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In the ZONE – Heart Rate Zone Training 101

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 2, 2015 by runmyssierun

I’ve been asked a lot lately about Heart Rate Zone training since posting a bit about it on some of my social media accounts. Now let me be clear about this because there is a group of cynics out there who are quick to bash this way of training and/or quick to simply bash me and all that I do – I am no pro at this. Heart Rate Zone training has honestly become the most rigid, difficult, brutal and merciless type of training that I have ever done. But I’ve learned so much about myself, my body and my level of health and fitness in the process. I highly recommend you give it a try because knowledge really is power.

HRZ training is NOT about how fast you go or how far you go.

I’ve spent these last few years focused in on how fast my marathon time was, counting my strokes while swimming laps, adding and subtracting and adding again on the weight scale, or calculating how many miles I ran or rode. While all of these things I did are important, I completely missed the boat on what should have been the foundation to this whole journey.

HRZ training is all the above while measuring how effective and efficient your body is becoming while doing all these crazy workouts.

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Here’s the basics:

Get a heart rate monitor and strap it on as per the instructions. Find your resting heart rate by laying down, relax in a quiet peaceful setting for at least 20 minutes (preferably when you first wake up in the morning before any coffee, caffeine or ANY heart rate inducing/reducing medications or foods have been ingested). Note the number on your heart rate monitor. If it bounces around for a bit, that’s ok. Take the average. This should be your baseline to work with. Check your resting heart rate once a month and note any changes… hopefully you’ll see a reduction in that number as time goes by and workouts increase.

Don’t have a heart rate monitor and want to know your heart rate right this very moment so when you continue reading, you’ll know what to do and what to expect during your next workout? No problem. Heart rate is measured in beats per minute. It can be measured at your carotid (neck) or radial (wrist) pulse. Be careful not to place too much pressure on your carotid artery as you can compress it and block blood flow. Once you find your pulse, count the heartbeats for 15 seconds and multiply by four to find your current heart rate.

See the table below and find your age

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Heart Rate During Exercise

Measuring your heart rate during exercise gives you an indicator of how hard you are working. As your workload increases, your heart rate will increase. Heart rate is also an indicator of fitness. The more aerobically fit you are, the lower your heart rate will be for a comparable workout than someone less physically fit. This also means that you will have to increase your workload to achieve the same fitness benefits as you become more physically fit.

Target Heart Rate

To maximize performance and get the most benefit from your workout, you need to find and stay within your target heart rate zone throughout your workout. Calculate your maximum heart rate by subtracting your age from 220. A 30-year-old woman’s maximum heart rate would be 190 beats per minute. Depending on your level of fitness, the American Heart Association recommends a target heart rate between 50 and 85 percent of your maximum heart rate. To calculate your target heart rate, take your maximum heart rate and multiply by 0.5 and 0.85. For a 30-year-old woman, the ideal training window is a heart rate between 95 and 162 beats per minute. If you are just starting to exercise, keep your heart rate closer to the 50 percent target. Those who have been regularly participating in aerobic activities should aim for the 85 percent range. When measuring your heart rate during your workout, do it as you are exercising or stop briefly and take it immediately as it will decrease rapidly with rest.

Additional Tips

You should be working out at a level that feels challenging. If it feels easy, pick up the pace a little. If your breathing is labored, you are extremely fatigued or your form is suffering, ease up. If you are exercising in water, your heart rate is an average of 17 beats less per minute, so decrease your target heart rate accordingly for an aquatic workout. Also check your medications. If any of them have a blunted heart rate response as a possible side effect, the use of target heart rates can be dangerous for you as heart rate is not a good indicator of how hard your body is working.

The following is taken from Runners World magazine (click here for the full article) 

Once you figure out your zones, the rest is like following the speed limit signs on the roadway. Since they are based on your redline, or lactate threshold, that becomes the point from which all the other zones are based—anything below the threshold heart rate zone (zone 4) is more aerobic in nature and easy in intensity, and anything at or above it is more anaerobic and high intensity.

The key to optimizing this knowledge is to train purposefully based on these zones. In a typical training schedule you’ll follow the flow of easy and hard workouts. You might have a tempo workout on day 1, and follow with an easy effort workout (or two) on day 2 and 3. By alternating hard and easy workouts, your body is able to recover efficiently, adapt to the demands of the workouts, and get stronger.

