What do you get from three hours of spinning, besides sore legs?

It took a few days, but my legs eventually recuperated from the three-hour spinning extravaganza. While I may have been silly to sign up for such torture in the first place, I gained some valuable lessons.

SpinningGuidePt1.2_revmasterpilot

 

Learnings from spinning’s heart rate workshop

  • I can complete a three-hour spin class.
    Similar to the feeling of accomplishment one gains from finishing a race, it feels good to know I did it. There’s a feeling of self-confidence you get just from learning that you can do something hard.
  • My max heart rate is 195.
    This information will help me make my workouts more efficient and precise, as I can now work to different percentages of my “max.” The calculation of max heart rate was, for me, much different than I would have gotten with a standard suggested estimate of 220 minus your age. Now I just need to learn how to work all those fancy buttons on the heart rate monitor arm band!
  • I know more about how to raise and lower my heart rate, as well as how to arrest a “heart rate freefall.”
    For example, I’ve learned that I can raise my heart rate quickly by standing up to pedal, but maintaining it at a certain level is easier when seated, or in biker-speak, when you’re “in the saddle.” I also realized I have to stop slacking off before I reach my “recovery beats per minute,” or else my heart rate will fall too far and I’ll have to work to raise it up again.
  • I need to work harder during “recovery.”
    This is a depressing one. During our three-hour class, we were not supposed to let our heart rates drop below 70% of maximum at any time. Although 70% is nominally an “endurance” or “working recovery” heart rate level, it’s actually hard to maintain when you’re wanting 45 seconds at, say, 60% of your max — so you can drink water, ease up on your legs, wipe away some of the sweat. However, the workshop taught me to push myself more uniformly during my regular classes.

spinning_heartrate printout

Spinning and tennis

When I hobbled off the bike that day, the calorie counter read 1493, and I was sweatier than I ever get while playing tennis. To make things worse, I played a singles tennis match the next day — which probably wasn’t the smartest idea, since my legs were so sore I could barely move across the court. But in general, the conditioning and heart rate info I’m gaining from spinning ought to benefit my tennis game — or at least my ability to survive three long sets.

Now I need to incorporate heartbeats per minute variations into my tennis workout — and I’m not referring to the way my heart races after after my opponent makes a poor line call on an important point!

That, however, is a subject for another post.

Do you measure your heart rate? If so, what do you do with the information?

 

Image credits: lemondfitness.comcbdilger via flickr

Migraines, and a menu of voices

It’s all in my head, right? I mean, the fact that two days ago I suffered a terrible migraine had nothing to do with the fact I’d just attained my “personal worst” record for any USTA adult league season I’ve ever played in. It was just a weird coincidence, wasn’t it? I’d like to think so, but I’m not sure.

I’m a migraineur, a person who gets migraines. Fortunately, most of mine go away with medication, and this one seemed ordinary enough at the outset. While I’m stumped as to what causes my headaches, I like to think they’re brought on by food, hormonal or environmental factors. I’d rather not consider that inability to deal with everyday stress or disappointment might also trigger migraines for me.

But what happened this time? Well, I awoke with a “regular migraine” that worsened as I thought about the previous night’s tennis match (an 0-5 loss for our team) and my own disappointing season. I was surprised my win/loss record ended up so low (1/6), because I felt as though I’d been playing better this year. Granted, I’d played mostly singles, whereas previously I’d focused on doubles — so that was a change. Plus, nearly all my opponents were 15-20 years younger. But so what? For me, it was personal best experience — not a personal worst.

Statistics, however, told a different story. Namely, that compared to opponents who were also rated USTA 3.0, I’m hadn’t measured up. Moreover, if I thought I’d played well, I’d also lost my grip on reality and couldn’t recognize my own lack of progress.

The voices argued inside my head. My VoJ (Voice of Judgment) was clamoring: “Anne, you suck at tennis. Why do you bother with this sport?  It’s no wonder people don’t want to play with you — before long, they won’t even want to say hello to you.”

The Voice of Reason persisted: “You’re always reminding yourself that tennis is a journey — it’s your journey, at your pace. Not someone else’s. Where are all you women going with tennis, anyway?  Isn’t it about learning and having a good time?”

[Read more…]

Bring back the joy!

There’s a sign I drive by most weeks, usually on my way to play tennis.  Although it stands outside a car repair shop, it reminds me of a resolution I made when my tendency to self-judge was sucking the fun out of my chosen sport.  I decided, in short, to bring back the joy.

Before choosing to look for joy in tennis, I thought what would bring me pleasure was playing better, so I focused on that alone.  I took lessons, watched videos, read books, kept track of wins and losses.  And guess what?  I didn’t play better, and I didn’t enjoy myself.

Step back, and it’s obvious.  A recreational activity like tennis should be enjoyable – if not, what’s the point?  But it’s easy, especially for us women who’ve given up careers and are looking for a way to evaluate “productivity” outside of making school lunches and coordinating book fairs, to take something we do for fun and start to measure our progress.  There’s nothing wrong with this.  But I let it go too far – I lost perspective.  I lost the joy.

No more.  I’m taking practical steps to make sure that doesn’t happen again.  To start, I remind myself constantly: “bring back the joy.”  It’s one of the things I say to myself during matches.  Or I ask myself on tough points, “Are we having fun?”  Because whether I win or lose the point, I want to enjoy playing it, and not “having fun” usually means tightening up and playing worse anyway.

