Day of reckoning (January 18, 2015)

Yesterday I took stock.

One week closer to “Excellent” fitness and, no change in weight.

Funny that. The harder I workout, the heavier I become. My diet and intake has not changed. It may be muscle but I think it is more age. Your metabolism slows down with the years. You don’t need as much fuel. So, this week is about reducing the food volume. No seconds at the table. More water. More electrolytes during the indoor workouts. And, a  recovery drink afterward.

I was pleased with the workouts. Hard but doable. I even got a 70 km road ride in on Friday. It was sunny, warm and dry. It gave me a chance to try out the new Fi’zi:k shoes. Oh, so sweet.

I began using Suunto’s Movescount website. I use it, particularly in the winter months to track my workouts. I like the graphical representation and the ability to make notes. It’s clever how it works. The work outs automatically (well, with a press of a button) upload from the watch to the website making it easy to record the “moves” as Suunto like to call them.

This week will get me a week closer to “Excellent” and two pounds lighter.

Excellent condition! Hmmm …

I wear a Suunto M5 heart rate monitor.

This particular model has a coaching feature.  The monitor tells me when to workout, how hard to work and for how long.  And, just as importantly, when to rest and recover.  You input your sex, age, resting heart rate, height, weight and an estimate of your current fitness level and then, based on guidelines provided by the American College of Sports Medicine, the monitor prescribes a personalized training plan for you.

Personal Coach

I like this coach on my wrist.  It keeps me focused.  And, it is a real motivator, like having a personal coach at my side at all times.   In January, I estimated my fitness level as “Very Good” based on the frequency and intensity of my workouts.  The monitor prescribed a training program that would have me at the “Excellent” level within 8-10 weeks, just in time for the Pacific Populaire.  Today, after 75 minutes on the spinning bike, “My Coach” told me I was in excellent condition and to keep up the good work.  This was a week earlier than I expected.

How what?  The monitor recommends a workout schedule designed to maintain this “excellent” level of fitness.  It my case, it is 4-5 “hard” or “very hard” workouts each week lasting 45-60 minutes.  During the cycling season this is easy to maintain.  I am out on the bike commuting and training most every day.  And, a 2-3 hour ride easily meets the requirements.

Heart Health

To be fair, the monitor only knows about my heart rate.  It does not know my strength, flexibility, pedal power, change in weight or other health indicators.  But the heart rate is an excellent method of evaluating cardiovascular health and is a good indicator of general health.  Without it, I don’t really know how effectively I am training or how hard I am working.  It has taught me how to gauge the difference between moderate, hard and maximum efforts.  I know better how to pace myself on longer rides and, know whether I have energy in reserve for a steep climb or, another pull at the front.  It has taught me to ride within myself, not to go out too fast leaving nothing coming back and, to set my own pace and not be goaded into keeping up with younger legs.

I can wear the monitor on the bike, in the gym and on the spinner.  And, my workout schedule for the next week and workout history is always with me.  If you have never trained with a heart rate monitor, I would recommend you try one.  You will learn more about your capabilities and, limitations.

45 bpm

I have always been active but more in recent years since re-embracing cycling.  Cycling regularly has reduced my weight, waistline, blood pressure and resting heart rate (RHR) – my RHR is 45 bpm, where it was when I was a 25 year old athlete.  In my mind, heart health is the biggest benefit of cycling.  At my age, I am grateful to get out on the road and sometimes, just sometimes, power to the top of a long climb ahead my those “younger legs”.

How young are your legs?

Matching Watts and HR

I wear a Suunto M5 heart rate monitor.  I refer to it as “my coach on the wrist”.  It tells me when and how hard to workout based on my sex, age, general level of fitness, current weight, RHR and goals.  It is a clever device that keeps me motivated and helps me understand my capabilities better.

During the cold, wet, winter months, I train indoors on a Keiser M3 spinning bike both on my own and in a spinning class.  I have learned to use and understand the power reading on these machines thanks to the classes.  We do different workouts – repeat hill climbs, pyramids, flats and rolling terrain – but pay attention to 3 things.  Cadence.  Gear.  And, watts.  Often the goal is to maintain consistent power by regulating the cadence and/or gear regardless of terrain.

