I am “excellent”!
Yesterday, following a spinning workout, my Suunto M5 wrist-coach advised “Fitness level ‘excellent’ reached”.
I have just completed an 8 week conditioning program prescribed by the American College of Sports Medicine. The workouts are integrated with my Suunto M5 Heart Rate Monitor which tells me when and how hard to workout. Suunto also provides an on-line workout tracker (Movescount) that seamlessly uploads workouts from the M5 and summarizes the workouts graphically. This is a nice touch providing monthly summaries by duration, average heart rate and calories burned.
The program identifies six (6) fitness levels – very poor, poor, fair, good, very good and, excellent. You place yourself into one of these categories based on your activity level. At Christmas, I estimated I was “very good” for my age and began an 8 week program to become “excellent”. During this period, the workouts gradually became longer, more difficult and more frequent. They varied in length between 60-90 minutes including a warm-up, cool-down and post-ride stretching.
It has been an intense, highly-focused 8 weeks. I have completed 43 workouts, burned 17,000 calories and, pedalled for over 54 hours. Most of this time was on a spinning bike at the club although, I was able to get out on the road bike 5 times and recorded these rides as a workout.
I completed these workouts without the benefit of drafting, music or a spinning class leader to motivate me. These were 30 hours on the spinning bike facing a floor-to-ceiling mirror with only the Keiser computer and my M5 Suunto watch for company. I purposely decided to train this way thinking, if I could do this alone without external motivation of any kind, it would make me mentally stronger.
I am excellent!
This past week, I have been giving thought to what “excellent” feels like. It does feel different. I have experienced physical changes and, psychological ones as well.
My body has changed. It is firmer. Everywhere. My legs are more toned with noticeable muscular definition. My butt is smaller (I suspect the squats had a lot to do with that). My core, arms and shoulders are leaner. Even my face has a different look. I have not lost weight but it appears to have been redistributed leaving me with a slightly more athletic look.
I bound effortlessly up 5 flights of stairs two at a time every day. I climb 5% grades faster and more easily. I maintain a consistent pace on 3 hour rides without tiring. I walk taller with my shoulders back and stride more freely. And, I sleep more soundly for 8 hours on most nights.
My clothes fit differently. The pant legs are looser, the waist hasn’t changed and, my shirt buttons pull a little. This is not what I expected. After burning 17,000 calories I expected to lose some weight, particularly around the waist. I am disappointed and remain 3-5 pounds heavier than my ideal weight.
My mental outlook has changed as well. I am more positive, more confident. My thoughts are clearly focused on the now and the inner chatter has lessened leaving me with fewer questions and more answers.
Excellent feels good.
But “excellent” does not mean perfect. There is room for improvement. There always is. Excellent, at least in this context, simply means I have above average cardiovascular health for my age.
Can I continue to improve? Can I get stronger? More flexible? Lose weight? Cycle faster? No doubt.
So, what’s next? Well, my wrist-caoch is not letting up. I checked the prescribed 7-day training schedule and it has me continuing to train at the same intensity 5 days out of the next 7. Also, the first century ride of the season, the Pacific Populaire, is March 29. I have completed this ride for the past several years and would like to do it again but beat last year’s time.
That’s the new goal.