Sunday, 29 May 2011

A walk in the woods

We took the children for a walk in Rowney Warren this morning. There's always something new to discover. Today, we were looking for "clues" to help us find goblins and dragons.

There were plenty of clues for us to follow.

Where will the clues lead us?

We found a hidden fairy glade.

Shhh, the fairies are sleeping 

A "very purple bush" that had goblins living inside it.

Watch out for those goblins, they might eat our chocolate

A lovely surprise to find Pooh's house. Maybe we can find Eeyore's house too?

Is he inside?

Yes we can! Eeyore's house creaked in the wind and was a bit scary.

Where's Eeyore gone?
We didn't find any dragons, but we found lots of tracks they had left behind.

Rowney Warren is located near Chicksands and Shefford in Bedfordshire. It's run by the Forestry Commission and is free to visit.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Fruity potential

I love growing vegetables in my garden, but what about fruit?

After last year's disaster, I should have a bumper crop of strawberries this year. As long as the birds stay clear.

My birthday present from last year, this is the first year I'll have homegrown blueberries. A gift that keeps on giving.

The raspberries get better every year. Shame they're taking over my veg patch as well.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Monday, 16 May 2011

Heart rate monitoring: resting, max, and zones

As soon as I got my new Garmin watch for measuring and analysing my runs, I began to wonder why monitoring my heart rate while on a run would be useful. We all have unique resting and maximum heart rates, and knowing these values can assist with training for races and other activities.

I googled heart rate monitoring and found this site, which introduced to me the idea of heart rate zones. It also provided a method to calculate your max heart rate based on your age (from which you can calculate these zones). I did the calculation, but I didn't really understand the part about zones or what I should be aiming to do.

Thankfully, a friend offered to lend me an excellent book: Heart Monitor Training for the Compleat Idiot. This book contains another calculation for max heart rate (slightly different from that on the above website), but stressed the importance of doing a physical test to ascertain your max heart rate.

Max heart rate

The calculation in the book is 205 - {half your age} (+ 5 if you're a woman). Which gave me a rough max heart rate of 193 bpm.

The max heart rate test suggested in the book consists of a short warm-up run, stretches, and a 100 m sprint to get your heart rate up, followed by a series of 5 short uphill sprints (200 m), with recovery jogs downhill in between, gradually increasing the intensity of each uphill run.

My local running club does sprint sessions every so often, and it just so happened that a session similar to the above test was done a few days after I got my watch :) And my max heart rate peaked at 181 bpm, which I have now set as my max. (Goes to show how inaccurate the calculation can be.)

Resting heart rate

The test for this rate is nice and easy! The book suggests you strap your heart monitor on soon after waking in the morning and just lie there for a few minutes. (And you are allowed to go back to sleep!) My resting heart rate was 40 bpm (whoop, super athlete NOT).

Training zones

Here comes the section I was most confused about. What are heart rate zones and why should I care? Apparently, two zones are most important: the recovery ceiling (70% level) and the threshold floor (85% level). You can calculate these based on your max and resting rates.

For example: (Max - Resting) x 0.70 + resting = 70% level

My 70% level is 139 bpm and my 85% level is 160 bpm. The book recommends you keep your heart rate below the 70% level on 'easy' run days and at the 85% level on 'hard' days.

More about training here.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Garmin Forerunner 110: review

When I started running in January I didn't know much about tracking runs, I was more concerned about getting to the end without dying. I soon became aware of running apps for the iPhone (eg, Runkeeper, MapMyTracks) that would measure distance and show a map, calculate calories burnt, and provide a breakdown of pace every mile; when I received an arm case for my husband's iPhone 3GS for Mother's Day, my obsession with tracking all my runs and assessing my pace began.

The iPhone, sadly, was not up to the job, crashing on every run; and of course, it wasn't my iPhone (hint). The arm holder was also fairly annoying, so I put in a request for a GPS watch for my birthday. A friend recommended I get a Garmin. I wanted something small and "watch-like", so I wasn't keen on the Forerunner 305 that I'd seen already.

The Garmin Forerunner 110 is perfect: small AND watch-like. I received the unisex version and a heart rate monitor (sold separately). (You can also buy women's and men's versions that come with a heart monitor.)

Image taken from
Once fully charged (it comes with an AC adapter, usb lead, and charger that clips to the side of the watch) the unit asks a few questions for setting up reasons (eg, your age, date and time, preferred unit of measurement). Strap the heart monitor band around your chest and the watch will automatically pick it up (a little heart symbol appears on the left). Stand outside, and the unit will search for satellites for a GPS signal (a satellite symbol appears on the right).

The unit has four buttons around the edge. The 'light' button doubles as the power on/off button when held on. The 'page/menu' button when pressed once will scroll through time, current timed run, and heart rate) and when held on will bring up the menu. Here, you can changes settings and view previous activities. The 'lap/reset' button will set a lap marker if pressed once and, if held on, will save your current run and reset for a new one. 'Start/stop' does what it says.

The watch does everything I want. It accurately maps my runs and shows distance at the top in miles or kilometres, current pace at the bottom, and either current heart rate or run time in the centre. I've set the watch to beep every 0.5 miles and show my current split time and pace. Split time can be set to 1 mile, 2 miles, etc. depending on your preference.

At the end of a run, holding reset saves the run data for download to Garmin Connect at a later time. Holding down 'page/menu' and selecting 'Activity' will show a summary of the run: total distance, average pace and heart rate, and calories burnt.

By connecting the unit to a computer via the usb cable and clip charger, you can download run data for geeky analysis. Garmin Connect is very good because it allows you to share runs or keep them private. For every run it shows a detailed map, distance, pace (average and best), split times, elevation, and heart rate (average and max). You can also set up your heart rate zones if you know your max and resting heart rates. More on heart rate monitoring another time!
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