I have been researching the best ways to get fit as part of Operation Suck Less 2014™ and of course there are many differing opinions and philosophies. I have found three general themes that I believe will help me in my mission: increase intensity, don’t get in a rut and incorporate rest days. While variety and rest are not a current issue, speed and intensity remain a challenge.
I would like to think if I were an animal, I would be a cat. While that might be accurate personality wise, with my speed, agility and crusty exterior, I would more likely be a turtle, a slow, steady, plodding turtle on land and probably just as slow in water. This slowness, while good for something I am sure, is of absolutely no help when it comes to Operation Suck Less 2014™.
In order to make the most of my workouts, I need to get my barely detectable heart rate into the right zone for my daily exercise goal, especially on those days I am attempting High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) where I need to hit 80 – 90% of my maximum heart rate for short 30 second bursts.
Up until now, I have mostly been guessing my heart rate based on my ability to talk or breath or not die. I have tried to follow the suggestion to listen to my body but all it is saying is a variety of profanity and that it wants a nap, some chips or some cake. Not particularly helpful.
So another gadget has entered my world. Yippee. I finally broke down and bought a heart rate monitor with a giant fugly watch thingy. I chose a Polar monitor that I strap under my bra that transmits my heart rate to the watch. It is fairly easy to use and not as uncomfortable as I expected, just ugly and ruining my otherwise “stylish” workout attire.
My first walk confirmed what I expected, when I concentrate I can get into the 60 – 70% range that is supposedly ideal for using fat stores, of which I have plenty, and for engaging the cardiovascular and respiratory systems, but doesn’t burn calories as fast. The problem is, I generally do not concentrate but instead my thoughts drift and I meander about in a daze not burning calories. The monitor helped remind me to keep a pace most humans would find tedious but ideal for my heart rate goals.
No matter how hard I try, I cannot walk fast enough to get past this range to the higher aerobic level let alone the upper levels I need for HIIT training. I have tried in the pool as well, doing laps or water aerobic moves, but I find the resistance of the water makes it difficult to move fast enough. Argh.
There are plenty of other options for HIIT training but as my knee is still a bit tenuous, and my bionic hip was not built for high impact, my current choices are limited. So I was forced to turn to that nasty machine, the treadmill.
I really dislike the treadmill. Just the name treadmill is unappealing. It is boring, stinky people are too close to me and I am certain I am going to trip and go flying off the back and crash into the more dreadful elliptical machine and die. Stories will be written, comical cartoons drawn and late night jokes told about the clumsy turtle with the heart rate monitor who flew off the treadmill, cracked its shell and lay stuck on her back flailing around while everyone went about their business. My fears may or may not be caused from watching The Jetsons as a child with George begging Jane to stop the crazy machine. Silly Astro.
Putting death fears aside, I have been using the dreaded mill for a couple weeks now and am pretty happy with the results. While my legs don’t actually move any faster, I can keep a steady pace even while my thoughts drift about. What helps me hit my target heart rate is the incline; I can crank up the angle and finally my heart decides to kick it into overdrive and my new trusty monitor confirms my success.
The workout routine I am currently doing is 5 minutes of warm-up followed by 20 minutes of intervals and then a cool down which varies in length. My intervals start at a moderate pace and a 2% incline and every 30 seconds I increase either the speed or the angle until I am going as fast and hard as I possibly can and then when those 30 seconds are over and I don’t think I can do anything more, I drop back to the starting point to recover and begin again. It is amazing what you can do for only 30 seconds and how quickly the workout goes.
At the very top interval I am basically holding on for dear life, hoping above all else I do not trip and fly off the back of the stupid machine and die in such an uncool fashion. I stare down that clock willing it to move faster as I will my legs to do the same. Once the readout turns past the 30-second mark, I am pounding on every button getting the machine to lower and slow down as fast as possible. I catch my breath, wipe off my slimy hands on my butt, use my shirt to catch the sweat droplets that are about to run into my eyeballs and gain my composure. Then I crank it up again.
I surprisingly enjoy this routine and over the course of a couple weeks I have doubled the intervals I can do while also increasing both the speed and incline I hit at my maximum. The lowest speed I use now is significantly higher than when I began. It feels nice to see that progress. I would like to think I am moving from turtle to rabbit but I don’t want to go crazy or anything.
There are things I dislike though and they mainly involve sweat. I really hate feeling sweaty. I hate boob sweat. I hate the dripping feeling down my face and neck. I hate my t-shirt sticking to my back. I hate how gross my hands feel. I hate my frizzy sweaty hair. I hate peeling off sweaty cloths. I hate touching sweaty cloths. I hate washing sweaty cloths. But I really hate having a person next to me, even sweatier and dripping, toss their nasty hair so their itty-bitty sweat balls fling about in my general direction. Gross! Hate it!! I usually think of the SNL “schweaty balls” skit as well as a rant from Rosane Rosannadanna, which makes me laugh but I remain grossed out.
I also dislike the moment I have to get off the treadmill. I have to clutch the side rail and slowly ease off the machine as I am usually so disoriented and dizzy the whole floor is spinning and I am sure I will face plant into the neighboring machine with the sweaty dude which would be even more embarrassing than flying off the back but probably just as deadly. Finally I dislike not remembering which machine I was using when I return to clean it and I have to clean a couple just to be safe and know the gazelles on the elliptical are all snickering, they are catty like that.
So Operation Suck Less 2014™ continues as I work on increasing intensity and speed with the help of a fugly heart rate monitor and a boring treadmill. I hope to get used to the sweatiness but that is highly unlikely since us turtles prefer slow, relaxing movements that barely cause a glisten. But, if progress continues, I can deal with the schweaty.