Many make the mistake of training solely by pace and end up training too hard most of the time (la la pace). It’s an effort that is too hard to be easy, and too easy to be hard. Somewhere in between purpose and the point of no return.

This doesn’t happen when you tune in and run by your body (effort) because pace becomes the outcome of every run rather than the purpose.

There are many variations of the zone percentages so don’t let that confuse you. The idea is to make friends with what they mean and then create a training plan based on the purpose of the run rather than the pace.

Here is a percentage chart by authors Foster and Edwards and how to use each zone in your training.

Zone 1: 60-70% of threshold heart rate: A very, very light intensity effort level marked by easy breathing and complete conversation. For many runners, this zone comes in the form of a walking pace as it is a very low intensity. Use it: for warm up and cool down, easy recovery workouts.

Zone 2: 70-80% of threshold heart rate: A light intensity effort level where you can still hold a conversation. Use it: for easy/recovery runs, warm up and cool down.

Zone 3: 80-90% of threshold heart rate: A moderate intensity effort level where you begin to hear your breathing, but you can still talk in sentences. Use it: long runs, training runs.

Zone 4: 90-100% of threshold heart rate: A comfortably hard intensity effort that is just outside your comfort zone where you can talk in one-word responses. Use it: for tempo runs and mile repeats to raise the lactate threshold (redline) and be able to run faster at easier effort levels

Zone 5: 100-110% of threshold heart rate: A hard intensity effort well outside your comfort zone where you can’t talk. Use it: for interval workouts and the final finish of your race.

The aim is to match your training workouts to one of these zones to maximize every run and its benefits. When you do, you’ll notice your recovery dramatically improves, your performance improves, and you’ll have fewer aches and pains from pushing too hard.

How has Heart Rate Zone training helped me?

My family’s history of heart problems go deeper and further than cancer so I do take this VERY seriously. I understand and am taking measures to reduce my caffeine addiction that clearly affects how hard my heart works, especially during tough workouts. Learning about my own personal heart rate efficiency and effectiveness is has been a huge wake up call to me.

I’ve learned that you can be a 30 year old size 2 and jacked up on pre-workout, diet pills and in greater risk of cardiac arrest during a half marathon that she attempts to finish in 1:20 pushing herself at a Zone 5 than a 40 year old size 20 pacing herself at a manageable Zone 3 pace and finishing that same half marathon in 2 and a half hours.

Currently, I am building my body up at a Zone 2 with longer workouts so that when I do my tempo and interval trainings as Zone 4, I actually increase my pace and endurance. By controlling my heart rate at a Zone 2, my body becomes more efficient with it’s power and effectiveness.

How is this different from what I’ve done before? I love pinterest. Before I go to bed, I try to unwind, zone-out and get “inspired” by asking pinterest for workout motivation. What comes back to me almost every single time are posts that have “no pain no gain”, “train insane or remain the same” and other such motivators that tell me push harder and not give up no matter what. To me, this means I need to go further, harder and faster. How heart rate zone training has changed my workouts is that it has worked on my patience. It has made me understand that while at Zone 2, it is still training my body for endurance. I can spend 4 hours on a tiny, uncomfortable bicycle saddle – which is a tough feat for any human – but not have the fear of going into cardiac arrest or muscle strain and injury because I’ve built up the stamina and an easy zone. I can jog for 9 miles, smile and sing and two days later sprint a couple of miles at half the pace of my long run.  It’s the toughest thing for me to be riding or running at Zone 2 and get dropped or passed up by fellow riders and runners because I want to be with them, push with them, be a recipient of their encouragement… and I can’t do that when they’re a mile ahead of me.

Yesterday, a group of riders passed me up and as I yelled out to them “Y’all are dropping me like a bad habit!!!” I remember the wise words of Ramon Hermida:

One thing I learned a while back was: ride your own ride, at your own pace. I know what my goals with cycling and exercise are. I don’t let others dictate what I should be doing, and don’t even bother attempting to explain to others my rationale for doing the rides that I do. What matters is: there is a reason and I know what that reason is. Another thing that I learned is not to pay attention how others want to define me: whether it be by my spirituality, by my race or ethnicity, by my looks, by my weight, by my career, or by my material possessions. That is their problem, not mine. I am in charge of my own story. I can sincerely tell you that each year that passes has been the best one in my life. If not, then each day I have the opportunity to change it and make it so.

