Archive for January, 2007

A raised heart rate in the morning, normally up by six beats per minute or so, indicates that you’ve got a virus. Exercising hard in such circumstances isn’t advisable.

Today’s cold virus gave me no such warning. That might be because I skipped a meal on Sunday and was outdoors a lot.  I was helping with my son’s seventh birthday party: an ambitious tobogganing event at a dry ski slope, with 20 very excited little friends.  Lunch was laid on for the kids, but my wife and I somehow forgot about ours, so we didn’t sit down to eat till 4pm in the afternoon.  That was on top of my scheduled long run too.  Some nutritionists  say that the immune system starts to become compromised if the body is not fed every four hours. 

Guess this was over-egging it just a bit. I’d forgotten how much impact the long run can have; you really feel the body going through the recovery process. They say vigorous high-impact exercise draws white blood cells to the areas in need of repair: that is, away from the upper respiratory tract, so leaving it vulnerable to infection.  And heaven knows if anyone has bothered to measure what stress a child’s birthday party exerts on the parental immune system.  By the time I’d driven half a dozen guests home, and gone back to retrieve various lost coats and bags, I definitely felt a bit older.

Anyway, I hope this cold does not last long, because the marathon training programme is only just on target, and I really want to run better and faster than in 2005. There is a lot of ground to make up in three months with only a little margin for the occasional setback.

At this stage I don’t think it’s flu, although I have some muscle ache, which I attributed to the long run. I’m certainly not inclined to exercise, even lightly…

Resting heart rate 51

Weight 72 kg

Mood :-(

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It’s the stupidest thing, but this foot pain is worrying. The tendon was damaged in my hallux a few months ago while fooling around doing pull-ups with my 7-year-old. I say hallux, because if I say “big toe”, you’re unlikely to think this is very serious. But the soreness is spreading out across my foot 20-30 minutes into each run.

I’m not so much worried about the pain increasing, but the danger of a longer-term compensating injury occurring somewhere else as my running gait becomes unbalanced. I’ve experienced something of this before. My physio, Ian Andrews, suggested this was possibly the underlying cause of my injury in 2005, prior to my first attempt at the Flora London Marathon. It’s very common among amateur athletes. Incidentally, it’s a really good idea to have a physio check out your running gait occasionally, and also examine your core stability (more on that in a later post.)

I’m told by reliable sources that tendon injuries don’t repair readily because blood flow is limited to these areas, and so nutrients and contaminants don’t get delivered/removed. Heat and ice treatment is recommended to stimulate circulation, but I’m going to investigate if there are some stretches that might help.

I’m big on my stretching regime, but it is very time-consuming. It’s something I used to consider either boring or completely unnecessary. But after at least six months of almost disciplined use, it is finally paying real dividends. Sometimes I’d say it is miraculous. I’ve heard musicians observe similar things about practising scales. After about six months, the effect can be transformative: another example of the benefits of delayed gratification. Who’d have thought it?

Resting Heart Rate 51

Weight 72 kg

Mood :-)

Total exercise energy consumed 757 kcal, 10 mins bike, 45 mins steady run

Foot discomfort again appears after 20 mins

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What if you could turn the clock back and find that you had what it takes to be an Olympic athlete? Peter Keen, the UK’s head of high performance at UK Sport, the funding body, recently said that armchair athletes in their twenties today are not too late to consider participating in the London Olympics in 2012, assuming they have the latent ability, and are prepared to put in the work. However, they would have to choose an endurance event like marathon or cycling.

The Maximal Test I took last Friday is recommended by Bath University Human Peformance Centre before any potential athlete embarks on an extensive and demanding training programme. It presupposes the individual will use a heart rate monitor. (You can acquire a basic model for around £50). The test will tell you all sorts of vital statistics about your current strength, and highlight any deficiencies. Above all, it could reveal a hidden talent concealed within your genetic make-up.

