Heart rate monitors can elevate your training

Monday, February 19, 2018

When you climb a set of stairs, does your heart rate (also known as pulse) increase?  Think back to before you started exercising regularly (ages ago, I know) and was it more difficult to climb the stairs then?  With regular exercise your heart, a muscle, will become stronger and be able to stay at a stable heart rate as you climb the same set of stairs.  Your heart rate indicates how fit you are.  If you are able to keep it steady and low (which is relative to you and your age/size/gender), you are physically strong enough to complete the task at hand.

Heart rate varies from person to person and will change as you age.  A heart rate monitor can assist you in your training to make sure you are getting the most out of each session, depending on your training goals.  Resting heart rate is when you are sitting or laying still.  A god time to measure this is just when you wake up, before you get out of bed (yes you would have to sleep with monitor on).  For most people, this would range from 60-100 beats per minute (BPM).  The more athletic you are, the lower your heart rate will be.  Medications, such as beta blockers, will affect your resting heart rate.

The equation typically used to calculate your maximum heart rate (MHR) is (220- your age).  With this you can figure out your heart rate for different exertions.  For example, if you are 30 years old: 220-30= 190 (MHR)* 60% effort = 114 BPM and 220-30=190 *85% effort = 161.5 BPM.  Again, this is an estimate and will vary based on your established fitness level.  There are a few other equations out there that are a bit more completed.  You can also take part in a V02 max test or a field test, which will be more accurate at your current fitness level.  When you exercise, you can decide how much effort you want to put into a session.  The traditional school of thought is low intensity for longer duration if you want to burn fat and work on endurance (50-65% MHR) and higher MHR for aerobic conditioning (65-85%).  High intensity and interval training should push you 90-100% with sufficient rest in between to allow heart to recover.

By paying attention to your heart rate, you can train smarter to ensure each minute you spend training is benefiting your overall goals.  The data provided lets you know if you can push yourself harder up those hills or during fartleks, rather than the voice in your head telling you to ease up.   Your heart rate monitor (and resting heart rate) can also let you know that your body has sufficiently recovered from the previous day’s work out.

The lesson? Start paying attention to your heart rate during a work out and look back to data from previous rides and runs.  Look at the pattern over time and check in at a regular interval to see if your resting heart rate is dropping (which indicates improved fitness).  Don’t discount recovery or endurance rides on the timetable as these are just as important to heart health.  Finally, make sure you have rest built into your diary to give your entire body time to repair from your smarter training.

If you are in the market for a new heart rate monitor, you can read my product reviews here:

Suunto Spartan Trainer

My Zone MZ3

Mio Fuse

Mio Alpha 2

Ready to shop?  Read this post on how to select an activity tracker as a gift here

Portions of this post originally appeared on the now defunct H2 Life Blog.

Final countdown to Kili

Monday, February 12, 2018

In less than a month, I will board a plane to Tanzania.  It is hard to believe that a Sunday night tweet in September would bring me to 5895 meters.  I thought I would send you an update as to what I have been doing to prepare.  I tend to overplan things because like any good Girl Scout, I like to be prepared.  There is still plenty of time for you to borrow kit, book flights, and get your jabs though if you are still thinking about signing up.

Starting to put essentials into my suitcase.
Since I last checked in, I have been sorting out my kit and vaccinations.  I made £400 on eBay, selling stuff we had around the house but didn't use.  Not only was my husband happy because we were less cluttered but I saw my Kilimanjaro fund increasing. I also started asking my outdoorsy friends info if could borrow things, like hiking poles, gaiters, and rain gear.  These items I knew I would only use once, so it seemed silly to purchase them brand new only to store them under the bed.  For snacks and a waterproof duffle bag for the porters to carry, I hopped on Sport Pursuit to see what great kit they had on offer (you seriously need to join their flash sale website). I ended up with Bounce Balls and protein cookies to satiate my sweet tooth mid-climb.  It is going to be hard enough without Diet Coke- I can't imagine doing it without chocolate!

