Friday, May 20, 2011

Group Training - 5/19/11

More group training last night. Gilles set up a couple cool circuits for us last night and i want to get them down before I forget them.

We started on the chest press machine. 10 reps at whatever weight he set for you. Then 20 resistance band bicep curls. Then 12 resistance band shoulder presses. Then 12 resistance band front raises and side raises. Then a 30-second v-sit as a bit of a rest. We went through that circuit 3 times.

Next circuit. Now we have a little rolling cart thing, and we're doing "tucks" or something. Basically, your toes go on the rolling cart platform, your hands or elbows go on the ground, and you pull your feet up under your body and then push them back out. Pretty tough, for sure. Then we did half-squat rows on the cable machine. Those weren't too bad. We also did quick, shallow dips on a ledge. My hands kept getting tingly, so I think I was pinching a nerve or something. Each station is 30 seconds, with a 10 second rest. We did 3 rounds of that as well.

To finish, we hit those range of motion stepper machines I've mentioned and worked on those for about 10 minutes. We alternated between just normal stepping and the "get low and pump your legs without moving your upper body" style stuff. That is really crazy hard. We did a number of 15 second bursts of that followed by 25 seconds of just regular stepping. We finished up with two 30-second bursts of the heavy duty work and then were done. It was a pretty serious workout. My legs were worn all the way out just from the 10 minutes we did, and my upper body was toast from all the rest. We got a lot of good core work in, too.

Overall, I'm really liking the group classes. Everyone is still super nice and having other people around is making me push myself harder for sure. I'm still learning tons of new exercises and all, so it's all really valuable. I'm thinking after a month of this, I may well be ready to start hitting the gym on my own 3x per week and be able to work up a solid hour worth of work for myself without anything getting stale. Woot!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Calculating Calories Burned Based on Average Heart Rate

I got at least a little intrigued by this idea, and have started doing my traditional poke around the internet. here's what I've come up with so far:

All look pretty similar. What I'm going to do is to enter the information from my workout last night into each and see what they come up with. Here's the info from last night:

Avg Heart Rate: 141 BPM
Duration: 57:00 min

And my info...

29 years old
235 pounds
45 VO2 Max

Here goes:

Triathlottrainingblog says: 840 calories burned
Shapesense says: 895 calories burned
Braydenwm says: 841 calories burned

There are some other factors, of course. These calculations are based on a heart rate between 90 and 150 BPM. If you go above or below those, the calculations are no longer accurate. I'm also thinking there has to be an element of heart rate zones in here somewhere. I know you keep burning calories all the way into your Zone 5, but the calories are now predominantly glycogen instead of stored fat.

Since this is as good a time as any to get into a discussion of heart rate zones, let's get to it. You can do all of this with calculations which are really just estimates based on age and gender, without any real bearing on what your own numbers might be. That is why science invented the stress test, to see what your very own heart and lungs can do. I'm thinking more and more that I should get one of those. Until I do, though, here's the info I've been able to scrounge up.

I just found this article and I like what it has to say.

Your maximum heart rate is 220 - your age according to most sources. So for me, since I'm 29, my maximum heart rate is 191. Seem arbitrary? It is! By this logic, a 29 year old marathon runner has the same heart rate as a 29 year old quadriplegic who runs zero marathons. Silly, obviously.The one in the article is at least slightly better, hopefully. It's 210-(50%*Age) - (5%*Weight) + 4 for men and 210 - (50% * Age) - (1% * body weight) for women. Using that calculation, mine is 188. It still doesn't have anything to do with my fitness, but at least now it's tied to my body in some way.

Your resting heart rate is your heart rate when you're totally at rest. The best way to calculate this is to take your pulse a few days in a row before you get out of bed. I'm sort of miserable at doing this. I suck at counting my own pulse, and I really suck at remembering to do anything before I get out of bed. I'm going to guess my resting heart rate is 60 and try very hard to remember to measure it over the next few days.

Your "Heart Rate Reserve" is the difference between your resting heart rate and your max. Think of it as the heart rate you have left over between complete rest and maximum work. So you take your max HR (191) and subtract your resting HR (60) to get your HRR (131).

Let's talk about zones. Zones are broken down by percentages of max HR, generally. One of the sources I found breaks them down by percentage of HRR + Resting HR, but that's the only one I can find that does that, so it may be a bunch of hooey. I think the % of Max HR is the way to go, just based on the numbers you get. Using the more complicated method indicates that you're not even starting to get into a training zone until you get up to 124 BPM, which seems really silly.

Zone 1 is your heart fitness zone. It's a brisk walk. You're not really burning fat or increasing cardio capacity, but your heart is moving and you're getting the benefits of low-intensity exercise. This is 50%-60% of your Max HR, or 94-112 for me.

