Hormesis Redux: Electric Boogaloo

Hot on the heels of my learning about hormesis I have decided to go, as they say among the bros, balls deep. If stressing the body is the way forward then I will stress the ass out of mine.

Today I ran five miles, one more than last time, in a fasted state and I started the run with a long, hard 400 metre (approximately) 2.5 mile climb. My extensive cycling experience has taught me that if you want to get strong and get fit, and do so quickly, then god damn it, climb. Just find a hill and run up it. It doesn’t matter how much you climb, how steep it is, or how quickly you can do the run, just find a hill and leg it up there, and no matter how hard it gets, don’t stop until you get to the top. Trust me when I tell you that the reward of running downhill after having done that successfully is superb.

You can check out the details of the elevation gain in the Garmin graphs below, but today I made sure that I did the climbing first, the ran downhill back home followed by a detour into the trail I ran last time I was out running in order to get wet, dirty and exposed to cold. It worked too. I arrived home filthy, cold, wet and absolutely pumped and full of energy. Of course I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t do something dumb, so the data below is slightly lacking in detail because I accidentally recorded this as a bike ride! Thankfully you can edit Garmin data so it’s all alright.

Garmin Data

Splits

Graphs

Hormesis: If it Doesn’t Kill You…

Lately I have been listening to the work of an incredible scientist, Dr David Sinclair, Harvard geneticist. His most recent book, Lifespan is essentially a document detailing his quest to cure ageing. One concept he introduced to me in this audiobook is hormesis, the notion that stressing yourself will do you good, aka the popular aphorism, ‘whatever does not kill you simply makes you stronger’. Having given this some thought recently I found a way to put it into action this morning on my run. The details are below. This was a starved run and thus hard work. If you are interested in the book but not sure then Sinclair was recently on the Joe Rogan and Rich Roll podcasts so you can try before you buy.

Garmin Data

Data Summary

Mile Splits

Graphs

Now, with the summary above done I can detail what I learned on this run. Firstly, I really ought to pay better attention to the pavement as I went over on my ankle twice, albeit not badly so thankfully there was no injury but it could have been worse. Secondly, I learned to stress myself. In his work Sinclair details several different stressors that can be hugely beneficial to humans: endurance sports, fasting and cold exposure. The first two I am working on already but the third had never occurred to me previously. Serendipity allowed me to improvise today, however. Running along the Leeds-Liverpool canal I came to a railway bridge on my regular route which was being repaired and thus the pathway was closed, so I had to improvise. This meant taking an adjacent path which either continues as tarmac, or, crucially, there is a short trail. I took the trail and got absolutely drenched, both from the rain and also the muddy filth and freezing cold water that was flowing liberally on the trail.

What I discovered was not only that running in crap conditions is great fun and feels amazing afterwards, but also that I need to get better shoes. I have to be honest and say that I haven’t done as much running as I would like over the last fortnight because here in the U.K. we have had some pretty severe storms and it’s genuinely dangerous to be out in the countryside in such conditions. Where I live you can’t go anywhere for more than twenty minutes before you end up in rural surroundings, and I try to avoid pounding road too much because it is hard on my 6’1, 16 stone frame. I’m a pretty big guy so softer ground is good. I also live in a place where, should I run distances, I end up on country roads where people drive like dickheads. Add that to storm weather and it can be pretty difficult.

That all being said, however, Sinclair’s work and influence has shifted my perspective. I have to start stressing my body more. If I am to run ultra distances as I previously committed to doing then risk is inherent to that, both of injury and some generalised danger. Also, when I thought about it I realised that people are far more likely to endanger me on my bike due to the bizarre cyclist hatred that exists in England and that never stopped me cycling so I think it’s time to start to really hammer myself to get good at serious endurance again. I’ve cycled over 100 miles on a good few occasions, so I can run it for sure.

This means that I can’t fast 5 days out of 7 though. I just can’t see how that is possible, so I have a plan. I will fast on non-running days, meaning that when I do run my fast will commence at 2000 that evening and I fast through to lunch the next day. There is no way I can run endurance distances without eating. That’s crazy and, whilst I am no nutritionist, it can’t be good or healthy for me.

When faced with a closed pathway I took the trail, got myself covered in crap, soaking wet and freezing, but it felt amazing. It didn’t kill me so it must have made me stronger. I then finished up the morning by cooking myself this delicious brunch consisting of savoury pancakes stuffed with potatoes fried in garlic, chilli, ginger and turmeric followed by a fruit salad. Yum!

Past is Prologue – The Future Belongs to Gods!

Today’s post is a line in the sand, followed by the data from today’s swim.

