21 June 2011


I almost forgot. Last week's Tuesday morning weigh-in was 230.8 pounds, and today's morning weigh-in was 229.1 (-1.7 pounds).

Zone 2 spin from today

Today's workout was a Zone 2 spin. As I noted in an earlier blog I planned the spin to be 90 minutes, with the intent of making it a full two hours to make up for the missing 25 minutes from Sunday's spin, and I did indeed make up that difference, and then a little bit more. Total workout was 2:05:00, not including an eight minute warm up, stretches, and a five minute warm down. This time, I was able to track my heart rate in real-time, and I'll tell you how.

First, remember that I have a Wii, and then I should tell you that I have the EA Sports Active 2 game for the Wii, including all the accoutrement that go with it. I had been looking at a way to use the game for the HRM, but hadn't really seen any easy way to do it; so I ... "hacked" it. Sort of kind of.

What I did was I created a custom workout of 38 consecutive sessions of "Mountain Bike" from the "Activities" selection, which is the maximum allowed (not sure if it's a time or a number limit, but I think it's a time limitation). Total, that amounts to about 59 minutes of workout time, give or take how long it actually takes to complete each "activity." I then did my warm up, stretches, put on the arm band (which is also the HRM) and the leg band, and started the workout. With this system, I was able to do about an hour and fifteen in actual time (I didn't stop pedaling just because the "activity" was finished and was loading the next), then when it finished I did a quick create on a new workout of 19 of the same activities (about 29 minutes of listed time), and finished off the workout (took about 45 minutes of actual time to do). I was able to keep pedaling in Zone 2 at the end of the workout when it shows the summary, and then did my warm down and finished.

All told, I was able to keep my HR in Zone 2 for about 2 hours and 3 minutes, with about 2 minutes spent in Zone 3. I never let it drop for more than a few seconds into Zone 1, and spent most of the time in the middle of Zone 2 (for me, Zone 2 is 130-143 BPM, and my average for this workout was 136). Felt good at the end, a little tired but not too bad. I was able to fuel with a couple of gels partway through and a bottle of HammerHEED, so I never bonked nor got hungry. Good times.

Brief notes on this past week's workouts

Realized that I hadn't blogged the last couple of spin workouts, and I'm trying to do better! The short of it is that I sat down on the 17th and 19th of June, settled in to watch the Tour de Suisse, and did a spin while it was on. For the 17th, I whipped up a 40 minute Tempo (Zone 3) spin, with a warm up, stretch, and warm down thrown in, and realized that it's just a ton of fun to watch professional road racers crank in these events. It's quite inspiring to see that with hard work and dedication (including getting on the trainer when it's 110° F out) that goals can be achieved. Me, there's almost no chance that I'd ever get to race in the Tour de Suisse, let alone win a stage (and forget the Tour de France), but it's fun to think about while spinning ... otherwise, spins get BO-RING. Real quick.
I kept up a nice high cadence with high gearing, and since I don't have a heart rate monitor at the moment had to rely on perceived exertion. I didn't feel any burning sensation in my legs so I'm pretty sure I wasn't at my Lactate Threshold (LT; some people use Upper Training Threshold or UTT), I didn't feel like talking though I could probably have said two or three words if needed, and it felt like something that I could hold through the entire 40 minutes but not a whole lot longer. That's pretty much the Zone 3 criteria, so I kept things there, though I did drift a little up and down when I got excited about what was happening in the Tour, or was paying less attention like during commercials. Overall it went very well.
On Sunday, I again tuned the Tour for the final stage (an Individual Time Trial) and settled in for a Zone 2 spin with a warm up, spin, and warm down, originally planned for 1 hour 30 minutes. I had to cut it short, because I had some personal obligations to attend to, but did get in a 1 hour 5 minute spin. My exertion level there was quite easy to maintain, Zone 2 with a very short period in Zone 1 at the beginning. It was tremendous fun to watch the time trial, trying to keep a good cadence on the spinner on low gearing while not getting too excited about what was going on, something made worse when one of my favorite racers, Levi Leipheimer, rode a beauty of a Time Trial to win the Tour de Suisse overall on the final day. I did succeed, however, and it was a very good day!
As for the physical discomfort ... mostly, it's the feet. I hope someone reading this has some insights and possible solutions, but if it continues I may have to seek a physician's opinion because I'm really kind of annoyed with it. Anyway, what happens is I am fine on the saddle for the first ten to fifteen minutes or so. After that amount of time, often I start to get a numbness or tingling in my toes that gets annoying enough that I have to stand out of the saddle for a few seconds, and then it occurs over and over again througought the rest of the ride, no matter how long.
Now, as a paramedic, I know the symptoms point to a perfusion problem, and not a neurological one (if it were nerve-related, it would probably happen immediately when I either pinched/sat on/otherwise confined the nerve, and not slowly appear over time). The real question is going to be which vessels? And why? If it's a tamponade of the femoral arteries, that's a more significant problem than the tingling of the toes; that would pose a serious perfusion threat to the quads, calves, hamstrings, etc. and would make cycling a much more difficult activity. I suppose it's possible that it's a consequence of a too-high saddle (or, alternately, too low) with the popliteal artery being involved. In any event, if anyone has any ideas please feel free to pass them along.
Later today I will be doing a Zone 2 spin; I plan for it to be 1 hour 30 minutes, and I also am intending to make up the 25 minutes I had to cut out of the previous Zone 2 spin, and if I'm going to do a 1 hour 55 minute spin I might as well do two hours! I will be back in a few hours to report on that.