Zone 2 is your fat burning zone. It's a low enough intensity that you can stick with it for a good long while, and you're burning up to 85% of your calories from stored fat. This is a good place to be. Most people (myself included) tend to train too hard and miss this sweet spot. This is 60%-70% of your Max HR, or 113-130 for me.

Zone 3 is the aerobic zone. This is your cardio training zone. You're burning about 50/50 for carbs and fats, so it isn't the most efficient zone for fat burning, but it the best place to be to increase your overall cardiovascular health. Your heart and lungs are working hard in this zone, meaning you'll be increasing their capacity to do work. This is 70%-80% of your Max HR, or 131-149 for me.

Zone 4 is the anaerobic threshold zone. This is where your body can no longer supply your muscles with enough blood and oxygen to keep them operating in an aerobic mode, and has to switch to anaerobic to keep going. You're not using very much fat at all for energy at this point. You're switching over to using primarily glycogen. Training in this zone will help you to increase your threshold, meaning you'll be able to work harder without getting into this zone. You can only work in this zone for so long before you deplete your glycogen stores and you fatigue. Depleting your glycogen stores means your body builds them back even larger, so this is also where you train to increase your glycogen capacity. This is 80%-90% of your Max HR, or 150-168 for me.

Zone 5 is your maximum heart rate, or your "Red Line" zone. You can't work in this zone for more than a couple of minutes at a time. This is where you throw up, pass out, injure yourself, etc. It's not a place to spend long periods of time. It's useful to train here, because this is where you can increase your speed. People normally train in this zone using intervals. This is 90%-100% of your Max HR, or 169-188 for me.

Now that we've gone through all those, here's the kicker: Each zone will not be a simple 10% swath of your heart rate. Depending on how you've trained, certain zones will be wider or narrower than others. If you've trained in sprinting a great deal, your AT (anaerobic threshold) may be very high. That would mean your Zones 4 and 5 would be compressed, and your Zone 3 might be extended. If you never work your AT, your Zones 1-3 might be compressed due to a significantly lower AT. Individual zones could be larger or smaller and none of these calculations have any way to account for that. They're estimates at best, and they're really estimates based on estimates based on averages. So...nearly worthless. But maybe, just maybe, you will have your actual zone limits close enough to where your estimated zone limits are that when you train intentionally in the middle of Zone 3, you will actually be working your own personal body in Zone 3. So...there's that. The bright side is that anything under Zone 4 will burn fat, just not as efficiently as being in Zone 2. Anything above Zone 2 will help increase cardio capacity, just not as efficiently as Zone 3. So there's a range available, it's just not something where you can say "Hey, it's fat-burning day. Let me take these numbers I calculated from the internet and do my workout in Zone 2," and be anything more than kinda sure that you're actually doing that. You'll still get benefits of course, they just may not be the benefits you're looking for. Since I'm currently at a point where literally any improvement in any area of health or fitness is a worthy goal, I don't have to worry too much about it. But I probably will anyway.

Thanks for reading!

Group Training - 5/17/11

Whew! Sorry about the big gap in posting here. We got super sick last week and did absolutely nothing fitness-related. On Monday, I was so sick I was literally in bed, on the couch, or in the bathroom the entire day. I had a fever, I was dehydrating myself by every possible avenue and I ate maybe half a cup of applesauce the whole day. Not ideal. I couldn't even keep down water earlier in the day. Jenna stayed home and looked after me all day like a champion. I really couldn't have done it without her. I don't remember the last time I was so sick, but I hope it doesn't happen again for a very long time. Tuesday I stayed home again but felt much better. No more puking, and the fever was gone. Tuesday night, though, Jenna started feeling it. Wednesday she stayed home and I wasn't able to stay with her, unfortunately. Thursday she stayed home again and was feeling much better by the end. By Friday, we were both back at work and feeling much closer to 100%, but still not quite there. Over the weekend we took it pretty easy and rested up a lot more. So we completely stopped tracking calories and didn't do any workouts for a whole week. I lost about 4-5 pounds just in water weight because I was so dehydrated. I ended up pounding a fair amount of low-cal Gatorade just to get myself back up to snuff. By the end of the week, I was feeling pretty good on hydration. It was weird to have non-water again after so long, but it really felt like it helped me out.

