Posts Tagged ‘heartrate’

In it to spin it

Spin - not for the hungover.

Spin - not for the hungover.

A few weeks before Christmas I was schooled by a spin class. This was the true low point of my cycling year in 2010 (I’m working on the highlights).

Spin – it’s a cake walk, right? You turn up, you spin, you sweat, you leave. Good cardio, but for 30 mins, nothing on the scale of a fast sportive? Such were my naïve preconceptions on arriving at the gym for my first spin class.

In terms of fitness, I was hardly at my peak, but I figured I still had a handle on things – at least a vestige of late-season form. I swaggered into the spin ‘arena’ in a stained t-shirt and my gardening trainers, confident in the knowledge that I would be kicking everyone’s ass, including the instructor’s, within a few minutes’ time. I chose a bike in the front row and started pedalling.

I made 12 minutes of the session. I honestly had expected some kind of warm up, but was denied – we were straight in at 70% of max resistance . The instructor instructed me to work it, so I worked it. Well, first of all I dismounted and made a Mr.Bean-style hash of adjusting the saddle and stem height on my rig, then I worked it.

My heart rate went from about 100 to I guess at least 175 (I wasn’t wearing a monitor) in the first 2 minutes of the workout. At 4 minutes in, I was on the rivet. At 8 minutes, the instructor told us to kick the resistance up a notch. I was starting to feel seriously stressed out – my heart and lungs were pumping way too hard, but short of stopping completely I didn’t see how I could recover. When I started to feel faint, I realised I had to bail. I made some kind of risible ‘A-OK’ sign at the instructor before almost falling off the bike and out of the class. I very nearly vomited into a bin.

I will be going back, hopefully this week, and will be keeping the following tips in mind:

  1. Warm up on your own before the spin class for at least 20 minutes.
  2. Ignore the instructor.
  3. Get a bike in the back row, near the exit.
  4. Don’t go on even the second day after a festive party. You need a full, clean tank of gas.

Top end outage

I rode 90 minutes this morning when I was supposed to be working not cheating the week (ssshh, don’t tell work). I wanted to punish myself. 5 and a half weeks since the Marmotte and any really serious riding, and the layoff is getting to me. The first 3 weeks were OK – a relief in fact – but the last fortnight has been increasingly rough. Despite pinging it around town on the hack as often and as fast as possible, weekend commitments have kept me off the Wilier – stood reproachful, and a bit grubby, in my bedroom – and my general mood graph has recorded a marked slump.

Clearly, I need to set a new goal. Clearly, I need to get back on my bike, pronto. To this end I headed out today, aiming for a 6/4 Regent’s / Swain’s (in layman’s terms, 6 laps of regent’s Park followed by 4 hill repeats up Swain’s Lane. Here’s the graph:


I felt like my batteries were fairly flat from the start – even though my eating and sleeping have been fine over the last few days. In the end I managed 3/4, i.e. only 3 hard intervals on Regent’s Park. I was climbing OK, but my power output felt about 30% lower than I remember it being last time I did one of these sessions. Compare the above graph with a similar ride I did on June 24th, just prior to the Marmotte, or this one around Easter time. On both of these, I remember / blogged that I felt good, my heart rate went higher, and I did 5/6 or 6/6.

So evidently my top-end fitness has taken a hit over the last month or so, while my weight remains constant (or even slightly less, incredibly), my endurance is solid, and I can still climb. It seems like the most fragile, short-lived part of my form, that needs to be kept topped up lest it wane. It’s time to bring back the power.

Final pre-Marmotte Regent’s Park & Swain’s Lane

Just back from a 2-hour Regent’s Park / Swain’s Lane session in the warm sunshine. Nice to have it back after quite a few cloud-covered outings.

My technique in the park today was, rather than ride at threshold for 5 minutes, start from the same corner but go all-out to the traffic lights, then recover. On my first one of these I hit 193 bpm, which I think must be close to my maximum. Needless to say the 2 boys attempting to follow me were toasted, burned, then binned.

Ignore (again) the ridiculous 240bpm peak in the first 5 minutes.

Ignore (again) the ridiculous 240bpm peak in the first 5 minutes.

I’ve identified a definite bug in my Garmin heart-rate monitor, reviewed earlier on this blog. Occasionally, in the first few minutes of a workout, the monitor will display a massively erratic reading, e.g. 240 bpm, while I’m coasting downhill. This is kind of annoying, because it throws my nice heart-rate graph out of whack.

On the subject of Garmin, it’s great to see continual enhancements to the user interface on the Connect website. The whole Garmin project feels fresh and innovative – I will certainly be investing further.

Here’s one example: the ‘Player’ workout playback function, with variable speeds and micro-controls to view exactly when and how hard you were training. However, I guess it’s supposed to show a graph in the middle – my version didn’t.

Garmin's workout 'player'. Cool.

Garmin's workout 'player'. Cool. Fresh. etc.



I got my ass kicked twice this weekend by some very fast riders.

The Phoenix club ride started brisk and was full-on during the third hour. We started as 10 and finished as 8. I just about stayed in contention, but only just. Here’s my HR graph:

Phoenix club graph

Phoenix club graph

Monday’s ride was billed as a ‘social’ with some mates of Jonny‘s who have recently formed their own race team. The ‘Acuto‘ squad was 9-strong on the day, all clad in brand-new lycra team livery, and composed of an ex-pro, several current or former 2nd-cat racers, and this guy, a professional triathlete and xterra competitor. I was the incongruous tenth man in my Mornflake flouro kit.