14 June 2011

Workout, and a plea

Did a nice, Zone 2 (with a little bit of 3 mostly by accident!) spin workout on the trainer this morning.

The workout itself was quite nice. I tossed my iPod on my arm, set it onto my workout mix, and put the Race Day DVD on the TV to have something to watch. Watched the whole DVD, from warmups through race route walkthrough and the race proper to the warmdown and post-race interviews. The DVD is pretty cool, to be honest, and I would love to find more like it; I would (as I suspect many people would) pay good money for a live, in-race DVD (or, more likely, a set of DVDs) from an entire Tour de France, or even something smaller like the Amgen Tour of California, the Paris-Nice, or the Tour Down Under.

So anyway, I did a warmup, stretch, and a few more minutes of additional warmup, then cranked into a zone 2 (by RPE ... my HRM is out of commission, which is detailed in my plea below) spin. At a couple of points in the DVD I noticed my effort and RPE to be rising (because I was getting into the race portion!), and did a quick manual pulse check: too high! Slow back, get things back to zone 2 range, and chill out. All told, I was in Zone 4 for just a few seconds, Zone 3 for a few minutes, and all told was in Zone 2+ for 1:30:00. Did a warm-down, stretch, and then refueled with breakfast.

I've noticed a few things that are uncomfortable while spinning ... or sitting in the saddle too long, even. First, after a while my toes start to tingle and go a little numb. I've ruled out the shoes (I have tried several different shoes, tying them differently, and even once did a spin with sandals on, and it's not the shoes), and I've tested my IT band flexibility, and it seems reasonable for my fat body (in fact, my overall flexibility is quite good for a racing age of 42 and being obese). So, I think I've narrowed it down to two probable culprits: lower back nerve impingement (probably at the spinal ganglion level, likely caused by excessive pressure exerted by the fatty and muscle tissue in the retroperitoneal space, or possibly at the disk level), or sciatic nerve impingement in the gluteal area. In addition, there are other occasional numbness issues, not related to the feet but to more sensitive areas (something which is not uncommon to cyclists); this I believe is also related to the existence of both subcutaneous and visceral fatty tissue impinging on nerves and blood vessels in the gluteal/perineal region. Seems to me, at first glance, that the simplest solution for now is to continue rising out of the saddle occasionally, work hard to get my weight and body fat percentage down to reasonable levels, and see if that helps. I have also thought about my saddle; when I originally bought my older bike in like 1999, I bought a saddle with gel sit bone areas and a perineal groove; with the extra padding I have, I think this may be too much "soft" ... meaning that if the saddle (or my butt) were harder, the existing padding would be enough to relieve pressure but with the two sets of soft (my backside, and the gel saddle), they're actually creating pressure that wouldn't otherwise exist. So, the next saddle I get will be a much harder racing-type saddle, and I will also see if that helps.

Now for the plea ... my HRM has died. If anyone knows someone who has one they no longer use, particularly if it is an ANT+ compatible HRM (Garmin, Adidas, others make them), shoot me a line. I really need to pick one up ASAP.