Monday, September 28, 2015

Go For Launch! My New Mission

Today was a pretty exciting day for space exploration, especially as it concerns a future manned flight to the planet Mars. No, I'm not talking about the discovery of liquid water, though that was pretty cool. I'm talking about the start of my own contribution to the Mars mission as a participant in a research project! The study will evaluate the use of feedback - including games - in the quest to keep astronauts healthy on long space missions.You can read more about the labs' work; it's fascinating stuff!

During long periods in zero gravity, humans can lose muscle strength and cardiovascular fitness. To avoid these problems, astronauts do exercises in space. Keeping space explorers motivated to exercise over long periods of time and with sufficient intensity is part of that challenge. Different methods of doing that is part of what the study I am participating will evaluate.

To Boldly Go...
My mission is not five years long. It's not even as long as it would take to get to Mars, but almost. I'll be doing 26 weeks of workouts during this study, six each week, all on a stationary bike. Last week, I had my first round of physiological testing, which included V02Max - a holistic measure of overall cardiovascular fitness - as well as body composition (fat %) and leg strength. I'll post a bit about my results in a separate entry, as they are well-worth geeking out about in their own right. Suffice to say that not many amateur athletes like myself get these tests due to their costs. But that's one of the cool benefits, IMHO, of participating in this study.

So, every week day and every Sunday at Noon I'll go and do a workout. Three of the workouts each week will be done at a steady pace, a.k.a. "tempo" rides. The other three will include intervals of varying intensity. For some of these, I'll have feedback in the form of data, a game-like display, or both.

Day One
V02 Max test setup - mine looked a lot like this!
Today was my first workout day. The goal was to calibrate my steady-state pace. There was a target in mind derived from my Max test last week for my easy or "all day" riding pace: 130 Watts. Assuming ideal conditions (no wind, flat ground), typical rolling resistance/tires, and at my current weight of 165lbs, that's just about 17mph. I rode that pace at 96 RPM for 15 min. after a five minute easy spin warmup. The goal was to make sure my heart rate agreed with that being my "all day" pace.

After that, I was free to ramp up the resistance to find something harder for the last 15 minutes of this workout. I dialed it up a few times until I was at 200W. My goal was to keep my cadence about the same, at 96. At that pace, I'd be going just under 20MPH in perfect conditions. In the Mid-Michigan wind, probably more like 18.5-19. But it felt reasonable. Hard but not unsustainable. Three minutes of cool down followed until my HR came down.

And that was it! Calibration done. Not much feedback on this one; I could only see my cadence. Tomorrow, I am guessing we'll do an interval workout. But I don't know.

I won't update this blog after every workout, though I am keeping a log of all my activity during the study and I may publish some results from that as we go along. But for a while at least, I won't be doing as much posting on some other sites like Strava (though I don't have to quit riding on the road or running during the study; I only need to log this activity to the researchers know about it). But don't worry. I'm working!