To be fair I was on the pace for the first couple of hours, as we took a familiar route from Cobham over Shere and down to Ewhurst, easily the fastest I’ve ever ridden it. Then the speed began to hurt, and I was dropped on Leith Hill. It was in a way a fortuitous accident that after we went through Peaslake and began to head home, I took a wrong turn that landed me back in Ewhurst. I radio’d in, then bailed, riding across to Leith Hill (again) then over Coldhardbour to take a train from Dorking.

The moral of the story is, I need to ride with these guys more often. I had a really interesting chat with a guy on my Regent’s Park spin on Saturday, who told me he was a big believer in quality over quantity, and that 90 mins at 20 mph would be more valuable than 5 hrs at 16 mph (although he accepted that for events like La Marmotte there was no such thing as too many miles).

Prince’s Gold

I’m pleased with my ride at yesterday’s Prince’s Risborough sportive. I beat the gold time target by a decent margin, doing 126km in 4hrs 20, the same time as I posted for the 114km Burgess Hill Classic in late March. The BHC was admittedly a lot hillier, and that day I spent a fair amount of time solo whereas yesterday I was able to work with small groups of strong riders to draft on the flat. Check the results – I’m around 33 out of 232 finishers. (more…)

Product review: Garmin Forerunner 50

A few weeks ago I upgraded my old heart rate monitor and bought Garmin’s most basic HRM, the Forerunner 50


First impressions were good. The screen is clear, the watch and chest-strap fit well, the watch buttons are big enough, and it’s pretty easy to get used to the functions after a flick through the manual.

The Forerunner 50 also comes with a USB stick so you can upload saved sessions to your Garmin account and chew over the data. I found myself stumbling around the Garmin websites on a few occasions, so I’ve tried to figure out why. I ran into problems trying to download the software required for pairing my USB stick and watch on a new machine.

Software download

I log in to ‘myGarmin’, then click ‘Downloads’ – and it says I have no downloads available for my product. Confused, and after heading down several other dead-ends, I return to ‘View your registered products’, and click on ‘Forerunner 50’, which I have already registered. I hit-and-hope on a link that says ‘Accessories’. Now I’m on a shop page, but I see there are some Quick Links on the right, one of which is ‘Garmin Connect’. Is this what I’m looking for?

Yes. I’m pinged over to, and a new page called ‘myConnect’, where I can easily navigate to download the Garmin ANT Agent software. Why can’t I do this directly from myGarmin via a self-contained admin area? It seems that from Garmin’s point of view, there are different types of download – software downloads for upgrades and add-ons, and software downloads for pairing – but from my point of view, I want all downloads in the same place, clearly flagged from a central ‘myWhatever’ page.

Once downloaded, the ANT Agent software makes pairing the computer and the device, and uploading saved workouts, very simple. I was very pleasantly surprised to discover it worked with Mac / Safari, and I really like the myConnect dashboard interface – it makes me want to upgrade my hardware to use more data (e.g. distance / speed, and maps).


The Garmin myConnect 'workout details' page.

The whole experience is very good overall. The Forerunner 50 is excellent value, and I feel good about buying in to the Garmin technology. A few aspects of the online interface are a bit frustrating, and I think these could be improved if the different zones of Garmin’s web environment were better integrated.

Update 5-4-09

After a couple of months’ regular use I’m still a fan of this HRM. Couple of points worth mentioning though:

  • Memory: I tend to go on long rides, and this model’s memory gets full after about 6-7hrs. In order to avoid the ‘lo-mem’ warning that flashes up and obscures the time readout in Train mode, it’s best to clear all saved workouts. Even then, ‘lo-mem’ pops up on rides over 6hrs. Poor.
  • The stop-start button can be depressed by accident when descending, due to contact with the back of the hand.

Stoke: Christmas routes #3

This morning I rode Stoke loop #2 in reverse, via Beech extension #1 (a different way of reaching the Yarnfield roundabout – this adds 1 mile and means more climbing straight off). I set the HRM to 150 max after reading Joe Beer’s zoning article which indicates that Zone 1 is 60-80% of HRmax. 150 isn’t 80% of my max, but setting an upper limit at 140 was leaving me feeling cold on the bike, so considering it was 3 degrees out today, I upped it.

Even though I was riding harder, the ride took 2hrs 45mins, 5 mins longer than when I rode loop #2 on Christmas Eve. I did extend the route, and put more hills in as a result, but even so it was surprising. I did also have to deal with some pretty strong headwinds though so perhaps they were a major factor.

Felt good though. Compared to 140 max, riding at 150 max results in:

  • significantly more sweating
  • marginally more pressure on the legs
  • very slightly harder breathing
  • more speed and aggression

Maximum heart rate

I plan to try and determine my max heart rate early in the new year, to make my zone training more accurate. Here’s a method I could use:

If you want to actually reckon your max heart rate on the bike, it’s easy: simply warm up with 10 to 15 minutes of easy pedalling, and then ride ‘full-blast’ at nearly maximal power output (while maintaining an optimal rpm of 90 to 95 or so) for two minutes. ‘Spin’ easily against little resistance for 60 to 75 seconds, and then pedal at maximal capacity for two more minutes. Your heart rate should almost ‘top out’ after this second two-minute surge (make sure you get your doctor’s permission before you try this, however).

Original article on Peak Performance.