My best distance run is 15 miles. I have had ambitions to do a marathon for years, ambitions I upgraded to an Iron Man. Sadly when I was working at this I got hit by cars three times in two years whilst cycling. End of Iron Man. I recovered a while ago but had children and real life took over. Now I am feeling ambitious again. My kids are old enough that I have renewed independence and so I have committed myself mentally to pushing into major endurance running. Quite simply, I would like to be an ultra runner. Lofty ideas I know, but you have to believe right?

So, that is my plan. As the summer arrives and the nights get long I am going to push for serious distance, and hopefully by the time autumn is in view I will be hitting ultra distances. I mean, really, how hard can it be?

I say that with my tongue firmly in my cheek of course but there is a part of me that genuinely believes in my ability right now. After all, a marathon is just an arbitrary distance. It’s not any kind of universal limit on human endurance. So, with the obvious caveat that it’s going to be hard, how hard can it be? I guess I will soon learn!

Today’s Swim

Here is the day’s swim data. Pushed up to 1250 metres in drills of eight laps. The extra 50 is because I did a ten lap drill by mistake.

Summary

Interval Splits

Graphs

Negatives into Positives, or Why I Should Read the Manual…

My Vivoactive HR is now working and producing accurate readings, and I know this because I managed to record two workouts where there ought to have been one. D’oh! My previous swim was 700 metres, 7 x 100 metre drills. I had intended to do 5 x 150 metres to clock a 750 metre swim but sadly I pressed the stop button after drill one rather than pause, and thus I have 150 + 750 metres. The positive side of this error is that I did 900 metres and drills of six laps, which demonstrates further improvement. For the purposes of this post I am discarding the opening 150 metres.

Also, I am now starting to hit serious weight loss and fitness gains. My clothes are hanging off me, I bonked in the pool this time and on my previous run, and I can tell that I am working my body hard because I am finding myself absolutely ravenously hungry after exercise. That always happens when I work my hardest.

Garmin Data

Splits

Graphs

An extra 150 metre drill is only a good thing so I’m calling that a positive. I could just have easily not started again and split the 750 metres into two swim recordings.

View on Strava.

Three Miles Broken, Stronger Back Muscles and the Virtue of Plotting Routes in Advance

This evening I broke the three mile barrier with a relatively slow average speed of eleven minute miles but I think that my lack of route planning might have had an influence on my pace. I hit 2.5 miles tonight and ran out of road so I just kept going until I hit 3 miles, and that final 0.5 miles felt slow and uneven so I suspect I could have done better had I plotted even a sketchy route in advance. I also made the mistake of running on the canal in the pitch dark which slowed me to a walk at times.

Still, tonight felt good and the endorphins are currently feeling great so I am happy to be progressing efficiently. My resting heart rate is currently holding steady at 48-49 bpm which is still 7 bpm over my lowest ever reading. I am definitely starting to feel psychologically more healthy, and also my back is getting stronger. It is no longer painful to get up in the morning or to get out of the bath. This is likely because of the strengthening of my body generally through a combination of swimming, cycling and running. Cycling definitely strengthens the core and swimming is not only an all over the body exercise, it also needs you to use your back muscles to flick your body over when tumble turning between laps. All of which means that my body is strengthening, I am shedding weight fast and my overall health is improving.

Garmin Data

Summary

Summary
Summary

Specific Metrics

Metrics
Metrics

Mileage Split Times

Split Times
Graphs

Graphs

Graphs
Graphs
Graphs
Graphs

Week in Review, Plus First Running Readings from Vivoactive HR

After the bizarre readings I took the first time I clocked a swim with my Garmin Vivoactive HR watch I am relieved to have gotten accurate, good quality data when running with it for the first time. It will be interesting to see what happens when I swim again. Hopefully it is just a teething issue but let’s wait and see. My cycling is hovering around the 6 mile mark at 12 minute miles, and to be honest I could cycle 25 miles tomorrow easily so right now my focus is on my weaker sports. I have also maintained my 16/8 fasting routine whilst trying various new recipes, all of which are posted here and on my Instagram.

This week I have pushed my swimming up to 100 metre interval drills, hitting the 700 metre mark. My run below is the longest yet, having added roughly 33% in distance to the last one. The one caveat here is that I ran during storm Clara and thus had to stop a couple of times to avoid torrential rain soaking me wet through.

Garmin Connect Data

Garmin Connect Data Summary
Garmin Connect Data Summary
Garmin Connect Data Summary
Garmin Connect Data Summary

Data Breakdown

Detailed Data Breakdown
Detailed Data Breakdown

Split Times

Split Times
Split Times

Graphs for Heart Rate, Cadence, Heart Rate Zones and So Forth

Cadence, Elevation and Heart Rate Zones

Cadence, Elevation and Heart Rate Zones

Pace and Heart Rate
Pace and Heart Rate

Strava Data

Strava Data
Strava Data

View on Strava and follow me here to get a follow back.

