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Friday, May 7, 2010

Heart Rate Recovery - You don't get that back!

Earlier in the week I did a 6 minute all effort on the bike trainer. These workouts are killer. My legs were burning, my heart rate was sky high (sky high for the bike anyway) and my breathing was very labored. The last time I did this workout was way back in November. I increased my average wattage by 8 or 9 percent.

But back to the workout. The protocol was as follows: 15 minute easy warm at a set wattage (150 watts – this is very easy), 6 minutes all out (the trainer is set a given slope – I just push as hard as I can) and 15 minutes easy cool down at a set wattage (150 watts – identical to the warm up).

So I did the easy warm up and loaded up the 6 minutes. I went all out for the 6 minutes and alternated between looking at the clock, my instant wattage numbers, and just staring straight down. This is very hard for me. When I finished the 6 minutes of fury I set the trainer back to the easy cool down wattage and pedaled at my usual cadence.


The cool down effort was still easy but not as easy as it was during the warm up. After the work out I noticed how my heart rates differed from the warm up and cool down. My heart rate average was 20 beats per minute higher during the cool down! That is more than 13 % higher after just 6 minutes of hard effort.

When I do hard intervals I notice the trend of a rising heart rate at the same efforts, but this got me thinking about endurance racing. And all triathlons are endurance races after all.

So, have you ever been in a race where someone just blew your doors off in the bike? And you second guessed your efforts – after all this is a race – you need to go hard. So you pick it up a notch or two and let your heart rate start to rise. The adrenaline is pumping like nobodies business. You are feeling strong! You are racing hard. You are passing people left and right!

What happens next? You end up dipping your toe into the red zone. Maybe you are just in it for a few minutes. Maybe you are pushing just a little bit too hard. That might be okay in a shorter race, but remember, you do not get that back.

When you are into the run is where you will feel those minutes in the red zone. You will be running at a hard effort but you might not being going as fast as you should. After all, you blew up a little earlier and you just can not fully recover back to normal. Twenty beats per minute in the run is an entire zone for me – almost a zone and a half. This translates into minutes per mile. I was very surprised too that my heart rate was having trouble recovering after only 6 minutes of very hard effort. My heart rate will generally drop back in line quickly after hard intervals. I guess the 6 minutes was overload.

In longer races I am overly cautious. I do not want to blow up. I do not want to be the one who is giving up tens of minutes in the run because they gained a couple of minutes on the bike. There is a fine line when pushing the bike. I am still working on how hard I can push on the bike and have a solid run.

In the short stuff you have to push hard but in longer races you have to let your ego go. You can flirt with the red zone but you can not get into it for long. You will not get those resources back – they are already spent.

6 comments:

  1. What are you using to measure your power? I knew my target wattage for New Orleans and I stuck to it. Helped me stay out of the red zone and preserved my legs for the run. Nice effort!

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  2. Excellent post. These are the types of posts you do very well. Thanks for sharing. Just curious how long is your interval when you do intervals? You can get a training effect on your six minute test if you interval for close to 6 min. Isnt the body amazing?

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  3. awesome post and so very true. I have to "reel myself in" be it training or on race day when I see a "rabbit". Stick to the plan...tuff for me to do, though....

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  4. I do not have a power meter per say but I do have a trainer that will display ‘power’ (the Real Axiom trainer from performancebike). While this is no comp trainer it has served my needs – I really need to write a review of the dang thing – I’m on top of it enough!

    I believe that the number is in the ball park but more importantly I believe that the number is precise. The efforts certainly do seem repeatable.

    Interval wise, I am pretty new to structured intervals on the bike. I have adopted a time format that more closely resembles running than bike intervals. I will do a lot of 60 – 90 seconds all out with fairly equal recoveries with repeats in the 7 to 9 range. I guess you would say these are like quarter mile running repeats with the occasional Yasso 800’s thrown in for good measure. I need to work up to 20 minute intervals. I kind of do these already but it is just called a 12 mile time trial (okay more like 30:xx minutes). In the running world I would call these hard tempos.

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  5. i've been thinking about my HR a lot lately too, although in a slightly different sense. if only it were textbook to figure out :)

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