Walk-In Clinic reception area
The vaccines turned out to be a bit more complicated.  You can read about my experience at the Walk-In Clinic, where I reviewed in detail with the GP what the risk factors were if I got sick on the side of a mountain in Tanzania, in addition to my upcoming trip to Thailand.  Over two appointments, I ended up with three jabs, one fizzy vaccinated drink, and a prescription for anti-malaria tablets.  These treatments were divided up over two appointments to avoid lots of shots (which could result in sore arms) and one vaccine had to be ordered in.  Unfortunately, I am allergic to the anti-altitude sickness pills so I will not be able to bring them with me.

Plane ticket confirmation
My flights are now booked, which makes it seem like this is really happening.  I found flights for about £600 on Kenyan Airlines using Google Flights.  The outbound overnight flight made it very tricky not to be traveling for 24 hours straight just before some serious physical activity.  Hopefully I can catch up on my sleep the day before we start our ascent.  I could have found a cheaper flight if my work had been more flexible with time off.  But £600 is less than what I pay to go home to USA so not too bad on my travel budget scale.

I am excited about my new boots.  Oldland is not.
Doing research for this trip, I found A Walk in the Park and Kilimanjaro:Tips for the Top books to be insightful.  Both describe other trips that people with little to no experience climbing big mountains have taken.  These contained a lot of the stuff I wanted to know.  How bad are the toilets on the mountain?  Will I be able to get enough sleep?  How cold does it feel at night?  How many spare batteries will I need?  There are many blogs out there too with similar info.  I have also started looking through the Swahili phrasebook my mom got me for Christmas.  I am posting seven mini lessons up on Instagram if you would like to learn a few key phrases.

"Thank you"
We have our Facebook group set up for the women on the trip to get to know one another before we set foot in Moshi.  I am also still working with Ellis Brigham for our discounted shopping night in London for all the women who register for the trip.  This will be the perfect time to talk to experts about our trip and select exactly what you will need, while sipping on some celebratory fizz.

I would really love to have you come along.  The deadline to register for Kilimanjaro is 20 February, so this will be my last email to you about the trip.  If you have any questions or want to discuss logistics, please do not hesitate to get in touch.  Please remember to use my name as a referral to receive your free gift worth £30 posted to you or I can bring it to Kili for you.

New studio alert: Body Junkies

Monday, February 5, 2018

My fitness career started as a Spinning® instructor.  The training made me what I call a purist- I don't lift weights, clap my hands or do press ups during my classes.  Unfortunately for me, in the last few years the London fitness trend has seen a big demand for the 'all-body' indoor cycling classes (if this format gets you to go to class- go for it!).  I struggled to find studios that shared my philosophy on cycling style.  My favorite studio was Cyclebeat near Moorgate but that was recently bought out by Boom Cycle.  When I heard about a free class is Islington, I was intrigued.  What sold me was that my friend, Lucy from Paddle Pedal Pace, said the Keiser instructor was great.  She and I have the same thoughts on how an indoor cycling class should be instructed.

Body Junkies is a new studio that opening up in Islington last year.  It was founded by friends, Jason and Stephen.  They have boxing, Zumba®, yoga, high intensity interval training (HIIT), total conditioning, mommy/baby classes and more. They have their own app for booking too which makes it easy to schedule your workout on the go.  The studio is one open room but very versatile as the boxing equipment hangs from the ceiling on custom tracks.  They means the bags can be moved out of the way when not in use.  There are two showers, a toilet, and cubbies for storing your kit.

The location is less than a five minute walk from Holloway Station on Holloway Road, near the Emirates Stadium and London Metropolitan University.  When I arrived, I was greeted by the owners.  The brand new Keiser bikes were set up in a semi circle around the instructor's bike.  The visiting instructor was Darren Teagles, who captivated us for 45 minutes using only two positions on the bike.  The music was banging and the light were kept low (which I prefer because then no one can see my red face).  The ambience allowed me to forget about work and simply focus on getting a fantastic workout.