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So I smiled as they all zoomed by me and I rode my own ride at the pace my coach designated for me to ride. And while I am explaining to you all why I’m doing what I’m doing, it is done in the hopes that it educates those who WANT to learn how to become a healthier, more fit version of themselves… and not for comparison sake or to compete against anyone. I am not looking for validation or acceptance from anyone but welcome everyone’s cheers and advice. I encourage the whole world to join me in this adventure but HIGHLY encourage you to join TEAM if you have a connection to cancer. Doing this is MY choice and I’m doing it the way I want to for my own reasons and I love that I am still learning something new about all that I do and all that I am every single day.

I hope that I have the patience to go slow when I need to go slow. I hope I have the power to go fast when I need to go fast. I hope I have the energy to go the distance when I need to go far. I hope I can do all of this so that I can make this the foundation of WHY I started this whole crazy journey in the first place. I am building my foundation.

I am in my now, investing in my future so that I honor my past and help make a positive impact on someone else’s future.  

I watched a movie last night that I got a great kick out of. It’s called Hector’s Search for Happiness and it chronicled this man’s journey around the world in search of happiness. During this movie, I was taken back to a time when I was sitting at the little bistro table with my bike guru at the front of his shop. He asked me how things were going and I responded with something like “what I would do to have just a normal average week with nothing super monumental or super devastating” implying that there were always ups and downs in my life.  The movie had one particular scene where Hector was in Tibet and a group of Tibetan monks were happily celebrating “all of it”. Hector couldn’t see it and didn’t understand. I think that was me. I couldn’t see it nor could understand it. At the end of the movie, the powerful flood of all the emotions is what clicked finally. It was all of it, the good the bad the ugly… it is all of it that has been my happiness. So I get it now.

In my own pursuit of happiness, I have found happiness in the pursuit and it is all of it and I celebrate it. (Confused? Watch the clip in the video link below) My wish today is that we all become as enlightened into the mystery of happiness. My journey has made me happy and I know my destination is still so very far away. Taking the difficult (higher) road has been hard but in the good, the bad and the ugly… I have found happiness. I hope you do, too. Cheers. May this journey continue on for a long time.

Together – because it’s too hard to do this by yourself

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 3, 2014 by runmyssierun

Being sick this last week has been a blessing. Laryngitis restricted me from mouthing off with emotion when ignorance was blaring and a lesson I learned a long time ago was you can never make sense to those who are senseless. Being stuck in bed gave me the needed rest to far exceed what I thought my body was capable of doing and this will be tested late this month. And best yet… I am convinced now more than ever that not hundreds but THOUSANDS of people around me see that change needs to happen and we are now all willing and able to do this TOGETHER.

Eddie Arguelles helped me become a cancer awareness advocate. Because of that, he helped me keep my promise to my mother and my Aunt Sissy who both lost their lives to cancer. Eddie had a cause of his own. He wanted to ride his bike with his family safely through the streets of the Valley. He was one of the biggest bicycle safety advocates I knew.

It was beyond tragically ironic how his life ended.

Now, his fellow cyclist friends and communities have come together to finish what he was not allowed to.

After all that I witnessed this week, there are no words in the English language that can capture the energy, the unity and the willingness to make the changes needed to run, ride and drive together here in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas.

Many of my local cities invited me to and my fellow cyclists to unify efforts to make running, riding and driving safer together. Incredibly progressive strides are being made in record time by multiple municipalities. Never before have I witnessed such a desire for needed change!

Many of my local cities invited me to and my fellow cyclists to unify efforts to make running, riding and driving safer together. Incredibly progressive strides are being made in record time by multiple municipalities. Never before have I witnessed such a desire for needed change!

 

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I had my cardiology exam today. I have a real good close relationship with all my doctors and their staff. They keep abreast of all my shenanigans and call me in before my big events to check up on me and make sure my body is running well.

