Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Training Has Begun!

I'm only a month behind schedule, but I actually started training for the Salem Spring Tri.  It's pretty weak training, since I'm still recovering from pneumonia, but I did start last week on the treadmill.

My training is following a periodization training schedule.  This is a training schedule that breaks the year into various periods.  There are typically four or five such periods.  Each goes by various names, the first commonly being called the base phase or the endurance phase.  This is where workouts are long and of low intensity, the idea being to train the body's aerobic system and the muscles for long, sustained periods of exercise.  There are different ways of measuring the intensity of the workout.  Many people follow a maximum heart rate (MHR) plan, where a workout is performed at different percentages of MHR.  That, of course, presents the problem of measuring MHR.  A very simple way of calculating MHR is 220- (your age).  For me, this puts my MHR at 161 (220-59).  You can spend money and go to an exercise lab and be hooked up to various machines that measure your true MHR and other things like your VO2-max (more on this later) as well as body composition.  That is expensive.  There are even self-tests that involve swimming, biking or running to get a MHR.  For now, I'm going with 220-(my age).  A few years ago I did one of the self tests and found my MHR measured that way to be very close to 220-(my age).

In this base phase, my workouts are supposed to be in the range of 65%-72% of MHR.  Thus, I need to keep my heart rate between about 104 and 113 beats per minute (BPM).  Once again, how to measure BPM?  A lot of the treadmills and exercise bikes at gyms have handles that claim to measure BPM.  Some work; some don't.  I've had a heart rate monitor for years, but it has finally given up the ghost.  So I've resorted to the old fashioned way:  I put my fingers alongside my neck and count my pulse for six seconds, then multiply by 10.  If I get 11 pulses in six seconds, my heart rate is 110, right in the range it should be.  I do this every 3-5 minutes to make sure I'm staying in the range.

Most people find that exercising at 65%-70% MHR is very light exercise.  It is. After a 30 minute workout at this level, I'm not even sweating.  But this is a most important phase of training.  It builds the foundation for everything that comes later.  Most people skip this phase, or short-change it because they don't feel like they are working hard enough.  The foundation or base phase should last from 6-16 weeks, depending on your level of fitness when you begin.  For me, coming off pneumonia, I can tell this phase will last a long time.

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