Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Activity Journal

With the aim of exercising to simulate life as a “natural” human, I have recently been trying to run across more difficult terrain, such as through long grass, through woodlands, up, over and under obstacles, leaping over park benches, hanging off goal posts and sprinting up and down short yet steep hills. I hope to get more agile in movement and more sure-footed. I am learning to fall properly too, so that when I fall over, I am less likely to get hurt. Kind of like a barefoot stunt-man. It is another dimension for me, in addition to my “mindful” running where I focus on form.

I guess I am practicing wild running. Or, maybe you could call it “Free Running” or Parkour, the French sport of moving efficiently through your environment, although it does tend to incorporate more daring movements such as balancing on high walls, things that give me the heebie jeebies, but do not faze most fearless teenagers. I feel able to do all this, since I have built up a foundation of strength from a year of barefoot running. The whole world is my gym!

My body feels these new demands, in a good way. I am surprised that my stomach muscles are sore after all this clambering and jumping across things, yet I have not done a single sit-up. Boy do those muscles in my back hurt! I am excited that after around a month of this kind of running, I am having no alarming pains in my feet or joints, no messages telling my that my body is getting injured. Had I done this a six months ago, it would have been a guaranteed recipe for injury.

When I run across smooth concrete now, boy does it feel easy! I think that by running over more demanding terrain, I am making myself faster over easier terrain. I’ll have to see.

One problem though: How do I log this in an exercise log? I have really enjoyed logging all my miles over the last year, since I can see the progression over time. I went from running a regular 10 miles a week to a regular 35 miles a week, sometimes 50 plus miles. I love analysing numbers and guessing at trends and stuff, so this has given me some nice data to work with. It is bordering on obsessiveness, maybe it bourn out of a desire not to get injured? Maybe that’s the real reason that runners carefully log their weekly mileages, since we are used to always being injured and have to increase mileages in a slow and measured way?

Our love affair with the high speed transportation has meant that we have optimised our environment for the wheel. To take advantage of this, I often ride my bicycle to work. But, how can I equate bicycling miles to running miles? For me, it feels like 3 bicycling miles is about equivalent to 1 running mile. Any ideas there? Should I log those miles in my weekly mileage?

Basically, I am looking for a different way of logging “effort expended” to log my exercise over time. I am thinking that heart rate is surely a better way of doing this, since I am doing all these different forms of exercise.

I have tried out an inexpensive ($30) heart rate monitor watch and found it to be very quirky, despite putting the relevant conductive gel on the sensor. Perhaps the expensive ones are more reliable and do not give such spurious readings? Any ideas on how to extend my activity log to incorporate some of these aspects?

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