*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, June 18, 2009

Do It Yourself Ride: Triumph Over Adversity

When presented with a challenge that I a) don't want to do and b) don't believe that I CAN do (i.e., 3 more reps of a ridiculously heavy weight; 10 whole more seconds of a max-effort sprint on a Spinner; mashing inefficiently up a Vermont hill in sneakers because I'm too fearful post-accident to put my cycling shoes back on; memorizing 2100 nerves/arteries/veins/muscles/"spaces" in the head and neck alone; breaking the snooze-button cycle when I've only slept for 3 hours and have NO desire to interact with any portion of the world outside my bed), I often try rationalize with myself.

"Self," I say (well, maybe I don't say that part...), "You accomplished X! Did you forget that you accomplished X? If you can do X, why the hell can't you pull down that piece of iron three more times? Are you kidding?"
Well, sure. That makes sense. I DID accomplish X. Yeah, that was pretty sweet. I'm kind-of awesome, I guess. Yeah. I'm going to go ahead and pull down that piece of iron three more times. I can do that. After all, I accomplished X!

Myself and I, we have variations of that conversation about all sorts of things. Contrary to public opinion, "we" would often prefer to snuggle in bed all day rather than contribute to society. There's a lot of "conversations" that make 75% of anything I do all day actually happen.

It's kind-of amazing the kind of systematic self-scrutiny and dialogue that can transform one from the inertia of NOT doing to... well, doing a whole lot, just by building on one's own appreciation for the things one has been good at, is good at, and will be good at in the future.

It's too bad that most of us, even folks as overly self-analytical as me, are too consumed by the present challenges and distractions of the moment to spend time appreciating the very things that could actually HELP us better navigate those challenges.

Now who wouldn't make a ride out of that?!

My first ride with my cycling/mindfulness fusion class upon the completion of my first year of medical school was entitled "Triumph Over Adversity." The premise was that, as I described, we rarely take the time to celebrate ourselves and our accomplishments -- especially the little ones. But that maybe, just maybe, if we could tap into SOMETHING about those moments in our lives -- that maybe we could channel that to fuel our efforts towards the conquest of a new challenge.
The fuel of our confidence, of our self-efficacy, of our rhythmic breathing, will empower us to accept a challenge slightly beyond our comfort zone -- to accept it GRADUALLY, in such a way that we can sustain it. (Think: "Increase, and breathe." -- description on the right-hand side).

10 minute-seated climb
I asked my riders to close their eyes and think back to a moment when they felt that they had truly accomplished something meaningful. Maybe something huge, like finishing their first year of medical school (giggles erupt; half this group are my classmates); maybe something small, like making someone else feel special.

I then suggested to them that sometimes when we accept a new challenge, we don't do it in such a way that projects out far forward enough. We overshoot, we burn out. We try to change too much at once. So it is on the Spin bike, I told them.

Progressive loadings until their legs slowed down. Sloooooooooooowed down. I asked them if it felt lousy. They agreed. Back it off, find 65% MHR again.

I then told them that by the end of the ride, they will have the opportunity to work up to that SAME challenge -- but will get their gradually. And it won't feel lousy. They won't even notice it.
Fueled by the science of physiological adaptation and their belief in themselves, they'll just feel and BE awesome. Done, let's go.

Think back before you even took on that challenge. What inspired you to make that decision? What did you expect? What did it mean to you, looking ahead to accomplishing that one thing?
What were you trying to solve? To change? To improve? What were you hoping to learn?
And when you did it, how WERE you changed? What are you now uniquely qualified to do?

Suggested music:
Fix Me - Velvet (Club Mix)
Inconsolable - Backstreet Boys
(Go ahead and laugh at me -- just wait til you hear this song. It makes me cry. I blast it in my car, I blast it at the gym, and now I blast it in my classes. NO JOKE. New favorite song. I've hit an all new level of lame, but you absolutely need to hear it. Love. LOVE.)

