Tuesday, December 20, 2011

I must be permanently stressed.

I am trying an experiment.  For the first time in well… years, I am strapping technology to me as I run.  I am not talking about my iPod, because I have been running with music on and off for years.  Okay, let me amend my previous statement.  I am strapping another piece of technology to be used randomly as I run.

I have a heart rate monitor. I vaguely remember buying it when I was young and naïve and thought I needed technology to make me better.  I think I used it a handful of times then dumped it in the draw to collect dust bunnies.  In fact when I pulled it out from the “draw of doom” I had to spend $15 on getting a new battery for it. I think you are getting an idea on how much I like running with gadgets. :)

Unfortunately, as in all things, as soon as I decide to re-try something, life get’s in the way.  I fixed the watch, then 2 days later the belt dies.  So I had a dead heart rate monitor.  Should I take this as a sign, or should I allow my inquisitiveness overcome my wallet?  I had to make a decision

I have never really concerned myself with my heart rate before.  Whenever I have dragged the monitor from it’s nest in the draw, I always took comfort, that my resting heart rate of about 50, meant I was super fit and I had nothing to worry about.  I was active, I was not overweight and I ran.  Enough said.

However, after a year of injuries, illness and general “blah” I have decided that now is the time to experiment with training techniques and diet to see if they make a difference.

In fact 2011 hasn’t really been my running year.  2010 was awesome; I ran 5 half marathons, a good handful of other races and was finishing in the top third of pretty much any category you could think of.  I was enjoying running, I felt fit and I felt healthy.

This year? Yeah, not so much.  There have been a number of reasons for this, some I know and some I am probably just figuring out.  Firstly busting my knee is June was a dead give away that this wasn’t my year.  However there have been other little warning signs.  Frankly I am exhausted -- all the time.  Every time I go out for a run, even if it’s a short 5K, it feels like it takes me days to recover.  If I do manage a good week, with maybe 3 or 4 runs, then I get a cold the next week.  My body is on empty and I wasn’t sure why.

So as my knee is recovering and as I have lots of projects coming up, I have decided to train, but train easy.  My conclusion is that moving is better than sitting, so I should just slow my training down a notch and chill.  Build up very slowly, so that when next year comes around I will be fitter than before.

Hence the heart-rate monitor.  My dead heart rate monitor.  As it was close to my birthday, I decided to try the ill-fated task of seeing if I could get a GPS watch to fit my insanely small wrists.  This happens every year and I fail.  However, not this time.  So 20 minutes later, I walk from the running store, $250 lighter and on Forerunner 210 heavier. 

So off I go and start my experiment with low-heart rate training.  When I say “experimenting”, I actually do mean it.  I have no idea if it works or not and everything I have read doesn’t seem to convince me one way or another. I am going to give it a go and find out.  I know have to go slower than normal to build up my knee, so this is an ideal opportunity to clean up my form as well as testing other stuff as well.  Sweet!! Apart from the $250 lighter in the wallet part!

I worked out that given my age and the fact I have been run down lately, that my target heart range should be 121-131.  I think my overall limit should be 141, so I was guessing if I kept in this range I could occasionally peak a little higher and still be okay. 

So I tried it. Oh dear. Oh dear, oh dear.  I have run a couple of times.  Anything from 3.5 to 6 miles.  Well, I say ran, I mean walk-run.  Actually when I say walk-run, I mean more .. well.. walk. Honestly it was almost impossible to keep my heart-rate down.  I probably didn’t help myself by doing all of my runs on a trail populated by off-leash dogs, walkers, strollers, kids, bikes, cute male runners and … sorry I was distracted by the cute guys then.  After being bitten on the trail last year I get nervous around dogs.  Every time I saw a dog coming towards me, my heart rate jumped 10 beats a minute.  Whenever I heard sounds of civialisation, either cars on the nearby road or people talking on the trail, up went my heart rate.  Even the noise of a chainsaw being used by the parks guys in a completely different part of the forest and BANG, my heart jumped.  As for the cute guy.. well, enough said really.

The only time I was really able to run (at about a 12+min/mile pace) and keep my heart-rate within levels was when I was deep in the woods with just me, my feet and the mist. 

So I have come to conclusion that frankly civialisation scares the be-jesus out of me.  No wonder I have such a low resting heart rate because frankly it’s beating at a million miles an hour when I am out and about.  I am wondering if I am permanently stressed.  

The thing is, I am so used to being stressed, that I probably don’t really know what it feels like not to be stressed.  It’s kind of ironic, that I am so aware of this situation for D, but completely unaware of my own stress levels.  D has a similar situation; he is on a permanent level 3 because he has the stress of having to manually filter out his environment.  This is a reason why he can suddenly explode at a situation and then within seconds be perfectly calm.  We have spent the last 12 months trying to get him to analyize his own stress levels so he can prevent emotional explosions.  I just never realized that I may have to do the same.

So guys, let me know.  I need calming techniques… come on, give me some of your “chill-out” vibes!


  1. I think your target heart rate is too low. HR formulas from books don't work for everyone. First suggestion is to wear the watch and go for a slow relaxing run and DON'T look at the HR during your run. Then get home, upload the run to Garmin site and evaluate the HR readings with how you were feeling.

    To really know what your HR range is you should do a progressive run on a Treadmill using this as a guideline: http://heartzones.com/_pdf/The_Foster_Threshold_Test_FINAL06.pdf

    Also http://heartzones.com/resources/ has more info. It's a great source for HR training. Seret

  2. I tried a heart rate moniter ONCE... I couldn't keep myself in the right zone. Now I do use a Garmin when I am marathon training so I know my distance but even then I get nuts looking at the pace.. UGH