sessions where I’ve amped up intensity in order to a) crank up my metoblism for the rest of the day, thereby burning more calories as I sit at work and click away on a keyboard, and b) train myself to handle harder efforts for longer periods of time, thereby improving my finishing kick for a marathon and also improving my ability to bring myself back under control early during a marathon or ultra after I catch myself going out too fast.

So now that I found out that my maximum heart rate was 175, I now needed to figure out what my heart rate should be during training.  What range should my heart be pounding away at during different types of runs (tempo runs, speed work, my weekly long run, recovery runs, etc). Those ranges are normally estimated by first figuring out what your Anaerobic Threshold is (“AT”).  Here’s what Competitor Magazine had to say about AT:

“…Like maximum heart rates, AT is also specific to each individual, but is trainable. Your AT is the point at which enough anaerobic metabolism occurs for more lactic acid to be produced than can be rapidly cleared from the body. This occurs from 65-95% of your maximum heart rate, depending on your fitness level.  You can recognize this level as that point where breathing becomes labored but maintainable. If you continue to increase your pace, you soon will reach failure and will have to slow down to continue…”

So based on the numbers, my AT would be 65-95% of my Maximum Heart Rate (175), depending on my fitness level.  I guess I fall somewhere between The Rock and Meatloaf when it comes to fitness level, so I estimated my AT to be 80% of my maximum.  So this brings my AT to the magic number of 140.

Great.  I have two numbers.  So what?  How can I use the data to improve?  OK, great question.  Once again, I’m going to refer to Competitor Magazine for some ideas.  They first suggest breaking your training down into 3 specific zones within which you’ll train:

“Zone 1: Aerobic sessions, 30-50 beats below your AT
Zone 2: Threshold training, 5-15 beats below your AT
Zone 3:
Anaerobic (interval) training, 5-10 above your AT”

How much training an athlete should do within each of these zones depends on the sport in which he / she is competing, an the corresponding distance to be covered.

Some people make a decision to run 100% of the time, paying attention to their zones.  Based on what I have heard and read, heart rate training is an awesome methodology if you are training over a long period of time.  It also takes some serious patience, since the concept (at least at the outset) is really running slower now to go faster in the long run.  You basically train your heart and your body to produce more energy / speed / power while requiring less from your heart to do so.  Your body becomes much more efficient.

At this point, I’m just really touching the surface of heart rate monitors and their use during training.

How Am I Using This Data?

I’ve decided to focus on my heart rate twice a week.  Once during a run (Monday mornings), and once during a cycling training session (Monday morning).  Basically, Monday is Happy Heart Day for me.

My workout schedule calls for an early morning run starting at 4am, where I look to cover 10 miles.  This run focuses on Zone 2, where I want to keep my heart rate 5-15 beats lower than my AT.  Then I transition to the gym, where I get about 30-40 minutes to chill out, grab some water and rest before hopping on a bike and cranking up the intensity a bit.  A Monday morning cycling session is 45 minutes in duration, and my goal is to train within 5-10 beats above my AT.

The rest of the week, I complete my training without thinking too much about my heart rate.  Why? Because I want to see if there is a difference in the way I perform.  Everything I’ve read makes me conclude that there should be a difference in the quality of my performance on Monday – but my sample data needs to grow in order for me to become more confident in my assessment.

Results Thus Far

I actually do have some news that I can report at this early stage: since I’ve completed a majority of my training (way too much, actually) at heart rate that his more rapid than my goals should be, I received an automated email from Training Peaks that stated that my new maximum heart rate is now 190.  So this means that my AT has increased to 152.  So my Monday morning run will be completed from now on at a pace that keeps my heart at around 142-145 beats per minute.  If I see the rate going higher than 145, I have to slow up and bring it under control.  When I transition to the bike on Monday morning,  my goal will be to hang around 155 beats per minute for the session.

 

 

Day Two of the Experiment


October 6th 2016

The Day’s Game Plan:

Up at 4am.

Thursday is Long Swim Day.  it starts with a 45 minute light run, after which I hustle home, grab my workout bag and head to the gym.  The goal here was to log 2000 yards in the pool, and then hit the weights.

