2009 Resolution #3: Commence research into the psychological effects of heart rate training. Check. Yup. This week, I received official Institutional Review Board approval to launch my study -- and a few hours ago, I kicked off Phase 1 -- a short, 10-minute completely anonymous/confidential survey of HRM-wearers about their thoughts/experiences with wearing their HRMs.
YOU CAN PARTICIPATE IN MY STUDY at http://www.surveymonkey.com/s.aspx?sm=4byaM0cjQPKBwQqORKJ1ZQ_3d_3d
Self-efficacy -- that is, one's belief in one's own ability to navigate the challenges of one's world -- is my absolute favorite concept to think, talk, and/or write about. It's the basis of nearly EVERY ride I ever coach. It's the basis of nearly every conversation I ever have with a patient. It's what I think about when I wake up in the morning.
I credit -- in my own life -- my relationship with my heart rate monitor with the development of my own self-efficacy. What is more profound than appreciating your own power to control your own physiology? Learning and practicing -- improving -- techniques of breath and muscle recruitment/relaxation, and receiving immediate feedback on the efficacy of those techniques -- really, what can be more gratifying? Immediate feedback, being absorbed in the task of improving SOMETHING -- anything -- the joy of improvement for the sake of improvement alone. Being able to sustain, refrain, and... (oh, so close, I'm not cool enough to pull that off: but the fact that the rhyming dictionary suggested "renal vein" is pretty funny!) effectively exert supreme control over your heart's response to challenge -- my gosh, that's HUGELY empowering. And the skills I've developed over time through my fitness training-- turns out, they translate extremely well into real life. The way I coach myself and others to manage their heart's response to challenge, I encourage the exact same application to life off the bike. I've seen it in myself, and in scores of people I train. The experience of getting regular feedback for control-establishing mechanisms DIRECTLY translates into the experience of control, globally.
So I'm going to study this relationship, experimentally. That will launch in August or so. But this quick survey (again: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s.aspx?sm=4byaM0cjQPKBwQqORKJ1ZQ_3d_3d) is a Phase 1 of the project, designed to capture the wide range of possible variables for which I need to control as I fine-tune my design. But this Phase 1 itself will be independently interesting, and I look forward to learning from a wide range of experiences from around the country. I'm so damned excited -- both about the project itself and, symbolically, because I actually *DID* this thing I said I was going to do. How's that for self-efficacy?
As it were, I just had the equivalent of a Self-Efficacy Cruise. Perfectly timed with my super-awkward post-Spinathon emotional void, I embarked upon a week-long immersion in My Former Life. With school on break for a week, I visited NYC to teach my old Spinning classes at NYSC, frolic with assorted "life characters," and reconnect with the experiences, faces, and "moments" that once gave me a sense of purpose amidst frantic urban chaos.
Turns out, it was everything I needed. It wasn't just an immersion in the energy/passion of what I once held dear; it was an immersion in nonstop opportunities for the development of self-efficacy -- accomplishing specific objectives/milestones, appreciating familiarity in unfamiliar ways, tapping into another layer of the way I impacted and was impacted BY my former life. It was everything.
As a driver: As many of you know, I just learned how to drive in August -- so as a friend pointed out today, I'm going through all these routine "milestones" later in life and making a much bigger deal about them, because they mean more with this different perspective. So was my first road trip. Joined by two classmates, yours truly actually operated a moving vehicle from A --> B, wherein A was absolutely NOWHERE remotely near B and involved treacherously scary pathways to get there. My first bridge, my first tunnel, my first 4-lane roadway. No joke. And I rocked it. There were times where I was scared out of my MIND -- but pretty damned quickly "walked the walk" of 'breathing my heart rate down' and recruiting the resources I needed to be successful ("GIVE ME MOLLY 4!" I called out to my front-seat passenger, referring to the label of a mix CD of calming instrumental tunes.). Throughout the week, I drove all over the place (including a ridiculous but absolutely well worth-it drive to take MI Anthony Musemici's class on Long Island) -- and then, today, drove back -- entirely by myself. I got lost several times and figured it on my own accord -- quite calmly. I truly believed that I'd be able to figure it out -- and, lo and behold, I did. I was also SUPER-CALM when I got pulled over by a NYS trooper and *PAINFULLY* ticketed. I was even too calm to launch any waterworks. My heart rate was "breathed down" before the dude ever reached my door. Oops.
As an athlete: On Tuesday, I had the privilege of taking MI Caroline Dawson's class in Manhattan. It was - no joke - one of the most empowering experiences I'd had on a Spin bike. I had been planning to just be there to soak up Caroline's awesome stylistic talents as a coach, spinning my legs nice and easy -- MAYBE breaking 65% MHR (I was teaching 7 of my old classes, after all...). But there was a bike shortage, and she drafted me to demonstrate form on the instructor platform. See also: I couldn't fake it. BAM: Strength profile -- 'couple loops of switchbacks at a steady heart rate-- and yours truly decides to do her first-ever 30-minute 85% MHR training session. I've NEVER tried to hold 85% that long. Why? I'd never motivate myself to do it -- and when I take other people's classes, I keep my HR super-low (since it's "extra" -- a rare treat). To hold 184 bpm for 30 minutes was a RIDICULOUS thing -- and, conceivably, made me even prouder than the week before after the 6-hour ride. I felt, seriously, like I could conquer the world. Talk about someone reaching you on an "it's all about what they take away when they leave the room" level.
