Friday, April 17, 2009

Training with your heart

I have been focusing my training at the moment on my run. I have the Santa Monica Classic 5k coming up soon and I would like to be comfortable with this relatively short distance in a fairly quick time. The thing that I am noticing when I run however, is how high my heart rate is going.

With a bit of a calculation, it seems that I am running at about 90% of my maximum heart rate. This is well into the anaerobic zone, meaning that my body is not able to take in enough oxygen for sustained activity. For short periods this is not a problem, but for endurance events, this is not good.

Also, I am not even running at the pace that I would like to do the race in so things are likely to be worse still. After talking with some friends and doing a little research, I have found out that I need to do mainly training with a much lower heart rate.

This is the process of training at whatever level will keep my heart rate towards the top of the aerobic zone. This zone is between 70% and 80% of my maximum heart rate. This can all be calculated using the following link.

My desired heart rate works out to be about 148bpm. This is about 30bpm lower than my usual intensity which is a lot more than I thought it would be.

I did my first training run this morning using this guide and as expected, I was required to run at a much slower pace than normal. I started out at about 7mph and settled into a constant pace of about 6.5mph. Every so often I needed to adjust the speed by 0.1 in either direction, dropping down to 6mph at times in order to keep my heart rate constant. My average speed over a 20 minute period was about 6.5mph . That's at least 1.5mph lower than my previous running speeds and about 3mph below my desired speed.

My research tells me that if I keep this up for a couple of months, I should slowly see my speed increase with the same intensity. This is good news for me as I would love to be able to run 8mph comfortably within an aerobic zone. I believe it may take several years of this to really get up to speed but I am willing to do that for the improvements that I want.

I'll keep you posted on my developments. Fingers crossed.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Starting a healthy addiction

Right. So we know we have an event to do in 5 months time. Doing your first triathlon is both an exciting and daunting prospect. Getting nervous is part of the buzz, but 5 months is a long way off so what's the best way to get started if we haven't already.

It's pretty easy to keep putting off training as we still have plenty of time, but what we need to remember is that the more prepared we are for the day, the more fun we are likely to have. I mean prepared in both the mental and physical sense. Practice and training will cover both of these. Following a structured training program is always the best way to prepare the body and mind for what is to come.

Theoretically, this is straight forward but being motivated to train can often be a difficult thing. Quite often it is just the starting process that is the problem. Once we are into it, the rest becomes much easier. In fact, the body has a mechanism to help us out here.

Exercise is actually pretty addictive. During exercise, our bodies produce and a type of hormone called an endorphin from the pituitary gland. An endorphin is a type of opioid made by the body. This has the affect of blocking pain, reducing appetite and creates the feeling of euphoria, that some describe as an exercise high. If we exercise for more than about 30 minutes, the level of endorphins in blood can increase up to five times that of resting levels. Most importantly, after several months of exercise, our bodies become more sensitive to the endorphins and they tend to stay at higher levels for longer.

After, months of exercise, the pain blocking affect allows you to train longer at a comfortable level and the natural high lasts longer making exercise more pleasant and leaving you wanting to return the next time.

So ideally we want to get to this euphoric state kicking in as soon as possible to help us along. If you are anything like me, you leave things to the last minute and then panic. If the panic comes early enough we may still have enough time to half prepare for the task and scrape on through. The obvious problem here is that we are missing out on conditioning that prolonged exercise will give us.

I solve this problem by picking manageable intermediate steps. This means picking an event and committing to it. The event should be a much smaller challenge but in the not too distant future. There are normally nominal cost involved with these events but it is enough to not want to through the money away.

I have picked the Santa Monica Classic 5k run in early May. I only have about a month to train for it which means I needed to start immediately. I also picked a running event as this is the weakest part of my triathlons. By starting early, I hope to allow enough time to improve my run and make it a more enjoyable part of a triathlon.

I am now about two weeks into my training and I am already enjoying it immensely. I am also a lot happier that I have finally started my training.

Hopefully, this will inspire you all to start now and be more prepared by race day.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Spin it out

I have already mentioned in a previous post that I have been playing with my cycling cadence. This week I have done a number or runs and hard rides in high wind and rain that have fatigued my leg muscles so that it hurts to even walk. I also have a cold so this has taken the zip out of my energy levels. For this reason, I have been finding it harder when cycling in to work and back.

To address this, I have been concentrating on trying to keep my speed up. I don't like looking down at my speedo and seeing figures less than 20mph. Even when I am struggling into the wind on my way home, I will put the extra effort to counter this and bring my speed back up as close to this 20mph mark. I see it as similar to attacking a hill climb. My ride is normally very flat so this brings in some variety even on the same route.

With the extra fatigue, I have been finding this hard, but with some minor adjustments to my techniques, I am finding I can still ride above 20mph, even into the wind. Spinning fast and smoothly is the trick.

This proves a good point. In a triathlon, we try to use techniques during each event to leave us as fresh as possible for the following discipline. We heavily favor our upper body while doing the swim which leaves our legs fresh for the bike stage. But when it comes for the run, we are using our legs again.

In my experience this week, I have reversed the order of the bike and run and fatigued my legs during running training. I have then had to try to keep up my speed on the bike, even with this fatigue. Just pounding my legs down on the peddles does no good. I can feel that I am grinding them around and getting very little performance out of trying hard.

When however I raise my cadence to about 90rpm, and use a smooth cyclic motion, I feel that pain and fatigue drop away and the speed rises. I stay in the same gear but am now comfortably traveling at over 20mph. If this is done correctly in a race, this should result in my leg muscles being capable or taking me through the run and onto the finish in a good time.

I love understanding the science behind this. The smooth circular motion introduces different muscles and takes the strain off the main power houses that will be needed for the run. A good lesson learned