Monday, July 25, 2011

My Life: Third Zone

At the beginning of each of my indoor cycling classes, one of the things I talk about is the four zones. The zones are a way for each student to level-set his output of effort. Everyone has a different capacity and ability. There are beginners in class who are either just starting or it's their first time. There are people who are struggling with weight or other fitness issues and may not be able to work as hard as an intermediate participant. And there are people who have been doing this for longer than I have and think they already know everything there is to know and are just begging for a good workout.

For all of these people, my challenge is to challenge each of them, regardless of ability or capacity. For this I use zones.

Zone 1 = totally easy level of output, no big deal, no tension or resistance on the wheel, however fast you want to go, simply used to start warming up the legs.

Zone 2 = the minimum level of output needed to achieve an aerobic workout. This is a "working pace," or the level that can be maintained for the duration of class. It should feel as though you're working, but not so much that you can't maintain that pace for an hour. I also call it "comfortably challenged." That may sound like an oxymoron, but when done correctly, you're being challenged to work hard while staying in a level that's still comfortable.

Zone 3 = uncomfortable challenged. This is where the student will most likely start to hate me and wonder why he came to class. This level or pace can only be maintained for a few minutes before needing to go back to zone two to recover. This is also a level that I encourage my more intermediate or advanced students to try and maintain for longer each time. The longer you can stay in zone three, the better your endurance will be overall and your fitness will increase.

Zone 4 = breathless. Self-explanatory, no? This level is reached when you're working so hard you can only hold it for several seconds or less than a minute. It is anaerobic, meaning working without oxygen. (I personally believe that few students actually allow themselves to get there properly, or at least only get there during a spring, rarely during a climb.)

These levels are achieved by a combination of speed and resistance on the wheel. I personally prefer working with heavier tension rather than just sprinting. Any good physiologist will tell you that to increase muscle strength and aerobic endurance, you must work with heavier weights than what is comfortable.

Notice some of the key words that keep repeating here: tension. Resistance. Strength.

My life is in a constant state of zone three, it seems. I don't say that to brag; it's merely an observation. I was in zone three for several months at the end of 2010 and the first half of this year. When I was finally able to come back down to zone two to recover, it felt strange. I missed the consistent growth. And oddly, I missed the challenge of resistance. It felt unnatural to relax, to be able to breathe. I realized I needed the period of recovery even as I knew that a ramp-up to a new zone three was coming soon.

I'm back in zone three again. I'm grateful for the growth opportunity, again -- for the blessing of being trusted to grow beyond my current capacity. But I wish I could pick my own zone three, my own challenge. When I design a class format, I get to create the challenges for my students. But I am not in my own class. I am a student in a Master Teacher's class. One who can see the end, who knows what the class design is (and it's custom-made for just me), and who knows where each peak (zone three, sometimes four) and valley (recovery in zone two) is. I have to trust that the end result will be increased strength and endurance through the trial of resistance and tension.

I just wish there was a clock on the wall of this classroom so I knew how long it was going to last.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Facebook Juxtaposition

These two entries were on my Facebook wall the other day. The only editing I've done is to remove real names. The juxtaposition is real. The humor is interpretive.


Thursday, July 14, 2011

It's the End of the World As We Know It (Carpocolypse Now)

No, the world really isn't ending, but for some Angelenos, it might as well be. You may have heard something about how much we southern Californians love our cars. Since we all love our cars, that means we're in them. A lot. That results in a lot of traffic. And there are a lot of us. There's a lot of traffic. You may have heard about this phenomenon here. Some of this may not be news to you.

What may be news to you (the three of you who read this who don't reside in California. For all one of you who read this who does live in California *Hi Wendy!* this is not news to you), is that one of our major interstates is closing over the weekend for some major construction. The 405 will be closed between the 10 and the 101 on the weekend of July 16-17. Freeway ramps will begin closing at 7 p.m. on Friday, July 15. The 405 won't reopen until 6 a.m. on Monday, July 18. (See how cool we are here in LA? We love our private transportation so much that freeways get a THE for an article in front of them.)

It's a huge whoop-dee-doo deal. At least, that's what they want us to believe. Such a huge big deal in fact, that they've coined a name for how tragic it will be for us to be without a major freeway (thereby impacting other freeways and ALL our traffic) all weekend long: Carmageddon.

Yes, that's right. They are comparing this to the end of the world.

I came up with my own term for it. (Which is really the point of this post. I want to show you how clever I am. That, and see how many parenthetical asides I can throw in.)


Which, if you ask me, is more fitting. I think "Carmageddon" implies a battle between good and evil, which if you break it down, doesn't really make sense. It's not like there will be Decepticons invading the freeway, for heavens' sake. Just a bunch of bulldozers.

"Carpocolypse," on the other hand, really is a much more fitting term for the end of the world where automobile traffic is concerned.

So if you start hearing people using that term, you heard it here first. I expect royalties.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Censuring and Censoring

Being censored by my boss Crazy Pants (my new nickname for her) all day every day means I spend each day exercising a great deal of verbal self-restraint. Biting my tongue. Keeping my mouth shut. Not speaking my mind. Thinking before I speak. In other words, doing things that are very much out of character for me. It's a daily exhausting mental exercise.

When not at work and back among people I trust and like, my mouth shifts into third gear and I forget to censor myself. Two examples from the group fitness class I taught after a full day of being censured:

1. We were doing leg/glute stretches at the end of class. I encouraged the class to deepen and intensify the effects of the stretch by sitting into it more. I was trying to describe what the more intense variation of the stretch should feel like, so naturally the exact wrong thing came out of my mouth: "You should feel that go right up your butt." Pause. "Did that sound as bad as I think it did?" No one answered because they were laughing too hard.

2. Doing another stretch which involved leaning forward from the stationary bike and letting it anchor you. The bikes are heavy enough to support a person's weight during this stretch, but there's one guy in my class who always let's the bike tip forward slightly-probably more to scare me a but than for any stretching benefits. There were some new people in the class who I could tell were hesitant to fully believe that the bikes wouldn't topple on top of them. I said, "Trust the bikes. They will support your weight. Unless you're Matt." Pause. "I did NOT just call you fat, Matt!" After class, Matt said, "What was that younger saying about my large child-bearing hips?"

So I haven't quite gotten the whole think-before-you-speak thing down yet, but I'm working on it! Meanwhile, tonight was one of the most fun and funniest classes I've taught in awhile. I'll take that over being well-haved, prim and proper anytime.