26th August 2012

Felt strong. On todays session I concentrated on correct breathing. I was typically inhaling 12 times per minute on the flat and approx. 16 on climbs up to a maximum 20. Tried to extend the breath to train the intercostal muscles. My perception was that the focus on breathing was beneficial – how this correlates to improvements I’m not sure but if it makes me feel stronger during a ride then this has to be a good thing.

Didn’t use HR as training guide which meant I worked a little harder than on previous long rides but it felt good. Typically HR around 140 or 75% of HR Max (181bpm). Some discomfort building in neck and shoulders but nothing like it was a month or two ago. With continued core training I think the aches in back, neck and shoulders may go away all together. The reading on my HRV was 64 this morning, a gain of over 5 since last week.

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Review of August Training & Planning Ahead

The target for August was to cycle 550km, however, I will miss out on this because

  1. I went to London for the weekend. I could have taken the bike with me but it wouldn’t have been very pleasant cycling around London so gave it a miss.
  2. On the 6/8/12 I finished my first 4-week cycling programme which requires a one weeks rest afterwards to ensure benefits of the training can be realised.

The main positives from August:

  1. Much less back, neck and shoulder pain – therefore, my core must be stronger and this is mainly from more cycling as I haven’t done much complimentary training. My core is certainly better toned
  2. Now riding for 3 hours without getting fatigued
  3. Introduced breathing training
  4. Started a new training programme
  5. HRV has been steady around 60 – if it starts climbing gradually then this will indicate I am getting fitter

Areas requiring attention or improvement

  1. No weight loss – still 76kg. I have not kept to a regulated diet. I eat when I’m hungry and I will typically eat what is available so no surprises there is no loss. If I am going to lose weight then I need to start following a diet plan. This needs to be introduced for the whole of September and a target needs to be set and achieved. Hill-climbing will be easier carrying less weight! I think 3kg weight loss for the month would be a reasonable target
  2. Need to build leg strength in gym but also need to develop definition in upper body too so general weights programme perhaps 2 x’s per week makes good sense. Core strength can be done at home.
  3. What about rollers or turbo-trainer – will be useful especially as days shorten. Need to investigate pros and cons
  4. Breathing training with Powerbreathe needs to be stepped up. 2 x’s per day 6 hours apart. Have not been using up to failure point
  5. Bike sensors have been intermittent at best and returned twice. If don’t work then return to Polar with monitor and request full refund. Check out alternatives in case problems continue.
  6. Need more bike clothing as riding 4 x’s per week and only 2 sets of kit – also need more gloves for same reason. Need bottles and holders for shorter training rides
  7. I need to look at getting winter tyres and also a multi-tool and a couple of spare tubes. Can use the Trek though the winter with winter wheels and then possibly buy a new road bike in the Spring if I achieve certain goals

Better Breathing To Improve Performance

I have been thinking recently about how athletes from different sports who have very different physiques exhibit high performance. What is the common denominator of high performance of these elite athletes and how can a slim build athlete beat a more muscular and bigger competitor? I came to the conclusion that it must have a great deal to do with the cardio-vascular system. Elite athletes train their cardio-vascular system to outperform competitors and they build strength in this area over many years of endurance training. So, what are they actually training apart from the obvious one, which is the heart?

The heart is a muscle and with continued training it can be made stronger and therefore improve performance. What about the lungs, can they be made more efficient. Having started this train of thought I went online and did some research. I quickly came across the relatively new sports science of breathing for improved performance and Professor Alison McConnell. Having done a lot of research on the link between breathing and performance she concluded that the inspiratory breathing muscles (intercostal muscles found between the ribs) could be trained to improve performance. Having had my appetite whetted I bought her book, Breathe Strong Perform Better.