These new bikes allowed us to sync to the TV screens, showing us (and the instructor) our RPMS and power rating.  Each had a digital display that allowed you to see this info on your bike, alongside a gear resistance rating.  Darren also created teams during class, where we had to push ourselves to win.  The computer program splits up the class evenly, so one team doesn't have an advantage. The energy in the studio was great!  Most of the class were Body Junkies members, with a few journalists and bloggers.  The studio team were very friendly and we got to try their smoothies after class.  I was so impressed that the class was held captive with only two simple moves and a profile that built on the previous section.  Most people have short attention spans and look bored in my class if we are sitting on the bike, even on a seated uphill climb (hopefully it isn't my teaching style).

We are talking about me teaching a one-off spin class, so if you think you would be interested, please let me know with a comment below.  Regardless, I think you should visit the studio!  Enter my giveaway below to win two Body Junkie sweat towels, a steel water bottle, branded canvas bag, and a free class of your choice.

Win this plus a free class!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thanks to Body Junkies for inviting me along to the complimentary class.  All views and opinions are my own.

Keeping my body in top shape with myofascial release

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Sometimes athletes forget that rest and recovery can be an important part of their training.  I have always been a fan of relaxing massages but since my pain tolerance is low, sports massages are a bit intense for me.  I tend to stiffen up as the therapist works deep into my muscle.  It seems to be a necessary evil as overused muscles can turn into a ball of energy that needs release.

Function 360 Physiotherapy offers many services, so I thought I would give myofascial release a try as an alternative to sports massage.  On their website, it is described as "gentle sustained pressure to the myofascial connective tissue restrictions to eliminate pain and restore motion." I wasn't exactly sure what to expect.  My friend, Marty, has treated me with Bowen Technique in the past but this treatment was not a sustained application of pressure.

Turns out foam rolling is a form of self myofascial release.  There are other tools that can be used too to mobilize your soft tissue.  Personally, I don't have the guts to foam roll once it becomes too painful.  Think about why you foam roll though.  You do it to improve your range of motion, reduce muscle soreness, and increase your mobility.  Why not have a professional help you progress at a faster rate?

For my appointment, I met with Sonia at the clinic.  We started off with a postural and range of motion assessment.  She looked at my alignment while standing still and while performing squats.  This gave Sonia an idea of how my body may or may not need adjustment.  She noticed that my right shoulder was higher then the left, which I thought might be due to wearing my purse strap across my chest and on my right shoulder.

At the time, I was lucky enough not to have any major pains or injuries when I met Sonia.  She did a general toe to head treatment.  She started with my legs and feet and then worked her way up to my back, shoulders, and arms.  From my experience, the treatment is a slow pressure gently moving across the skin with an occasional stretch.  It wasn't so intense that I felt more, er, tense.  It was really relaxing.  I even had an eye pillow to keep the light out of my eyes while I laid on my back.

After my treatment, I felt very relaxed and a bit taller and more flexible.  Sonia suggested a start a maintenance plan and book in once a month.  So far, I have had two treatments and hope to book in a third soon. 

Myofascial release is becoming more popular in scientific literature, as researchers are examining when and how it is most effective (which types of athletes, self myofascial release or as treatment from a qualified therapist, which body parts benefit most, how to quantify an improvement).   Each body is different in terms of nutritional needs, rest requirements, and training methods.  I like to try as many therapies as I can because I might find the one that helps me achieve a new PB.  Hopefully in the next few years, we will know the best way to utilize myofascial release to maximize our athletic performance.

If you want to try out myofascial release yourself, get 15% off your treatment with my code #F360MM15 (you can actually use it for any treatment the Function 360 team offers).  I am also leading a social run with Function 360 for Valentine's Day on Monday 12 February.  Join us at 6:30pm for some informative talks about different therapies, ON Running shoes, and running. We will have prosecco too and discounts on Function 360 vouchers.  Space is limited so please email info@function360.co.uk to reserve your place.

Thanks for Function360 for supporting me as one of their sponsored athletes.  I will routinely be sharing my experiences with the Function360 team as I continue to prepare my body for the next 

Travel tip for Kilimanjaro: visit the travel clinic

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

I am really starting to get excited about my upcoming holidays.  The ski slopes of Verbier are getting dumped with powder, more women are signing up for our Kilimanjaro climb, and I am pretty sure I want to scuba dive in Thailand.  There are so many adventures to be had and not enough time to plan them all.

