It’s funny how us humans seem to be predisposed to fall for the “one magic pill” syndrome. You know, the “eat this one food to lower your blood pressure” or “do this one exercise if you want tight abdominal muscles” sort of articles. I’m just as big a sucker as anyone else, even though I pride myself on being skeptical of… well, everything.
For example, just the other day I’d watched a podcast that talked about the importance of Zone 2 training. That’s the sweet spot for fat burning and building an aerobic base. Roughly 75% of your max heart rate. I’d forgotten I’d read an entire book on the subject at one time – “Training for the Uphill Athlete“. I immediately went out an did a fast power walk in the hills. I kept my pace to mostly just below starting to breathe heavily. I felt great when I was done and vowed to ensure I’m getting a minimum of three days a week of this type of exercise.
Me, being me, I immediately blew an hour researching heart rate monitors. Which are more accurate, chest straps or wrist/optical sensors? Should I just get a cheap Fitbit, or bite the bullet and get a dedicated running watch like the Garmin or Coros? After all, if I’m going to embrace the Zone 2 training I have to have a way to see what my actual heart rate is. Don’t I?
And then I came to my senses. At my level of conditioning, whether my heart rate is +/- 10 beats from whatever 75% of my max heart rate is will make zero difference. My conditioning is so far from what it was when I was running, anything I do is a benefit. An hour of effort at just below heavy breathing is close enough. When I’ve dropped weight and my cardio is sufficient to slow jog without breathing hard – then I’ll think about figuring out what my actual heart rate is.
I do this all the time to myself. I’ll see a YouTube video about some piece of exercise equipment and suddenly I have to have it. Meanwhile I don’t have the strength to do just basic bodyweight stuff or simple lifts with kettlebells. Some specialized piece of equipment isn’t going to magically make me stronger at this point. It’s like folks who spend gobs of money on carbon fiber this or that to shave grams off of their bicycles when you can just go lose a few pounds.
If you follow guys like Joe Rogan or Jocko, they’re always pushing various supplements for improved performance, brain function, strength gains, etc… I don’t disagree with the value of many of those things, but in most cases it’s tiny incremental improvements. That might make a big difference if you’re an athlete – but not much for the average person. You’ll make a bigger difference in how you feel by dropping the extra weight, eating real food, cutting the alcohol, getting stronger, and getting a good night sleep.
When you are at 15% body fat, running a respectable 10K time, and can crank out pullups and heavy deadlifts… then small incremental things make a difference. Until then, save your money.
P.S. In researching running watches, I stumbled upon the world of sleep trackers. The Whoop strap and Oura ring. Clearly my problem all this time has been not knowing how much time I spend in each sleep cycle. If only I knew that one simple thing, my training would improve exponentially! Researching now…