Friday, January 17, 2014
Heart Rate Monitor Training?
Lunch today was dictated by my trip to the dentist office to have a filling redone. Two hours after leaving her office, my face is still numb and I was advised not to eat anything I would have to chew, lest I bite off the inside of my cheek or the side of my tongue. Lovely. Since I have been on my crazy salad/smoothie lunch challenge, what I was going to eat turned out to be a no-brainer.
So, today's smoothie consisted of two bananas, a handful of baby carrots, two celery sticks, a large handful of spinach, frozen cherries, frozen blueberries, frozen pineapple, pomegranate seeds, and sesame seeds. Oh, and water. It came out a much nicer color than last time, a cheerful purple-pink. I managed to knock back three pints of this stuff without dribbling all over myself, so I call that a win for the day.
When asked what he thought of the smoothie, my lunch date just shrugged. So, I take that to mean it wasn't as tasty as the first one I gave him, which was "good" but it wasn't as bad as the last one, which he flat-out didn't drink. He did drink a full cup of smoothie, which lent a nice balance to his leftover pizza.
In other news, my exercise today consisted of a fast walk on the treadmill. This is a new idea I am playing with - one meant to help heal me from my two-month old injury and build an aerobic base. I don't know if I will follow through on it, because - frankly - it would take a lot of discipline and probably keep me from running with other people for quite a while. Not to mention that if I take it VERY seriously, then everything I do for exercise would have to be limited so as not to spike my heart rate past 132.
This whole idea started from an article I read by Joe Uhan, an ultra runner and physical therapist, called "Metabolic Concepts in Return to Running" on irunfar.com. The article essentially discussed using the Maffetone Method of training to improve pain and speed recovery from chronic or lingering injury. Now, I had heard of folks using Maffetone before, although I had never really studied it too much myself. The barest gist of all this is (or, I should say my simplistic understanding of it is) that you subtract your age from 180 and then apply a couple other factors, as appropriate, to determine what your maximum heart rate for exercise should be. This is the theoretical border between your fat burning zone and your sugar burning zone, or in other words your aerobic versus anaerobic. The idea is that most of us do not train in our aerobic zone consistently, but rather anaerobic. And, training anaerobically too much or before a sufficient base has been established is a recipe for injury, fatigue, illness and a host of other factors. The Maffetone training has been long used (over 20 years) by triathletes and endurance athletes, because of course being in a fat burning zone is where it is at in ultras and long-distance events. The idea is that as you train and build your aerobic base, then you will get faster at the lower heart rate. Once you are injury-free and your pace at that heart rate plateaus (and this is a months-long process, mind you), then you are ready to add anaerobic workouts.
Now, one example I saw definitely had me scared as it was a nine-month long process before the person was ready to start interval training. That requires some scary patience that I am sure I don't have. On the other hand - multiple injuries a year aside - there is a lot intriguing me about this principle, not the least of which is that I started running after years and years and years of sloth. Through my teens and 20s, I didn't do ANYTHING in the way of exercise. I started running and biking in my early 30s the summer before my wedding. (How's that for motivation?) It just so happened that I enjoyed running and I never gave it up. But, I went from nothing to racing. It is apparent to me that I never took the time to properly build up a base. The fact that I have spent years bemoaning the fact that I always get injured and never get faster should tell me something. And that something is that I probably don't have any base fitness.
Now, you might be tempted to tell me that is all in my head and of course I am fit. However, as evidence I will submit the following. I got on the treadmill today with the idea of running three miles. I figured I would do a run/walk or just run. (How cocky can I be?) I figured that maintaining a 132 heart rate must just be a slow run. Oh, how wrong I was! Much to my dismay, the pace I settled at was 4.3, becoming a 4.2 - that's a 14:17 minute mile! Obviously, not something I could even jog slowly at, so I did a fast walk.
That's it. That is my theoretical fat burning zone right now. So, why would I want to torture myself with this? Well, the impetus behind it of course is the injury from hell that just won't go away. It seems like it is getting better but then it keeps getting re-inflamed. I have joked it's a cha-cha, a couple steps forward, one step back. Well, I am sick and tired of dancing. I want to run. So, it's back to basics for me. The idea of keeping the heart rate in this zone is that spiking above the fat-burning zone releases cortisol and unleashes an endless unholy host of inflammation-causing particles, which might be what is making healing so dang slow.
At best, what I think I can expect is the following...that I will follow the 132 heart rate down the rabbit hole and see that it leads not only to pain-free healing but also a solid aerobic base. My hope would be that within a few weeks I will be able to do that slow jog at or below a 132 heart rate, and that as this continues I will be able to get faster and faster at this heart rate without injuring myself. As an added bonus, I hope it will also solidly train me to burn fat for fuel (necessary for ultras) as well as walk fast (also necessary for ultras).
So, I don't know. I just had this fantastic massage (from hell) two days ago, and I can already tell that my leg is so much happier. It has more range of motion, it doesn't feel as tight, etc., etc. Part of me is loathe to put too much stock into this (I'll feel silly if I pursue this heart rate monitor training only to discover it wasn't necessary, that the massage did the trick). On the other hand, if my aerobic capacity is so pitiful, then really what will it hurt to take these winter months to really build this base I seem to be lacking? I may not be able to run with people for a long time, but I want to be running forever. And, that is not going to happen if I am constantly fighting through a cycle of injury-pushing myself too far-injury-pushing myself too far.
Am I grasping at straws?