Saturday, November 7, 2009

Weird workout day, even for me

It began with a short run on the beach. No dolphins today, but I did see pelicans of all things. They're common in the Half Moon Bay area a little further down the coast, but I've never noticed them in the city before. Maybe they were hoping to see dolphins?

The run went pretty well considering I'd beaten myself up pretty thoroughly the day before in ballet class plus rehearsal plus cycling. The cycling class was an intense interval training session that got my heart rate up to 171 at one point. Bear in mind, I'm 47. My estimated maximum is 179 according to the usual charts, which of course reflect averages, meaning that for 50% of the population they overestimate and for 50% they underestimate. I am in the latter fifty percent. In fact, my actual maximum heart rate seems to be about 190. This is strictly a genetic thing and not an indicator of cardiorespiratory fitness or lack thereof. But anyway, after hitting a high of 171 I was able to lower my heart rate to 106 within only 2 minutes or so. That's pretty good. Generally speaking an athlete should be able to lower his or her heart rate by 40 beats within 3 minutes of ending a workout. The quicker you can bring your heart rate down, the fitter you are. This is another reason to wear a heart rate monitor during your workouts: so you can track your progress in this respect.

Anyway, because I'd gotten my heart rate so high in cycling class on Thursday I wasn't sure how much of an effort I'd be able to put forth during my run, but in fact it went pretty well except for not seeing any dolphins.

A little later in the morning I hit the weight room for a little squat/bench press/pull-up action. The pull-ups went surprisingly well but I was weak as a kitten on the other two exercises. When I'm doing a low-rep strength workout I always throw in a couple of light specific-warmup sets so I can gauge how much it's safe for me to push it during the actual work sets, and I could pretty much tell when my back started complaining after 8 reps with only a measly 95 pounds that it was not going to be a good strength day. So I played it safe, focused on form and range of motion, and still feel as though I got a lot out of the workout even though I never used more than 145 pounds for my heaviest set.

I'm actually not totally committed to making barbell back squats a regular part of my routine again. Mike Boyle says they're not the best for building leg strength because they put the low back in a functionally weak position, so that it tires long before the legs do. I suspect that in many cases he is absolutely correct. What I'm not so sure about is whether the alternative he suggests--the Bulgarian split squat--is a better choice. His theory is that the BSS puts the back in a functionally strong position and the legs in a functionally weak one, so that it's the legs that'll give out first. This makes some sense to me, but at the same time I wonder whether most athletes have the balance and flexibility required to get the most out of the BSS. I think it's an absolutely wonderful exercise but it would never have occurred to me to use it as a replacement for conventional squats.

On the other hand, I'm always happy to test out a theory :) And I do love single leg training. Bear in mind that there's a thin line between love and hate here.

Anyway, after I finished the strength portion of my workout I did a few sets of 1-arm swings, then headed upstairs to an empty studio for some pointe practice. This was when I noticed that things were seriously amiss. I couldn't find my center and I couldn't pull up. The connective tissue in my ankles felt weak and "loose" for want of a better word. And I couldn't remember my choreography to save my life.

Then I remembered what day it was in my cycle, and all became clear.