Here’s another one, but it’s a bit touchy.  These days I avoid playing with people whose styles don’t match up well with mine.  Many times, it means I try not to partner with women who are more serious and intent on winning.  It’s not that I don’t care about winning – but if I concentrate on the score too much, or think about whether I’m living up to my partner’s expectations for me, I start making more mistakes. I feel bad about playing poorly, so I play worse – it’s a downward spiral.  My progress is slow, but I’m learning to put negative thoughts aside, stay loose and have a good time.  This helps me play better.

[Read more…]

What YOU think of me is YOUR business

I’ve blogged about tennis failures – things like how I’ve let my emotions get the best of me, or how my game has suffered due to a “crisis of confidence.” But I also want to pass along what I’m learning about how to overcome these problems.  My tennis journey may be a long one, but it’s not so different from other roads I’ve traveled.  In fact, there are days when my “tennis journey” and “the midlife passage” have a lot in common.  And I don’t just mean the effects of gravity.

 

I reached a point where I felt as though I had invested so much time and money in learning a sport, watching the pros play it, buying trendy clothes for it, and even taking some “tennis vacations,” that I felt I deserved to be playing better than I was.  I held myself to a higher standard than I should have and was constantly evaluating my improvement against better players.  As a result, I was always coming up short.  By my own standards, I was never going to measure up, never going to get out of my USTA 3.0 “rut.”

But at the same time as I was tired of not improving, I felt locked in: I had put so much of myself into tennis, for so long, that I didn’t want to quit.  I was addicted to an activity that wasn’t going anywhere for me.  Aside from a bit of exercise and socializing on the court, I couldn’t point to many positives about my involvement with tennis – I wasn’t having fun, and I could have gotten a better workout by going to the gym.

 

So what started my turnaround?  Well, I was complaining about my frustration  with poor play in matches and my irritating “voice of judgment” to Coach Alan Margot.  He told me, “You can’t silence the voice, but tell it to quiet down.  When you worry about what other people are the court are thinking about you, remind yourself, as if you were speaking to them: ‘What YOU think of me is YOUR business.’”

This seems simple, but it’s deep.  For years I’ve taken ownership of how others perceive me on the tennis court, and more generally, in most other sectors of my life.  Since I’d rather please people, I end up pressuring myself to make a better shot than I’m capable of, let my partner choose when she wants to serve and whether she wants the ad or deuce side in doubles, try for a heroic poach when simply getting the ball back over the net would be good enough.  Outside of tennis, I rearrange my own schedule to accommodate an appointment that works better for my husband, or I ask a friend to give me a ride so my son can use my car.

At the end of the day, however, I don’t feel satisfied about setting aside my best interests in order to make others happier.  I’m not sure they even notice my efforts, to tell you the truth.  But it’s helpful to acknowledge that what someone else thinks of me is his or her responsibility, not mine.  It doesn’t give me license to be obnoxious — rather, it reduces a burden I shouldn’t be carrying anyway.

[Read more…]

New match. Love-all.

Maybe it was as simple as sunlight deficiency during the winter months, but I was on the verge of quitting tennis after a few disastrous performances earlier this year.  “Performances” – that’s the key word.  As if a bunch of people were watching me play a ladies match that counted for nothing, that would not be recorded in the USTA’s computers or anywhere else.  I had let tennis become all about me and how I was doing, whether I was playing well and what others would think of my abilities.  Narcissism was killing my game, and it was certainly killing the fun others might receive from including me in their games.

Not surprisingly, I also couldn’t get going with my writing projects.  I had nothing worthwhile to say.  I’d type out a few sentences, then backspace over them to delete most of what I’d written.  My feelings were similar to those I experienced on the tennis court.  I feared my writer friends might judge me as eddying, stuck in the same essay — while at the same time they were progressing from one chapter to the next in their books.

So something had to change.  Fortunately the days got longer, which for me seems to make a big difference.  Don’t forget the iPhone weather app icon, 73 degrees and sunny, was created in Northern California.  But I also decided that, if I couldn’t enjoy tennis and writing, I would have to find other activities.  After all, no one was forcing me to do these things – they were luxuries I supposedly chose to pursue.

So I made two big changes.  In tennis, I started to focus on singles.  At first I did this because I figured other people were getting sick of partnering with me, but then I started to like it.  It was simple: just me, my opponent and the ball.  I could concentrate better, I didn’t need to worry about interpersonal dynamics on my court, and I didn’t need to stress about letting my partner down if I missed a shot.  Perhaps it’s the ultimate expression of narcissism, in that singles means every ball is mine, but I’m no longer worried about my performance.  I’m just playing the game.

In writing, I started to check into things I thought would be fun.  It’s a subtle change, but while I had enrolled in a creative writing program with the goal of writing a non-fiction book because that’s what the syllabus said I was supposed to do, now I’m thinking about heading in a different direction.  What I like is the intersection of writing, social media, podcasting, video and the interaction with readers – in other words, forming an online community.  There’s so much to learn here, and that’s why I enjoy it.

So I’m augmenting my traditional writing classes with others on internet publishing in all its forms.  I hope to change my blog posts to be shorter but more frequent, and to add podcasts in the future.  So stay tuned.  It’s a new game.