Looking at Numbers

12 Feb 13
Sam Koerber

I never planned on wearing a heart rate monitor.  I didn’t ask for one for Christmas.  I’ve always been interested in training methods and once wore a polar when I was young but the numbers never made enough sense to be of any use to me.  At the time I used the 220 minus your age for max rule and none of the zones made any sense.  I may just be catching up to the 20th century but being able to verify my efforts and track my rides is a game changer for me.

It used to be that long rides were tempo and hard rides were flat out and I was right at least half the time but what I’ve already discovered is that the other half of the time I wasn’t really sure if I was going hard or if I was tired.  Having a metric on your effort takes an element previously left to the subjectivity of the mind and puts it squarely in the realm of science.  There are still plenty of mysteries.

I guess I’ve been dragging my feet.  I’m into science, I like taking a practical approach to problem solving.  I’m just a little uneasy about giving any more ground to the computers and the robots.  I cling to my “ride by feel” code like it’s the only thing between autonomy and complete assimilation in the data vortex.  The truth is, I never really thought it would help that much, but, as it turns out, I’m now hooked on the numbers.  I’d now feel like I was at work without a tape measure if I’m training without a heart rate monitor.

Training will always be a realm where art and science meet.  A close study with some good tools will only move that point of intersection around a bit.  It’s not easy to know which roads to explore and which are just a waste of time.  It may just come down to watts/kilograms but getting there takes a mix of looking at the details and maintaining the big picture.  I improve a little bit all the time but in order to do so I seem to make every possible mistake along the way.  Working on my stroke brought some noticeable gains and getting a little better at endurance racing nutrition nudged me up.  I can tell after a month of tracking my training that I’ve got a lot of room to improve in how I train.

Moving the thoughts to an area to where then can actually be of use is always an improvement.  So, unexpectedly, I’ve got numbers to tell me how I feel and what I need.  I guess the next step is to program the garmin to beep at me to tell me when to eat.  Now that’s a line I’m not going to cross.

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