The official newsletter of StrongFast Fitness
and Earthlings everywhere.
January 29, 2013
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In this issue...

  • What's New at StrongFast?
  • Feature Article: Heart Breaker
  • Fitness Found Online
  • Recipe: Thai Coconut Chicken Soup

What's New at StrongFast?

doing a barbell clean
The Nutrition Support Group is well under way, but still a long way to go. It's a process!

The Group experience is prompting some updates to blitzometer, most notably the ability to see and respond to Blitz comments via email, similar to the way private messages work. So stay tuned for that

And a bunch of us are rocking power cleans. If you don't know what that means, you don't know what you're missing!
"I bought a rowing machine but I haven't used it yet.
I haven't been able to tear the box open."

Feature Article

Heart Breaker

heart If you're reading this, you have a heart rate (HR) and a resting heart rate (RHR) and a maximum heart rate (MHR). (Unless the Zombie Apocalypse has happened, in which case you might not have a heart rate--or a heart--but then you'd be wasting your time reading this instead of searching for brains.) Traditionally, the heart rate was checked manually using fingers on the wrist or neck (pulse) or with a stethoscope. In the 1980s, a Finnish company named Polar Electro (better known simply as "Polar") began marketing wireless heart monitors and in the fitness training field, that changed everything.

With a convenient way to get accurate, real-time heart rate information, lots of studies considered the relationship between HR and training effectiveness. This led to the popular use of "training zones" to achieve different effects. You'll commonly see four zones that look something like this:
  1. Moderate
  2. Aerobic
  3. Anaerobic
  4. Maximum
work zone You can find other examples with three or five zones, but they all use the same general idea, which is that each zone corresponds to a percentage range of your MHR (or a function thereof, such as Heart Rate Reserve [HRR] which is MHR-RHR). For example, 70-80% of your MHR is often considered to be the "aerobic" zone where the aerobic energy system is primarily used, while 60-70% is often considered to be the "fat-burning" zone because your body will rely largely on fat stores for energy rather than glycogen. (Don't get hung up on the fat-burning zone concept: there are faster ways to burn it.)

There are many variations on these zones, and some justifiable skepticism as to their value, but here's the main thing: the method most commonly used to determine the MHR is usually wrong. And if you have the wrong MHR, the zones are kind of useless.

Where does this mostly-wrong MHR come from? A simple formula that you've probably seen: 220 - age. That's it! So simple! And yet it's ubiquitous. It was on the wall in my ex-physical therapist's office. It's on all sorts of medical sites. It's even on tests for personal trainer certification. But it turns out this formula was not based on any studies, but on observation of a small data sample by Dr. William Haskell and Dr. Samuel Fox back in 1970. They never intended it to become any kind of standard used in training. Much of that can be attributed to Polar and other training equipment manufacturers who wanted something simple people could use to make their equipment seem to be more scientific.

work zone If you're fortunate enough to be above a certain age, you probably remember Eric Heiden as the golden boy who won five individual gold medals at the 1980 Winter Olympics (while setting one world and four Olympic records). He subsequently became Eric Heiden, M.D. and worked with athletes, primarily cyclists. He also co-wrote a book Faster, Better, Stronger with Max Testa, M.D. The book includes discussions about heart rate zones, but also includes this analysis of the Haskell and Fox MHR (or HRM) calculation:
Medically speaking, the 220-age formula has a standard deviation of 12 beats/min (bpm). That means that over 60 percent of the people in the same age group have an HRM within 24 bpm of one another, and 95 percent of them are within 48 bpm. That means that over half of the forty-five-year-olds, for example, will actually have a maximum heart rate that is anywhere from 163 to 187, but they will all base their training on a maximum heart rate of 175. And almost all of these forty-five-year-olds will actually have heart rates of 151-199, but, again, they will all be doggedly training in zones based on an HRM of 175. This tells you that the mean value of the HRM for all the subjects of the same age is not precise enough to be used for individualized training intensity assessment.
That's what I was going to say! Anyway, if you're like me and have routinely exceeded your supposed MHR, you're not a freak. (At least, not based on this.) The formula just doesn't work for you, as it won't for most people. Oh, and just because I've actually heard people ask about this, no, your heart won't explode by trying to exceed your MHR. You'll just get tired and slow down.

There are other formulae for estimating MHR that are better than this one, but the only way to find out for sure is with a stress test. It won't take long, but it will suck. Just letting you know.

Anyway, there's another way to gauge the intensity of your workouts that is arguably better than any heart rate zone method can ever be. For that, you'll have to come back next time!

Be seeing you.


Fitness Found Online

Sorry guys, but this one's for the ladies. Interested in having a cloned Neanderthal baby? Some Harvard professor thinks he can make it happen. Maybe. But if you do it, there might be some bad reactions.
Manly Beach
Sorry ladies, but this one's for the guys. From The Art of Manliness comes a blogger's story of how he doubled his testosterone levels. As for the picture, that's Manly Beach outside Sydney. Been there, baby! Although it still sounds weird to say we "took the ferry to Manly".

Recipe: Thai Coconut Chicken Soup

Still plenty of time left in winter to enjoy this spicy, coconut-y treat. One thing, though: I'm no chef, but if you're using uncooked chicken I don't think 5 minutes of simmering is even close to enough. Safe bet is to cook the chicken first. You can even cook it in coconut oil! Anyway, this was coconutty delicious! Oh, and I used red and green bell peppers with chopped spinach for the veggies. So many options!
Thai Coconut Chicken Soup Thai Coconut Chicken Soup
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