Sunday, 30 December 2012

Heart Rates and Headwinds

The broken Suunto
I haven't trained to heart rate for ages, for the sole reason that the rubber strap on my Suunto T3d snapped and I couldn't wear it. I scoured the internet for a replacement and after no success, rang Suunto who told me that my watch colour was apparently the only single one that was discontinued and no longer available anywhere. I had chosen awesome green specifically, I didn't want berry red or boring black or the silly "women's" version that's exactly the same but in light grey with a baby pink stripe. After considering my options, I decided I couldn't cope with putting a different strap on my watch and being uncoordinated. The only option was to buy a new watch. The new watch was a Garmin 405cx and the HR strap that's supplied is definitely not designed for anyone who a) has a small frame, b) has to wear a sports bra and c) cares about any sort of comfort. So there is a slightly longer than intended story for you about why I gave up on heart rate. Now, back to the matter in hand...

I went to a spinning class a few weeks ago run by a chap who bases his class around heart rate. Hardly anyone there actually uses one, so the alternative is to use rate of perceived effort (RPE) instead. For example, if you're working at 75% of your max heart rate, your rate of perceived effort should be around 7/10. Easy. The class was well structured and I enjoyed it, but I decided that next time - just for fun - I'd bring my heart rate monitor along.

So, the week after I turned up and carefully balanced my broken-strapped Suunto on the unmanned bike in front.What followed was, without a shadow of a doubt, the best hour I have ever spent on a spinning bike. Working to heart rate made me work so much harder than I would have if I was just rating my own effort. When you do it on feel, you automatically start dropping off when it starts to hurt, but when you can see an actual real-life representation of what your heart is doing, you just have to keep pushing hard to stay where you need to be.

Newly inspired to get on the heart rate with my proper, outdoor training, I set about purchasing a Garmin "soft strap". It's an updated, more comfortable version of their old hard strap. The thing about training to heart rate rather than pace or speed is that it is an absolute measurement of how hard your body is working, regardless of external factors, namely the weather. This was proven today as I grasped the opportunity to get out for a blast on the bike. It appeared to have stopped raining and cycling was the only thing on my mind. I hadn't checked the forecast, I had just seen blue sky out the window and gotten excited. Had I checked, I may have reconsidered; to put lightly, it was a bit blowy.

I did end up turning around after a mile
 or so of getting drenched on this road!
After about ten minutes of battling the wind, I had already started thinking about giving up and making a break for home. As I struggled to average 10mph, a glance at my HRM then changed my perspective. I may not have been going anywhere fast, but I was certainly working hard and probably getting a better workout than I would be in decent weather. Had I not known what my heart rate was doing, I would have probably come home earlier and been a bit disheartened. Instead, I stayed out and had a super resistance session in the windy conditions.

I was so pleased with all the heart rate training that I decided to "fix" my Suunto. It is now stitched into a hot pink sweat band ready for all my indoor training sessions.Heart rate sessions will definitely be featuring in the 2013 training plan!

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