Turns out when you travel to tropical places (which is something my husband and I rarely do), you need to do a bit of research and planning to make sure you are prepared with adequate vaccinations and medications.  With my trips to Tanzania, Thailand, and Cambodia coming up, I contacted the Walk-In Clinic to see what jabs I would need to be safe.

You may remember that I had a wellwoman physical with the Walk-In clinic over the summer.  I found utilizing a private practice gave me the luxury of time.  I could talk to the doctor in depth without feeling pressured to fit all my questions in within the 15 minute time slot.  Luckily for me, the clinic was able to book me in for to their travel clinic service with in a week.  The clinic offers a consultation appointment, where you speak to someone to review what you will need, or simply request a vaccine that is unavailable at your local GP.  They also have regional packages destinations such as Africa, India and South & Central America.

When I booked in, I was warned that I would need a consultation first and then a follow up appointment for my jabs.  I took the this to mean a 15 minute conversation during which we would order my jabs and then a needle sticking session on another day.  I couldn't have been more wrong.  I had an entire hour to go through the travel advice website, NaTHNaC, line by line for my different destinations.  My doctor and I discussed the benefits and possible side effects, plus what I have had in the past.  We looked at all three countries, made a list and then reviewed the vaccine schedule for each as some require several doses at different time points to be effective.

My big tip, no matter where you are headed, is to book a travel clinic appointment six to eight weeks ahead of time in case your vaccine needs to be ordered, requires several doses, or it takes a while build immunity.  In addition, you should know what vaccines you have had previously and when.  Some vaccines will last your entire life while others need periodic updating.

For my Kilimanjaro trip, there is also a malaria risk below 1800 meters.  My doctor was able to discuss the different medications available and what would suit me.  The side effects of some can be scary, including depression and hallucinations.  As I am already on a SSRI, this ruled out Lariam, which you only have to take once a week.  We agree upon the antibiotic doxycycline, which is in the tetracycline family.  In high school, I had horrible acne and was on tetracycline for a while.  I don't remember any unbearable physical side effects (aside from being prone to sunburn) so I am very comfortable with the choice.  The downside is remembering to take it every day and I have to keep taking it up for four weeks after my return.  Our destinations in Thailand (Bangkok and Phuket) are 'low to no risk' which do not require malaria prophylaxis.

The last thing I wanted to discuss was altitude sickness.  Out of everything that could possibly impact my trip, I am most worried about this.  It seems to be very unpredictable as to who is affected.  Fit, fat, skinny, strong, young, old- there is no way to know.  Anecdotally, I have heard low blood pressure makes you more susceptible as well as not acclimatizing properly.  People report feeling severely hungover with a bad headache, nausea, vomiting, and being really tired.  For all the energy and planning I have put into this trip, it would be a shame not to see the sunrise at 5895 meters (19,341 feet).  Unfortunately, the doctor didn't know much about the condition and could not recommend whether I should carry the medicine, let alone take it prophylactically.  Crowd sourced side effects from my Adventure Queens Facebook group include pins and needles feeling and having to pee a lot.  Since I am not good at peeing outside, this is a worry for me.  My doctor was going to do a bit more research before my next appointment in two weeks time so we can talk about it again.

On this visit, I got Hepatitis A, a rabies booster, and cholera vaccinations.  I would have got Hepatitis B too, but there is a global shortage of the vaccine.  The cholera will require another dose at my next visit (which is just an effervescent drink) and meningitis.  At the same time, I will pick up my prescriptions for my anti-malaria pills and altitude sickness tablets.  Because most of my Kilimanjaro trip will be on the side of a mountain, we took greater precautions with more vaccines which will also cover my trip to Thailand and Cambodia.  Remember though, it is up to you and your doctor to discuss and agree what is right for you.

If you have any experience with climbing and/or altitude sickness, please leave me a comment below with your experience.  I am eager to learn as much as I can before the trip.

Many thanks to the Walk-In Clinic for their support of my trek to Kilimanjaro.  Services provided were complimentary, but all opinions and views are my own.  Please speak to your GP about your travel plans rather than follow my advice and experiences.  I am not a medical professional, just a biology nerd.

