Seizing life's joys and challenges physically, mentally, and emotionally.


Metabolic Testing Review and Mental Challenge

This morning I met with my running coach to have my latest Cardio Point test done. The test measures my progress with the metabolic training I have been doing since July. The program is explained in my report fairly well:

Your unique metabolic measurements create a personalized framework for your exercise program. Each zone is defined by heart rate beats per minute and is created according to your body’s current fitness ability. Your zones will change as your fitness progresses.

Two measured points matter most within your zone framework: base, most efficient point of fat utilization, and threshold, most inefficient point of fat utilization. Pushing above and below base and threshold enables you to work harder with less effort.

I want to share this because my results are interesting today. Since I began the program I have seen significant improvement. Both my aerobic base and anaerobic threshold have improved. Frequently I would mention how difficult it is to run slow to stay in my zone two range. Recently Jim at Fit Recovery¬†questioned wouldn’t all zones improve if you worked hard in one, say zone three. Well I can now answer this question from experience. No. Not at all. With that I will first share the “interesting” part of my test results. Since my last assessment on October 31st I have been running my slow runs right at the point where zone two and zone three meet. The last test had my zone two range from 123 – 140 and zone three from 141 – 158. For the most part my average heart rate for my zone two training would be 138 to 141. I should have been focusing more in the 128 to 133 range. As a result, the test today showed my aerobic base shrank a little. About 5 beats in zones one through three. My zone two is now 118-139 and zone three is 140 – 161. The good news is that my fat burn is increasing and that is the desired goal, burn more fat than carbs. So by training a little too hard on my easy runs, I did not help my zones, I actually hurt them.

Ah but there is good news. Notice my upper end of zone three?? Yes – 161, that means I have pushed my anaerobic threshold out to 162 from 159. This is important because I am able to go faster with a higher heart rate and still burn some fat and not all carbs. When a body goes anaerobic only carbs are being burned, oxygen is reaching its maximum capacity, and this level can not be sustained for long. My speed work did its job. Now my focus is to rebuild my aerobic base – translation: quit worrying about how fast I am going and just look at my heart rate – and also continue with my speed work to further improve my anaerobic threshold.

There is a third objective to add to my running – work on my head. While my legs, lungs, and heart are improving I am still hesitant to believe I am capable of going much faster. I had this discussion with my coach right before getting on the treadmill. She proceeded with the test and kept increasing my pace. In the past we have not gone past a 10 minute mile pace before she started increasing the incline. Today she took it up to 9:13 minute mile pace. I am wearing a mask that covers my nose and mouth and I can not talk. After increasing my pace she looked at me and asked if I am okay with a grin. My heart rate was at 133, so I obviously could handle it even though my head was telling me it was too fast. I stayed at that pace for another five minutes while she took the incline from 0% up to 6%. I was surprised at how long I was able to hold the pace while climbing uphill. Now I am wondering how fast I can go on the flats when I do my speed work. So I am back to my mantra I adopted a year ago – Believe. My mental challenges are set – curb my pride to run slower and Believe in my ability and run faster. Exercising both body and mind.


Heart Rate and Hard Way Learning

This morning I had my last speed run workout before the race this weekend – and it was fantastic. The past four weeks my trainer has me doing fast intervals – today I did four repeats of 1,000 meters with a 200 meter jog in between. On a treadmill I equated it to .62 mile fast and .13 recovery, so four repeats of a total of .75 miles. After a mile warmup run I increased the treadmill to 6.8 (8:49 a mile) and took off. My foot pod tells my Garmin 901XT that I am running closer to 8:20 pace. This has been consistent for the past four weeks. All I know is I am getting my heart rate up to my high zone 3 and into zone 4. When I started this workout four weeks ago I had a hard time maintaining my pace when my heart rate went past my anaerobic threshold (AT) of 158. Today I was sustaining 162 to 164 during the speed intervals. And I felt very good. It did not feel like an easy run, but I did not feel like I was suffering. After the four .75 repeats I did three repeats fast (7.2 on the treadmill or 8:20) for 200 meters with a 200 meter recovery jog. My heart rate peaked at 172. I couldn’t believe it. I was pushing it, but I was not where I thought I was at my max heart rate.

After my workout I reported back to my trainer. Later in December we are going to test again to see where my zones are and if (my hunch) my AT has moved further out. Today was such an encouraging workout. Any running I will do between now and the race on Sunday will be very easy slow runs to shake out my legs. This was just what I needed going into the race to really feel prepared. Now if I could do something about the weather forecast this weekend for Sacramento, I would really be happy. It looks like rain. More things to pack to be prepared…

Yesterday my trainer asked if another athlete she works with could contact me about heart rate monitor training and zone training. He is skeptical about how it could help improve efficiency. I told her I am more than happy to share my experience. It just plain works. I have written about my experience here and I am amazed at how I have improved. Not only am I running faster, I am doing so at lower heart rates and I have also increased my ability to run at very high heart rates. It was not an easy process. Sometimes running (err walking and jogging more at times) slow was more of a challenge than the speed work. Now the slow runs are runs and I am able to do it at a faster pace, so the speed work is the greater challenge. So little in life comes easy. The hard lessons, I have found, are the ones that leave the greatest impact. Far beyond running Рin work, relationships, finances, faith,  every aspect of life Рthe hardest learned lessons are the most rewarding. Some are quick and painful, others bring long suffering until we learn. But the rewards gained are the sweetest.


