Sunday, 27 June 2010

Heart Rate Tells Hill Training Story

I thought it would be interesting to describe today's Wrekin workout from a heart-rate perspective. Follow the blue line - that's my heart rate. Starts at 60, maxes out at 193 (time to the top: 18:51), then stays at around 100 during the walking at the end. Altitude is the red line. Couple of photos underneath, including lunch photo. Lots of sun in the UK at the moment. It's a joy.

On the way back up the Light Side, after meeting Mrs M

Resting and waiting for Mrs M after the fast descent of a steep section

Two hours later, lunch at home - crab, avocado, rocket

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Saturday, 26 June 2010

Vibram Five Fingers Hit Wimbledon

That was a cheap trick. Apologies if you visited this post expecting to learn that Andy Roddick had played his third round match in a pair of Vibram Five Fingers.

As you've no doubt guessed from the photo, it was only my Vibrams that graced court number 1 yesterday, and only in the stalls. I sneaked in a quick photo with my foot up before the place filled up and we became sardine-like spectators.

In the morning, before heading to Wimbledon, there was time for a mini-hike up Box Hill, the not-very-high, second highest point in the South East of England. Or something like that. Glorious sunshine, so a chance to get some vitamin D into the bargain.

Top off, to soak up the rays and vitamin d

The scenic route up to Box Hill

The view from the top of Box Hill, with Dorking below

Before I started blogging, when I lived in London, I would run up and down Box Hill with the weighted vest 3 or 4 times on Sunday mornings. One particular route is even tougher than the Wreken Dark Side, albeit not as high. The path is almost like a meandering staircase with steps too large to trot up, forcing large, energy-sapping strides.

Needless to say, Mrs M and I took the scenic route this time.

The first matchAndy RoddickVenus Williams

At the tennis, we saw some European guys, then Venus Williams, then Andy Roddick against some German guy. The difference between the first men's game and the one with Roddick was phenomenal. Roddick is like a man possessed. I can't imagine what Federer is like to watch live.
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Friday, 25 June 2010

400 Metre Intervals - CrossFit Endurance Style

Location: Birmingham City, UK
Date: 24th June

3 x ~370 metre intervals (up a shallow hill)
~ 3 minute rest (as I walked back)

Sprint times: 1:05, 1:04, 1:05

Total Time: 10 minutes

Post Workout Nutrition: scrambled eggs with coconut cream and cocoa, 90 minutes later.

I got this session just about right. I did each one at about 90% of the theoretical possible speed. So the final one left me pretty toasted, but I avoided my legs becoming unduly fatigued.

It is just over a week until I have a tough race, and important I don't get carried away with fitness training and jeopardise my readiness by overdoing it.

I haven't read much on CrossFit Endurance yet, although I did look at it briefly last year. Broadly, the idea is to use longer intervals (instead of the 'Primal' 10-15 seconds protocol I tend to follow) to train for longer events. This was behind my 370-metre work today.

If nothing else, it feels good to be mixing it around - something I imagine hunters 'in the wild' would have done naturally. ... Read more

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Cheat 300 Workout, Mostly

Location: Woodcock Sports Centre, Aston University
Date: 22nd June

Workout: Cheat '300' Workout

25 Chin Ups - 16, 5, 4
50 Deadlifts (Romanian) - 35, 15
50 Push Ups - 35, 10, 5
50 Box Jumps - 50
50 Floor Wipers - 25, 15, 10
25 x 2 Clean and Press with Dumbbell - right arm - 10, 10, 5; left arm - 15, 10
25 Chin Ups - 6, 3... stopped

Total Time: 27:52 (time to last set, 24:30)

Post Workout Nutrition: this, 60 minutes later.

I got through these pretty quickly today, but my chin-ups are still letting me down. I need to do some weighted sets at other times to build a little more strength.

I am still about 7 lbs off what I refer to as my 'fighting weight' - 11 and a half stone. At around that weight, I can bust through these 300s more effectively. Today, once I realised I was dying on that final set, I cut my losses.

My focus is the Skiddaw Fell Race (9 miles and 2700 feet of ascent) on 4th July, which last year I walked, on the basis that long hard races are not 'Paleo'. Since then I've softened my position on endurance exercise a little after reading two inspiring books.

Lightning and I have pledged to run Skiddaw every year from now on. It's a great way to ensure your fitness does not slip by having a benchmark.

In 2005 I ran it in around 1 hour 29 minutes. This will be tough to match but I'll have a go. As my recent training posts have indicated, I am doing some serious fitness training at the moment. So far, I have balanced the pain with overtraining avoidance. I have also been very strict on diet. Very low carb, alternate day fasts, no coffee, no booze - all good stuff. I am dropping about 2 lbs a week.

So by 4th July I should be around 11-10 and pretty fit. Maybe I won't get 1:29, but definitely under 1:40.
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Saturday, 19 June 2010

Dark Side of the Wrekin, Weighted Vest, Pain

Location: Dark Side of the Wrekin
Date:19th June

Workout: ran to the top of the dark side of Wrekin hill and back down.