2018 may now begin

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

For a while, I have been in denial that a new year had started.  I continued to eat and drink as I did in December, which meant I gained back the weight it took me 12 weeks to lose at the end of 2017.  I was also in denial that I would stick to a fitness regime without any big races booked in for 2018.  Finally, after a strong blogging game the last few months, I thought I would be cranking out content in January.

And I did nothing about any of it. 

Not really nothing.  I worried a lot, sat on the couch, drank Jack and Diet Coke after work, and basically carried on worrying about what I was doing to myself.

The fear held me back from making any changes.  

As more time passed, the lower my self-esteem plummeted.  I was getting heavier, un-fitter, and more insecure about my presence on social media and this blog.  Maybe the fact that I lowered my anxiety meds contributed to me feeling frozen in time, unable to take action?  Or maybe the jealously/admiration of my fellow fitness bloggers was just getting the best of me (seriously, they do some pretty amazing stuff)?  It was a pity party for one and I was the guest of honor.

But then I went to a fitness class at Fitness Space in Wapping, where I saw some of my fitness friends.  We did some HIIT, then stretched it out with yoga.  Catching up over delicious food from The Fitology Kitchen, I realized that I do indeed have some exciting stuff going on and I just need to create the momentum again.

One of the things that motivates me is my passion for helping others find being active enjoyable and fun.  As the Happiness Personal Trainer, I strive to inspire other people with ways to make healthy choices a positive rather than a negative.

Let me tell you, I too struggle with these choices.  I have days that I want to stay on the couch eating raw cookie dough and watch Bridezillas with my dog (don't worry, he doesn't get any).

But I have come out of the other side now.  Yes, it sucks that I took a month off and slipped down the slope a bit.  I have made the decision to dust myself off and continue my journey towards health and happiness.  It will be tough at first but I need to get ready for some busy months ahead.  Being physically strong and more confident will make what I have lined up more enjoyable for all.

What changes am I making now that I have my mojo back?

First, I am unsubscribing to all the junk emails I never open.  I have big FOMO with fitness studios and brands but I can't possibly buy everything I get pictures of, nor can I attend all the classes.  I might miss a few cool things, but the fact my inbox won't explode every time I open it will help me feel less overwhelmed.  It might seem like a small thing, but I hope removing these distractions will help me focus on connecting with clients and developing new relationships.

Second, I am donating and E-baying a ton of stuff. My husband and I had a major clear out and reorganised some of our flat which is making him very happy (I tend to have piles of stuff everywhere).  It should also help me be organised with a new system and give me more opportunities to hoover and mop (to make my German grandmother proud).  Lack of pride in the cleanliness of my home is another knock to my self-esteem. I am nearly 40 and struggle to keep shelves dusted and walls white. Getting a cleaner has been on my list of things to do for a while and I hope to book one soon.

To keep things on track, I am going back to my Kikki.K goal planner to focus on the following big goals:
  • Loose 10 pounds (the ones I gained back) by 29 March, when we head to Thailand for two weeks for my brother-in-law's wedding
  • Successfully climb Mount Kilimanjaro on International Women's Day (come with me!)
  • Become a faster and stronger runner by continuing to work with Function360 and doing solo track sessions while my club has temporarily switched nights (gotta keep my BQ goal in sight)

The lesson in of all of this?

Don't worry if you don't have a list of resolutions, intentions or goals for 2018 yet.  

Don't worry if you sometimes lose your way. 

Life ebbs and flows.  In just one day, you can suddenly change direction.  Or you can gradually find yourself on a different course after 365 days.  Have faith in yourself and your abilities.  Do what makes you happy.  Don't be afraid to move the goal posts if you discover things aren't working out as you had planned. 

What gets you going again after you fall off the wagon?  Do you have tips on finding your mojo?  Leave me a comment below so that we can help one another focus on standing back up again rather than drowning in the guilt of experiencing a setback. It can happen to anyone at anytime.  And if it happens to you, please come back here for support and inspiration.

Advent 2017: 25th December

Monday, December 25, 2017

Merry Christmas to you and your's!

Quickie Workout #110