I’m really enjoying discovering new blogs and reading other people’s posts tagged with the #100DaysToOffload. One I came across jist over a month ago has had a big impact on my approach to exercise.
In this post, Graham Williams (who goes by the handle ‘gray’) talks about experimenting with a month of using the MAF approach to his training.
There’s no need for a lot of waffle here. We’re looking to train in a low HR zone – I need to know my targets. This is how you get that:
Subtract your age from 180, then modify from one of the categories listed. For me this worked out to be 180 – 34 = 146 (Training consistently for ~ 2 years without injury).
I’m five years older than Graham, so my target should be 141. By way of context, my heart rate has often been around 160-165bpm when finishing exercise.
The creator of this system, Phil Maffetone, suggests that you may add 5 to your target heart rate “if you are a competitive athlete training for more than a year without issues”. I’m not a competitive athlete, but I’ve been doing regular exercise ever since I can remember, so I decided that I’d aim to stay in the 141-146 range during exercise.
I have an Amazfit Bip smartwatch which allows me to see my heart rate in realtime while I run. While it’s not as accurate as a chest strap, I’ll not be buying or wearing one of those anytime soon, so it’s the best I’ve got for now.
It’s been almost a month since trying this approach and, looking at my data (11 runs) I can see that I’m running slower, sometimes much slower, as heart rate depends on multiple factors. For example, when we were on holiday in Devon, it was hotter and I was drinking more alcohol.
On average, this approach has slowed down my average pace by ~20 seconds per kilometre, which is significant. I can feel it while running, wanting to go a bit faster, as this method doesn’t really get the endorphins flowing.
What it does do, however, is ensure that I’m not exhausted after running first thing in the morning. I tend to be hard on myself, so the MAF approach looks like a simple way to have a more sustainable approach to my exercise regime.
I used to be a teacher. And before that I was a student in formal education. Yep, we all know what that means: someone else dictated my working day. This made the transition to managing my own time difficult. I was never taught what to do to maintain my productivity or how to listen to my body and preserve energy levels.
Since June 2012 I’ve worked for the Mozilla Foundation, a global non-profit with a distributed army of contributors. Although volunteering alongside my previous job prepared me a little bit for what was to come, the onboarding was pretty brutal.
In the time since I’ve learned a few things that I’d like to share. Everyone’s different, but hopefully these three things are more widely applicable.
1. Work in bursts
Members of my team live on the west coast of Canada and the US. This means an eight-hour time difference to the UK. This, in turn, means scheduling issues unless both parties are flexible.
I’ve found doing a couple of hours in the morning, a few hours in the afternoon, and then another couple of hours in the evening is good for both scheduling and keeping up some semblance of work/life balance.
2. Optimise coffee consumption
“Drink a cup of coffee, and the ideas come marching in.” (Balzac)
I read a long article recently (I seem to have mislaid the link) that had a great insight. The author noted that we tend to drink to go from unproductive to reach some kind of baseline level of productivity. And that’s important for people like lorry drivers or other people who have to ensure they don’t dip below a dangerously low level of attention.
Productivity comes in waves. Therefore, what’s more important for those that work with their brains rather than their bodies is how high the peaks are, not how deep the troughs are. I thought it was a great insight.
Instead of drinking coffee with my breakfast, I now drink it around 10am and then again at 1pm. This is right before the times that are (for me) the most productive of the day. There’s also caffeine naps as well, of course.
I can’t stress this enough. You may have heard it many, many times. It might seem counter-intuitive. But the more frequently you exhaust yourself doing some kind of exercise, the more physical and mental resilience you’ll have.
Over the last few years I’ve been reasonably good at maintaining a regular exercise regime. But I’m far from perfect. Because of a busy schedule last week, for instance, I didn’t do much at all. And surprise, surprise, this week I’m lethargic, want to stay in bed longer, and can’t focus for as long.
Running is the best thing you can do. Use your old trainers. Go where no-one can see you. Just get out there and start lapping those people still on the couch!
While there’s other things that I’ve found keep my productivity levels high on a day-to-day basis, these are the three most important to me at the moment.
Productivity, as I’ve explained many times (and especially in my free e-book #uppingyourgame), is a virtuous spiral.
At the beginning of the year I decided upon the following exercise regime: The Amphibian. This would lead to a fitter, happier Doug:
I can count on the fingers of no hands the number of weeks I’ve managed to do this. Sometimes it’s because I’m away from home during the week. Other times it’s lack of discipline.
