Monday, 14 January 2013

Climbing Mountains from Sea Level

Well, Welcome to 2013 Blog Followers J
This year, like my last 3 have me using my same New Years Resolution – to Make a Difference! It is a simple resolution, but one that means so much to me. It means that each year, I set out to make a difference to others, to my family and this year, I have added myself.
So I sit here at base camp, about to embark on another climb to the summit!
Ride To Conquer Cancer – Sydney – October 12 – 13, 2013
Ride To Conquer Cancer – Melbourne – October 26 – 27, 2013
And … if I qualify for both events - mainly Sydney, to show my commitment to raising money and awareness for Cancer research and highlighting the work that both Peter Mac and The Chris O’Brien Lifehouse at RPA do, you will see me ride the distance between both events.
This is a 1600km journey in 16 days – so some base fitness is certainly required.
And this is where Altitude Training Systems come in.
Late in 2012, I was given an ATS-Base Kit to use in my home spin room. Thanks to David Clarke from Altitude Training Systems and Paul Filippi from Pulford Air & Gas, I now have the ability to increase my training output in the comfort of my own home. Paul knows how busy I am with working full time, 3 kids and training on top of everything else … he just knew that Altitude Training was going to suit me.

The ATS Base Kit all ready for action. 
So, I sit here after a month of using the ATS-Base Kit and all I can say is WOW! Arizona Training is not just isolated to those Collingwood Footballers – it can be “enjoyed” by mere mortals like me.
I have used it 6 times so far : twice a week over the last 3 weeks and have combined it with my regular road training that I do with the Liv/giant girls or solo rides. And I am not sure if I am supposed to feel benefits yet, but I certainly have noticed a difference in my cardio ability!
  • Beating my Humevale PB by 29 minutes.
  • Getting up a climb that previously I needed to stop half way to catch my breath.
  • Comfortably sitting on 36kmph – with no wind assistance on the long flat stretch that is Plenty Road.
These are things that I thought that I could never achieve. But now, thanks to ATS, I am realising that I can achieve much more than I ever thought.
I hear you all asking “What does Altitude Training feel like?”
Initially, it feels no different. I was worried about the face mask, but it is very comfortable once you get it on. And yes, I feel like Hannibal Lector in it.  It has a great air flow, so just sitting with it on, you breathe normally. I honestly thought I would feel claustrophobic, but no!!

All hooked up! 
Once I started my spin sessions though, this is where I really noticed the difference. Because the oxygen levels are decreased, your heart and lungs must work a lot harder. I found I naturally started taking in deeper breathes. After just 10 minutes on my first use, I started to feel light headed. Almost like I had been sucking on too many helium balloons. My Heart Rate was higher than normal and my blood oxygen saturation had decreased to 87%. I was surprised with how exhausted I felt in such a short time, but also noted that my body felt great.
Then each time I have used the Base unit in my sessions, I have been able to get a lot more time and also work at a higher intensity with it. In my last session, I was able to really get into a zone with it and focus hard on maintaining rhythmic breathing whilst still putting out a really great spin session on the trainer. (It was supposed to be a recovery session, but I broke my program and just went with it. Something tells me I was on a performance high from the last session!)
Out on the road, I feel like I have 4 lungs! I just find now that my cardio ability has increased 10 fold. Even today on a brisk walk at lunch time, I noticed I was not puffing at all. And when riding my bike – well, now it is my legs that scream out. Before it was always my lungs.

After putting in a big effort to get to the top of Humevale
Check out this little video, and this will give you some more details …

So, from here, I can’t wait to see what more I can do. I have barely taken the plastic off the unit and already I cannot talk any more highly (pardon the pun) about it. And I can’t wait to be able to follow my structured training program and test my ability on the road. My aims have always been to complete – no compete! Perhaps climbing mountains from sea level may just change that aim?
And 1600kms in 16 days is more achievable now with the help from Altitude Training Systems. Now I need to find an altitude trainer that will help with the next mountain - raising the $5000 to qualify for both events!
A big thanks has to go to my new helpers ...