Time to top:
21.36 (39 seconds faster than last week)

Total Running time: about 45 minutes

Post Workout Nutrition: don't know yet - am writing post 90 minutes after I finished.

I woke up last night feeling faintly nauseous and not quite right in the stomach. It must have been the pork I ate last night. For a time I was worried I might be heading for a full-blown food poisoning incident.

I managed to get back to sleep, but when I woke at 6.30, I still felt slightly off colour. In the past, I would have ignored it. I had decided I was running, so I would run. And in the past, I was fitter.

Thus, I drove to the Wrekin anyway, donned weighted vest, started stopwatch, gritted teeth and headed upwards. Amazing how quickly the body realises there are other, more pressing things to worry about and stops bugging you about silly things like bacteria it doesn't quite see eye to eye with.

My continuing quest to re-kindle my friendship with the god of pain was well-served by today's outing. My time was 39 seconds faster than last week. I would say this was:

- 40% increased intensity (happier with the pain)
- 30% I weigh less
- 30% I am fitter

Last week I was back on speaking terms with the god of pain. This week we were having coffee. Well, he was having coffee, I was having a peppermint tea.
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Friday, 18 June 2010

Hard Week: Tabata, Sprints and some Weights

Location: Woodcock Sports Centre, Aston University
Date:15th - 17th June

- Tabata Rowing Machine - almost 100% effort (resistance level 5)

Total time: 5 minutes (includes 1 minute warm up)
Food: eggs, blueberries, cinnamon 60 minutes later.


- Chin Ups: as many as I could do = 16

- Dumbbell bench press alternated with Romanian Deadlift (with dumbbells)
(bench - 3 x 5 @ 30kg, 2 x 5 @ 28kg) (deads - 5 x 5 @ 36kg - easy)

- Sprints: 3 x 30 seconds in the studio - 60 - 120 seconds rest between each (30 seconds = about 6 studio lengths)

Total time: 25 minutes
Food: eggs, blueberries, cinnamon (again!) 60 minutes later.

I've just read a blog post, The Tabata Myth and commented on it. The session on Tuesday left me walking around in pain for about 3 minutes. With normal exercise, when you stop, you feel better - especially if you are already quite fit, as I am. So I suspect I am doing the Tabatas properly. He may be right to question how proven Tabata's effectiveness is. However, as I say in my comment, it is so quick and efficient that I would be happy even if it were not as effective as 30 minutes of circuit training.

The sprints were slightly easier than last time. By this I mean that my legs felt less violated by the end of the third sprint. I had intended to do a fourth, since that would represent progress from the last session. But since I will be doing some tough hill training with the weight vest on tomorrow (like this), it seemed sensible to hold back.
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Monday, 14 June 2010

The Wrekin Dark Side with 9kg Weight Vest

I was bristling with training gear on Sunday morning. First, the 9kg weighted vest. It's a while since I donned this for hill training. It's the kind of thing you start dreading if you leave it too long. The dark side of the Wrekin is about as steep as it gets, so truly running up it is a challenge even without extra ballast.

Second, I was strapped up with the heart rate monitor and had the GPS phone in my pocket.

Alas, however, I failed to properly start the bluetooth on the phone, so no heart rate. What I do have is this very cool widget from SportsTrackLive that allows you to replay the run to the top - click the small play button towards the top. Then it's better to zoom the map out a little with the usual Google map tool, and use the forward button under the graph to speed it up.

Allow me to summarise the heart rate for you in words. Slow (before I started), fast (as I started), like a train (the rest of the time), slower (after I had finished.)

Mrs M was around and about on the hill, so I spent another hour mooching around with her, which was still keeping my heart rate at about 150 (by now I had fixed the bluetooth) because of the extra weight I was carrying and the recovery from the savagery of the initial ascent.

Time to top: 22.25
Post run nutrition: A hog roast a couple of hours later at the farm we buy our meat.

and I have several tough, and increasingly long mountain races coming up this summer and autumn. There will be more of these cruel, weighted, steep hill sessions, interspersed with evil Tabatas and inhuman weights circuits. There is no choice but to get fit.
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Thursday, 10 June 2010

Savage 300 Workout & Easy Running in Downtown Boston

Downtown, uptown, I never know the difference. There were tall buildings, so there's no doubt about the 'town' part - but beyond that, I haven't a clue. It sounded good in the title, so I sacrificed accuracy for style.

I am staying at the Lenox hotel, in which there is the traditionally 'just adequate' gym. The gyms in big city hotels are so similar, I usually feel like I've been there before. It's nice - like a home from home.

The photo, taken from their website, pretty much tells the story. Out of view, behind the photographer, is a set of 10 - 50lb dumbbells, a pull down machine, a leg raise machine and a wooden bench for sitting on. This came in handy, as it happens.


I improvised a cheat 300 workout using the available equipment. These were the exercises:

25 Machine pull downs @ 120 lbs
50 Press ups
50 Dumbbell deadlifts @ 50lbs each
50 Tuck Jumps
50 Floor wipers with 50 lb dumbbells
25 Dumbbell clean and press @ 30lbs
25 Machine pull downs @ 120 lbs

I deliberately chose lighter weights so I could minimise rest due to muscle failure.

