December 22, 2008

Winter blues, but looking up...

I'll be honest, I've been lying low this last week. With the best intentions have come a lot of snooze button action and excuse making, but with the holidays upon us - well, I've been getting pulled from many directions. Come here and help with this, then run over there and help with that, be home on time after work, pick up this kid and that, go deliver this -- in warmer conditions and better roads, none of this would be a problem on the bike - save for picking up the kids, which have now outgrown the kiddie trailer. Still, it was all too easy to get talked into the car. This car-free winter thing -- well, it's gonna take a lot more planning and tenacity: more than I've had the mental patience to deal with lately. I've watched the bus come and go, frustrated - but you gotta do whatcha gotta do sometimes.

On the weight-loss and return to "training" front, I jumped and made a purchase - a decent HRM (Heart Rate Monitor). I'm hesitant to give a review on it, because I haven't used a whole lot of these. The last time I cared about heart-rate, I had a Polar S10 or something really cheapy - but even then it was kinda cool. Of course, back then I don't really remember what I was looking for in a HRM or a training regiment. I was thinner, faster, and i imagine my gadget-freak alter-ego was playing that card a little, moreso than the racer-wannabe cyclist alter-ego. I'm so far disconnected to the advances in technology with regards to THESE devices, a review wouldn't be productive. I can say that these things have come a LONG way, and I was able to afford a few price points higher than the previous model. The features are robust, but not dizzying, and I'm happy to learn after a lot of hemming and hawing and research back and forth between several models and designs that I found the right one for me. The model information isn't important, but some of the features are worth mentioning:

There is an interactive coach built in, which doesn't require a PC to utilize. While a computer interface IS available, I felt it overkill for my purposes. The watch itself will hold 15 previous workout results, a "workout" being a data file that consists of averages of heart-rate, time spent in particular zones, cool down time, warm up time, laps (if you do that kind of thing) etc. There is an option that I might play with in the future that allows you to pair the watch unit and heart-rate sensor belt with a bicycle speed sensor - something that might pair well with the Trek 450, since it's something of a 200K and below "training" bike, if I had to categorize it. I don't anticipate gaining anything valuable with 12 hours of heartrate data from a 200K ride, so I doubt I'd even wear the thing on the Kogswell or commuterbike for that matter. That view might change, because of the coaching software that's built into this watch.

Today was my first workout, and when I was done it stored all the information as it should. When things become interesting is when the "virtual coach" comes into play. Using existing sports medicine methodology, it takes my parameters like age, weight, height, avg heart-rate, respiration rate from the first workout, my general fitness classification (based on a chart in the setup manual), and creates a five-day workout plan for me, based off that first workout. The first workout acts as something of a base-line, and specifically based on what I did in the gym today it is recommending tomorrows workout be lighter, and for a shorter duration, it's set Wednesday a little higher intensity but for shorter duration, and Thursday is a rest day. Friday rounds out the week with a recovery workout. Apparently, after a couple weeks, the thing eventually creates an even more precise target plan for me, based on cumulative data that it keeps for a six month time-frame. So, as I improve, it tailors workouts to help me maintain and continue to grow fitness. Considering how pathetic my numbers looked last night, with regards to resting HR and such, it's apparent that I needed this little helper more than I'd thought. The work is still up to me, of course, diet and continued adherence to the plan, but dude, this thing will beep at me and remind me that I haven't exercised in a couple days if I slack off, and consequently adjusts all the days that I need to "make up", with more intense workouts to get me back on track. Sure, when I brevet and such, it'll likely be a keep-it-simple approach with perceived effort on my side... but that method only works if I know my body - and I've really lost touch. My resting pulse isn't where it used to be, my recovery rate isn't where it used to be - and try as I might to ignore it, that, along with weight, is why I've lost performance on the road. Pushing too hard when I should have been resting, resting too much, and generally just idling on permanents, not pushing myself hard enough. The end result, lost fitness. Can I get it back? Yes. With the right execution, and the right tools. I know myself, though - have to be careful not to flood myself with numbers; but when I spend 30 minutes in the gym, at least I'll know that I might actually gain something from it. One small step. Don't think too much -- just follow the plan. It's certainly better than no plan at all.

Back to the midwestern weather picture, a wintry mix is forecast for tomorrow, snow Wednesday, but an extended vacation from work starting Thursday, so that will be nice. I'll have to see how I'm able to behave away from the fitness center, and around the holiday food. No sense waiting until new years... I've started a more sensible approach to food, finally, and so far, so good.

Still looking towards January, and picking that one magic weekend -- that one DAY if it comes down to it, to get number 12 on the R-12 run! I'm excited to wrap this one up, but the weather... the temperatures alone are enough to make me shudder at the notion of 10-12 hours out in the winter air. This morning the garage thermometer read +1.4ºF. Yeesh... of course, the high of 19 sounds pretty inviting, actually. It's all acclimation, and I have the gear.

Stay tuned...

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