I’m guessing that I’m already going to be achy by the evening, but the goal one again is to amp up my metabolism by doing a workout at home that primarily focuses on core strength.  Again, I’m hoping that by amping up my metabolism right before bed, my body will burn more calories that it normally does while I sleep.  I’m scheduled to weigh myself on Sunday after my long workout, so we’ll see this this slight adjustment makes any dent in my number.

Nutrition-wise, I’ll once again bring lunch to the office.  I’m going protein heavy in the morning with some hard boiled eggs and a shake, but this time I am lowering the calorie total a little.  Let’s see how long I can hold out during the day before a crave a damn Three Musketeers bar.

The Outcome

Well the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.  Playoff baseball got the best of me – a great pitching duel and a 3 run homer in the 9th send the Giants into the division series and send the Mets to the golf course.  As a result, I didn’t get enough sleep and woke up too late to swim.  So I went to plan B: get home on time this evening and work out heavy to make up for the miss.

Started off the day solid nutrition-wise, having a protein shake and 3 hard boiled eggs for breakfast.  It got me through most of the morning…until I cheated and had a small chocolate muffin for absolutely no good reason whatsoever.  This is the kind od nonsense that has to stop, and I’ll need to experiment with methods of re-training myself to crave better snacks in the future.

I hit the gym by 6pm, and absolutely CRUSHED 2,000 yards in 45 minutes.  I’m going to be sore tonight – swimming at a race pace (I need to be able to cover about 1,100 yards in 26-27 minutes or less by Ironman time) really works muscles that I didn’t know I even had.

I then made the judgement call of hitting the weights for about 30 minutes.  Nothing heavy – just a basic full body workout with weight is was manageable (not trying to bench press a Buick).  Since  few people have asked about strength training, I added a page on this blog that outlines my usual strength training plan.  It’s nothing fancy – just basic stuff.

I felt good, so I decided to punish myself a bit my forcing myself to hit the dreadmill for 30 minutes.  I figured that I could use the time on the dreadmill to force myself to maintain a pace that sped up every minute I was on there.  So I set the thing to start at an 11:30 pace, and then made myself run just a hair faster every 60 seconds.  I was sprinting by the end, unable to control my breathing.  My lungs got away from me, which almost resulted in me heaving all over my shoes.  Five minutes later…I felt awesome.

Lessons Learned

  • Sleep is key.  Either stick to my sleep plan by hitting the sack by 9:30, or budget in an evening workout.  Don’t wait until morning, when I find myself sleeping through my alarm.
  • I didn’t take in enough calories yesterday.  As a result, I didn’t sleep well and I woke up hungry.  Although the protein filled me up before I left home, the calorie debt made that chocolate muffin extremely tempting.

Today’s Nugget(s)

On this day in 1783, Benjamin Hanks patents the self-winding clock.

On this day in 1882, the first World Series game was played.  (Cincinnati beat Chicago, 4-0).

Day One of the Science Experiment…


October 5th 2016

The Day’s Game Plan:

Up at 4am.

Wednesday is Speed Day, so warm up with a 1.5 mile run around the lower loop of Central Park, until I hit the base of Cat Hill.  The goal is to complete four hill repeats before heaving all over my bright orange Brooks.

Once I wrapped that up, I waddle home, grab my workout bag and head to the gym.  The goal here was to log 1000 yards in the pool, and then hit the weights.

In the evening, the goal is to amp up my metabolism by doing a workout at home that primarily focuses on core strength.  I’m hoping that by amping up my metabolism right before bed, my body will burn more calories that it normally does while I sleep.

Nutrition-wise, I’ll bring lunch to the office so that I’m not tempted to eat what I really want: a chicken parm hero from Luigi’s.  I’m also going to go protein heavy in the morning with some hard boiled eggs and a shake.

