I have a love/hate relationship with FTP tests

markusspiske / Pixabay

I often say to my coworkers that I don’t understand how they get so much done during the week.  I feel like I go to work, I workout, I shovel food in my face, and I sleep.  Meanwhile, some of them are raising kids, doing all sorts of fun activities, and one is off building furniture.

Then I realize that I’m doing two hour long workouts.  Add to that getting ready for the workout and showering after and I start to realize where my evenings are going.

(The coworker who builds furniture and takes care of her family though, I’m fairly convinced she has a time turner.  Or doesn’t require sleep.)

This isn’t a complaint.  I enjoy my two hour long workouts, plus indoor workout time is also my tv time, so I get some quality entertainment at the same time.

Last night, I had yet another FTP test.  My goal over the winter was to raise my FTP, and I wasn’t sure I was succeeding in that goal.

Wait, let’s backup.  For you non-cyclists, FTP probably means File Transfer Protocol.  I’m not uploading anything here.  FTP is also Functional Threshold Power, and it’s a measure of the maximum power you can sustain for an hour of riding.  Thankfully, testing doesn’t mean killing yourself for an hour on the bike.  Instead, you ride as hard as you can for twenty minutes, then take 95% of that to figure out your FTP.

What’s it good for?  Well, it’s a good measurement of your fitness level, but there are also a lot of great FTP based workouts, where you do intervals at varying percentages of your FTP.  So ride for 20 minutes at 75%, then 10 at 50%, then 5 at 95% or whatever.  (Don’t do that workout, it’s probably not good.)

Wednesday’s FTP test had the potential to go very poorly.  The night before, I had swim practice, where the coaches tried to drown us with tabata drills.  So much kicking.  Which is awesome, and I love a good hard swim workout, but it meant I was coming into the FTP test a bit more fatigued than normal.

Well, it turns out that didn’t matter.  In fact, it may have helped.  This FTP test was an improvement over my last.  That’s awesome – I’m getting stronger!  I’m becoming a better cyclist!

Of course, this also means that my workouts will now be scaled up, so insert sad trombone here.

Seriously though, I’m pleased.  While I don’t necessarily feel like I’m working that hard, clearly I am.  I think it means that I’ve found that perfect balance between hard work and enjoyment.  I’m not pushing so hard that I’m burning out, but I’m also not going too easy on myself either.  Now to just remain in this sweet spot for as long as possible.

 

Inside Tracker – March 2017 Tests

If you’ve been reading a while, you know I’m a fan of Inside Tracker.  I’ve written posts about my first test and my second test, and you can learn a lot about how the service works in those posts.  In short, you go get a blood draw, and in a few days, you get your results and all sorts of data from Inside Tracker.  What I love is that they don’t just look at what’s considered “healthy” by your doctor, but they’re also looking at what is optimal for an athlete.

It’s been a year since I’ve done tests (though I did input some data from a doctor ordered test at my annual physical last summer), and my diet hasn’t been so great as of late, so I was interested to see how the results would play out.  Turns out, the numbers were better than expected, but I still have some solid work to do.

I’ve got a number of things in optimal zones, but here I’m just going to talk about where things aren’t optimal, because I believe that this is where Inside Tracker truly shows its worth.

Note – you can click on any of these to see more.

So my blood sugar is trending up.  This isn’t a surprise.  I had done a really good job of watching my general sugar intake and lately, I’ve been finding jelly beans stored in my pocket.  So that needs to stop.

My cholesterol is down from my last test, but that was from a doctor’s test that I input myself, and it wasn’t a fasting blood test.  That said, it’s still up from my last Inside Tracker test, and that’s not something I like to see.  Much of this is genetics (joy of joys), but I can absolutely do some work on this.

Similar results with my LDL, though I’m closer to where I was at my last Inside Tracker test.

Rounding out cholesterol, we’ve got HDL and Triglycerides.  Nothing in the optimal range, but I’m working on it, but at least I’m in the officially “healthy” range.

What’s key about all of these?  One big way to help these numbers is to lose body fat.  And this is exactly why I work on weight loss.  Or more importantly, fat loss.  I’m huge on accepting your body for what it is and not worrying about your weight.  But on the other hand, you also have to accept your health.  As Inside Tracker says, Blood Don’t Lie.  I’m confident there are people much heavier than me who have much better results on their blood tests, so it’s not solely weight – genetics plays a huge role here.  But for me, if I want to get my body into those optimal zones, I need to continue to whittle off the excess fat.

Step one, fewer jelly beans in my pockets.

Ferritin is a number that I’ve been working on, and you can see how the change in my diet has been increasing that number every so slightly.

B12 isn’t trending in the right direction, and I think this one might be where I look into supplements.  I don’t really want to add octopus or beef liver to my diet right now.

I’ve seen pretty much no change in my Inflammation Group, which tells me that what I’m doing isn’t working.  I’m not any worse off than I was, but I’m also no better.  Once again, one of the options is reducing calorie intake, which hey, I’ll be doing anyway.  This might also be where I look into supplements.  I’m wary of adding too many supplements, but Vitamin C isn’t a bad one.  I usually only add additional Vitamin C when the plague hits my office, but maybe it’s time to make that an every day thing.

