ATC 315: Preconception and Postpartum Fitness Guidance, and ‘Rapid Fire’ With Lucho: Altitude Masks, Run Power Meters, and More!
July 17, 2020
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Redaction from ATC 314:
- The book mentioned in the last ATC (Your Kids Suck and It’s Your Fault) doesn’t exist… oops!
- But check out this podcast (the first 30 minutes) on early child hormonal development.
- Lucho also recommends this podcast from Christian Thibaudeau on neurotyping.
Lucho Rapid Fire Questions:
- Altitude masks: are they actually effective and worth it to adapt to high altitude conditions?
- From a physiological standpoint, no.
- In Lucho’s opinion, though, they can have a beneficial psychological effect. The masks make it more difficult to breathe, so training with it allows you to get more comfortable with this feeling (which is similar to what you experience at altitude).
- Side note: do not use a mask if exercising while pregnant!
- Running power meters: are they accurate/reliable/valid data, and worth the investment? Useful as another metric, and/or as an alternative to HR? What about prescribing “target power ranges” for run workouts as you would watts on the bike?
- Lucho thinks they have the potential to be just as useful as a power meter on the bike.
- If you’re not a data person, don’t worry about using it (Lucho doesn’t).
- From a data guidance and tracking perspective, they’re incredibly useful.
- The devices will probably continue to get more accurate over time.
- FeetMe and RPM2 measure force at the foot level. This is similar to an SRM, and should be more viable than an algorithm.
- Sub-max fitness tests to predict max HR: What do you think about using the sub-max HR tests (like this from Sally Edwards) to predict max HR? Looks like she recommends doing 4 of the sub-max and averaging them, and also doing her calc.
- Lucho isn’t a fan of using max HR to set your zones; there’s not really a correlation between max HR and LT.
- HR is a variable datapoint, so take it with a grain of salt.
- Rather than using a max HR test to set your zones, do your long run, keep it chill, and use your average HR to set your zone 2 (+/-5).
- Joe Friel’s 20-30 min LT test is another effective way to set your zones.
- Keep in mind that energy systems are on a spectrum and you switch over gradually. You don’t suddenly shift from LT to VO2 the second you go over LT.
Preconception fitness and health
Hi Tawnee and Endurance Planet Team!
My short question is: how can I build my aerobic base based on my SLOW progression with MAF, and push my aerobic endurance, in a healthy way as we begin to try to conceive?
Context: The longer version is that I have run on and off – VERY slowly and with poor training techniques – since 2012, but never much stuck with it besides perhaps a once yearly training for a 10k. I broke my femur in December 2018, and by June 2019 began Orange Theory, where I built up from walking on the treadmill to finally being able to run for short bursts again. This got me hooked on heart rate monitoring, and I ran my first post-break 5k in October 2019; I also took a MAF test. I’ve done a few 5ks since then – my time varies between about 38-45 minutes for a 5k. (I don’t run at my husband’s pace!! I’m more of a completion ribbon gal).
It’s been my goal to get in good physical fitness to recover from the break/build strength, be generally healthy, but also to build a good base for pre-conception health; we want to begin trying for a baby this summer, and know this can be such an unpredictable journey.
But while Orange Theory was pushing my fitness and I was improving quickly, I realized in April when the world shut down that my aerobic fitness was not increasing. I ran a 3 mile MAF test in October 2019 at a target heart rate of 146 (I’m 34) with an average pace of 16:18 min miles. In April 2020, my average was 18:54 min miles.
After I saw in my April MAF test that my times increased, I began training with 30-45 minute runs 6 days a week, expecting my fitness to improve; it did not (at least much – I went to 18:17 min miles in May, and just today did cut down to a 17:31 minute mile average.
So: the last few weeks, I’ve been sticking to many MAF runs with a few others worked in. I’m so slow on MAF runs (18-20 min miles) that I feel like I’m walking backwards, and I’m being patient anyway, but it feels like I could lose fitness? I’m trying 3-4 MAF runs a week, with some sprints at the end. I’m maintaining 2 5k runs a week in which I just run at a fun pace, which results in an average heart rate of between 170-180. My 5k heart rate averages are beginning to decrease by just a touch, and I just ran my fastest 5k time since my leg break at 36 min. I did a long MAF warmup and a MAF cooldown as well.
