Wednesday, January 28, 2009

monitoring the dark

I have a friend who once told me I don't need to wear a heart monitor: I know when I'm working hard and I don't need something to tell me that.
my initial feeling was embarrassment: oh gosh, I should be able to tell that about myself, shouldn't I? how humiliating that I need a little device to tell me things like that. he's right, I should just work hard when I need to -- or want to -- and not worry about it.
but I continue to use my monitor, and I continue to now and again be surprised by the number I see on the little screen.

I wear my monitor on most outdoor rides, and always during spin class. occasionally during a weight room workout, too, just for the fun of seeing what certain exercises do to my heartrate. (for instance, doing squats or lunges while holding a big ball over my head sends my heartrate to zone 4 --that's high-- which really surprised me.)
many cyclists I know shun the entire monitor concept, and I don't have a problem with their thought processes at all. however, the system works for me.
because this is what I find: my heart is not always beating as quickly (or as slowly) as I think it is. in other words, my perceived exertion is not always the same as my actual exertion. some routes I have nailed down so accurately that I can almost always guess my heartrate within a few points. but on new territory, I'm not always so accurate. and in class, I can often be off by a good 10 beats, which puts me in a much different place than I might think.
and does it all really matter?
probably not.
perhaps it just provides me an illusion of control.
and some mornings, in the deep dark of the light-less spin room, an illusion is all I receive anyway.
this morning, dug sat to my left and there were times we were both peering at our monitors, twisting them in hopes of catching the faintest beams of light that drifted our way from the instructor's tiny lamp.
which made me giggle inside, as my own experience fell under the "futile activities" category and since he was even further from the light, I can't imagine that his was any better. I could make out a "1" to the far left: okay, I was in the 100's. then it was either a 6 or a 7, well, maybe a 7 or a 6. and I gave up on the third digit, deciding it didn't really matter.
however, I knew exactly when I hit the 180+ zone. the intensity of this experience I recognize easily by now, because it's an uncomfortable place to be.

at times perhaps the monitor serves as a crutch, letting me fall into a place of "oh it's high enough, I don't need to work any harder." but then I fear that if I did not have it, I would work harder than I should because I have this intense drive to push, push, and push harder.
bottom line: it keeps me honest. it's really hard to cheat one of those things.
for even when you can barely read the screen, it's logging every single beat of your heart, thump-thump, thump-thump.
so for me, I will continue to monitor, be it in the light, or in the dark.

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