The Outcome

Well, I got up in time and knocked out a relaxed swim.  1000 yards in 28:01.  Water seems to be my natural element – although I know it’s a training session, swimming is almost therapeutic to me.  I got these cool-looking new googles too – they make me feel like Fonzi.

the-fonz

I changed into my running stuff and ran 1.5 miles as a warm-up to Cat Hill.  The hill is about .35 of a mile, with a steep incline at the outset which tapers off with about 1/10 to go, so hill repeats on this section of the park are not very enjoyable to a shlub like me.  I got 4 repetitions in before I had to call it a morning – there were too many bikes going in the wrong direction within the running lane, and if one of them hit me this morning I was not in the mood to be Mr. Forgiveness.  Instead, I would have channeled my inner Ric Flair and suplexed the schmuck.

woooo

I knew it was time to call it a morning when one of these two-wheeled whackjobs flew by me – without a helmet – while in the designated runners lane – going opposite the flow of traffic – while texting.  Given the fact that it was before 6am and sunrise still hadn’t provided some degree of natural lighting to the park, this guys was a rolling accident about to happen.  Now don’t get me wrong: I love cycling.  As a triathlete and Ironman hopeful, it’s the one discipline that I need to spend the most time on.  However, when I ride I try to respect the rules of the road and those around me.  I got the work in, so I felt fairly accomplished by the time I got home.

I stuck to my protein-heavy breakfast: a couple of hard-boiled eggs and a shake.  I’m trying to get myself to stop craving sugary awesomeness like Oreos (seriously – Oreos should be a darn food group – it should go Oreos, Pizza, Pop Tarts and General Tso’s Chicken).  Kicking the sugar craving will NOT be easy.  I have absolutely no discipline, so saying no to those round tasty little pieces of Nabisco heaven is going to feel like root canal without the Novocaine.  However, the juice is worth the squeeze.  So the first real experiment that this new adventure has triggered deals with diet.  I’ve come to realize that the things I now need to say “no” to historically have constituted a decent size of my overall caloric intake.   So switching to a much healthier selection will not be easy.  It also didn’t help that I was lazy this morning and forgot to put together a sizable salad for lunch.  As a result, lunch consisted of a couple of handfuls of pretzel pieces.  This will cause my overall calorie count for the day to be less than the total I have budgeted for myself: 2,300.  I’ll need to compensate by having a bit more protein tonight.

Had a simple salad with a couple of ravioli for dinner.  Figured that I am in severe calorie debt today – I can tell from the raging migraine I’ve been dealing with and the stats on Myfitnesspal.com.  (Yes, I am using a website to count my darn calories and make myself more accountable – would much prefer using some Deal-A-Meal cards).  I wanted to stay away from heavy carbs at night, but I think I’ll need the efficient energy that comes from carbs in the morning.

The evening workout, right before I crashed tonight, was annoying.  I am not a huge fan of core work, because it’s a weak point for me.  We’ll see over the coming weeks whether the concept of cranking up the metabolism right before bed helps burn more calories.

I look at the first 2 weeks of this experiment as a data-gathering phase.

Today’s Nugget

October 5th 2011: Steve Jobs passed away at the age of 56.

Crazy Ones

 

 

Training Log: May 12th & 13th 2016


Wednesday was big for me.  Yesterday was a big step backward,  The knee barked again – and I listened by taking a rest day.  I need to get back into a groove after a bit of a slump, and that’s exactly what will happen.  By the time I found myself in front of the boob tube watching The Avengers for the 28th time, I was big-time sore and it took a bit of effort to get my lazy copious backside off the couch.  The fact that I fit in am AM and PM session was HUGE for me – because that’s the habit I need to form in order for me to have the best chance at becoming an Ironman this year.  Most of the Ironmen I have spoken to have been willing to share their training plans and ideas with me readily – they seem to simply love speaking about the sport.  So I’ve developed what I think is a fair estimate of the average number of hours they log in a normal training week.  The number scared me a little:  30.  So – I need to form solid habits, I need to do it quick, and they need to include two-a-days during the week.

 

Since yesterday felt like a success, I need to build on that and begin to develop the two-a-day habit.

