Thursday, September 24, 2009

Update on sprint experiment

Exactly four weeks ago I mentioned I had hit an aerobic plateau, with the plan to change up the workout routine and try again afterwards. So today I tried the same intervals workout on the treadmill that I wasn't able to complete two other times, and the result was ... still couldn't finish it =(. On a positive note, I got farther this time than I have in the past. I think there are a few interesting things here. First, I didn't lose any aerobic fitness during my two-week vacation, and perhaps even gained some, which is great. Next, the bike sprints didn't translate over to running aerobic capacity quite as dramatically as I would have liked. I did three treadmill workouts over those four weeks, and the rest on the bike. Anyway, in retrospect, it seems that I simply bit off more than I could chew. When I went from my previous completable interval workout to this one, I took about 9.16% off the mile pace for the sprints. Apparently that was way too aggressive. I should probably jump in increments of 1% or 2%, rather than 9% all at once.

Edit: This week (a week after I wrote this post), I went halfway (yes, enginerds, I'm binary searching for my maximum). My previous completed workout was at X mph sprints, and I was failing at X+1 mph, so I went at X+0.5mph today. I made it through and got a stitch right after my eighth sprint, which I cranked up to X+1 mph. It feels good to complete a workout. Next time is X+0.7 or X+0.8.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Vacation Exercise

Got back Tuesday from a two-week vacation, and for the first time in the history of my vacations, I managed to exercise a lot while on vacation. 11 days out of 14. Part of the dedication was due to my setup. I was staying on a friend's couch, and his apartment had a shower, but it was only accessible through his bedroom. Since someone was usually sleeping in there way later than I woke up, I devised the ingenious plan of working out first thing every morning, followed by a shower at the gym. Two birds with one stone. Some observations:

- I used to think I didn't have enough energy to workout in the morning before eating. It's not true. As long as it's a reasonable workout (45 minutes or less), I had plenty of energy, probably glycogen still in the muscles from the previous day. Also a good way to wake myself up.

- On the flip side of the previous note, working out after heavy drinking the previous night is not so easy. Alcohol saps my energy in the gym like Kryptonite given to Superman. Makes me feel incredibly sluggish, but getting my heart rate up and the blood circulating actually feels like it's pushing toxins out of my blood.

So did I actually increase my fitness while on vacation? Probably not. I think I likely maintained it, though, and the lack of things I'm used to (e.g., a pull-up bar) meant that I substituted new exercises, which is always good to do.

I also took the opportunity to use the vacation to start doing bike sprints. I tried a few days of treadmill sprints at increasing velocities (see my previous note), but realized quickly that real sprinting on a treadmill is dangerous and stupid. I need a track. On an exercise bike, however, you're not going anywhere when your legs give out during the sprint. Some notes:

- Some exercise bikes are just not made for sprinting. This one bike at work seizes up if you pedal above 400W.

- Seat needs to be at the right height. If you feel like you have to be out of the saddle, your seat's probably too low.

- Man, it's hard to sprint all-out for 30 seconds! At about 15 seconds, my legs fill up so much with lactic acid that they burn like the Outer Ring of the Seventh Circle of Hell. Yet if I "save enough" for the second 15 seconds, then I feel like I'm not really sprinting. My compromise is the following: I try to maintain constant power output for the entire sprint (which I know means I need to save some energy), but I keep the intensity high by thinking of each 30-second sprint as two 15-second sprints. Simple, but this little mind-game totally works. I often do this on treadmill sprints as well, adjusting the speed by 0.1 mph every 5 seconds just to keep myself distracted from the fact that I'm doing a painful aerobic workout.

Quick improvement note - I now have a Zone 2 running pace! It's about 5 mph. =P This is probably nearly twice as slow as the Zone 2 pace of elite marathoners, whose competitive pace is around 4:50 but probably jog 6-minute miles.