In general, I’m going to research some more supplements.  This is an area where you can’t just say “Hey, I’ll take a pill for that,” because supplements aren’t all created equal.  I’ve already decided to add spirulina, because as long as you’re taking a supplement that’s free of contaminants (do your research), there aren’t any side effects.  Other supplements don’t work in the same way, so it’s worth doing the research and talking to a medical professional.

Full disclosure – as a member of Team Coeur, I get a discount on Inside Tracker tests, so I paid a discounted rate for this test, but as you can see, I’ve been a fan of the company from well before I started to receive a discount.  All opinions are my own.  As was the blood.

Coeur Team Kits are Here!

I got some awesome mail last week.  My Coeur Sports team kit arrived!  This is my third year on the team and each year, the design of the kits gets better and better.

If you love the design too, don’t worry, it will be available next year.  Because of the love for these team kits, they are team exclusive for one season, and then the next season, they’re available for purchase (without the sponsor and other team specific info).

These kits get better and better.  I’ve done a review of the kit before, and I still love them.  The chamois in the shorts is amazing.  Zero issues with chafing, even during my 70.3.  But now, they’ve added 8″ shorts to the line (I’m happy in the 5″, because I have short legs, but I know that 5″ is too short for some people) and they also have tops without a built-in bra, since many of us still have to wear a bra under our kits.  I don’t find that the built-in gets in the way, but I’m looking forward to trying a top without the built-in.

I’m also simply looking forward to racing with this team again.  The Coeur Team is filled with awesome women.  If you see any of us out on a race course this year, be sure to say hi!

 

 

Battling Your Genetics

geralt / Pixabay

A few weeks ago, news broke out that The Biggest Loser trainer Bob Harper had a heart attack while working out.  Thankfully, he is going to be just fine.  He has said that heart issues run in his family and his mother died from a heart attack, so this is most likely a genetic issue.  He’s a very lucky man.

Unfortunately, after this, I’ve seen comments online from people saying things like “See, exercising and being fit clearly doesn’t mean you’re healthy” and “If he didn’t work out so much, he wouldn’t have had a heart attack.”

Well, you’re not Bob’s doctor, nor are you all seeing, so you don’t know if that is true or not, now do you?  I bet you’re not even a doctor at all.

To quote from a USA Today article

While vigorous exercise can sometimes act as a trigger for a heart attack, it’s less likely to happen in someone who is already fit, according to the American College of Sports Medicine. The overall heart benefits of exercise “far outweigh” any risk, the group says.

 

“Physical fitness and a heart healthy diet don’t confer immortality,” but do lower risks, says Prediman K. Shah, a cardiologist and professor of medicine at Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles. Good health habits also help people recover from heart attacks and prevent recurrences, he says.

So no.  The exercise was likely not the trigger for the heart attack, and because Bob is so fit, that’s likely why he survived and will recover.  Sure, his genetics tried to take him down, but his healthy habits are what kept him alive.  And of course, he’s going to make some dietary changes to make sure that he is doing everything he can to keep his heart healthy.

It’s so sad to see people use someone else’s health issues as a reason to not exercise.  “This could potentially kill me, so I’m not going to do it.”  You know what else could potentially kill you?  Just about everything.  Airplanes, cars, falling vending machines, the list goes on and on.

So if you’re using Bob Harper’s heart attack as an excuse to sit on the couch and eat chips because then you won’t die of a heart attack in the gym, you’re fooling yourself.  (Okay, so if you never go to the gym, you won’t die of a heart attack there, but that’s just semantics.)  In general, being active is healthier than being inactive.  Eating well 50% of the time is healthier than eating well 5% of the time.

This doesn’t mean you have to be skinny, and I certainly don’t think you should use any of The Biggest Loser’s tactics to get “healthy.”  In fact, the tactics that they and many others use to “shed the weight” are ultimately unhealthy and bad for your body.  Instead, I think Bob’s heart attack is a reminder that even though we can’t change our genetics, we do have some ability to change how those genetics impact us.

February Mileage Update

ImageParty / Pixabay

As I mentioned last month, this year, I’m tracking my mileage much more strictly than I did last year.  That is to say, I’m actually tracking all of my mileage.  I have no idea what distances I covered last year, so I’m determined to figure it out for this year.

February was a shorter month, so my mileage was definitely lower.  Plus it’s still technically the off-season.  Next month, I fear these numbers.

Running: 38 miles
Biking: 180 miles
Swimming: 3.8 miles

Not bad considering I had a trip in there where I did run a half marathon, but didn’t do much else in the way of exercise.  The swimming number is a little misleading too, since much of that was done when I did the Coeur 50×100 early in the month (note – that feels like so long ago!).

My goal for March is simply to stick to my training plan.  No missing workouts.  On the days I have strength and cardio, I’ve been doing the cardio first, based on the common wisdom that I will be more warmed up for the weights that way.  Instead, I’m going to flip that around and do my strength training first.  I find that if I’m going to skip a workout in a week, it’s going to be the strength training following a cardio workout.  If I flip them, I get the strength workout out of the way first, and I won’t skip the cardio because race season is coming!

Yearly Totals
Running: 84 miles
Biking: 407 miles
Swimming: 8 miles