Measured emotions

Ain’t moving grand. We crave it. It’s all about how it feels both during and afterwards. There are ways to promote these feelings and appreciate them even more. We have a tendency to meter, monitor, measure, calculate, and record our every move. That promotes the rational side of exercise. We can effectively use measuring tools to improve our performance, but it isn’t why we were drawn to sport in the first place. I’d like to make a case for increasing the emotional aspects of movement. The emotional aspect is the fountain-head of the pleasure we gain from movement. For performance sake, perceived exertion and kinesthetic awareness adds to how far, how fast, and how effortlessly we move. If the feelings are the backdrop for what we do and the rational tools are there to help keep us efficient and productive, we have a finer-grained appreciation of what movement does for us.

For anyone that plans training for themselves or others, it helps to closely identify what is required to achieve an athletic goal - even if that goal isn’t winning a race or setting a PR, but just feeling as good as possible as often as possible. The coach or planner can precisely measure a training load. Closely controlling a workout session is a way to prepare for the next sessions that are coming. Time spent (miles-yards), how intensely one exercises during that time, and the amount of rest, whether within or between workouts, are training variables that can all be measured. Tracking and controlling these measurements can increase the amount of quality training squeezed into a block of time. Progressing the overall training load gradually over time, and making fine adjustments to that load, becomes fairly easy. Not measuring or tracking a training load over time can lead to dissatisfying performances. What if I tell 10 athletes to ride pretty hard for 10 minutes and repeat that effort four times with a good recovery between efforts? Would I get the same level of effort from each? Would that effort level given where that workout falls with a week or a month best serve all 10 athletes? I don’t think so. What if that same workout were 4x10 minutes at 90% of their FTP (functional threshold power or watts held at their anaerobic threshold) w/ 1.5 minute rest in between the four efforts? What would that produce from 10 different athletes. The physiological effects of the workouts governed by a percentage of FTP would be much more similar between the 10 athletes doing this workout. If adjustments to workouts need to be made to promote enough recovery before the next planned workout, it is much more easily done when the workout is governed with a rational tool, a watt meter on the bike in this instance.

You can see how training tools have their place, particularly for those that have trouble pacing or don’t have a good feel for how hard they are going. This sounds like I’m a measuring fanatic. I am to a point, particularly when I am planning workouts for others. I need to know what they are doing so I can put together a plan that will result in success. Measuring should never ignore the feelings however. It’s shameful when one trains completely by the numbers and doesn’t play close attention to how the body feels when it is generating those numbers. But why? Let’s not forget that the fountain head of all that pleasure from moving is about how it feels. The rational side of exercise, the watch, the meter, the monitor etc., have little to do with feeling and can’t tell you very much about how you feel-unless you’ve made the connection between perceived exertion and the numbers you generate. I can’t tell you how many times I’m asked “how many watts should hold during the bike leg of an IRONMAN?”, or “what should my heart rate be at mile 15 of a marathon”? From start to finish of an endurance or ultra-endurance event the athlete is an ever-changing animal. In general terms one can predict what will be going on at various points of a long effort. So many factors are coming into play throughout a long event. Is pinning the bike leg effort to some number of watts reasonable? For certain I know the watt meter neither knows nor cares about feelings.

How do we blend the emotional and the rational to maximize our pleasure when we move. Measure efforts AND go by feel. Learn what it feels like to hold 85% of your max running HR. Learn what 250 watts feels like when you’re climbing, on the flats, or even going down hills. Perceived exertion can be that one tool that takes a whole bunch of information into account and spits out a clear and forceful message….this is how I feel right now. Getting in touch with how it feels when you are putting out to varying degrees can be extremely useful when managing a race. Adjustments need to be made and the information you can count on is how you feel whether it’s your legs, your stomach, your breathing, your skin - whatever. It’s the way to achieve your personal win. Most important of all, fine-tuning how you feel when you move will bring you more joy. We’re all suckers for that.