Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Anaerobic Threshold

The worst feeling I ever had while having fun was trying to run and smoke at 11,000 feet above sea level.
I was skiing Snowbird Mountain and took the first Tram of the day to the summit, 11,000 feet.
The first thing I noticed was air hunger.
The second thing I noticed was that it was hard to keep a cigarette lit.
The third thing I noticed was the cold followed by the fact that my hands were purple.
I was standing with a friend and we decided to try to run to the head of the first slope.
We made it a few feet and several minutes were required to catch our breath.
I felt this same way on Tuesday at Boot Camp or as I will now rename it the Anaerobic Hot Box.
A whole new set up was ready for the unwary.
No wraps, no boxing glove required.
Multiple stations, alternating upper body, lower body.
The count 100 standing dumbbell presses.
Other stations of interest, push ups, jump rope, stair run, agility ladder, hammer curls, mountain climbers and so on.
No rest periods were afforded and the sweat came fast and furious.
I began noticing it after the first three stations, I was panting trying to catch a breath, I had real air hunger, but it was on to the next station and the air hunger just kept getting a little worse and demanding more of my attention.
I wasn’t smiling and I didn’t have enough air to laugh and there was another 50 minutes to go.
Everybody was initially bright red but then I noticed gradually shaded into the color purple.
It suggested that oxygen levels were falling or blood flow was “stopping”.
It immediately flashed through my mind that this was just like Snowbird, we were flirting with the anaerobic threshold.
Cross it and exercise has to cease in just a few minutes.
Stay just below it and you can exercise until the fuel runs out.
People felt it; low rumbles of discomfort were heard circling the room.
“Man I am hurting”.
“I can’t catch my breath; I have a stitch in my side”.
But the circuit continued, three times around followed by a vigorous set of abs.
The locker room was quiet, most just happy to be out of the Anaerobic Zone.
Heart rates and respiratory rates began to return to more normal levels.
I knew the amount of lactic acid built up in that room meant a lot of people were going to be sore the next day and many complained of muscle aches lasting beyond 24 hours.
It is interesting what we will do to ourselves.
It is good to know that the competitive spirit is alive and well even without oxygen.
I guess that is how life got started anyway.
One little anaerobic cell with a big attitude.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Spin Doctor

First it was slink around the gym; try to build some muscle and endurance while avoiding the “big guys”.
Next, begin walking on the treadmill and spending one or two minutes on the stair master.
All the time looking with admiration at the Boot Camp people and hoping to join the group in the future.
Finally, in my mind, cresting a new peak, spending one hour with the “Spin Doctor”.
I recently after much thought and trepidation entered the spin class.
Sparta is the “Spin Doctor” and wasting a bike with inadequate effort is in her estimation a major “mortal sin”.
Spinning is a very heavily subscribed class.
Frequently three or four people are unable to get a bike.
So if you are lucky enough to get a bike you had better be ready to ride to your death.
This is something you can’t easily walk away from and it is something that requires an internal integrity as to the amount of effort.
Effort is measured in revolutions per second and volumes of sweat rolling off of the body.
Effort is measured in heart rate and how long you exceed the predicted max for your stated age and I am not talking target but predicted max.
Predicted Maximal Heart rate is 220-AGE so for me my predicted max would be 155 and my target for exercise would be 60 to 80% of the max or 94 to 124 beats per minute.
So I went into the spin class and got a bike.
People help me set up the bike, Sparta comes in, sets the mood, lights down, music “cranked”.
She begins calling out the terrain, “a flat, lets go all out”, 5 minutes later, “incline”, (increase the resistance) for 6 more minutes, “getting steeper, stand up” everybody increases the resistance, launches themselves into a standing position on the pedals and maintains the pace.
It seems like many minutes pass, thighs are screaming, sweat is not dripping from the forehead but pouring from the forehead in a continuous stream.
I silently wonder if I have ruptured an artery and am now “freely bleeding” from the forehead since it is flowing so fast and one towel is soaked.
Finally a flat, sit back and again it is all out.
Sixty minutes pass fairly quickly, more quickly than I would have ever guessed making me wonder if I passed out during the session.
As Mr. Id has said on occasion during a strenuous class, “I have one leg that is completely paralyzed”.
If he can recover from transitory paralysis I am sure I can peddle even in a state of unconsciousness.
First you really don’t want to waste the bike and secondly the “Spin Doctor” is watching.
Oh, and just in case you were wondering, my heart rate at the end of the last class was 164 or 107% of predicted max.
I guess I am ready to ride to “death”.