So, last night, we got back into action. We had our first group training session with Gilles. There are seven people in the group, including us. One other married couple, a lady who is recovering from having a baby, Gilles' wife (Danielle, I think?) and another petite woman who is all kinds of lean and muscley. She's pretty hardcore and I'm almost certain she could outlift me. Everyone is really nice, and we all got along well. I think the other guy in the group is thankful that there's another man now, but he might be a little happier if I weren't so young. I didn't feel young or fit at all while we were working, but I managed to keep up with everything pretty well. Here's what we did:

We started out doing a dynamic warmup. High knees and buttkicks followed by mummies and jogging, with some backwards jogging thrown in for good measure. After that, We did a circuit of pushups for 45 seconds (Hah! I had to go to my knees after maybe 30 seconds) followed by a jog to the other side of the gym and back two times, then figure 8s with a medicine ball. Those are cool. They're like v-sit chops, but instead of just touching the ball on the ground side to side, you weave it under and over your legs while maintaining the v-sit. Very tough, but a very good progression. The last stage of the circuit was chest passes against the wall with the medicine ball. We did that circuit three times. Then we had a nice long rest and Gilles had us start on the second circuit. It was a 7-stage circuit and we all cycled through it at 45 seconds on, 15 seconds of rest. I started on pushup position planks, then went to figure 8s, then lateral jumps over a big rope, then running back and forth across the gym. After that, it was dragging a weight sled with two 45-pound plates on it. No idea how much the sled weighed, but it was pretty heavy. At least 100 pounds, maybe more like 110 or 115, I'm thinking. Then I did a wall sit, then did high knees on an agility ladder and that was the end of the circuit. A bit of rest, then back through. This time we did 30 seconds on, 10 seconds rest. The final run through the circuit was 30 on and 10 off, but he really wanted us to push ourselves 100% on every exercise. We also reversed the order we went through the circuit. The final bit of fun was forward/backward suicides across the width of the gym. Gilles set cones out at 5-yard intervals, and we had to sprint to the far cone and run backwards back to the start. Then sprint out to the second-farthest cone and run backwards to the start. I think there were 7 cones in all, and we did the whole exercise twice. I felt pretty good about it. I can backpedal pretty quickly and my transitions are fast.

My heart rate was up in the 160 BPM plus for a large portion of this session. I think I maxed out at 178 BPM. I have no idea where my zones actually are, but I'm pretty sure that's a high 4 or 5. I was definitely sucking wind more than a few times over the course of the session. I didn't really get close to throwing up, but it was at least on my mind that I might. One thing I really wish my watch would do is to estimate calorie burn based on heart rate. It does it based on distance which is fine for running or swimming, but doesn't work so well for jumping in place or dragging a weight sled. I may have to do some research online and see if I can find a conversion table or something. Alternatively, I may need to look into a "Gym HRM" and an "Outdoor Running HRM" as separate entities. I really like my Garmin, but it is only well-suited to one of my regular exercise activities, and it's the least-regular one I do these days.

We also (before the session) had Gilles get our weight and do a pinch test for body fat. Here are my results:

Weight: 235 pounds (this is late in the day, after having eaten and everything all day long)
BMI: 29.4
Body Fat: 16.4%
Lean Mass: 196.46
Fat Mass: 38.54

If you compare this to my original numbers from about 6 weeks ago, You'll see the following changes:

Weight: -10 pounds
BMI: -1.2 (Moved from Obese to Overweight)
Body Fat: -6%
Lean Mass: +6.3 pounds
Fat Mass: -16.3 pounds

Given that my goal originally was to lose 20 pounds of fat and not lose any lean mass in 12 weeks, I'd say I am absolutely dominating. In half that time, I have already almost lost all of the body fat I wanted to lose and have gained a lot more muscle than I would have expected. I have come to the conclusion that my body really does want to be lean and muscular. There's just a limit on what it can do with a steady diet of candy, pizza and couch-surfing. I'm seeing and feeling significant changes already. My stomach is flatter and harder, especially in the obliques. I'm seeing more muscle tone in my chest, arms and shoulders as well. I still have a long way to go, for sure. I'm happy to be reaching my initial goal so soon, but I'm going to push myself and try to get down to 12% body fat by the end of 12 weeks now. Here's what that would look like if i didn't gain any more lean mass (which seems unlikely, but there you go):

Weight: 223.3 pounds
BMI: 27.9
Body Fat: 12.0%
Lean Mass: 196.46 pounds
Fat Mass: 26.79 pounds

That looks like a loss of another 11.75 pounds of fat. Obviously that's feasible in 6 weeks, since I've already done that and more. Any additional lean mass will just be gravy. So there it is. Setting another finish line out even farther for myself so I have more to shoot for. I really think these group sessions will help a great deal, because the intensity level is so much higher.

