Heart Rate Zones Conference: Butt-kicked, mind blown.
I’ve been to a lot of conferences in my day. The mental strain is always a gimme, but usually, I can feel myself getting softer, sitting for hours on end, feasting on donuts and coffee at every break…
I signed in on Saturday morning and was given a name tag which was soon to fight a losing battle with my sweat-drenched jersey. I was also handed a new heart rate monitor that Sally Edwards, the Heart Rate Zone training matriarch (and a Team PHenomenal Hope coach!), endorses. It flashes colors at you so you can quickly find out if: you’re working at a very sustainable effort (blue), you’re in the “getting fit” zone (yellow), or if you’re pushing your limits (red). I would like to test drive this monitor sitting at my desk at school. I would definitely be in the red zone. But really, it’s a simple tool for people who are training for a healthy life, not just a crazy race (although, it could be used for that, too).
The conference format alternated between seminars and active, heart-pounding participation. During transition times my teammates (mostly just Kate and Stacie) were destroying pancakes to fuel for the next bout of exercise. Ann Marie preferred to gulp down some nutritional shake she made that resembled sludge but “tasted really good!” I have yet to confirm or deny, but she promised to send me the recipe.
Dr. Carl Foster joined us remotely using the wonders of Google Chat after his plane was grounded by yet another Snowmageddon. He is a Jedi master in Exercise and Sports Science, and walked us through some of the fundamentals of heart rate training, then some new developments in exercise science, and finally, some talk about the obesity epidemic. Here is my best attempt at a short summary of a whole day of data and discussion:
(1) The heart is one important muscle. In order for our hearts to get stronger, we need to work it (“training load”) then let it adapt. The training load is a combination of frequency (how many times), duration (how long each time) and intensity (how hard each time). This will be different for each person depending on their goals (for example: rehabilitation, weight loss, endurance bicycling), but it’s essential for improvement.
(2) High intensity training (at maximum effort) in short bouts is definitely a way to get huge physiological benefits in a short amount of time. Because it’s so difficult it’s not as sustainable for a long-term training program, but integration into a more sustainable program (of more moderate intensity) is a great idea.
(3) Obesity is a very real and very scary problem in the USA. The number of overweight adults (with a body mass index greater than 25%) has more than tripled in the last 2 decades. Even worse, more than 300,000 Americans are dying each year due to obesity-related complications. This is not a cosmetic issue. Swapping a lifestyle of hunting and gathering for desk jobs and over-estimating our caloric needs seem to be the main culprits. It’s no surprise that the solution is to get active and watch what we eat. Even though it’s “easier” to reduce calories than to burn them, modest increases in exercise can really boost the effects of a good diet and preserve or increase the body’s resting metabolic rate (which helps us burn, baby, burn!).
(4) Sally Edwards is an awesome lady. As if it wasn’t enough to be a forerunner in women’s athletics, develop a tried and true training system and be a successful entrepreneur … Sally is just a person who wants other people to realize their own potential and enjoy good health. That message definitely resonated with the Team.
After attending the conference sessions, stealing a shower and attacking the fruit and veggie trays, I decided to give Head Honcho Sally Edwards a little boost myself.