On the other hand, I have managed to do at least a moderate amount of exercise every week throughout the winter. Lunchtime swims along with a SAD lightbox and Vitamin D tablets has meant that I’ve had a much more positive (and less ill) winter than usual. Mega.
But I’ve fallen off the wagon in the last couple of weeks. I assumed that the hotel for the DML Conference in San Francisco had a swimming pool when, in fact, it didn’t. Jet lag and then preparations for TEDx Warwick have meant a couple of weeks with only two exercise sessions.
I’ve noticed in the past week or so that I’ve consumed more alcohol and eaten more sugar than usual. I’ve also been ill and off work for three days. I’ve been short and bad-tempered with people, and have procrastinated with tasks.
This isn’t the Doug I want to be.
3 steps to get back on the productivity wagon
Thankfully, with a bit of reflection it’s fairly straightforward to get back on track. Here’s how.
1. Make a commitment
I’m going to re-commit to The Amphibian exercise regime outlined above. It doesn’t matter that I haven’t actually reached that target yet.
The commitment is a line in the sand.
If you let someone else know what you’re doing (or make it public) it’s an even bigger commitment. Accountability reduces shirking.
2. Start exercising
Guess what? I really don’t want to do any exercise today. But I’ve made a commitment, and told both you and my wife that I’m going to do some. So that’s what I’m going to do.
It’s a beautiful day today, so even though it’s Saturday and I’m supposed to be doing my kettlebell, I’m going for a run. That’s a good idea given that I’m going to be in London for a couple of days this week.
3. Set SMART targets
SMART targets are:
I had intended to do a sprint triathlon this year. That would have been a SMART target on three fronts (running, swimming, cycling).
Realising that I need something to work towards, I’ve just registered for the Great North 10k in July. I ran it two years ago in 49:30 which wasn’t too bad but this time around I’m aiming for 47:00.
I’ve got 16 weeks to get myself into shape.
I’m at my happiest and most productive when I exercise regularly. In fact, every person I know who’s both happy and productive does so. I don’t know if it’s the endorphins, the small victories, the metabolism boost, or all three, but there’s an symbiotic link between productivity and exercise.
The commitment bit is the hardest. It’s easy to make vague promises to do more exercise, but much harder to commit to a regime. Once that mental block is out of the way, it’s just a case of getting on with it and having a target to aim at!
This has been too long in coming, but finally we’ve got a solution for family organization and cohesion. I’ve sold some stuff on eBay and have bought an MSI Wind Top AE1900 touchscreen PC. It fits rather wonderfully in the kitchen. We’re using it for calendars (Cozi.com), news (newsmap.jp), music (Spotify) and TV/radio (BBC iPlayer). It’s on been in there three days but now I can’t imagine life without it!
Watching the Wrestler
My Dad and I attempted to go and see The A-Team movie on Wednesday. Not a good time to go as Orange Wednesdays meant we couldn’t even get near the box office! We came back to my house and watched The Wrestler in our cinema room. What a powerful and well-written/directed/produced film! Moving.
Being lax on the exercise front
I only ran twice this week and did my weights once. Must. Do. Better. It really does affect my productivity! 😮
As those who have joined me in the #uppingyourgame project will know, I believe it’s important to get a ‘virtuous circle’ of productivity started. One of the best ways of doing this is by doing more exercise and, more specifically, running.
But running without music is like Laurel without Hardy, or Batman without Robin. And it’s important to get the music you run to right, as it makes running that much more motivational and enjoyable.
Recently I’ve been listening to one of two albums whilst running:
My good friend and collaborator Nick Dennis pointed me in the direction of De La Soul’s Are You In? Nike+ mix on iTunes (£7.99) a few weeks ago. It’s great. The reason it’s perfect for running in the morning is that it starts off nice and gently with mention of getting up and ‘reaping what you sow’. Then, after some quality beats, around the 17-minute mark, steps it up a gear with exhortations to “Pick up the pace”. Awesome. 😀
I went for my first GPS-tracked run today. What does that mean? It means that the built in Global Positioning System on my Nokia N95 smartphone collected data as I did one of my usual circuits. I have to say I’m impressed: miles better than the data collected via the Nike+ system…
…is the name of a great Daft Punk track, but also my aim in getting fit for this 10km (6.4 mile) ‘dash’ that I’ve signed up for in June. Today I went for a run and, to my surprise, went further than I had anticipated going. According to Google Earth, I went 5.01 miles! Now to many people, I’m sure, that’s nothing, but for me on a Sunday afternoon at my current level of fitness, that’s pretty good.