Today “my coach on the wrist” told me to do a 50 minute “hard” workout.  In her language that is 50 minutes averaging 125-135 bpm.  I wondered how that related to average watts.  I don’t have a power meter on my bikes but I frequently wear the heart rate monitor.

I can sustain 130 bpm for extended periods of time.  I am working and work up a real sweat indoors but it is manageable.  For 50 minutes, at least, I never feel that I need to quit or slow down.  This is a comfortable work load for me – an anaerobic workout where I am working at 80%-90% of my MHR.

So how does this relate to power?  Here are the numbers reported at the end of my 50 minute workout on the Keiser M3 computer:  average RPM – 80,  average Watts – 200 and average Heart Rate – 130 bpm.

This is not my maximum effort.  It felt like a long, steady climb at 3-5 degree grade.  I know I can work harder.  I have sustained a 300 watt effort for 45+ minutes during one of the classes.  Next I will record my average heart rate for the regular rides I do to see how much harder I can work.

I don’t know if this is good or bad.  I don’t know how it relates to others other than I have read a Tour de France rider sustains 200-300 watts for 4 hours or more.   It is what it is.  A benchmark.  Something to check from time to time throughout the season to see if there is any improvement.

Suunto elegance continues

SuuntoLet me clarify.  I do not work for Suunto or am, in any way, affiliated with the company.  No, I am simply an appreciative user.

Suunto, based in Finland, manufactures and markets premium athletic training products.  Several years ago, I was given a Suunto t3d heart rate monitor for Christmas.  I was sceptical.  Why would I need to monitor my heart rate?  I was healthy, fit for my age and committed to an active life style.  Well, I was wrong.  The monitor is a highly valued training companion.  It records workouts, measures their training effect, advises whether I am improving (or not) and recommends a workout schedule.  Previously, my gym visits and road rides went unmeasured.  I had no idea whether I was improving my cardiovascular fitness.  I won’t get into the details about zones and training effect measures here but will say the monitor is like having a personal trainer at your side for every workout.  And, like a good coach, it motivates you every step of the way.

Suunto-Bike-Pod-QRLast year, I was given carbon handlebars for my road bike.  A birthday present.  I didn’t want to re-attach my cycle computer for fear of scratches and, frankly, I didn’t want to disturb the elegant lines.  That’s when I learned of the Suunto Bike Pod, a quick release front wheel axle that connects wirelessly to the heart rate monitor to also record speed and distance.  I immediately purchased one from the local MEC store.  Now I can simultaneously record heart rates, training effect, distance and speed of my road rides.  I can compare the relative difficulty of local rides and measure my effort.  I know there are other performance monitoring tools.  Some also include GPS and a mapping capability but, the Suunto solution is elegant.  It leaves the handlebar and stem lines untouched and, perhaps more importantly, is incremental.  You add elements as you need or want them.

Suunto-Movestick-miniA month ago, I learned about, an on-line, free training diary provided by Suunto to record and graphically display the t3d workouts.  The newer or more advanced models of Suunto’s heart rate monitors come with a wireless computer connection to automatically load workouts to the Movescount cloud.  But Suunto has not left the older models behind.  A Movescount Mini is available for the earlier models.  MovesCount-1The mini fits into a USB port on your computer and, with a single press of one of the t3d buttons, workouts are automatically loaded to your Movescount account for review and analysis.  Workouts are recorded by activity (ie cycling, indoor spinning, weights, running etc) and can be viewed individually or in summary.  For each workout, Movescount records the duration, distance (if applicable), time exercised at each target zone and training effect.  The displays make it very easy to compare workouts and monitor performance.  And, you can share your workouts on-line with others – coaches, trainers and friends.

Suunto has a family of inter-connected, incremental training products – heart rate monitors, bike pods, foot pods, movecount connection devices and, perhaps most importantly, an on-line training diary – that record, coach and motivate.  I am an appreciative and enthusiastic user and would not hesitate to recommend the Suunto products.