Shape Up

Reader Contribution by Rick Stiles
article image

Getting my body ready for a 3,600 mile recumbent bicycle trip has not been easy! I rode the bicycle outside. I joined a health club. I bought a bicycle trainer. I bought bicycling videos. I read motivation articles.  In the end, I lost my motivation, strained several muscles, and didn’t lose any weight.

One day I stumbled on an article about exercising with a heart rate monitor. Wow! A new toy to play with. Generic information for my age said a brisk exercise would be about 130 bpm (beats per minute). I strapped on that heart rate monitor. I climbed on that bike. I began to pedal away. At 96 bpm I thought I would die. At 110 bpm my wife started looking for the life insurance policies. Finally, my excuse to back out of the ride!

A visit to my doctor revealed that one of my medications suppressed my heart rate.  He was surprised I got the ol’ ticker going 110 bpm and lived to tell about it. He took me off that medication, and within a week my heart rate was up in the range it should be. The doctor explained that there are six heart rate zones used to maximize an exercise program. The zones can be approximated with formulas, but a lactate test is more accurate.

The six zones are: easy intensity, all day pace, feels like work, conversation is difficult, short high intensity, very short high intensity. The heart rates in each zone are specific to each individual and are critical to getting the best results from the exercise time. Too much exercise in the lower zones produces little improvement; too much in the higher zones produces injuries, burnout, and little improvement.

Some people say, “I’m not an athlete; I just want to be healthier. Why a heart monitor?” In short, to get healthier while minimizing injuries & burnout.  Have you ever decided to get in shape? You start an exercise program of some type. You hit it real hard. You sacrifice for results. Three days later you are tired, listless and gradually find excuses to skip exercising: this is burnout. 

A local gym developed my heart rate zones and created an exercise program specific to my goals. The program involves all heart rate zones. It involves easy days mixed with difficult days. It involves all areas of the body. Dang, no more (#%*@!) excuses to back out of the ride.  

Now the intensity and routine are varied daily; I am riding further, with more motivation, and seeing improved results. The best part? I don’t have to ride around with 40 pounds of gear on the bike to get in shape. My daily exercise program is now based strictly on my heart rate. At some point I will need to practice riding the bike with the extra weight, but not right now. Next time I’ll talk about the 40 pounds of gear I will be hauling.

Take care, and talk at ya’ later.