As a coach: In a span of three days, I had more tear-jerking, life-altering dialogues (in-person or, more commonly, by email post-ride) with former "regulars" than I, practically speaking, could take the time to inhabit and reflect upon. It was the mindblowing "fusion"-type experience I described in my last post at the Spinathon -- except with people from whom I had absolutely NO expectation that they'd been having any of these lasting experiences with classes or blog posts or anything that I "just do" and continue to be shocked that people actually hear/read/process/in any way connect with it. I need to find a better word than "humbling" - but it's the one that comes to mind for now. All of this culminated on my last day in town, helping a former "regular" of mine (and now a dear friend) who got certified as a Spinning instructor last month, put together her first ride -- and then working through it with her. It was amazingly rewarding to have played a small part in starting her on her own path of the journey that has brought ME such rewards. She's such a natural!
Over the course of the week, I'd prepared three new rides to scatter throughout the week -- hoping that, even if people came out multiple days, there'd be enough material to avoid overlap. First ride was ok -- second ride was AMAZING. Every time I coached it, I got better at it. So I just stopped doing the others. I did this ride 6 times within a 2-day span... and then I came back to Burlington tonight and did it again with my class here. SMITTEN.
The concept is, of course, self-efficacy.
1st block: Information Gathering. Taking stock of the way your body/heart respond to challenges. Experiment with changes in resistance, then speed, then change in position. Learn to experience the difference between 70%, 75%, 80%. Synthesizing this information to zero in on a target for improvement (ie, a heart rate to which to commit -- 70, 75, or 80%)
2nd block: Load up to target heart rate. Commit to it no matter what. (Will elaborate)
Progressive load to 65%
BLOCK 1: FACT-FINDING - How does your body respond to challenge?
Part 1 - Resistance
Progressive load to 70% -- then keep loading. Goal: how much work can you get done at 70%? Key phrase: "Loading so gradually that your heart cannot tell the difference."
Part 2 - Speed
2x seated accelerations (1 minute each) -- option to maintain 70% or increase to 75%. Use breathing techniques to maintain steady HR through the accelerations and, upon slowing down, progressively load to maintain same intensity.
Part 3 - Position
Acceleration as above (1 minute) -- seated or standing -- option to maintain 70, 75, or increase to 80%. Use breathing techniques to maintain steady HR through the accelerations and, upon slowing down, progressively load to maintain same intensity.
BLOCK 2: COMMITMENT
Return to 70%. Progressive load to individual target -- 70, 75, or 80%
Six surges (you know me and my surges...) -- I coached it as 2 sets of 3 surges (sounds different...). As always, option to accept each surge in whatever way one sees appropriate -- resistance, speed, change in position, or not at all. YOUR choice how to accept slightly more of a challenge to maintain that constant target. Between surges, make any adjustments you need to maintain the same level of intensity.
Return to 70%. Progressive load to individual target -- 70, 75, or 80%
No more surges. No more distractions. "It's all you." Option to change position, speed, resistance when they were so moved by the rhythms -- so long as you hold that heart rate. Take responsibility for that heart rate -- make any adjustments you need.
They held it 15 minutes. It was amazing. I finished with an 8 minute techno remix of "4 Minutes to Save the World" -- and I told them 2.5 minutes in that, if they could last 90 seconds, they were golden (obviously everyone feels good about that...) -- then at the first "YOU ONLY GOT 4 MINUTES TO SAVE THE WORLD," I bust out a: "YOU'VE GOT 4 MINUTES TO THE FINISH LINE."
Inspiring smirks = its own distraction, almost a resetting of the clock. They were 11 minutes down - but I didn't tell them that. All that mattered was the four minutes, their heart rate, and their promise to themselves to maintain it.
Use the rhythm any way that's helpful to you. If your mind starts to wander, close your eyes.
I know you're tired -- but this is where the mental part comes in. What did it mean to you to commit to that target? How did you want to feel when you were finished? What's it going to take to give you that feeling? How badly do you want it?
Ohhhh, they wanted it. When I told them at the end that they'd held that heart rate for 15 minutes... you should have SEEN the smiles, the glows. The pride. The acknowledgment of their own power. Control. Precision.
NOW what would make me glow is if you participated in my research ;-)
Spread the word!
*UPDATE* Psychological Effects of Heart Rate Monitor Use Study
12/21/2010: Preliminary results were reported at Indoor Cycle Instructor in October 2010. Manuscript in preparation. Once published, results will be made available on this site and at ICI.