Sunday, 22 July 2018

Made it

Phew, made it to the end of another week. Some people are advocates of the theory that Sunday is really the beginning of the week, but two many training programs that go from Monday to Sunday have made it impossible for me to subscribe to that theory. For me Sunday will always be the end of the week.

It has been a full on week, in a pretty good way, with loads of coaching and a decent amount of exercise for myself all wedged in around my day job and wrapped in a nice layer of rubbish weather. The busy week has been nicely finished off with satisfying weekend, which is always a good way to finish.

Finishing up this week it looks like I have a bit of a quieter one next week before things go a bit crazy again the week after. The day job is going to be a bit busy this week, but on the coaching front things are a bit quieter, which will be a nice break.

The main reason for the decrease in coaching is the fact that Head Coach Paul Newsome is back on pool deck for Swim Smooth. As I have said before it is always fun filling in for Paul when he is away, but the additional two sessions a week really do make the week full. It could be a lot worse I could be trying to cover a lot more of his sessions (he has 11 a week), but even those two extra sessions can be the difference between a busy week and a hectic one. So it is nice that he is back.

With Paul back my coaching load switches back to just a bike session on Tuesday morning and a track session on Thursday night, which is a lot more manageable. In the coming weeks coaching is going to get a bit busier again as I will be helping Front Runner start a swim squad, so I think I will be trying to make the most of the marginally calmer week this week.

Before that though, a bunch of sleep tonight

Saturday, 21 July 2018

Doing Time

With the miserable weather we are currently having in Perth, plenty of my athletes are choosing to do their bike sessions on indoor trainers. Being a big advocate of indoor trainers I have no problem with them spending more time there, provided they are doing the sessions correctly. However, this increased amount of time spent riding indoors has meant I have recently been getting a number of questions about how to best spend time on the the indoor trainer without going insane.

Okay so first up I think really the best way to maintain sanity while on the trainer is to limit the amount of time spent there in one go. The amount of time one can sit on a bike going nowhere is pretty personal, but I used to find my comfortable limit was about 2 hours. I could go for longer if I had to, but not too often, however, I was usually all good for for a couple of hours riding on the spot. This speaks to the sort of sessions that I think indoor trainers are best for, which is structured sessions that don't last too long, perhaps a threshold session or something like that. If it is miserable outside and you have some efforts to do, then I think an indoor trainer is a perfect alternative.

Where trainers start to struggle I feel is when you are trying to knock off a 6 hour Ironman training ride. The best I ever managed on an indoor trainer was 4 and a half hours and I think it cost me a bit of my soul to get there. For me I think I would simply prefer to ride in the rain. However, my training was in the days before Zwift and so who knows, with all the technology available these days, perhaps those longer rides are a bit easier. Not sure about that one.

Okay, say you just don't have a choice, there is a cyclone outside or something and you have to get this Ironman ride done, what then. Well there are a few things that I found helped with longer trainer sessions.

Step one was to introduce some structure to the session. One reason I think 2 hour threshold sessions work well on the trainer is that there is a lot of structure to the session, so there is lots going on to keep you engaged. Any time I sat down to simply spin for a couple of hours I would struggle. However, if the session was broken into warm up, efforts, recovery periods and cool down then it always seemed to pass more easily. Adding a bit of structure can be a bit harder for a long steady Ironman ride, but it doesn't have to be fancy, perhaps 3 x 20 minute Ironman race pace efforts or something like that. Just something to keep things interesting.

Tip two would be to have something to keep you stimulated. I always used to watch movies on the trainer, I have other mates who listen to podcasts, others who listen to music, Zwift is entertainment in itself. Whilst watching a movie or something takes away from the immersive cycling experience I always found it was necessary. You don't have passing scenery, other people, traffic etc to keep you mentally alert so you need to provide something else so that you don't simply get bored part way through.

Tip three is to not try and ride right through the entire session. You would never do a 6 hour ride in the hills non-stop. Nobody is that lucky. You would have pauses for traffic lights, other vehicles, waiting for mates etc. One trick I found for getting through long trainer rides is building some of these breaks into the session. I wouldn't be taking these breaks every 5 minutes or anything, but it is unrealistic to ride uninterrupted for 6 hours on a training session. These little breaks give you something to break up the ride and also help provide a little bit of motivation.