Pulford Air & Gas

The Nitty Gritty …. For those who want more details J  
The sessions I have completed have just been using my basic spin program. And yes, I am still the novice who doesn’t really understand Ergo’s, Tempo’s, Effort Sessions etc. Up until now, my spin sessions have just been about rolling the legs over and my tempo has been based on the song I am listening to. Time was based on how much spare time I have up my sleeve.
But now, I am about to embark on a structured program to build my fitness. For the last 3 weeks, I have just been getting used to the Altitude Trainer and have incorporated it into my usual spin sessions.
E1 = 30 mins, 30kmph, 75rpm (Plus a 5 minute warm up and 5 minute cool down)
E2 = 30 mins, 35kmph, 85rpm (and higher resistance)
10,8,10 = A quick high intensity work out I do when time is of the essence. After a 5 minute warm up, it is 10 minutes as hard as I can go. High resistance, high RPM, High HR ... then 8 mins recovery before another 10 minute blast. It's quick but very effective. The aim is to work at 80% of MHR for the 10 minute blocks.
In Session 1 - E1, I set the Base Unit to 5.5 (16.6% Oxygen) 
On starting, my HR was 89 and my SPO2% was 99.
After 5 minutes my HR was 135 and SPO2% was 93.
5 minutes later, my HR was 145 and SPO2% was 89.
Then 5 minutes later I had the same readings.
I then increased the base unit to 6.5 (16%).
Within 5 minutes my HR was at 160 and SPO2% was 87.
At this point I was noticing that I was really drawing my breathes in and started to feel a bit light headed. I then removed the mask and continued my session. I felt like I had been sucking on helium balloons - the only way I can draw a comparisson to how I felt.
Total time using the Base Unit = 20 minutes
In Session 2 - E1, The results were very much the same as above although I did manage an extra 5 minutes using the base unit.
In Session 3 - E2, I set the Base Unit to 6.5 (16%)
On starting, my HR was 90 and my SPO2% was 99.
Over 10 minutes, my HR climbed to 155 and my SPO2% went down to 87.
From here, it remained consistent for the following 5 minutes. I then increased my resistance and I found that I was really struggling. At the 20 minute mark, I had to remove the mask. This is the first time I have felt that I was fighting for my breath. The great thing is, once you remove the mask, you can breathe again :)
In Sessions 4 - 5 - E2, I had the same results - although the fight for breath was a little less.
In Session 6 – I jumped on to do a recovery session. After a hard road session on Saturday, I decided to use the ATS Base unit as part of my recovery. A planned 30 minute spin turned into a great session.
I set the Base Unit to 6.5 (16%)
A 5 minute warm up and then I attached the mask. 
This followed with 20 minutes of hard spin. I just fell into the zone and went with it and if each session could be like this, I would do it every day. My HR was consistent at 160 and my SPO2% was sitting at 87.

45 minutes and I achieved what normally would have taken over an hour and a half without the Altitude Trainer in terms of calorie burn.
Out on the road, I have had some great results that had been unexpected. In both road sessions, I have completed them 3 days after the altitude session. The first one was a dead flat ride and I managed to be able to increase my speed. Generally I am let down by my cardio ability, but this time I noticed a significant difference. I was sitting comfortably on 36kmph, where my average speed in 'normal' conditions is no higher than 32kmph. I was pleasantly surprised. At the end of this flat ride (which is 12km) I do some hill repeats. The road is 500m long and is an average 8% gradient. For the first time, it was my leg strength that was going to let me down - not my cardio.
The second session on the road is a 25km ride of hills. This included a decent climb that is only 2km long, but is an average of 7% with it's meanest part in the last 500m where it increases to a 12% gradient. I have not made it up this hill yet without stopping to catch my breath. But on Sunday, I made it! And I was still able to talk my way up the last part (yes, I was talking myself up the hill ....) To be honest, it is the closest I have come to losing my stomach out on the road, but I made it. Whether it was determination or the result of the Altitude training .... I can only put it down to the training! I had been having an off day mentally, so quitting was always going to be my easy option. But I didn't feel I needed to - hence why I put it down to the trainer.
The third session on the road was by far the best. I went out with a “see what happens” approach. My aim was to get out to Whittlesea (12kms flat) and see how I felt. I felt like I had just warmed up! So I kept going. I continued to the base of Humevale, a decent little climb up to Kinglake West. I still felt great. So up the climb I went. Normally, I would be huffing and puffing up the hill while doing around 12kmph. But this time I was doing ok at 15kmph. I didn’t want to push too hard as I was out on my own and no mobile reception. But I know I could do more. My previous best was 2 hours and 42 minutes to cover the 53kms. In this ride, it took me 2 hours and 13 minutes. And I know I could do it better if the head wind had not been in my face for the last 20kms!!!!
From here, my training plan over the next month will include the following:
Monday - E1 using the Base Unit at 6.5. Aim is to use the mask for the full 30 minutes and then increase my ride time to 45 minutes.
Tuesday - 10,8,10 at Sea Level or a road crit ride for 30 minutes.
Wednesday - E2 using the Base Unit at 6.5. Aim is to use the mask for the full 30 minutes and then increase my ride time to 45 minutes.
Thursday - Rest Day
Friday – Swim 
Saturday - Road Ride - 50km flat combined with core strength work.
Sunday - Road Ride - 25km Hills or 60km combining a 45km flat ride with a 7.5km ascent/descent or E1,E2 combination with the aim to improve during each session.

I am also working with David from ATS with guidence on my training. I have a series of base tests that I will perform and chart my results. These results will become part of my regular posts, so stay tuned :)

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