Wednesday, August 21, 2013

And I thought I was in Shape...

I like to think of myself as a pretty fit guy. I enjoy testing myself at different activities and measuring my results against those of other athletes and champions. But watching the USA Pro Cycling Challenge humbles me tremendously. Here's how.

Unfortunately, I don't have the luxury of having a power meter on the stationary bikes I occasionally get to ride. Power is a measurement of how much work we do over a given time. We measure it in watts--so we're trying to see what kind of lightbulb we can power by just using our body essentially. We can calculate power by using the formula
But I get the feeling that I'm losing a lot of you right now, so we'll save the exercise physiology lecture for another time.

Since I didn't get to watch the conclusion of yesterday's stage of the USAPCC, I went on the Training Peaks website to see how the stage went in terms of numbers. Training Peaks is a company that measures and analysizes exercise data--power, speed, heart rate, etc--and let's the athlete and coach know what part of the ride was easiest, hardest, and overall general performance. So out of curiosity I looked at Rory Sutherland's data to see how he faired over the 126.1 mile course.

I'm not going to pretend that I know what all the numbers mean. But if you scroll down to his Minimum, Average and Maximum numbers you'll see some crazy numbers. For example:
Rory Sutherland (who, last year, took fourth place in the USAPCC) averaged 225 watts over the course of the day with a max of 1119 So he could've powered quite a few lightbulbs over the course of the day. But the numbers that most surprised me were his average speed, and his heart rate numbers. These surprised and humbled me because these are the numbers that I can most closely measure during my own workouts.
Average speed was 37.5 km/h (23.076 mph). My most recent measured ride on a stationary bike, I averaged 23.8 mph over the course of 30 minutes and felt like I was going to pass out. So I can't comprehend doing that over the course of 126.1 miles. To put this more in perspective, Sutherland was averaging going 1 (one) mile in 2 minutes and 36 seconds. AVERAGE!
But even more disheartening to me were Sutherland's heart rate numbers.
Average: 137 bpm (beats per minute)
Maximum: 179 bpm
My average heart rate during my last timed workout...181 bpm. So my average is higher than Sutherland's maximum.

But I don't lay all of these facts and numbers out to discourage you. I do it to show us all the potential we have. We all may not want to race and win the USA Pro Cycling Challenge, you may not ever want to get on a bike, but we all want to measure our success and check and see how we're doing. We need to find ways of analyzing where we're at, what parts are harder and easier. Where can we focus a little more of our effort. Do we need to build that aerobic base back up? Or do we need to climb the stairs before we can climb a mountain? Do we need to pay off that credit card  and student loans before investing in the stock market?

Let's do what the pros do and measure and analyze. Compare how you're doing to someone you know who's successful. You want to be a professional athlete, compare your results to those of your favorite athlete. You want to be a millionaire, then find one and compare the steps you're taking to the ones they took. Always evaluate the steps we're taking to reach our goals and achieve our vision.


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