As my nurse asked me to lift my shirt and place the stickies on my chest for the EKG, she mentioned how well my blog was coming along and how proud the staff was of all that I was doing and how far I had come. I couldn’t help but think how much better this scenario was as opposed to the mammogram and colonoscopy a few months ago.

Dr. Manohoran came in shortly afterwards and had told me it was time to do another stress test because of the irregularity that was found that first time around. *I was born with a genetic heart defect that he monitors quite often. He also noted that I was completely off my cholesterol medication and doing quite well.

He asked me about my trip to Washington DC and wished me well, scheduled my stress test to happen after my trip but before my triathlon. AND he didn’t leave the room without a “selfie” and his big bright smile.

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Doc Manohoran is ECSTATIC with my cardiac results!!! Can’t you tell???? That IS his #happy face!!! Seriously!!

If any of you all have made the decision to begin your own fitness journey, I hope you do it the right way with doctors who understand and encourage you the way mine have with me.

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And I’m not posting the latest media stories about Eddie today because my fellow cyclist friend who sat by me in court today said it better than I or any other journalist could. I am reposting his words:

I had a surreal experience earlier today at the bond reduction hearing for the man who killed my cycling buddy Eddie Arguelles. The judge opened the proceedings by asking: “Why are there so many people in my courtroom?” We then got about to the business at hand, which was the defense’s contention that the bail violated the defendant’s Eighth Amendment rights. The judge said something I found curious, namely that he was sure most of the cyclists and Eddie’s family members wanted to see instant punishment in this case. The judge argued that this, very human sentiment, violates our constitutional liberties.

I agree. The defendant deserves the chance to explain his actions which, given the circumstances, may in and of themselves represent a second level of punishment for the crime he purportedly committed. The defense argued that, lacking a toxicology report, there is no way to support the idea that the defendant was impaired at the time of the incident. The judge retorted that if he was not impaired, then the defendant’s actions (in trying to dispose of the remains of my friend) are inexplicable.

I looked at the defendant for some time today. He seemed almost pitiable. The proceedings seemed to be far above his ability to understand. He had a dull-witted, almost animalistic look to him. He seemed to represent humanity at its most basic level, a product of a self-indulgent and degenerate individualism that values sensual gratification at all costs. I saw nothing evil in the defendant, but I did discern something that is foisted on us all through popular culture, a bombastic braggadocio, an amoral dislocation based upon a fin-de-siècle mindset that unfortunately has at its end no promise of the brighter and more ethical future essential to creating a happy society. He is a symptom of a fundamental disrespect for the other that is spreading like a cancer in our society today.

None of this brings my friend back to life. None of this eases the immense sorrow the defendant has unleashed on the world. I wonder what can be done to change this, to save people such as the defendant before he becomes the terrestrial equivalent of an asteroid, lacking a moral sensibility and vaulting through space and time with little recognition of his impact on others.

 

Team in Training

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 21, 2013 by runmyssierun

Tag Team – duathlon for Erica

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 2, 2013 by runmyssierun

Tag Team - duathlon for Erica

So it all started like this: Mario (a friend of mine for many many years and volunteer fire fighter for the City of Mission) climbs into his bunker fire fighter gear and runs 2.2 miles with the additional est. 100 lbs on top of him. Please understand that this is NOT Nike dri-fit technical tee material. This is some seriously HOT – STEAMING HOT – DANGEROUSLY HOT for your body temperature type of gear!!!

And he does it!!! He completes over two miles in his gear and tags me with my own “love” sign for my Momma.

I then grab my bike and sprint as fast as I can *against* the oncoming cyclists (because they are all ahead of me – I was the last bike out because of the time it took for Mario to run in his gear) and have to pedal harder faster to do the best I can to try to catch up to the rest of the crowd.

The cool brisk morning was welcoming for Mario in his gear but the wind cut into me like stabbing knives. My nose was running and I didn’t want to let go of the handle bars to wipe. I figured I was the only one left out there and no one would see anyway!!! (I know… nasty, but hey, ya gotta do what ya gotta do) I knew this path. It was 6.6 miles of bumpy chipped gravel road looping through the river town of Granjeno. I remember going smoothly over the first set of railroad tracks and then it was a blur… the second set of rail road tracks was when I cried out to myself… “DON’T YOU SLOW DOWN!!! Momma help me!”