When I first took one a couple of years ago, I nearly fell out of my chair. Although not quite good enough for elite competition, my endurance ability, as measured by my so-called VO2 Max was 61. When I repeated the test last Friday, it had edged up marginally. Professional marathoners tend to produce a number from 70 upwards. With training and some loss of weight my VO2 Max might still go up. It may well have been higher when I was younger.

If you are in your twenties now, lurking within you might be a professional athlete waiting to get out. There are plenty of good examples too of athletes who found themselves later in life. See later posts for some notable winners.

What does a Maximal Test do?

The sports laboratory, while measuring your heart rate at different running paces, also analyses how effectively your body converts oxygen by capturing your exhaled breath and running it through a computer to ascertain that VO2 Max number. With a few regular pin-pricks in your fingers, the scientists will also tell you how much lactic acid you produce at different speeds. This helps determine how you need to train to improve. When our muscles ache, that’s lactic acid doing its worst. The more we work, the more we produce. Ironically, my test showed I need to run at slower speeds and longer distances to improve my running economy. I was a bit better at higher speeds, possibly because I run too fast in training.

They also test your iron levels. Mine were fine for this type of activity.

Resting Heart Rate 51

Weight 72 kg

Mood :-|

No exercise

Sleep disturbed, felt viral during night. Long day working in the City. Chose not to run despite programme.

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Today I am feeling dull, dull, dull…deadly dull.

Sunday’s “long run” was not particularly long, or arduous. It was gentle – around 150 beats per minute for 65 minutes or so – and I covered about 13 km. But it was the first run exceeding an hour in a very long time. Today I’m feeling the training effect. My heart rate was elevated as a result.

This week follows a week of disruption in the first week of January, with two day’s sleep lost – and not due to holiday excess. It is also a busy week, with a client trip to London and some tight deadlines, meaning that there is no choice but to run in the early morning on Tuesday, something I’ve yet to do this winter. The Flora London Marathon programme that I’m following (page 41 in Marathon News) calls for five runs this week: the most I will have run per week for a couple of years. I need to space them out, since last week’s exercise bunched toward the weekend, and I had to forgo Saturday’s run for some cross-training on the bike.

Resting Heart Rate 51

Weight 72 kg

Mood :-(

Recovery day

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How in touch are you with what your heart is telling you? In exercise, probably the best information you can get is from your heart. Heart rate reveals exertion, stress, infection, rate of recovery.

Every morning when you awake, it is possible to find out a lot about how the day might be, and how to organize it, if you were just to measure your resting heart rate. That can include work, exercise and leisure. If your resting heart rate is raised above its normal, that can be a warning signal. You might be suffering from stress, or still recovering from hard exercise in the previous couple of days.

It can also be a warning sign before other symptoms that you have caught a virus. Skip a meal, work too hard that day, exercise too vigorously, or go out in the evening when you should stay home, and what might have just been a sniffle could lay you up for a few days, or lead to a more debilitating injury.

When it comes to a training schedule for a marathon or half-marathon, you will find that the best will often refer to different exercise bands or zones as a percentage of your maximum heart rate.

Finding out your maximum heart rate can be approximated for free, but is best done by visiting a sports performance clinic, like the one at Bath University. For a little less than £100, you’ll get the same kind of information about your physiology that world-class athletes require, and you’ll be using the same facilities used by greats like Olympic hurdler Colin Jackson. If it sounds like a lot of money, realise that it may save you a lot in the long-run. It might just reveal some hidden talent, a possibility I’ll deal with in the next post.

The so-called long run started in earnest today. This is to build up my stamina and endurance, in other words get me used to spending a lot of time on my legs to last the three to four hours I expect my participation in the Flora London Marathon to last.

From here on I’ll be posting my vital resting and exercising statistics at the foot of each blog entry. I hope they’ll prove a useful training aid.

Resting Heart Rate 48

Weight 72 kg

Mood :-)

Total exercise energy burned 1037 kcal, 10 mins bike, 1:08 hours run

Discomfort in left foot after 20-30 minutes, apparently associated with earlier tendon injury

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