In her book she explains the benefits of training the inspiratory breathing muscles (the ones responsible for inhaling, taking the breath in). We cannot improve the amount of oxygen exchanged between the alveoli (little sacs that make up the lungs) and the blood capillaries – the main benefits arise because we delay the onset of a reflex that starts to send ‘tired’ messages to different parts of the body. This reflex is initiated by the brain when the brain receives messages from the intercostal muscles that they are getting tired. Therefore, Professor McConnell argues that if we strengthen these muscles then we delay the time it takes for the ‘tired’ messages to get to the brain. Sounds feasible and numerous studies reveal improvements in sports performance following a programme increasing strength of inspiratory muscles.

Having being sold on the theory I learnt of a simple inexpensive product developed by Professor McConnell that can be used to build strength of the inspiratory muscles. I bought the ‘Powerbreathe Plus’ product from Amazon and I have been using it for a a couple of days. I will now use it in conjunction with my cycling training programme and will monitor/assess its benefits.

Cycling Programme

Having completed my first polarpersonaltrainer cycling programme I am keen to map out my bike fitness goals until the end of the year. My main aim is to build a solid endurance base by increasing the time I spend cycling. The distances I rode the last few months have been:

  • May 140km
  • June 402km
  • July 432km

My main goal is to gradually increase the total km I ride each month at an overall average pace of between 22-24km/hour although I’d like to average 25km/hour. The distances and hours riding work out as follows:

  • August 550km (6 hours/week)
  • September 650km (7.5 hours/week)
  • October 825km (9 hours/week)
  • November 975km (10.5 hours/week)
  • December 1100km (12 hours/week)

The above would represent 6 solid months of endurance building. Towards the end of this period I will reassess my performance and start to develop goals for the period January-June 2013. Before I start my next cycling programme I need to measure:

  1. Resting heart rate
  2. Maximum heart rate
  3. Performance over a given distance at a constant heart rate

I will take the third measurement at the start of each new programme to assess progress.

2012 August 6th

I’m not the greatest for collecting information in one place and I realise the importance of motivation in reaching goals. Therefore, I thought I would use a blog to help me be better. I have just turned 49, I weigh 77kg, I have little in the way of muscle definition, I have poor back posture, I have osteoarthritis in my knees, however, I am relatively fit, I am intelligent and I am not prepared to settle for second best.

In my mind I always had a vision of me looking the best I have ever been in my life when I reached 50 – I don’t why I just did. Now I want to turn that vision into reality. I have been exercising on my bike for the past 3 months and the distances I can ride have been steadily increasing. Last month I followed a bike exercise programme developed by polarpersonaltrainer.com and it has definitely inspired me to seek out a more structured approach to achieving my goal. So, I’ve decided to set up this blog and get started.

I finished a 3-hour bike ride today, the final ride of a 15-bike exercise programme spread over 5 weeks. Details of the rides can be found at runkeeper.com and polarpersonaltrainer.com. I will now rest for a week to allow my body to benefit from the exercise. So, during this period of rest I am going to apply myself to developing a programme that will make me better. I’ve currently got 4 goals although this is not set in stone and may increase and change:

  1. To build my basic endurance
  2. To build strength in my core and upper body
  3. To improve my flexibility
  4. To lose weight

I’ll get more specific with these goals later on. Despite regular exercise I have not managed to lose much weight, probably because I have been eating too much which is fairly obvious I suppose except that I believe it is my bodies systems that are making me eat!! Sounds like an excuse but I think there is some science behind it. I do think my body has responded to the exercise by telling me to eat more! This week I will use proper meal planning to try and get a grip on my eating and lose 1 kg. I also believe that when my endurance gets to a reasonable level my body will start to burn body fat and weight should then start to fall off. Therefore, I view building my basic endurance as a priority. I’d like to think I will be in a position to do 1,000km bike riding a month by December 2012. I am convinced that this will be the best control for my weight.

I kept thinking about the importance of breathing when I was out riding today. The best endurance athletes have the best cardiovascular systems – they have strong hearts and big lungs, the combined effect resulting in top performance. They have to be efficient in getting oxygen into their bodies and therefore breathing has to be very important. I’ve done a little research and I’ll do some more. I’d like to find out how I can improve my breathing to help improve my performance.