This time of year, I return to the gym and, the spinning bike.
I still cycle. I commute to the office 4 days a week. And, weather permitting, I will take a longer, circuitous route home adding a few climbs, descents and sprints to the trip. But more often than not, I head to the gym for either a weight or spinning workout.
I train indoors with a heart rate monitor and a power meter. At the moment, I a completing a 6 week training program prescribed by my Suunto M5, my trainer-on-the-wrist. It tells me when and how hard to workout based on my age, current fitness level and goal. I am 2 weeks into a 6 week program designed to get me into “Excellent” shape.
This, of course, is all relative. But I like the program. It’s a manageable goal and, the watch provides encouragement along the way. “Good Workout”. “Excellent condition in 4 weeks”. “Full recovery in 12 hours”. Each workout is planned and different. The watch tells me when to workout, how long to spin and what heart rate range to maintain. I get 1 rest day per week.
I have been using this heart rate monitor for several years and am used to all of the prompts. Or, so I thought. First, it tells me if it is an “Exercise” or “Rest” day. And, then before I start a workout it will tell me if it is “Hard” or “Very Hard”. I never see “Easy”. But this week I did see a new category. “Maximal”. 35 minutes at maximum effort. Could I even do that? Well, I did but it didn’t feel like my maximum. It was like 10 km climb up one of the local mountains. Maybe a little harder at times. I surprised myself. I did it and, actually enjoyed it. It was hard but I had more in the tank at the end.
The workouts vary in length from 35 – 50 minutes not including a 10-15 minute warmup and 10 minute cool down. As I progress through the weeks “Hard”, “Very Hard” and now “Maximal” will have a higher average heart rate associated with it. I have already noticed that I am spinning in a higher gear to get the same intensity only 2 weeks ago.
I have noticed that “Hard”, “Very Hard” and “Maximal” correspond to Aerobic, Anaerobic and VO2 Maximum levels respectively. Why doesn’t my trainer-on-the-wrist just say that?
During the workouts, I also monitor the Power reading on the spinner matching it to my heart rate. For example, 150-200 watts output is relatively flat ride. I could maintain this effort for a very long time. 200-250 watts is a bit of a climb. A 3-5% grade. 250-300+ watts is a steeper climb. A 10%+ grade. And, 350+ watts is a sprint for me. I can work harder but not for long.
Over the course of the next 4 weeks, I am recording the average wattage and heart rate for each of the workouts to see when I get back on the road whether I can discern the effort without a power meter or heart rate monitor.
That is my intent.