*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.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Translating Life On The Bike --> Off The Bike

I spend a fair amount of time rationalizing to myself why I spend more than a fair amount of time blogging, putting rides together, downloading new music, developing HR training programs for both people I see everyday and people I've never met, answering Spinning-related emails, reading like a fiend about my go-to coaching cue constructs, etc. -- as opposed to, say, memorizing brain stem pathways. Arguably, it's a bit irresponsible of me -- so why do I do it? Because I'm a horrific procrastinator? Because it's nice to feel useful and effective? Because it's important to appreciate that, in some realm of my world, that I actually know enough about something to actually help other human beings (unlike my physician-in-training realm)? Because it gives me a sense of immediate purpose, a place in the world where I am contributing to something -- "doing," as opposed to "will one day do?" Because it contributes to my own self-efficacy -- that deep-rooted belief, at one's very core, that one can and will successfully navigate the challenges of one's world? All of the above.

At the end of the day, I have to take ownership of the fact that I invest this much time and energy because it's my way of processing my own world. Most of my rides these days reflect a particular life theme or life policy or life 'whatever' I feel like exploring (during the process of creating and preparing for it), and decide that others find valuable to explore through actually riding it: some technical, abstract, most both.

Note to self (and, apparently, to hundreds of people -- just to keep me honest): After my killer exam next week, I'm going to write about my new theory comparing insomnia to ride-development creative ruts.

Anyway - as I accumulate life experience, I get ballsier and ballsier with the "abstract" stuff. I'm kind-of 'over' the self-imposed construct that most people don't want to think about "life off they bike" while they ride a bike. The comfort of having accumulated a core of "regulars" who somehow decided to bestow me with the street cred to pull it off, the "delivery" of only taking myself 99.9% seriously when I dip into Cheese Mode, the balance with valuable technical training -- all of that has taken time, and I've arrived at a coaching style that (I think/hope) affords me to connect with both people who are looking to 'go there' and who occasionally think I'm nuts.

But I found myself wondering if I couldn't push the envelope a bit more...

I've written a bit (on this blog and my other one) about my good ol' 2009 New Life Policies, including the one that obligates me to take action on any "idea of something I say I'm really gonna do" within 12 hours of conception. One of said "somethings" was a pseudo-insane idea to start an actual for-fee course about all these things I write and think and talk about all day long. I've been integrating this on-the-bike --> off-the-bike training "thing" into my classes for a while. We occasionally ponder some heavy stuff: deepest fears/insecurities, creative freedoms, life-purpose. So much for The Bike That Doesn't Go Anywhere. Climbing, breathing, striving for improvement -- that's all pretty standard now, in small doses. But doing ENTIRELY this, training a group of people specifically SEEKING this? Could I even pull it off? Would I out-cheese myself? Would anyone even be interested?

Over the past few months, I acquired the support of my manager at UVM and set up the right infrastructure -- and lo and behold, people started registering for this thing: a 16-session "Cycling & Mindfulness Fusion" course. It started last week. 15 women. All of them primed and ready to 'go there.' Half of them are my regulars. Half are of an entirely different demographic (more of what I'm used to from my NYC days!), some of whom have never been on a Spinner before. They were attracted by the Mindfulness part. Cool.

The premise, of course, is to develop techniques and approaches ON the bike to contribute to their worlds OFF the bike. Mindfulness can be defined in a variety of ways -- by people FAR more qualified than me to define it; but how I'M using it in my course is the art of paying attention on purpose. Experiencing one's world, through all of one's senses. Unleashing one's power by tapping into the wholeness of that experience. Unleashing the power of breathing. Improving one's focus and general sense of connectedness to one's world.

I structured the first training session as sort-of an "Intro to Mindfulness" -- an orientation to breathing and form, proprioceptive awareness (I refrained from including any details on the specific neural pathways that contribute to one's knowledge of how one's body is moving in space -- though I actually KNOW this now; see how useful that whole 'medical school thing' is? Heh.), detaching from distraction, soaking up one's experience with every sense. I didn't talk pedal stroke. I didn't talk heart rate. I took the clock off the wall, and guided them through the art of guiding themselves. Two 20-minute seated climbs. Boring, steady beats. Their job was to just 'collect their data,' absorbed only in the task of paying attention. If their attention wandered, that was fine. They would then give themselves permission to reorient, reset. Permission to begin anew.

It was pretty ballsy. And it was pretty awesome.

This week, we evolved toward a bit more 'standard' stuff. Monday, we "collected data" again -- this time, introducing more variables: changes in resistance, speed, and position. I called the ride "Flaneur" -- a concept I've been exploring in my non-Spinning life after it was suggested by the family medicine doc with whom I've been working as a model for what I SEEM to be doing through my adjustment to Vermont life -- the idea of "wandering" through the world, taking in each experience without interpreting/judging. Clearly, one can appreciate how this just HAD to become a ride.

So that's how it went. Generic three-loop ride: experiencing the familiar in an unfamiliar way. Just paying attention to how their form, heart rate, and breathing change -- if at all. Tuesday, we did a "HR Survey." Experiencing the subtle differences between 70%, 75%, 80% and 85% MHR, and collecting more data. Both rides: not trying to control or change anything. Just experiencing it, attending to it.

I'm about to go coach a ride that will synergize what they practiced all week: Gathering data, and applying it to COMMIT to a target heart rate.

4 min seated climb, progressive loading to maintain 70%
3x "surges" -- 75%, 80%, 85%
(I use "surges" to mean an opportunity to respond as one sees fit: changing resistance, speed, position, or nothing at all)

4 min seated climb -- progressive loading to target HR (70, 75, 80. 85)
Loop 1: SURGES x6 (see above) -- still committed to that single HR
Loop 2: Recover. Progressive load back to target HR. Commit to it by whatever means necessary. Embracing this commitment as a promise to yourself, a reflection of your integrity.

(They don't know this yet... but they're going to hold it for 16 minutes. I can pull this off because I took the clock off the wall...)

We'll see how it goes....

EDIT 5/14/09 8:24PM: They rocked it.


Kala Marie said...

Of course they rocked it! With you as a leader and coach they can't possibly fail!!!

Lane said...

I am a master of the mind wandering...the other day an instructor said "You can do anything for a minute!" I spent the rest of the class trying to figure out if there was anything I could not do for a minute. Never did come up with anything.

Melissa Marotta said...

Kala!! What a wonderful thing for you to say. I need to carry you around in my pocket all day at med school. (BTW - I, too, was a "go back and do my pre-reqs" non-trad applicant. I read on your blog that this is your next step. Delayed gratification is tricky -- but you have FAR better coping mechanisms for goal-commitment, as evidenced from your writing, than I did when I started this crazy adventure. Also - if shoot me an email at melissa.marotta@gmail.com, one of my best friends (who did her post-bacc studies WITH me) started far later in life than me with her pre-reqs, but is already finished with her DPT from Columbia and now off livin' the dream of PT - I can put you guys in touch, in case you have any 'life adjustment' questions.

Lane - that makes me SO happy. I love that you see the world that way. Turning that question around like that is a true gift.