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.

 

 

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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

 

 

Rollin’Old School…


This past weekend, I decided to mix the old with the new in a number of ways.  Let’s face it: we all have music from the 70’s that we love, and we all have some current music that finds its way onto our IPrecious.  Right?  So this weekend I made a playlist that mixed old rock with new stuff as the musical score for my workouts.  Why?  Because I was going to mix the new exercises I’ve been doing with some old school routines, resulting in a weekend of calorie-rockin’ workouts.

 

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On Saturday, I did a BRICK workout, which begins with cycling and then a quick transition to a run.  For me, that’s one of the newer workouts on my list, as I am a newbie to triathlons (plus, BRICK workouts are tough – and tough workouts take effort – and sweating results in a bad hair day for this dude).  The combination jacks up your metabolism and challenges you as an athlete.  I went home after finishing my run feeling rather awesome.

 

Sunday, it was time to roll old school with my workout.  I started by hitting the gym at 7am and I immediately hit the pool.  I think everyone has a “natural environment”, and mine is the water.  Ever since I was a little kid, I loved swimming.  I could spend all day in Long Island Sound or the pool at the New York Athletic Club, and return home tired yet happy.  So at 7am, I plopped into the pool at the gym and cranked out some laps.  After my laps were done, I dried off and headed to….the rowing machine.

 

The ergometer – or “erg”, as rowers call it – is a fantastic way of burning calories and having fun.  When I was in college, I was a member of the Iona College Crew Team…and we spent a TON of hours on the ergs, making our legs and lungs burn.  The hard work paid off – our team was awesome.  So I decided to test myself with a 2500 meter race.  OK – so I’m not as fast as I was over 20 years ago, but the exercise brought back wonderful memories….and from now on I’m scheduling an erg test for myself weekly.  A small nugget to look forward to in weeks to come.

 

While Lord knows I’m no coach, I can make this recommendation: if you want to kick-start your workout routine and you’re looking for something new and interesting to throw into the mix….go old school.

 

W-T-F.


Well, it’s been almost a month since I’m embarked on my Ironman journey, and what an educational few weeks it’s been. So let me take a few minutes to catch you up on what’s been going on. IN short, however, the past month can be summed up with three little letters: WTF. That’s right…

W – Water
I joined the Reebok Sports Club on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, mainly because they offer all the tools for me to train throughout the year (an indoor pool, an outdoor track as well as tons of dreadmills, and virtual cycling machines that are fairly fancy). Each weekday morning I find myself in the pool somewhere around 5:15am, getting my laps in. The first few mornings were rather humbling, to be quite honest. Being born and raised on City Island (a little island in the Bronx of approximately 5,000 – 6,000 residents), I’ve spent a ton of time on and in the water. So I just figured that the swim portion of the Ironman would be the part of the race that would concern me the least. Now, after four weeks of swimming alongside a couple of Ironmen and Half-Ironmen, I realize that I may be able to swim well…but I am truly not efficient in the water. And as far as endurance is concerned, I have some serious work to do. I went into this endeavor thinking that I’d just need to work on cycling in order to be successful. I was about as wrong as a person can be.

In order to move on to the cycling portion of the Ironman, I must complete the 2.4 mile swim in less than 2 hours and 20 minutes. 140 minutes. That’s all the time I have. I’ve watched YouTube videos of people being informed by race officials that their Ironman day was done as they hopped out of water with an official time of 2 hours and twenty minutes…and 7 seconds. That’s the stuff that nightmares are made of, when you train for this event. Of course, The Tool has begun to show up poolside, busting out one of those really creepy speedo bathing suits and inflatable floaties, along with a neon pink swim cap. I picture the little 4cm tall schmuck sitting on the edge of the pool, laughing at me as everyone makes me eat their wake as I clip off my laps. Each time I touch the wall where he’s perched, he holds up a rude sign: “2 hours, 20 minutes and 2 seconds…hahahaha”, “you’re as buoyant as a rock”, etc.

I have some real work to do. And I need to get to a point where the 140 minute limit does not scare me. I am NOT there yet. Not by a long shot.

(I’ll re-blog my entry where I introduce The Tool as my main antagonist shortly…)

T – Tricycle.
I signed up for the 2014 Ironman Texas and I didn’t even own a bike. I believe the last bike I owned was actually a Mongoose. I used to love riding my dirt bike….when I was 12. So how much different could this be?

Well….I’ve found out that it really is different than riding my old Mongoose with the thick dirt tires and the plastic racing number on the handle bars (oh yeah – my old Mongoose was pimped out. Big time).

For the first two weeks of training, I hopped out of the pool in the mornings and transitioned immediately to a virtual cycling station where I logged anywhere between 5-11 miles. The amount of sweat that riding these virtual bikes drew from me was ridiculous. Since this is all new, however, this cross-training has been an amazingly positive influence on my running. I’ve noticed an improvement in endurance and speed. So – note to everyone reading this – cross-training is a GOOD idea. It DOES help.

About two weeks ago, I conducted my search for my first real adult grown-up mature bicycle. I went to the local bike store, checked out the whole gamut of selections available (aluminum and carbon) and decided on a Scott Speedster. They fitted the bike for my specifications in the store…and, of course, I almost fell on them as I sat in the saddle for the first time. Unreal. I wasn’t even out of the store yet with my new bike, and I already almost caused a casualty. I couldn’t help but overhear some jackass proclaim “that guy should have training wheels…or better yet, fit him for a tricycle”. Now – anyone who knows me also knows who one of my heroes is: Dr. House. Honor dictates that I had to respond, channeling the good doc…

“Hey dipshit – are you sure you are allowed to be outside unattended? Now go home and tell your Mommy and Daddy that you’ve been a very bad boy. Then go to your room and don’t come out until you’re sorry for what you said.”

