Entries in Assessments (6)


A Tempo Run to start the day, a Health Challenge to end it

Wednesday was an interesting day. It started on a good note. I ran a nice Tempo Run before going to work. I did my warm-up and cool-down walks as usual, but my run segment was really nice. It was only for 30:47 minutes for 3.2 miles but it just felt good. And at a 9:26/mm pace, I felt a lot better with my breathing and pacing than I did during the Soldier Field race. At the end of the run, I felt pretty energized! My heart rate was a little higher than I would have liked, but I know that will be lower once I get back into a regular run training regimen.

The other thing I did was to become a member of the RRCA (Road Runners Club of America) that is located in Crystal Lake. The membership is not too expensive, and, members can participate in the club's Marathon Training Program without additional fee. The club is sponsored through the Healthbridge gym, so members get access to pool and shower facilities at the gym after Long Runs. But the best deal by far is the marathon training program, led by an awesome trainer named Cari Setzler (who was featured in Running World's June Magazine). She was the person who taught the Natural Running course I took in April, so I am looking forward to her coaching as I prepare for the Chicago Marathon.

The end of the day was a bit more thoughtful. I signed up for a health assessment at a chiropractic center near my home. They offered a very inexpensive deal for doing a physical assessment, including spinal, neck, and hip x-rays, a digital foot scan, and a health evaluation. I did that last week. Today was my meeting with the doctor to discuss the results.

I have been dealing with some discomfort (dull pain) in my left hip for the past two months. It would come and go, and it was just making me nervous not knowing the cause. Well now I know. My left hip is a bit lower than my right, and is somewhat rotated. And I have some subluxations (misalignments) in my spine at my lower back and neck areas.

She said that my active lifestyle has helped my muscles to adapt to these issues, so that should also make it easier for them to readjust to having everything back to normal. That made me feel better -- especially given how far I have come in my health journey. I can only imagine what things might have looked like when I was 110 pounds heavier!

None of these require major medical intervention, but they do need to be adjusted so that my spine is aligned properly and my hip and weight distribution are balanced. Doing these things will improve my posture, relieve any pressure on the nerves coming out of my spinal cord, and all of that will improve my overall health and fitness. And that should translate into better running performance as well.

So for the next three months, I will be going in for adjustments and physical therapy to take care of this stuff. The doctor said I should not have to adjust my run training schedule (huge sigh of relief) and that actually, this will give us a chance to see how my running is affecting my body. I start next week!

I was a little bummed out as I left the doctor's office. No one likes to get news that something is out of 'sync' with their body/health. But then I decided to look at this in a more positive light. I have another aspect of my journey to wellness that I need to address. And it is something that I CAN address without invasive action. I know this is a solvable situation and I will attack this with the same zeal as I have faced my other health challenges.

By the time I have to run the Chicago Marathon in October, my body -- as well as my mind -- will be a well-tuned instrument that will lead me across the Finish Line! It will be all the more sweet a victory!


Want to lose more weight? Burn more fat than carbs during your workouts/runs

So this morning I took my fourth CardioPoint Assessment test with Meghan. These tests are done periodically to see how well your training has improved your fitness, specifically how the body has responded to exercise. It is a way to measure the efficiency of your heart (how well it is able to circulate oxygen to your muscles), and, how well your body is able to burn "fat" faster at different heart rate "zones" (beats per minute ranges). The more efficient/strong your heart becomes, the less work it has to do (number of beats per minute) to achieve the same results.

The basic idea is that you want to train your body, particularly during Long Slow Runs, to learn how to burn more fat than sugar as you run. The easier the body learns to burn your fat, the faster it can do this, then the calories you are burning during workouts are coming from that source. So glycogen is being replaced with energy from fat cells, and that means you will lose more weight as the fat is being burned off.

When your body burns carbohydrates instead of fat, then you won't be losing weight from fat. In fact, if you are not replacing those carbohydrates with sources like GU, CLIF bloks, Hammer, etc. then the body could actually start converting your 'muscle mass' into energy. Clearly, that is not a good choice.

So for those of us who want to lose weight through exercise (through running), the best approach is to maximize the "fat burn" during those exercises, teaching the body to burn fat instead of carbs to fuel the body. The idea that 'running faster means greater weight loss' is false. What results in greater weight loss is going 'longer/further' at a consistent, maintainable pace that is the most efficient for the body to burn fat for fuel.

Ever notice the "Fat Burn" selection on Treadmills? They are an attempt at setting a pace which keeps your heart rate and speed at levels which encourage 'fat burning' instead of carbohydrate burn. You won't run as fast but you will gain better weight loss results.

And this is where heart zones come into play, and why I do the CardioPoint Assessment every 4-5 months. Training via heart zones is basically all about keeping track of what 'zones' you should be training in so that you get the desired result. Zone 1 and 2 are your fat burning zones where you want to build your fitness base. Zone 3 is your aerobic zone, great for endurance training and fitness. Zone 4 is in your Anaerobic zone, where you are no longer burning fat and you are beyond your Anaerobic Threshold. Zone 5 is your speed zone for short, intense sprints for power.

Long Runs should be primarily in Zone 2, which is usually your most efficient fat burning BPM (Beats per Minute) range. And it is the best way to train your body how to burn fat during your runs for long, consistent distances. This is where you build your fitness base. Now if you are doing Speed Work/Intervals, then you are probably going to be in Zone 3 & 4.

My test this time came out pretty well. I am continuing to improve. My VO2 Peak (Volume of Oxygen my body can absorb in a minute) is now 43.1 (it was 32.3 back last April). This means my body is improving in its ability to transfer and use the oxygen my lungs are bringing in during a run. This puts me in the top 75% of athletes in my age group!

My Zones also changed, in a good direction. My Zone 2 is now in the 141-152 BPM range. My Anaerobic Threshold moved to 163 (the beginning of my Zone 4), and my Zone 5 is now between 173-183. These are decent numbers for me and I am pleased. And as long as I am in Zones 1-3, I am burning fat -- more so in Zones 1 and 2 but even in Zone 3.

The last thing this test monitors is how quickly your heart recovers after being in Zone 4 where you are really working hard. The goal is to drop at least 30 BPM within the first minute of going from hard effort to light effort (like from an incline run to a flat walk). And after 2 minutes, it should drop even further. This is another measurement of heart health/fitness. Of course, there are other factors involved here like weight, age, overall fitness, etc. For me, I only decreased about 15 BPM after 1 minute, but I know my heart rate decreases faster than that when running outside.

If you have a sports watch that supports heart rate zones, you can plug your information into the watch and actually program the watch for specific workouts in specific zones. So if I want to make sure I stay in Zones 1-2 during a Long Run, I can program my Polar RS800CX to warn me if my effort takes outside of that range. And I can report against how well I perform against those zones as it calculates the calories burned throughout the run itself. Awesome stuff!

BTW: The test was done on a Treadmill. I ran about 4/5 of a mile during the test. So after the test and discussing the results with Meghan, I went back on the Treadmill and ran another 5K at a 9:27/mm pace. So as of today, I have run 100 miles in the month of April! W00t!

Next stop: the Illinois Marathon Weekend!