Last week, my girlfriends marked a milestone in my fitness.
I have hired a running coach.
As my sisters know- I am a fan of fitness. I believe we
should all invest in our bodies and our health in order to plan for our
futures. I have built a life and a
career around mindful eating and better living.
But in preparation for the New York Marathon (pray for me my
sisters) I have enlisted professional help.
Why shouldn’t I have a running coach? After all I do have a
variety of “go to” people in my life who aid and assist in my lifelong
I have my shoe guy who always keeps my foot interests in
mind. I have my drycleaner who meets all my cleaning needs. I have my fabulous
Antonio who keeps my hair looking its best.
There is my trainer, Mike who has forced me to do push-ups
on surfaces the world over.
I am a firm believer my girlfriends in having people in your
life who make you want to strive for the best in life.
I was not an athletic child. In fact I was the exact
opposite of an athletic child. I rarely found myself in a sports setting. Now
as an adult, I would argue that my aversion to group sports stems form my lack
of athletics as a child.
I will take you back to 1977. The time was baseball season
and the place was a ball diamond in the North End of Winnipeg. My mother
insisted that I play little league and the coach stuck me out in centre field.
Needless to say my girlfriends I was not a fan of being put in the middle of a
field during mosquito season and asked to catch any potential balls that a 6
year old might hit out into centre field.
Heads up, girlfriends, we were 6
years old. No one was hitting a ball anywhere past 2nd base. Hell, I could
have played with my Barbies in centre field and the game would not have been
And so I did what any nonathletic girl at age would have
done in order to remedy the situation. I peed my pants. Yes my sisters…. I
confess it here. I wet myself at age 6 in a field in Winnipeg in the name of
true sportsmanship. Twenty minutes later- like clockwork, I found myself in a warm
bath- hair washed and playing with some fabulous bathtub toys.
My how times have changed. Although I am still not a fan of
group sports…. I can exert enough bladder control to make it through a spin
class. And now I found myself taking instruction from a running coach, called
Kristina is pretty fabulous, but safe to say she does scare me a
little bit. Kristina is as fit as an Olympic athlete. I short she is built like
a brick shit house. Now let’s be clear my sisters- I am not usually intimidated
by people in general- but Kris is pretty intimidating. That being said- she is
very encouraging and I am quite confident that she will get me to my marathon
Enter the concept of heart rate training. Kris has suggested
that I buy a heart rate monitor and train within certain heart rates.
Ever a fan of shopping, I went on a search for the perfect
heart rate monitor. Make no mistake my sisters- Wearing a strap under my
breasts does nothing for a girl who has no bragging rights in that department-
but as I’ve always reasoned- God does divide. What I lack in chest I make up
for in stunning personality.
And so I found my perfect heart rate monitor and yes, I
strapped it on for my running- ever eager to learn a little more about my own
It turns out this weekend was the perfect classroom for my
new heart rate training. For on Sunday, my girlfriends, I ran the Scotiabank
half marathon. Yes, sister- strike up the band and cue music…. Another 21.1 km
under my belt and a medal at the finish line….
Let me take you through my heart rate journey one kilometer
at a time….
Starting line- I was pretty excited and despite the fact that my coffee shop was closed this morning and I could not have my usual fix- my heart rate was indeed 90 beats per min (BPM)
First 5 kilometres of the race- I was in a really good place- feeling quite happy and loving the air and the run- almost like an athlete if you will- my heart rate was a solid 130-140.
From kilometre 5-15 my average heart rate was 145-156. I blame this on a few hills and an overall sense of competitiveness. There was a woman ahead of me who insisted on running RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME and it pissed me off. I had to pass and keep the pace. My heart rate and my aggravation level was higher than expected.
For the last 6 kilometres, I was all over the map. Much of the race was downhill but by kilometre 1- I was in need of a shower, a latte and a nap. I glanced at my watch a few times to notice my ticker was beating steady at 158.
My last kilometre was where I pulled out all the stops and made a sprint for the finish. My heart rate was 170 BPM and yes, I felt like a superhero.
Having ran my first race with a heart rate monitor and having a future plan to train for the NYC marathon with said monitor I wondered if all this monitoring really was indeed good for me? Was there something to be said for a heart rate monitor or was it just another excuse for me to buy a watch?
SO like any good diva/scientist I did some research on this
whole heart rate training thing. It turns out, heart rate training can be an
excellent way to increase one’s fitness in long endurance sports. It does,
however, have some limitations.
According to an article published in Sports medicine in 2004
by Halston et al, heart rates can differ from one day to another and can be
affected by a number of factors.
Heart rate can have a natural biological variation from one
day to another by up to 2-4 beats per minute.
Dehydration can increase a person’s heart rate by as much as
Heat and humidity can increase heart rate by as much as 10 beats
per minute and altitude can increase heart rate by 10-20% even with
A small scale trial in the Journal of Sports Medicine in
2011 showed that heart rate training was as effective in improving fitness
levels in cyclists as was a fancier power training method.
The study randomized 20 people (11 men and 9 women) to
interval training and fitness testing using heart rate training, power monitors
or nothing. Each group was given heart rate monitors, power monitors or
nothing. At the start of the study all participants completed a 20 km time
trial like test. Their Vo2 max (fitness levels) during this test. They then underwent a 5-week program. The heart rate training
group had a program geared towards their heart rate prescriptions. The power
training groups had a similar prescription and the control group was just given
a usual training plan. At the end each group had their VO2 max (a measure of
their fitness level) measured and compared to their initial VO2 max at the
start of the trial.
The study showed an average 10% increase in VO2 max in the heart rate
and power training groups and no change in the control group. It turns out that
heart rate training does, after all mean more than just another accessory and a
chest strap to reminds me how small my girls are… who knew?
And so my girlfriends another week ends, a triumphant one in fact. It
was my first half marathon in some time- after a long injury and a look at my
road ahead (no pun intended).
I started the week with a plan for greatness and a new watch and a chest
strap. I ended the week with a new half marathon medal and a sense of where I
am going in my fitness goals. After all my girlfriends- isn’t a life plan and a
new set of accessories what the world is all about? I think so.