Feedback is not just for Hi-Fi Systems

Wanna tell me what you think? Email me at and I may just devote an entire entry to your comment.

Why Tuesday?

The Girlfriend's Guide to Health will be updated every Tuesday.... Stay tuned dear readers and let me rock your world.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

And the Beat Goes On

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 pursuits.

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 affected.

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. 

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 on time….

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 physiology.

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 7-8%.
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 acclimatization.

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. 

1 comment:

  1. Hmmm - glad you finally got a heart rate monitor - seem to recall advising everyone to buy one..... Don't forget to go and get tested so Kristina has your "Zones" for you. I am sure she knows of places otherwise let me know and I can let you know where to get tested.