The laughter from the other people in the store was enough to change the mood in the store. Ten minutes later, I walked out with a new bike and a free helmet (as a gift for the good belly laugh).

I’ve been steadily raising the daily mileage to a morning ride of 12-15 miles completed in approximately 45-48 minutes. In order to continue on to the marathon portion of the Ironman, participants must complete the 112 mile cycling course by 5pm local time. So if an athlete exits the swim portion of the event in 2 hours and 19 minutes, and the race begins promptly at 7am, the athlete has approximately 7 hours and 50 minutes to complete the distance. This means that I’ll need to average an approximate speed of 15.5 miles an hour throughout the cycling portion of the Ironman in order to ensure that I have enough of a time cushion to transition to the marathon.

So far it seems to me that one of the keys to a successful Ironman attempt resembles the key to comedy: TIMING.

F – Frackin’ Running
While I’ve been continuing to participate in races each weekend, my weekly mileage is now beginning to creep up the way I had hoped, as I’ve now begun the marathon training season with the New York Road Runners Team for Kids (running on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays) and Team in Training (on Tuesdays). I have learned one fairly interesting concept: transitioning from a long bike ride to running in Central Park is REALLLLLLY hard. Your legs get into a rhythm while riding a bike at a fast, even pace. The lactic acid builds up in the thighs, and it’s got nowhere to go as you ride. Then, when you hop off the bike and transition quickly to running, it feels like hopping off a sailboat after being at sea for a month. You have to get your landlubber legs back in a hurry.

The first time I tried to transition quickly from the bike to running….I tripped and fell. Over my own two feet. In front of a bunch of people. Oh yeah – I’ve checked my pride at the front desk and I’m really being humbled by the effort that this undertaking requires.

I’m expecting the months of September through December to be loaded with running miles. Will I make the goal of 2,013 miles for the year? I will try my best. It has become increasingly tough because the physical toll that this effort exacts requires rest days each week – making my required running miles for my active days each week to consistently increase. My weight has begun its downward trend – so I’m close to beginning to post my weight lost and pounds to go. Close….but not quite there yet. Still embarrassed about the amount of pounds I need to lose and my lack of consistent effort to correct my crappy diet. I’m a work in progress, I guess.

I cannot lose focus now. I have to consistently remember the motto of the Ironman, which is simply “I can”……
__________________________

A Quick Statistical Snapshot of Where I Stand as of June 25th 2013:

Goal #1: Run at Least 2,013 Miles in 2013
Miles logged: 516.32
Miles to go: 1,497.68
In order to accomplish my goal, I need to average7.6 miles per day through December 31st, 2013. There are 189 days left.

Goal #2: Drop to 185 Pounds
Starting weight: way too embarrassed to admit right now
Weight lost thus far: not enough to even warrant mentioning at this point
In order to accomplish this goal, I need to lose more than 25 pounds by December 31st, 2013.

Goal #3: Run the Fifth Avenue Mile in Less than 7 Minutes
Quickest mile run: 7:05 (2011 NYRR Fifth Avenue Mile)
Quickest mile run in 2013 thus far: 8:03 (accomplished on May 22nd).
In order to accomplish this goal, I need to drop my speed for the 1 miler by 1:04.

Goal #4: Run a Sub 4 Hour Marathon
Fastest marathon run thus far: 5:07:36 (2011 ING New York City Marathon)
Fastest marathon pace maintained: 11:43 per mile
In order to accomplish this goal, I need to drop my average marathon pace per mile by 2:30 (shooting for a pace of 9:13 per mile) in order to drop 1:07:37 from my best marathon time.

Goal #5: Complete My First Ultra
Furthest I have ever run: 29.5 miles (not run during an official race)
Distance of my scheduled 2013 ultra: 37.28 miles
In order to accomplish this goal, I need to finish the NYRR 60k on November 16th 2013.

Goal #6: Complete My First Triathlon
Furthest swim distance: 1,500 meters (June 3rd )
Furthest cycling distance: 15 miles (June 22nd)
In order to accomplish this goal, I need to complete the 2013 New York City Triathlon, scheduled for July 18th. 1 mile (1600 meters) swim, 25 mile bike, 6.2 mile run.
__________________________

BY setting some pretty challenging goals for myself, I am trying to generate interest in / donations to The Dream Team Project. This charity’s mission is to raise money for the Make-a-Wish Foundation, helping to grant the wishes of children suffering from life-threatening illnesses. Being s former wish-granter for the New York City Chapter of the Make-a-Wish Foundation, I can tell you first-hand just how much of an impact this organization makes in the lives of children.

If you’d like some information on The Dream Team Project or would like to make a donation to their amazing cause, please stop by the website: http://www.wdwradio.com/the-dream-team-project I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I really believe in what The Dream Team Project stands for. Please consider donating to this worthy cause. Thanks!

…and if you’d like a bit more information on the WDW Radio Running Team, please check out the Facebook page at: http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/WDW-Radio-Running-Team/163606410344409

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