Friday, 19 September 2014

The good news and the bad news

I have tried three new things in the past week, and today has been the first day that everything has been tried together.

First off, the good news is that I have EXCELLENT cardio health.  How do I know this?  Aside from the fact that my resting heart rate is usually 40-45 bpm, I recently started using a heart rate monitor again and it is very difficult for me to get out of the "mild workout" zone.  Damn cardio fitness.  It wasn't too long ago that merely turning over in bed would have pushed my heart rate to 220 bpm and walking down the hallway was considered a vigorous cardio workout.  Those days are gone.

Let me take a step back to give some context. 

As you know, I started a new job 4 months ago, and among many other positive qualities my company places a strong emphasis on personal fitness.  The company fielded a corporate team in the recent Weekend to End Women's Cancers 32 km charity walk, and they encourage employees to wear pedometers to become aware of their activity levels.  The company also has a partnership with Virgin Pulse, an online and app-based fitness tracker that gives members points for performing and recording physical activity. 

Although I have been working at the company for 4 months, it took Virgin Pulse 3.75 months to recognize me as an employee of said company, and so I was only able to register my account last week ... two days after the big 32 km walk.  Curses and shakings of fists were had in my office, to no avail.  But I am registered now, which is what counts.

One of the elements of the Virgin Pulse program is that users can get points for manually entering workouts, but users can get more points for validated workouts confirmed by a pedometer and a heart rate monitor.  In my case I have been wearing a Fitbit for years - - although the poor little guys die out regularly, Fitbit customer service is excellent about replacing the units- - and Virgin Pulse syncs my Fitbit steps. Score one for Virgin Pulse and wearing a Fitbit all day.

But it has been more than a year since I have worn a heart rate monitor.  I used to wear one when I used the Digifit app, but the app was very hinky and kept crashing so often that I just stopped using it - - and I also stopped using the heart rate monitor.  This Virgin Pulse program was a new opportunity to try the whole heart rate monitor thing again.

In the intervening year and a half since I last wore a heart rate monitor my cardio has significantly improved.  Imagine my disappointment last night when I did a quick test spin on the elliptical trainer for 14 minutes and I could not get my heart rate above 120 bpm for more than 10 bloody seconds.  WTF??  When did this happen?  Sheesh (yes, yes, I fully understand the irony of being disappointed that my heart health is good).

This morning I did my usual 45 minute elliptical session with the machine at a ramp of 10 and a tension of 5, and I was stunned to see that what I had always thought of as an intense exercise (judged purely by the amount I was sweating, which may not be scientifically accurate) was in fact really a "light" exercise, with 63% of the time spent in training zone 2 (104 bpm - 121 bpm), and a mere 4% spent in zone 3 (122 bpm - 139 bpm).  What an eye-opener.  Apparently in my case the "sweat of the brow" scale of effort does not correlate to heart rate, much. 

Needless to say, the calorie burn recorded by the heart rate monitor mirrored these results, giving me a burn of about 252 calories over the 45 minutes rather than the 450 calories that the elliptical gave me credit for, or the 500+ calories that MyFitnessPal thinks I should have burned.  Ouch!

Things only got worse when I turned to my new Zumba Dance workout.  I say Zumba Dance rather than merely Zumba because I am using the Zumba Dance app (the officially sanctioned Zumba app), to get a Zumba workout at home.  I quite enjoy it, actually, although it is pricy to purchase all of the different dance packages (around $30 all-in), but all the reviews I read recommended the variety to avoid wearout and boredom.  So far, so fun.

As it turns out, I am completely uncoordinated when it comes to moving my hands and feet at the same time, so most of the time I am shuffling around and waving my arms (apparently randomly, but in reality almost-but-not-quite mirroring the instructor) looking the opposite of graceful.  Kind of like a dancing zombie ... a dancing zombie in yoga pants and sports bra.  I am starting to get used to the Zumba-type movements over time, and ever so slowly I am starting to be able to shuffle my feet in more of a dance-like way, but it's still a loooonnnnggg way from proper Zumba technique.   

This morning marks my third Zumba Dance workout, and I have found it an enjoyable way to work out, and certainly it is a nice change from grim death marches or the elliptical.  Judging from the amount I was sweating (again, I understand this is not a scientific measure, even if it feels scientific), it sure felt like a good workout.  "Not so!" says my heart rate monitor - - 70% of my 30 minute workout was in Zone 1, or at a heart rate below 104 bpm.  Ack!

Soooooo.... it looks like I am going to have to take up the resistance on the elliptical to try and bump up my heart rate. Not sure what to do with the Zumba Dance app, but I do note that I am using the short intro class, which is probably easier than the more advanced stuff.

I don't mind my low heart rate too much, actually, because knowledge is power, and it's nice to know that my cardio is so good after two and half years of working out that I need to really push things to increase the challenge.  I won't say that I got complacent, exactly (*ahem*), I will just say that it was easy to push what I felt was a good amount - - when it turns out that I was barely pushing at all. 

So this is really a good news/bad news kind of thing.  The good news is that my cardio is great, and the bad news is that I have been overcounting my calorie burn for, well, years.  But back to the good news, I now have the tools to try and break out of this little rut and stretch myself again, which makes me happy.

So once again it is time to kick things up a notch.  Bring it on!  But this time I am bringing it on armed with better data, just like the numbers geek I am.

1 comment:

  1. Might be time to bring in intervals (specifically High Intenisty Intervals). Once your cardio fitness is high you can do steady state all day without causing much response, as you are seeing here.

    Also, weight training!