Heart of the Matter

Here is a little secret about my blogging style – the vast majority of my posts I write first, then decide what to title it. On a few occasions I come up with the title before I have written the post. Today is one of those days. I came close to waiting until I was finished, but I know what I want to right about – and it is the heart of the matter.

The heart – known poetically as the source of love and it is essential to our survival. Diet and exercise can improve its ability or deteriorate it, depending on how we eat and if we exercise. Sometimes heart disease happens regardless of what one does to stay healthy. In fitness I frequently refer to my heart rate training and how I monitor it for various goals in my workout. Today was a day that started with my training and monitoring of my heart rate. My run this morning was to warm up for a mile and then run a minute fast to get up into my anaerobic threshold zone (over 158 beats per minute) and recover for a minute – repeat ten times. The first four I ran with the treadmill flat, no incline, and I set the pace at 7.0 miles per hour (about 8:30 minutes a mile). The highest I got my heart rate was 153, then I increased the incline to 2% for the next three repeats – my heart rate increased a bit more maxing at 157, just shy of my goal. So for the next three I increased the incline to 4% and I hit 160. For the last two I lowered the pace to 6.9. My legs felt good buy my lungs and heart were feeling the push. After the last repeat I jogged out a half mile. Through out the day I could feel the workout effects in my lungs – a sign that my hard workout pushed my limits.

Usually I run on the treadmills at my gym, but today I ran at home. The reason being is also a matter of the heart. This time my dog’s. I had to take my ten year old shih tzu Phoebe to a cardiologist in Akron. The poor pup already is blind. Now she had to get checked out because earlier tests showed a heart murmur and a slightly enlarged heart. My brave little girl did very well during her electrocardiogram. It is amazing how advanced the treatment has become for animals today. The diagnosis – endocardiosis. It is the most common heart disease in small dogs. Fortunately she is treatable with medication and should be able to live quite a few more years. She is a sweet little pup and I was happy to hear she is treatable. I was also glad to know that there really is nothing that could have been done to prevent it. As an owner, I was questioning if I could have done something different to have avoided this.

Matters of the heart vary from fitness to disease to love. Today encompassed all three for me. My day started with my ongoing efforts to improve my heart as I improve my fitness. The day continued with caring for my pup and addressing her disease. I adore my little gal and want the best for her. It breaks my heart that she may be hurting. Now I know what needs to be done and I have her medicine ready to treat her. Any dog owner will agree, dogs offer such unconditional love. Phoebe wakes up every morning and pounces on me with kisses. Such a wonderful way to start the day. Even a dog understands the meaning of seizing the day. And that just thrills my heart.

Phoebe the morning of her tenth birthday.


Let the Games Begin

The day I have waited for is here. The opening of the Olympics. Just tomorrow the swimming events get underway too. What an exciting time. Go USA, Go World. I look forward to the records that will be broken, the narrow wins, and the moving medal ceremonies. As the days pass I am sure there will be many blogs about the events. I look forward to the updates.

This morning I swam outside and unlike on Wednesday, my game was back. I had a great swim. I stayed within the beeps of my tempo trainer, keeping the long stroke going. The main set was a total of 1,800 meters. I was very pleased with my first 400 – I did it in 8:17, just over 2:04 per 100 meters. After that I swam 4 x 100 and those were even better. My first two I came in right on 2:00 and the second two I came in on 1:58. The rest of the main set was a 300, 3×100, 200, and 2×100. All were strong with my worst 100 pace being 2:03. I felt very good and encouraged about my progress. I can only imagine what Olympians feel when they swim 200 meters in half of the time I do – or faster…

This afternoon I had a tempo run to make up from last week. I went to my gym to run on the treadmills there. The workout starts with a two mile warm up, with each half mile I would increase my pace a bit. The goal of the tempo run is to run 3 miles staying in my zone 4 with my heart rate in the 153 to 163 zone. Once I started my 3 mile tempo run it took me a half mile to get to my zone 4. From there I was able to maintain it. It was challenging, but I pushed through. I kept focusing on my quick step and was able to stay between 86 to 90 steps per minute according to my foot pod, which equates to 172 to 180 steps per minute for both feet. Keeping my heart rate within the zone was a focus too. When it would get up to 159 I would back down the pace and when it would get to 153 I would increase it. For the three miles I averaged close to 9:25 per mile pace. For me – that was an Olympic accomplishment.

Little markers of advancement are just as good as medals when the fruits of hard training are visible. I know there will be days when I don’t see it, like on Wednesday, but that is not the norm. Days like today encourage me to go on. Days like Wednesday keep me humble – aware that I am human and set backs are a part of life. Now it is almost time for the opening ceremonies of the Olympics. The two weeks to come will show many moments of joy as well as those athletes who experience “the agony of defeat.” But all of the athletes made it there because they train hard and also are gifted. Let’s celebrate all of the athletes’ big, and little, achievements.