New year, new you, or so the age old adage goes. In an effort to show that we’re all in this together, here at TechRadar we’re writing up workout diaries as a part of Fitness Week 2018.
There are three different diaries on the site, one for the beginner, one that’s more intermediate (this one), and a fitness obsessed one. We’ll be covering a range of different exercise types, and each of us will be using tech appropriate to our level.
For this diary, I’m using the Apple Watch 3. With the third iteration of its hugely successful wearable Apple has really pushed the fitness angle, improving on heart rate tracking and GPS from the Apple Watch 2.
While not a dedicated fitness tracker, it’s a device that many who are fitness enthusiasts will use for monitoring their progress which is why we decided it was ideal for the intermediate diary.
We’ll be adding a new diary entry to this page each day, so make sure you keep checking back.
Day 1) Running
I’m an okay runner. I’d describe as competent but not confident. I can comfortably bash out a 5K, and if I really push myself I can do a 10K. It requires a fair amount of mantra chanting and internal cajoling but I can get there.
I’d like to be able to run properly at a decent pace, but I’m very aware that whenever I run with one of my serious runner friends like (our running man of tech) Gareth they are humoring me with a run at a conversational pace, while I’m doing a proper run.
In order to try and raise my game, I have started doing interval runs to raise my lactate threshold. The basic science is this: you have three different energy systems, one is aerobic (uses oxygen) and two are anaerobic (don’t use oxygen). The aerobic system is the one that allows you do endurance exercise, the others are for the more short-sharp burst sort of exertions.
While it’s easy to imagine these systems as clear cut, in reality there are transitions between the two, and the lactate threshold is basically the point between the aerobic system and the fist anaerobic where your body is creating more lactic acid than it can flush, causing you to tire, and slow down so your body can recoup its oxygen deficit and flush the lactic acid. If you don’t slow down, lactate production grows exponentially until you’ve got no option but stopping.
Raise that threshold and you can run faster, and for longer. That’s the theory at least. There are a number of different ways to raise your lactate threshold but one of the most effective is by doing intervals. You do a period of exercise at a point above the threshold, and then a period below it, but where you’re still working so your body gets used to flushing while you’re still moving.
For this fitness diary I’m using the Apple Watch 3, and for today’s training, I am using the imaginatively named app Intervals. Like many wearable apps, it’s a pared back version of the full mobile app, and you need to program your training routine on your iPhone before lacing up those running shoes and hitting the tarmac.
Thankfully Intervals on the Apple Watch runs independently of the iPhone so you can – and I did – leave your phone behind when you’re out on your run. I decided I was going to do half an hour’s worth of 30 seconds on, 1:30 off with a five minute warm up to start (warming up’s important kids).
Intervals shows you the amount of time you’ve got left of your current set, amount of sets you’ve got left, and importantly your heart rate. Lactate threshold usually sits between 75 and 85% of max heart rate, and for me is around 160bpm. So I was aiming for around 170 during my ‘on’ periods, and dropping down to around 145 for my recovery periods.
The Apple Watch notoriously has a pretty solid heart rate tracker, but it will still fall behind dedicated running devices like the Garmin Forerunner 935 that Gareth is using, and will be far less accurate than a chest strap like the Polar H10. That said, for what I was trying to achieve, it was more than enough.
The combination of haptic and voice feedback to tell me when the end of each interval was approaching meant I never missed a transition, even towards the end of the training when I really started struggling. The screen on the Apple Watch was clear enough that I was able to see my progress with quick glances to my wrist, even during my more intense moments.
The only niggle that I have is that Intervals doesn’t let you pull apart your data once you’ve finished your run like other dedicated running apps. I’d have liked to have seen how my pace and heart rate correlated across the training session, and how my end pace matched up to my starting pace.
That said, I was very happy with how well the Apple Watch and Intervals managed to support me in my specific training goals, it meant that the only thing holding me back was my own willpower, which unfortunately there isn’t an app for.