Thanks for reading!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Personal Training - 5/3/11 and 5/5/11

This was our final week of our 2-on-1 personal training sessions with Gilles. We had 4 weeks of training, which means 8 sessions. We covered a huge number of topics and I know Jenna and I both learned a ton. We're both extremely happy that we did the full month with him and now we're ready to move onto the second month, which is still a personal training session twice a week, but it'll be in a group of 6 instead of 2. That also brings the cost down significantly.
So this has now been about 4 weeks of 2 workouts per week (and precious little else) and about 2 weeks of actually tracking my food. That doesn't mean 2 weeks of eating well, it just means 2 weeks where i was trying to enter everything I ate into a spreadsheet. Sometimes I failed miserably at eating in the right proportion. Sometimes I failed at eating the proper amount (2800 calories per day is my goal). Sometimes, but not often, I did both. So this is not a super-strict diet. I'm still eating burgers and pizza and all the rest. But I am trying at least to eat a balance of macronutrients and to limit myself (or push myself) to 2800 per day. This isn't always easy, but the longer I do it, the easier it becomes.

Now for my results. You know I started at 245 pounds with 22.4% body fat, right? Well as of the end of this week, I am down to 235 (+/- depending on when I weigh myself) and according to my home calipers, I'm at 18% bodyfat. Gilles will do a check for us next week to see where we are for real (I did get some tips from him on where to pinch to get the best results) and I have pretty high hopes. I'm definitely seeing results. I'm looking thinner in the face for sure, and I can really see changes in my abdomen. I've got less fat and harder muscle underneath it. I'm also starting to see some of the fat that's right under my pecs starting to recede, which is cool. I would like to see more movement on my love handles but that will probably take more time. I'm not really noticing any big changes in the size of my arms or legs, though. I am, however, feeling stronger. I'm able to hold my static positions for longer, lift heavier weights, etc.

Here's the math: If I take my home fat test as accurate, that indicates that I have lost 12.5 pounds of fat and gained 2.5 pounds of muscle. Not bad for being in an almost-constant caloric deficit and not really doing much in the way of aerobic workouts. I did cardio, for sure, but my heart rate was well out of the fat burning zone. So I think I'm burning fat after workouts, primarily. Really, I think if I stick with my twice per week heavy strength workouts and add in another moderate strength workout on Saturday and a couple of low-intensity aerobic days during the week, I can really start peeling off the fat. nothing motivates like results, so I'm definitely feeling the drive to get to work on this even harder.

As for the workouts this week, I don't remember a ton of specifics. Jenna's shoulder was bugging her on Tuesday so we did legs instead of upper body. We started with weighted squats and step-ups and then went and did a bunch of lunges. I'm really liking the concept of progressions and regressions in the bodyweight exercises. As soon as I think I'm getting a handle on something, he pushes me just a little bit harder. The one for lunges is just a double bounce at the bottom. Forces you to pause down there a little longer, maybe? I don't know, but it worked. If you feel like you could do lunges all day, try doing a normal lunge and right when you would bring your back leg up, do a little bounce and then come back up. It's more like a double dip, really. Whatever you want to call it, it brutalized me. On Thursday, Jenna's shoulder was still bugging her and Gilles showed her the biceps stretch. He was able to precisely pinpoint where her pain is, and it's right in the spot where her biceps tendon attaches into the shoulder. He showed her the stretch and she said it really helped a lot. It was really cool that he was able to diagnose it like that, I think. We kept our cardio to a minimum on Thursday, which is not the normal thing. No steep treadmill climb to start out the day. We worked a lot on core, though. We did four ab exercises in a circuit, which was something we certainly couldn't have done a few weeks ago. I was even able to do single-arm and single-leg planks this time, which I haven't ever done before. We also did v-sits with medicine ball chops (8 pounds for me this time) and some exercises where you lie on your back with your legs straight up and touch your toes. I was miserable at them. We also did leg raises with our legs bent at 90ยบ. I've done them before with straight legs and my hands under my butt, but this was easier and harder. Easier because my legs were bent. bending or straightening your legs are your progressions and regressions on that one. The straighter your legs are, the harder it is. Your lower back wants to come off the floor and you have to clamp down on your core to keep it from happening. My hip flexors were just about toast on those so I ended up not finishing them. We then did chest presses and shoulder presses and I was definitely doing better on those than previously. i think I ended up pressing 120 or 140 pounds in sets of 12 at least once or twice, so that's pretty decent. I need to try it for max sometime and see what I can do. We also did assisted wide pullups to work our lats. That was fun, but tough.

So after all that, Gilles showed us a new lat stretch and we stretched out everything else to boot. It was a relatively calm day, cardio-wise, but we learned a bunch and felt like we had come a very long way from the beginning.

I'll report back after this weekend to let you know how everything goes. Thanks for reading!