  1. 4am Run: shooting for at least 6 miles this morning.  Easy pace.  Slower than yesterday.  I beat myself up yesterday, and I cannot do that to myself every single day – I’ll break down.  And that would suck.
  2. 5am Swim:  I need to work on my form, so I need to go find some wisdom.  My gym and my triathlon team offer weekly sessions at my gym’s pool, so I need to start showing up to them.  However – before I do – I need to build a simple base.  Once I can crank out 250 yards in the pool (5 complete laps) without stopping for a breather, I’ll be ready to join the other tadpoles in the class setting without worrying about looking like an utter fartknocker.  So this morning’s session will require me to log 1000 yards (20 laps) in a 10 x 100 format.  This should take somewhere around 30 minutes.  The Ironman swim is 2.4 miles (4,224 yards) in less than 2 hours and twenty minutes.  for my little 25 yard pool, a complete Ironman swim would be 169 laps.  169.  Crap.  Based on the math, I have approximately 54 seconds to complete each lap (50 yards) in order to give myself a small cushion of time as a buffer to get my butt out of the water and into T1 (the transition area where triathlete go from the swim to the bike).  To say I have work to do is a SEVERE understatement.  This should be fun!
  3. 6:30am Cross Training: This is a class that apparently combines endurance and strength.  I’ve gotten over the hump in my first classroom setting within the gym – now it’s time to see whether I can keep up with the Jones’ in a class that doesn’t involve me peddling a bike like a rapid lunatic for 45 minutes.  My legs will be a bit tired from the run and I should be feeling it all over from the swim (now that I know I need to become the Ironman equivalent of Aquaman, I’m going to be so focused on lap speed that I bet I’ll go harder than I ever have before in the pool), so this class should SUCK.  And as Tolstoy once said, “one must embraceth the suckatude.”
  4. 6:30pm Spin Class: On the way home from work, I’m going to shoot for 17 miles over the course of 45 minutes on the bike.  My speed has increased – so I am psyched about that.

In addition, I get to visit my doctor today.  Oy joy.

Training Results:

 

Training Log: May 8th 2016


Sundays are normally considered a recovery day.  However, I am training for my first Ironman and right now I am really worried about creating a base.  I need repetition to breed some confidence, and the only way that’s going to happen is if I put myself through the steps of a triathlon as often as I can.  I am betting that I’ll still be achy from Saturday’s workout – so this one should really test my current level of preparedness.

Schedule:

  1. RUN – I’ll start the day with a 90 minute run.  Looking to rack up at least 8 miles.  Any more is money in the bank.  I need to get to the gym by 7am.
  2. SWIM – Stage 2 of the morning is a one hour swim session from 7 to 8am. I’m looking to piece together 100yd repeats, and I’d like to see how many yards I can rack up in 60 minutes.  In an Ironman, you have 2 hours and 20 minutes to swim 4,400 yards.  So I really need to nail at least 2,000 yards at this point in order to feel a little confident.
  3. STRENGTH – After the swim, my shoulders, back and arms will be tired.  So at 8am, I’ll transition to some strength training.  The goal here is NOT to release my inner Ronnie Coleman – shooting for low weight and high reps instead of trying to primarily build muscle mass.  The goal here is to further fatigue my arms and back – really burn them out – before hopping on the bike.
  4. BIKE – 45 minutes  of spin class.  Rack up at least 16.5 miles.  Case closed. The goal here is to just stay focused on getting through the distance feeling as crappy as I am sure I’ll feel by this point.
  5. YOGA – That’s right – yoga.  Again.  Another Yoga For People That Cannot Touch Their Toes With a Ruler class for me.  By the end of this process, you guys will just refer to me as the Bronx Dali Frackin’ Lama.  Namaste, dammit.

Today I am trying to mix things up a bit.  It will work my endurance by the simple fact that I’ll need to work for a prolonged period of time.  However, this test gets harder by forcing myself to try new exercises that should work muscle groups that ordinarily don’t get stressed during my regular routines.

Results:

  1. RUN – I felt strong this morning.  the pace was slow but steady, and a little soggy.  The highlight: high-fiving a cameraman for one of those morning shows shot in Times Square.
  2. SWIM – 20 laps.  1,000 yards.  slow as all hell.  If I don’t pick this up, I’ll never make it to the bike portion of the Ironman.  And swimming is normally a strong suit for me – so I hopped out of the pool royally pissed off.
  3. STRENGTH – I transitioned to the weight room and did 4 sets of my normal
  4. full body routine.  By the time I finished I was completely burnt out.
  5. BIKE – the bike portion of my morning was cut short with a stabbing pain that developed on the inside part of my right knee.  that freaked me out a bit – because my bad knee is my left knee.  Wonderful…..
  6. YOGA -I scratched yoga class today.  why? because there’s some pain in my knee and I’m starting to worry about it.  The doc will check it out Thursday – so that will suck….