Time: 18.25
Food afterwards: Asparagus and mushroom omelet

The plan worked - I may have been forced to use lighter weights by the available equipment, but by deliberately judging the other weights (such as pull downs) to avoid lots of enforced rests, I made this the toughest session I've had in weeks.

By the end, I was in serious pain. The 'sitting down' bench came in handy. It was a good job it was 4.30am and the gym was empty, because I was making a lot of noise in the closing set.

Back at the room, a brief lie down was required.


I have bought a heart rate monitor that connects with tracking software on my mobile phone. This means I get a map of the route and graphs of altitude, speed and heart rate. Very cool. When I have downloaded the paid-for version of the tracking software I will be able to post the graphs for future runs.

To test it, I ran around Boston 'town' for an hour, over some bridges, along some water and through some car parks when I got lost. Of course it's not possible to actually get lost anymore, since my phone tells me where I am, where the hotel is, and what direction I am moving in.

I did the run in my Vibram Five Finger Mocs - not really designed for outdoor running, but they stood up to the challenge and gave me the closest thing to a truly barefoot running experience I've ever had.

The good news: by running at what felt like about the right pace for easy exercise, I kept my heart rate at an average of 148 bmp, which I think is about right. I didn't monitor it while running - just looked at the graph afterwards.

Time: 60 minutes.
Food afterwards: none - fasted until evening.
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Saturday, 5 June 2010

Hill Training - Mixing Easy with Hard

Location: The Wrekin
Date: 5th May

Route: through Ercall Wood, up the Wrekin, down the back, round the side and back through Ercall Wood.

Intensity: various - sprints mixed with easy pace.

Time: 90 minutes
Post Workout Nutrition: this, an hour later.

We wanted to spice a long training run up with a few short, hard sections, to build up some fitness at the same time. Probably shouldn't do this too often, as it was almost as hard as a race in the end. We followed a similar route to the Wrekin Fell Race earlier in the year.

This was how we looked after the first 40-second burst at 75% effort. I am standing at the top of the hill we came up.

The hill we'd just run up is behind me

At the top, I used the timer on my camera to take a photo of Lightning and me. It was taking me a while to get the timer working, and his impatience was inadvertently captured by one of the photos I accidentally took:

"Will you stop dicking around?"

Then, suddenly, Mr Niceguy...

This was a photo of The Ercall from the side of the Wrekin. Nice bluebells in the foreground, although the camera has not done justice to them.

Later, we did more of an 85% sprint over 30 seconds, then, just before the end, a power walk up the steep side of The Ercall. Lightning was flagging at this point. He's a week or two behind me in the fitness drive, but I expect he'll catch up.
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Old School Chest & Arms + Studio Sprints

Location: Woodcock Sports Centre, Aston University
Date:3rd May

Dumbbell bench press: 3 x 10 @ 30kg, 2 x 5 @ 28kg
Chin Ups: as many as I could do = 13
Barbell curls: 5 x 5 @ 10kg per side on EZ bar

3 x 30 second sprints in the studio - 60 - 90 seconds rest between each.

Total time: 25 minutes
Food: eggs, strawberries, cocoa 60 minutes later.

My gym partner is back on the scene, so to appease him and because it's kinda fun, I agreed to 20 minutes of classic bodybuilding training at the start of the session. You know the drill - heavy weights, long rests, walking round the area like you have misplaced two rolls of carpet previously kept under your arms, talking man talk. Okay, we skipped the long rests and the carpet thing (it only works if you have big enough lats to fill the gap.)

Afterwards, continuing my drive to recapture former fitness, I nipped into the studio and rattled out a few sprints. I am re-acquainting myself with the god of pain. I think we are back on speaking terms. It felt good.

You may also have noticed we slipped in a set of 'as many as you can do' chin ups. Since we are both on a mission to get lean, this will be a nice progress gauge. ... Read more

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Weekend of Cycling and a Mountain Race

Sunday: a long cycle ride (here), about 5 hours, of which 3 hours was actually pedalling. One the way, a packed lunch of crab and salad. It was easy pedalling (I was with Mrs M) so a good bit of long, low intensity exercise.

Along the way, some great photos of the scenery, some vivid orange/red flowers and a crane that landed in front of us:

Bank Holiday Monday
: the Shultlinsloe fell race.

My time this year: 24.54. My time in 2008: 21.57.

It goes without saying that I am not happy about this. I have gained weight and lost fitness. This is the spur I needed to get lean and fit over the summer. There is a slew of big races in late summer and autumn, for which I plan to shed nearly a stone and become seriously fit. The year of living badly is over.

That said, it was an enjoyable race, as ever, as my running partner, Lightning's account indicates.

Since in his post he used a photo in which I have my eyes closed and he looks mean, I figured I'd use a photos in my post where he has his eyes closed. Unfortunately instead of looking mean I look like someone is controlling me from above with strings...

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