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Going Faster By Going Slower

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The need for speed continues

The title of this blog doesn’t make sense.   It seems to be a contradiction but let me explain.  In the context of using your heart rate as a training tool, it was a critical element of getting faster.  

Before I continue my story, let me give you some background.   I began using a heart rate monitor for bicycling training back in 1992 and, believe it or not, I still have the same 20 year old Polar Pacer which still works quite well.  I have had to buy several new transmitters but the receiver is the original.  Back in 1992 this was a concept that was beginning to become popular for amateur bicycle racers including mediocre ones like me.  The professional ranks in Europe were using this in the late 70’s or early 80’s but it became possible for the masses when the equipment became affordable.  The idea which was helpful for me was the importance of taking days to rest and recuperate so that you could have faster “fast” days.  What this means is essentially slow down if you want to go faster.   On the slow days it is best to keep your heart rate at about 75% of your maximum heart rate which would be in the aerobic training zone and out of the anaerobic threshold which is roughly between 83% and 85%, depending on the individual.  At the anaerobic threshold you begin to feel the “burn” of lactic acid in your muscles as you burn oxygen in your blood versus from the intake of your lungs.

My final race of any kind was in 1997 and I was past my prime then and had no appetite for finishing 10 minutes off the back after I had enjoyed the excitement of finishing at the front with the big boys.  It was also after one too many wrecks and trips to the ER to get stitched up.  As I gave up any thoughts of racing I still had the urge to go fast but gradually got busy with life and was not able to devote 12-14 hours per week on my bike.  As I got older and slower I put away the transmitter for my heart rate monitor but always kept the receiver on the handlebar of my bike, like a reminder of my glory days (however minimal they were).  By the mid 2000’s I probably used it a couple times a year and just for a curiosity to see how far I had fallen.  My days of using the heart rate monitor were long gone.

Let’s fast forward to a few weeks ago when an interesting reunion took place.  I was struggling this year to explain why I did not seem to be able to make much progress with increasing my speed despite riding very regularly.  It finally hit me – time to get out the heart rate monitor and begin to add some discipline to my training.  As I suspected, the problem I was having was too much “pedal to the metal” which was wearing me out.  I was not taking training days to recover and rest so I could get better.  I needed to slow down to go fast.

Over the past 3 weeks I have begun to get back into my old training regimen and have already noticed progress.  I am going to add interval training to my weekly riding schedule this week to build some power now that I am adequately rested.  I don’t anticipate getting anywhere close to my previous condition but I am sure I will notice significant improvement within 6 or 8 weeks – if not sooner.  I will keep you posted.

Have a great week.


Written by pacelinebiz

August 13, 2012 at 7:27 am

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