I did some research – and I found that Caesar used to require his legionnaires to enjoy wine before battle.  Better late than never – now where the hell is my corkscrew?

Training Log: May 7th 2016


Saturdays are tough workout days.  It’s usually long run day, so I have tried to pack on the workload that will build overall endurance and also round out demands on each core muscle group.  By the end of this long day, I should need a damn nap.

Schedule:

  1. RUN – I start the day with a long, relaxed run.  Out the door at 6am, and arrive at the gym just before 8am.
  2. BIKE – Stage 2 of the morning is a 45 minute spin class. This class on Saturday mornings is usually a lot of fun.  Great music.
  3. STRENGTH – After biking, I’ll take some time and work on core strength.  Gotta release the inner Thor.

Today is basically me getting into a core form of training routine.  Most days, running, biking and strength training will be a part of morning – so I need to build a base.

Results:

  1. RUN – that was fun.  very relaxed  8 miler got me down Broadway to union square and back.  the blah weather sucks, but jamming with a homeless dude to Stevie Wonder made up for it.
  2. BIKE – spin class.  45 minutes – 17.4 miles crushed.  Felt good afterward.
  3. STRENGTH – The Woo Dude was not around, so this workout was uneventful.  I just realized who the Woo Dude from the other day looked like…..he was the spitting image of Andrew Dice Clay’s character from that movie Casual Sex.  The Vin Man.

Totals:

Swim –  0 yds

Bike – 55 miles 

Run – 17 miles

Strength Training – 1 hour

Cross Training (Classes) – 1 hour

Yoga (yes- yoga.  That’s not a damn typo) – 0

Training Log: May 6th 2016


Fridays are normally a more low-key of the week, as the weekend training schedule is usually pretty demanding.

Schedule:

  1. RUN – Heading outside tomorrow morning EARLY.  Looking to be out the door at 4am.  Going to shoot for a 10 miler this morning, and I should be at my gym at 6am to change out of my sweaty clothes and into stuff to ride in.  4am in Manhattan is pretty interesting….
  2. BIKE – 6:15am Spin Class.  The goal here is to clip off at least 17 miles in the 45 minute class.  This can be done by holding a pace somewhere between 21-22mph.
  3. CROSS TRAINING – At 5:30pm, I’m heading to a cardio Sculpt class.  THIS should be funny, because I don’t play well with others.  And….well…..yesterday may carry over a bit and I’ll WOOOOOOOOO for no reason whatsoever.

This morning’s workout is all about endurance.  I need to develop this routine so that knocking out double-digit mileage does not tax my system to the point where I am fried for the rest of the day.  This week I am treating myself like a lab rat, trying to find out how I react to levels of  physical stress.

Results:

  1. RUN –OK, so I called an audible while under the awning of my apartment building this morning.  At 5am I decided to hit the gym and mix up some stretching, ab work and sprint intervals instead of slogging through an extremely rainy early morning.  I completed 30 minutes of interval training on the DREADMILL, with 2 minutes sprinting and one minute of recovery.  Began at a 10min pace and actually pushed VERY hard at the end, getting the pace to be sub 7 minutes for the last minute.  I felt awesome at the end.
  2. BIKE – After the interval training, I changed into some fresh workout gear and hopped on the bike.  The class worked on sprints here as well, getting rpms up over 95+ at times, with decent resistance.  So by the end, I logged over 17 miles in 45 minutes…the morning overall made me feel exhausted but accomplished.
  3. CROSS TRAINING – So I took an hour’s worth of cross training classes this evening.  First was a Cardio Sculpt class – which was 45 minutes that left me wading in a pool of sweat, following by an Ab Lab class  – only 15 minutes long…but I felt cranky by the end of it.  Ab exercises are not my forte….

Totals to Date:

Swim –  ___ yds

Bike – 38 miles

Run – 9 miles

Strength Training – 1 hour

Cross Training (Classes) – 2 hours

Yoga (yes- yoga.  That’s not a damn typo) – ___ hours