It was just a couple of minutes after that when I felt the winds change and the smell of gas. “Big John” – Team McAllen’s cycling group’s favorite preacher and now my Saint – was right behind me on his motorcycle. As I reached a stop light (yes, I obey traffic laws), he yelled out to me “You’re going FAST!!!” and then never left me until I reached the transition point.

Thank goodness for my practice and advice from Coach Sandy Overly!!! I expected the transition line, looked for it and finally – as gracefully as I could – extended my right leg over the bike and ran myself in for the tag back to Mario.

And there he went – the heroic fireman off to extinguish cancer for Erica with yet another 2.2 mile run in full gear.

My legs were wobbly like jello. I had practiced transitions but not at this speed nor at this distance yet. I remember smiling and being pretty dang proud that I was a part of this amazing story.

After a brief rest, I was startled by my young rock star SEBASTIAN (I’m sure you’ll be hearing more about him later in my adventures) as he ran up to me and exclaimed “He’s coming! He’s coming! Mario is coming!” I sprang up from the sidewalk and ran over to him with tears rolling down my cheeks. “I’m so dang freakin proud of you!!!” I yelled out.

And we crossed the finish line together – for Erica.

I understand that Team Erica has raised over $30,000 this week. All proceeds are going directly to her. Unfortunately, I know all too well how much cancer costs a family. $30k will last one month.

There is so much need!!! I simply do not understand why our human race is so far behind on this disease.

Red Rover

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , on February 17, 2013 by runmyssierun

Red Rover

This last year, I’ve been told several times that I was an “athlete” and I cringe each time it is said. It makes me think back to a very vivid memory of mine while I was in second grade.

We were picking teams for Red Rover. I was one of the last two. Yep, you guessed it… I was the last picked because I was clearly the weakest link. I was the least athletic.

Last week, it all changed. A brave, courageous fireman chose me to be on his team for Erica. I can’t say for sure that I was the first one he thought of to do this with but it’s enough for me to be chosen.

I met Erica early last year. We were just starting our run journey together when she announced to our run group that she was diagnosed with cancer. She was one of our own. She was one of the Run, Walk or Crawl girls that had pushed me further than I ever thought I could go. She pushed me.

Now, I’m pushing her. NEVER EVER GIVE UP.
Read the photo attached here. You don’t have to be as crazy as Mario and I are but please, I beg you, do SOMETHING. Give if you can.

Barely Breathing

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on January 2, 2013 by runmyssierun

My year started off with an adventure already! What started off as a 20-mile easy bike ride with some of the cyclepaths through Sharyland Plantation down to Granjeno and back up to Mission Trails ended up with a man hunt and big hugs.

I’m still not sure of what I can really do on a bike. I just got a Garmin and was curious to see how far I’ve come with the spin classes. We had a couple of experienced century riders, another beginner like me and another experienced rider but on a MTB. We took things really slow in the beginning until we hit military. That’s when they told me I should test my legs and give it all I’ve got.

I took a deep breath, pushed into the toughest gear and began my climb… hot dang! I was going fast! It felt great!!! And then I got spooked because I knew I had to stop soon for the light. The series of little sprints felt good… But I needed to make sure I can handle the distance.

I do wish I could listen to music when I ride. I’ve always relied on music, rhythm and lyrics to keep my mind off of any pain that I have in me. Cycling forces me to focus on it. I must listen for traffic, look for pot holes, feel for balance… Where’s the escape I’ve been used to with running? There’s no room to zone out. You must focus and you must address the pain.

For a moment during today’s ride – the first of 2013 – I wanted to call it in and go escape running into the trails nearby. I had my running shoes on… It would be easy. But thats what it would be.. An easy escape.

Momma didn’t take the easy way. She did things the right way even when it was hard, when it was painful. She didn’t ask for pain medication if she knew she could bear through it.

What gives me the right – the excuse – to think I can get away with the easy way out? Ya, that’s right.

So on that last attempt… I dropped them all in my familiar overcast cloud that my weather angels always seem to provide when I know they’re watching over me.

Barely breathing…my angels made sure my next adventure that day ended in hugs and kisses.

Happy New Year!

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