Vivoactive HR and Bizarre Swimming Data

This weekend I pushed up my View on Strava to a 700 metre workout, 7 x 100 metre intervals. I also upgraded my watch to a Garmin Vivoactive HR and according to the first data readings I took with it, this is what I did:

Bonkers watch reading

That’s right, according to my watch I swam for 12:59 minutes and covered a distance of zero. As if to drive the point home all other screens had no data, like the one below.

Bonkers watch reading
Bonkers watch reading

I have reached out to Garmin via Twitter, however this is worrying because the reason for my upgrade was spurious workout data, and now this supposedly better watch is apparently even worse. I hope that it is something that can be resolved because I have to believe that such a great company is better than this, but right now for me the jury is out.

Still, that aside, I am successfully pushing harder and extending myself. The watch clocks my resting heart rate at 48 bpm from a previous steady reading of 52 so it looks like my fitness is returning quickly.

Week in Review & Pushing Forward

Sports

Last week I couldn’t hike as the weather stank. I ran and swam, and when running I hit that feeling when you suddenly start enjoying it. It happened during my previous run that was spuriously recorded as 3.99 miles when it was actually closer to 1.5. This is not the first time my Garmin Vivoactive has done this and my tweeting Garmin about it was ignored. I have remedied the situation, however, by upgrading to a Garmin Vivoactive HR. It arrived in the mail today so hopefully that will be a step forward that solves this. It’s an obviously better watch with or without the heart rate monitor, but more data can only be a good thing so I look forward to seeing my readings on that front.

Swimming

I am pushing this hard as I enjoy swimming enormously. My latest progress is below, including times, interval splits and frankly more data than I am ever going to need, but here it is anyway.

Summary

Interval Splits and More

Pace, Strokes & Swolf

Cycling

Holding at just over 12mph average. That will change with the weather

Running

Positive growth but I am not going to post spurious GPS data. That would be pointless. Suffice to say my new watch should do better.

Torpedo Mode: Engaged

I’m back in the pool! I always feel as though I glide with ease through the water like a torpedo, even though I only started with a 500 metre swim. Back Doing all of the Swims

Back Doing all of the Swims

I hope that swimming will once again strengthen my back muscles. I will also be doing my incremental growth curve where I push up the distance swam and the number of laps per set. It is amazing how quickly you can push into high distance swimming this way, and how fit you can become in a short space of time.

Strava Data

Strava Data
Strava Data

For whatever it’s worth, this is what Strava made of my swimming based upon data from my Garmin Vivoactive watch.

Better, Faster, Stronger – Bonus: Now with Strava!

Below is the dazzling array of data that Garmin Connect very kindly compiled from today’s ride. I have also linked my Strava account to Garmin Connect so I now get segments detailing climbs, speeds and so forth. This is fascinating stuff. I have long known that the way to increase the overall speed of my cycling, and to also get fitter and do it quickly is to put lots of effort into climbs. This yields results at a high rate of change.

The human body is a remarkable thing. Being back on the saddle has brought forth some sort of muscle memory that blows my mind. I can literally feel myself getting better, faster, stronger and it is not taking me long to do so at all. I have only been recording this stuff for a week but already I feel ten times the man I was over Christmas. From last summer where I had a horrendous, sedentary time looking after my son, who had it even worse the poor little fella, suddenly everything is changing. As the kids grow older I find I have more time to myself so I can push harder than I ever did before.

Garmin Data

Time, Distance and Calorie Burn
Time, Distance and Calorie Burn
Garmin Data for Speed and Elevation
Garmin Data for Speed and Elevation
Garmin Data Breakdown
Garmin Data Breakdown

Strava Segments

Strava Segments - Climbs and Blasts
Strava Segments – Climbs and Blasts

What Strava refers to as blasts are segments of flat or downhill cycling. Due to speed limits and traffic picking up speed on these segments is largely impossible, hence the climbing is so important. It’s also useful in the long term because it is resistance exercise. The hills in Lancashire are steep and they are everywhere. There is a reason that Bradley Wiggins trained in the Trough of Bowland – it’s as hard as it gets to ride on a bicycle. Having ridden two 101 mile sportive races through the Trough I can attest that it is just about the biggest challenge ever. If you want to raise your base metabolic rate and build muscle then this is perfect. I don’t mean muscle like weightlifting, I mean muscle mass that does not change your body shape. It is hard to think of a type of exercise that works the whole body better, so if you want to have a powerful core, sinewy, strong upper body and also powerful legs then cycle hilly routes. We all know those ridiculous guys at the gym with torsos like Greek gods and chicken legs - cycling doesn’t do that. life on two wheels will take care of everything below the waste for you.

There is no resistance work like cycling, so get moving on your bicycle.