Tip four is to make sure you have all you nutrition all sorted before you jump on the trainer. You wouldn't walk out the door without having the right nutrition, however, we can get a bit lazy when we are jumping on a trainer in our garage. I always made sure that I prepared for these sessions as I would if I was riding on the road, including making sure I had sufficient water and fuel. Whilst regular little breaks are good, you don't want to be stopping unnecessarily to track down a Gel or something because you don't have one to hand.

The last tip is concerned with whether you really need to be spending that much time on the trainer. As I said at the start I would prefer to get rained on than try and ride on a trainer for 6 hours. If 6 hours on the road isn't possible, then how about 2 or 3 hours. Can you ride outside for a while before coming home and finishing the session on the trainer. I did this a few times when the weather turned particularly nasty on me and while it wasn't ideal it did allow me to finish off a bike session safely. Splitting the session between the road and the trainer also meant that I was only trying to spend 2 or 3 hours on the trainer rather then 5. Those few hours less can make a big difference motivationally. Sometimes it can't hurt to think outside the box a little bit with these things.

So there we have it, some tips for getting through those days where you have no choice but to spend some good quality time getting to know your indoor trainer just a little bit better.

Friday, 20 July 2018

Em Are Eye

I haven't written about my heart much recently. When I saw Dr Stobie in April I was more or less given permission to keep doing some exercise wise as the heart seemed to be behaving. And while Dr Stobie doesn't consider the heart to be "better", things do seem greatly improved.

That improvement means that my heart rhythms are fairly normal these days. I very rarely seen arrhythmia in my monitoring. When I exercise I feel pretty normal, don't have any attacks of spiking heart rate or feeling faint. All good really.

It is hard to put a finger on the single source of why things have improved, but there are likely to be numerous contributing factors. The ablation I had back in February last year certainly helped. My heart didn't settle into sinus rhythm straight afterwards, but the number of ectopic beats I was getting decreased significantly. Good thing. Reducing exercise has almost certainly helped heaps too. I went through a 4 month period of detraining at the end of last year which studies agree helps the majority of people (but not all). Since I went through the detraining I have started exercising again a fair bit, but nowhere near the levels that I used too. Pretty sure the reduced training load is contributing to my sustained heart health. Other factors that I think have helped are small life style changes, such as less caffeine, no caffeine before exercise, that sort of thing. I know most sports nutritionists point to coffee before training as a good booster, but I now know that it is a no no for me. Since cutting caffeine out of my pre-training routine I have seen no heart problems during training. Circumstantial evidence I know, but happy to go along with it.

That all brings me to today. On Wednesday I got a call from my friendly neighbourhood medical imager to ask me when I wanted to come in for my cardiac MRI. If I am honest I had forgotten that I was supposed to get an MRI, so fair to say the call was a bit of a surprise. It all come flooding back to me though, last time I saw Dr Stobie he had suggested a 6 month MRI, so that is what I had today. The purpose of the MRI today isn't for any particular issue, but rather to check that structurally the heart is still as it should be and to check on the size to see whether it has shrunk at all.

Today's was my third cardiac MRI and all up it went very smoothly. They are not the most fun experiences as they involve a lot of breath holding so they can get clear images of your heart. So besides all the usual MRI fun of loud noises and confined spaces you have a voice in your ear telling you to breathe out and hold your breath every few inhalations.

It always amazes me with MRIs though how easy I find it to drift off. Every time I go into one I think "wow this is louder than I remember, no way I will fall asleep this time" and then sure enough after about 20 minutes I am struggling to keep my eyes open. Normally I wouldn't fight so hard to stay awake, I enjoy a nap as much as the next person, but with these MRIs there is all that breath holding I mentioned earlier, so you have to stay with it. Pretty sure I didn't drift off at all this time, but I still had a few moments where I lay there unsure if I had missed a breath hold or not. The technician didn't mention anything so pretty sure I was all good.

You don't get any results straight after the MRI as the images have to go to the Doctor for interpretation, but all indications are that it went okay. Certainly better than my first MRI where my heart was jumping around so much that it made it very difficult to take images of. That time I was in the tube for ages and the images were still pretty poor quality. This time I was in there for at least 30 minutes, but the pictures apparently came up nice and clear, so that was good.

Time will tell exactly what the MRI shows, but I suspect it won't reveal all that much. Really it should only be showing stuff if there is anything wrong and my gut feel at the moment is that the heart is ticking along quite nicely.

Here's hoping anyway.