Battery-powered team-mates

For years I’ve been banging on about the importance of getting the right team around you…and this post is not going to dispute that. However, over the last week I added an electronic team-mate to the group.

A talking heart rate monitor from Oregon Scientific – the AH310 – is the new addition. It’s a heart-rate monitor chest strap with a built-in earphone jack in the chest belt. Through the ear phones I get periodic updates on what my heart rate is and I’m blown away by the impact it is having.

When I could see I used to use a whole suite of electronic equipment to measure my progress on a given day – electronic read outs on rowing machines, speedos on bikes and heart rate monitors when rowing, running, swimming or anything else. I was constantly checking and rechecking my progress against previous performance.

Sometimes I was ahead, sometimes I was behind but the point is that I had something to work off. But when I lost my sight I lost my training independence. From 1998 until today, unless I had a willing team-mate to either set the pace or read my scores out then I was completely on my own. I rarely, if ever, got off a piece of exercise equipment or out of the pool feeling like I had done enough. And for years I have found motivating myself for training a real drag.

The races and adventures have been amazing but getting my training right has been really tough. For example, back in 2006 I did most of my training on my own and eventually managed to over-train myself. I was training for Ironman Switzerland (3.8 km swim, 180 km bike and then a marathon) and was scared of not doing enough training. Pushing myself to the point where I became over-trained was, in no small part, due to a lack of feedback. For the most part I relied on perceived effort (difficult if you don’t have an initial mark to base the perceived effort on) and far too much time spent in the pool, on a stationary bike and on treadmills. The result was that my performances dropped dramatically, I was really down in the dumps and my weight shot up.

The over training, I believe came about due to 2 factors: firstly, I had very little feedback on how hard I was training which resulted in me doing far too much and secondly, I wasn’t fuelling my body for the effort I was putting in (but I didn’t really know how much effort I was putting in!)

Today, I’ve learned lots about the importance of nutrition and hydration but until I put my new talking heart rate monitor on for the first time, my work rate in training remained a mystery. Now, talking heart rate monitor in place, I seem to be motivated to train again on my own. This simply hasn’t happened since 1998 when I could see. I’m training more effectively, enjoying it and am even eating better than I have for ages.

Maybe, just maybe, this simple piece of electronic kit is the missing team-mate that I’ve been looking for. I’ll reserve judgement and see if my enthusiasm lasts but right now the heart rate monitor is in the team!


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