Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Cardio Compulsion

We started using heart rate monitors in the studio cycling class this week. It's a new experience for me, dangerously attractive to the compulsive counting and testing aspects of my personality.

Here's how it works. You get thing that looks like a sport watch strap, only it has a sensor inside it. You fasten it around your chest underneath your shirt, with an elastic strap. It's pretty small and sleek, so once it's on you barely notice it. It picks up your heart rate and transmits it to a watch that gets connected onto the handlebars of the bike.

As you pedal, it displays how fast your heart is beating. As you work out, you try to get into and stay in a training range of 65-85% of your maximal heart rate. I took a bunch of kinesiology in university, where I always volunteered to be the experimental subject, so I have done an actual VO2 max test (where you run to exhaustion on a treadmill with a machine collecting and measuring all of the air that you breathe out) so I know that maximal heart-rate is really a complicated thing, dependent on a number of factors. For estimation's sake we calculated our heart rate for the cycle class like this: 220-age = maximum heart rate. That puts my max at 177. Target range is 115-150. I got into and beyond it very easily. Most of the time, hard "hill" pedalling pushes it higher than sprinting, which is a surprise. But at the end of the class I went up to 180 in an all out, I think I might puke sprint.

I think I should not use the heart rate monitor all the time. It's interesting, but now I know that I'm working hard enough for sure. I also know that my recovery is speedy, which is a sign that my fitness level is pretty good. Maybe I'll just do it once a month or so. I guess I'd rather enjoy the physical sensation of the exercise and not be concerned about the numbers.

Actually, I'd like to sneak the monitor into the weight room one morning. My training program in there pushes my heart rate waaaayyyy up momentarily when I push against heavy loads. I wonder how high?

I have also been underwater weighed in that kinesiology lab, which was also interesting. Sit on a little metal swing attached to a weight scale, inside a cylinder of water full to the top and let all of your air out, then wait and wait and wait until they get a measurement and signal that you can come up and breathe again. I'm very glad that they don't do that one at the studio cycling class. Some things are best left to scientific abstraction.

Question: how many heartbeats in one lifetime?

mompoet - maximizing oxygen uptake

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