Sunday, December 27, 2009

A Magic Number--1000

As in 1000 calories. I've had my treadmill for 2 years now, and since accidentally pushing a button and discovering it records calories burned(and setting it for my weight) I've found the calorie ticker to be a great way to measure progress in how hard and also how long I can work hard.

So when I first started walking on the treadmill, I burned in the 300-400 cals/hour range, pretty normal for the average treadmill(TM) user. Before getting the treadmill I did enjoy going for walks outdoors for 90 min to a couple hours so one day I hopped on and walked and walked, found out the TM timer reset at 100 minutes(I figures out I had to stop the TM, back out to the journal then start again for it to record anything over 100 minutes). I wondered how long it would take to burn 1000 calories(cals), or if I could in one fell swoop. The first time I did it I didn't make it quite to 1000, I was pooped and had to quit.

However, while I was walking I had the idea that 1000 cals could be a benchmark, that I could make a goal to burn 1000 cals in 100 min, and then keep burning it faster. I figured if I could burn more cals quicker that would mean I was able to work harder and also burn my energy more efficiently because working harder also mean my muscles are working harder longer(endurance), and I will be able to sustain a higher heart rate for a longer time(efficiency).

Pulling out my notebook(remember I told you to buy a notebook the other day to journal your workout stats), here are the stats for my 1000 cal workouts over the past two years:

4-15-08 120 min, 7.3 miles, 940 cals
4-29-08 107 min, 6.5 miles, 820 cals
5-8-08 140 min, 8.4 miles, 1000 cals (did it! VERY wiped!)
9-14-08 100 min, 6.5 miles, 1000 cals (100/10000 goal met)

5-12-09 115 min, 6.7 miles, 1000 cals
5-14-09 95 min, 5.5 miles, 1000 cals
6-15-09 97 min, 6 miles, 1000 cals
7-12-09 93 min, 5.5 miles, 1000 cals
12-23-09 86 min, 5.4 miles, 1000 cals
12-26-09 78 minutes, 5.4 miles, 1000 cals

So playing with math, my improvement can be quantified (ha, numbers don't lie):

My first attempt I burned 128.8 cals per mile, or 7.8 cals per minute

My last do-it I burned 185.2 cals per mile, or 12.8 cals per minute.

Pretty cool improvement?! In order to burn more I've got that incline up at least to 10% grade(it goes to 12), and obviously I work at going faster. For now I have a mix of tempos on my playlist, some are running pace, some are fast walking and I mix it up.

Now I want you to note where that improvement of 78 minutes comes in on 12/26, from the last one on 7/12 of 93 minutes(shaving 15 minutes is pretty good, no?!). RacerXVT has an excellent article about recovery, overtraining and the importance of cycles.

I've been using this for about two years now, PLANNING for recovery and rest to rebuild. It's kept me injury free and it's been fun to see progress.

As well as planning a daily and weekly cycle(see the article) I also use a yearly cycle. From January to about June I focus on a more intense workout plan, increasing weights/lifting heavy, building strength and cardio endurance/efficiency. Over the summer I focus on riding and back off the intensity of the workouts, focusing more on keeping flexible and maintaining the conditioning I gained in the first half of the year. From October through December it is rest and a basic maintenance workout schedule(mostly cardio), heavy on the rest because frankly its the holiday season and it's important to me to enjoy the fun and family and friends.

So you'd think I would suck at burning 1000 cals, that my rest and relaxation would have set me back so I'd have to catch up. BUT the numbers dont' lie, the rest did me good all the way around. This cycle plan of recovery WORKS. I'm ready to start again, and even better than when I backed off!

And again the mark of 1000 cals seems to be a good number to use. I don't eat or drink while doing it in order to stretch my resources, so I'm running on piss and vinegar at the end, though it gets easier every time and now a 1000 cal workout feels like what the hour long one used to feel like(which the hour long now feels like a 30 min). In the beginning I had to include the cool down in the last 150 cals, now I pound it through WFO till it hits 1000.

Another improvement I've seen is in how much warm up I need. I "technically" have asthma and in the beginning needed to warm up for a good 15 minutes before turning on the gas or else I'd get wheezy. Now 5 minutes and I'm ready to hit it hard. Haven't had any asthma symptoms since I don't know when either(topic for another post!).

In the future I want to share what I've learned about using heart rate information, zones, HIIT, weights, etc in building endurance for riding. Giving yourself the 1000 cal test is a no brainer way to mark progress in endurance. As long as you use the same method of cardio each time(walk/run, biking, rowing, etc), you'll see how you improve. And that's a real kick in the pants!

ETA--thought for new bench marks, 1000 cals in an hour, 1500 cals in 100 min? though there is glycogen depletion to consider, topic for another post!

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