I told my riders that the rest of this ride had three rules, and only three rules:
1) We change ONLY one thing at a time: resistance, speed, or position. Any change we make is subtle -- nothing slows us down, nothing changes the heart rate. Make a change, and breathe to modulate our physiological response to that change. "Getting more work done, without working harder" (that's for you, Lane...).
2) We change breathing before we change anything. Anticipate the change, change the breath (i.e., your fuel for the change), then make the change.
3) If you feel uncomfortable, you ignore me.

On that premise, we applied two concepts:
Music slows down, we add resistance. See Rule #1.
Music speeds up, we speed up. See Rule #1 (which implies that we sustain resistance).

That's right. 35 minutes without backing off that resistance -- but progressively loading it.

Within that context, they were free to climb as they saw fit.

When I made this ride, I had absolutely no intention that a room full of people would actually do this. But they DID. I did it with them. OH my gosh, it was amazing. What a huge rush to be really pushing and pulling through a RIDICULOUS amount of resistance smoothly and fluidly because of how damned gradually we loaded it, negotiating heart rate as we went. I was aerobic for almost all of it, in fact -- hovered right around 75% MHR for most of it. It's alllllllllllll in the breathing and just how gradual one makes changes. This is how I do most of my training personally -- pick a particular heart rate and sustain it through various changes. But this was NUTS.

But you know what? Science works. If you do it right, it works. And it's so cool.

Select suggested music
(you need to play with stuff to find your tempo changes, if you're going for that -- and you need to tinker with your own/your classes' attention spans, too. That's the tough part, the art of sustaining attention. 35 minutes is a long time):
Take On Me (Topmodelz Remix)
Storm of Life (Manian)
The Greatest Love (Whitney Houston - techno remix) ---
ohhhhh, you have no idea how cheesy I got with my cueing. I got away with RIDICULOUS stuff. It was awesome.
Rock Star (N.E.R.D. - Jason Nevins remix)
<--- EVERYONE friggin' loves this song. They loved it in NYC, they love it here in VT. It's a staple finisher, as "un-me" as it is.

Turns out, this was one of the best rides I've ever conceived and presented, ever. Pretty sweet to finish up your first year of medical school and coach the best ride of your life all in a 24 hour period.

Now the summer is before us, and I'm moving to rural Vermont tomorrow to a cottage across the road from the clinic where I'm working. I have a screened-in porch looking out into the woods, where I intend to write a LOT on both blogs. And allegedly get back on my bike.

Here are topics that I "owe" people:
* Stretching I do with my classes
* What specifically I do with new HRM wearers who haven't been for metabolic testing and won't do an LT field test (as an aside, I recently had my metabolic testing repeated. My LT is exactly the same as my LT field test. I was shocked. Amazed, but shocked. And damned proud: up 10 beats since last year.)
* Why taking other instructors' classes, even inspirationally challenged classes, is one of the most important growth mechanisms there is.

If there's something else you want me to add to the cache, say the word.

1 comment:

Charles said...

You had me until you said you used the Back Street Boys ;)

This is GOOD! Your ability to express and apply these life concepts in a Spin class format is incredible. I've experienced and even considered a lot of the things you write about but never take the time to apply them like this or in a way that really helps others. The difference is, you use these real-life experiences both on and off the bike to make a silly little exercise session something much more. I'm sure for some it's soooo much more, perhaps life-changing. I'm starting to add some of this style to my class largely because of what I've read from you and Jennifer Sage. Thanks for the challenge. Confession: I have never been a theme ride type guy. (likely because of initiative and exposure) I know I can't just change my style over night but I do enjoy the challenge/reward aspect of sharing something like this with others. I may have to give it a try! BTW, you need to be a guest instructor at WSSC and teach this!

Congratulations on getting closer to your goal of being a MD and congratulations on this ride. I'm sure the participants were blown away.