Thursday, March 24, 2011

Roadblock Explained (or at least Rationalized)

Today was the second day of running with my heart rate monitor.  I was scheduled to run a Zone 3/4, "tempo" run.  What does that mean?  Well, I shall try to explain it to the best of my abilities.  Tempo basically means faster.  Some people would say that this is their race speed or faster.  However, I chose to avoid the speed concern and stick with the HR zones that have been laid out for me.  The layout of this run is to run 2 minutes in Zone 3, then bump up to Zone 4 for 1 minute, then bring my heart rate back down and repeat.  This is what's known as interval training.  The barrier between zones 3 and 4 is known as the Anaerobic Threshold (AT).  The AT is the highest heart rate in which your body still burns, albeit a small percentage, of fat for fuel during exercise.  Beyond the AT your body strictly consumes carbohydrates, either from food that you eat and/or muscle mass, because this is a more efficient source of energy needed at this more strenuous level of exercise.  Simply put, this is not a weight loss exercise.  This exercise is designed to strengthen the heart, lungs, and muscles, and hopefully increase speed as well.

Over the first half mile of my run I struggled to get up to my Zone 3 heart rate.  I am certain this comes from the fact that I do not warm up before I start running in the mornings; I simply stretch for about 10 minutes and go.  Once I finally did achieve my zone 3 heart rate, I ran for 2 minutes and picked up the pace to increase to Zone 4.  At first it seemed difficult, but after just a few seconds I was comfortable again. Then the problems really started when I struggled to get my heart rate back down to Zone 3.  To do so, I felt like I had to dramatically slow my pace, especially when it came to hills.  I struggled with this heart rate tug-of-war for over the first 3 miles.  Then came the stretch of the run where there are no streetlights and no way for me to see what my heart rate is.  I was nervous because I had not gotten comfortable with what this pace "felt" like as far as pace, breathing, etc.  I think overall the run ended up fine.  I was still shorted over a quarter of a mile by my sportband, and the pace was much slower than what I have been comfortable running at.

This is the part where I think I can explain why I wasn't losing any weight earlier this month.  In the past, when I ran, I ran pretty hard.  Now having worn the HR monitor for a couple of runs I realize that I was running near the peak of my fitness ability with a very elevated heart rate, well above my AT.  At these paces and at these elevated heart rates my body was not burning fat, strictly carbs.  And because I was not eating enough food, the carbs were strictly fueled by my muscle mass.  Therefore, I was not burning any of the fat during exercise and, because I was destroying lean muscle mass, I was actually impeding my body's ability to burn fat while I was at rest.  My friend Mira said this would sound funny, but basically to lose weight I need to not workout as hard and eat more food.  What a plan, huh?

Now, Jeff, the trainer, said this program will improve my speed and help me to lose weight.  I am leery because my running paces have declined so significantly, but I am going to continue to work at it.  I meet with the nutritionist for the program on Monday.  I will have to let you know how that goes.

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