Sunday, 25 December 2011

Smell the Roses and Get Fit

“Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever.”
― Lance Armstrong, It's Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life
First the good news. My theory works. It does seem to be possible to train in the right zone on my commute. I managed to do 7.5 hours over three days. I'm delighted, this might just work. And the bad news? For all but 15 minutes of that 7.5 hours it was raining. Or if it wasn't raining, it was snowing. I know why most people do their winter training on a set of rollers.

I had two main objectives this week. The first was to see how feasible it is to commute while keeping an eye on your heart rate. The second was to try out some routes to see if some work better than others.

As I'm in the base phase of my training (see The Theory of Project 4) I need to be able to keep my heart rate in a particular range. In my case there are two base ranges I call Zone 1 (BPM 132 to 155) and Zone 2 (BPM 152 to 172). While I learn more about base training I've decided just to set a strong foundation of Zone 1 training. My target is 100 hours before I start to look at other things like interval training.

After a few hours practice it seems to be perfectly feasible to stay in Zone 1 despite traffic lights, traffic and so on. It does however create some interesting changes in my commute:

  • I am now crawling up hills at a much slower pace than I used to just to keep my heart rate down. On one long shallow hill my thighs were literally itching to go faster on the third day. I told myself that was a sign that I was already creating a physiological response with my training.
  • I'm having to race down hills to try to keep my heart rate up. Where there is a lot of traffic I've found it helps to spin the pedals faster to keep the heart rate up.
  • I'm thinking of novel ways to keep the heart rate up when I hit traffic lights. Jumping off and running along the pavement for example.
Perhaps the biggest and nicest effect of the change is that I've got time to smell the roses. My commute is 25% slower than it was and I am crawling up the big hills. This means I've got time to enjoy the view and appreciate the weather. It has also become much more relaxing and rewarding than my old head down rush for the office.

I have also been able to try out three different routes in two directions. Two of the routes work brilliantly well and are practical for training. One of them simply does not work because the combination of traffic lights and hills creates two much of a yo-yo in exertion. Over the next few weeks I plan to map out all the potential routes I could use between all the offices I visit so I can plan my training around my work schedule.

So, almost every minute was wet and cold and dark, but I'm delighted with the results. Objective 1 and 2 for the week have been successfully completed.

I also completed Objective 3 - the one I didn't mention at the beginning of this post. Part of the Vision for Project 4 is to combine performance improvement with family and working life. This week I completed seven separate training rides in three days, to and from home and to and from meetings. Nobody noticed. My family didn't notice and my colleagues didn't notice. In other words I did all that and took nothing from my home life or my work life. That's my biggest achievement yet.

Summary of Progress

Base hours: 7 hours 49 minutes
Base miles: 102

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