Friday, March 18, 2011

Are 2 hearts better than 1?

My in-laws recently sent me a book for Iron-distance triathlon training.  I've read a few other books, but this one was more geared toward the time-strapped triathlete.  Some of the info that it contained was relatively similar to other books I've read.  And some of the info was new, or another way to look at certain training aspects.  The book is called "Be Iron Fit", and overall, it was a good read and I recommend it for anyone that is busy and trying to train for an Ironman.

This is the cover of the book "Be Iron Fit", as it says pretty clearly.

  One of the topics in this book was training based on your heart rate.  Why is this so important?  Well, in iron-distance races, as opposed to other triathlons such as sprints, you need to keep your heart rate at a certain range in order to make it through the event.  Some people can function with their heart rate higher than others, and some people can work much harder and keep their heart lower than others (look at Lance Armstrong for example...that guy's heart rate is probably lower when he is cycling than mine is when I'm sleeping!).  The goal is to find your "aerobic" heart rate range, and do the majority of your training in that range to prepare you body for the race.

Through training, your heart will adapt and improve, and eventually you will be able to go faster or work harder and maintain a lower heart rate, or be able to function more efficiently at a higher heart rate.  There's a whole bunch of other heart rate things to consider as well, include anaerobic threshold, functional threshold, perceived exertion level, etc.  There's tons of info on the internet if you want to read more about it.  I won't bore you with that now.

As you know, I did quite a bit of training for the Goofy Challenge and my quest to qualify for the Boston Marathon.  There's plenty of people who will disagree with how I trained, but obviously it worked out just fine.  During that training, however, I never really paid any attention to my heart rate, other than looking at the pretty little graph on Garmin Connect after I finished my workout.  I knew most of my higher intensity runs had me at a heart rate around 170ish.

After reading all of these books, I decided I should maybe start using my heart rate to train, especially since I'm about to start my BASE phases of training.  So after comparing the three books I currently have, I decided on one bike test to perform and one run test to perform.  After completing these test, I would then be able to use the charts provided in the books to find my different heart rate training zones.

I thought about checking my heart rate like Mr. Phelps here, but my Garmin is so much easier!
So, both tests were completed and it was time to look at the results.  For the run, my average heart rate for the specified test was 171 bpm.  This meant that 171 bpm is my function threshold for running.  With this number, there are different ways to find the other heart rate zones, but I just used what was already laid out in one of the books (all three books were pretty similar).

The results of the bike test were a little different.  My average heart rate for the bike test was 156 bpm.  This is quite a bit lower.  It's not really that big of a deal, just interesting.  The part that really got me interested was where this test put my aerobic training zone.  It's a range of 126-138 bpm, as compared to my run training zone which is 146-156 bpm.

I'm almost positive that this difference is due to all the run training I've done in the past.  I'm definitely in better running shape than I am cycling shape.  These numbers just prove that I need to improve my cycling.  I also understand that running is a "harder" sport and requires less to elevate your heart rate than cycling does.  But, there's one other possible answer for this difference.  Maybe I have two hearts?  It's not that crazy.  I have one that kicks in when I am cycling, and one that kicks in when I'm running.  My running heart is in better shape, since I've done more of that in my lifetime.  And when I'm swimming, I don't think either heart works, because I really suck at that.  I'm going to make an appointment with a doc to get checked out, and if there's two hearts, I'm going to have them take out the cycling one so I can just use the running one when I cycle.  I'll instantly be in better cycling shape!

And as 3/11 month continues, here's another 311 video to tickle your ears and eyes (this is a live video from 311 Day 2010, the greatest concert ever!!!!):

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