The longer version of the question
Is it beneficial to mix in some MAF training with other runs like this? And — as we begin trying for a baby, and if I get pregnant- would it be best to train purely at MAF so that I’m keeping my heartrate down? This past year has been the most intense physical “training” of my life – I’ve never done long endurance running or played sports, so I can’t quite tell if I have a “baseline” of fitness, like other more intensely trained athletes do. I’m just wondering about the best approach for building/maintaining fitness in a healthy way during a possible pregnancy, given my context.
YIKES what a wordy question/essay.
Thanks for all of the great podcast episodes!
What the Coaches say:
- If your MAF isn’t improving given how much training you’re doing, you might want to look at other aspects of your life.
- How’s your diet and blood sugar levels? Consider tweaking calories and macros.
- Don’t be extreme in either dietary direction… don’t eat too many carbs and don’t be keto.
- What’s your stress like? If you’re in a chronically stressed state with high cortisol then your body might not respond well to training.
- 170-180 is definitely an intense place to be, even if it feels fun.
- HIIT and infertility
- There are no published randomized controlled clinical trials on this to my knowledge.
- There was a Norwegian study from a number of years ago that looked at reported exercise frequency and intensity and did find a link to lower pregnancy rates in the group with the highest frequency of intense exercise. This was a longitudinal retrospective study and does not show cause and effect. And I believe that group of women eventually did get pregnant, it just was later on………
- “The biggest impact of exercise on fertility, whether it be endurance or HIIT-type workouts, is that if a woman is getting her period regularly every month that’s a great sign of hormones likely in balance and should increase chances of getting pregnant (all other factors taken into consideration of course).
- If she is struggling with infertility already she might want to cut down on the high intensity workouts (to once or twice per week max) to do everything she can to improve her chances. But if just starting out and no signs of problems, no need to modify things (as long as her periods are good and she’s eating enough!)
- On HIIT in pregnancy
- Again, no randomized controlled clinical trials.
- I personally tell women they can continue doing the type of exercise they are used to doing, but the intensity needs to be modified during pregnancy.
- Keeping the HR <150bpm is an outdated rule written by men who don’t exercise, so I don’t go by that. 🙂
- Your resting heart rate is elevated in pregnancy and your exercise HR is also, linked to the increased cardiac output of pregnancy. The best rule of thumb is to use the perceived exertion scale as a guide.
- Exercising at low to moderate intensity is best.
- Occasionally getting up to moderately hard is ok
- Avoid the hard to very hard zone.
- This applies in the first trimester and all the way through.
- RPE is a very valuable tool rather than just HR, but there are also some generally guidelines when it comes to HR. 170-180 is physiologically intense. Sure, 170 feels “fun,” but 160 would probably be safer.
- Your comfort level matters so if you feel best sticking to MAF then do that but you don’t have to (I preferred sticking to my MAF range, which also aligned with my RPE).
- Stick to a similar routine that you’ve been doing, not adding a bunch of new volume or intensity.
- When TTC- Look at signs of health first e.g. hormones, regular period, stress balance, HPA axis, gut health, etc. If something’s off then address that which may require exercise modifications if the exercise is having any deleterious effect on the most important variables of fertility.
- Not sure? Cycle tracking (ovulation, long enough luteal phase?), BBT, DUTCH test, cortisol panel, gut test if that’s a problem, etc.
- Listen to this recent podcast we recorded taking a holistic look at preconception health: HPN 8: Mindful Fertility, TTC, and Managing MTHFR and Folate Intake
Postpartum body care for athletic mamas?
Do you have any guidance on how to take care of your body post baby? Any websites/books On getting back into working out etc. I look online – and there just seems to be so much junk (drink these shakes! Pay 1000 for the perfect post baby body!) which I’m not interested in.
I’m hitting three weeks post baby, feeling good and have been just walking. I’ve been listening to my body – but I just want to make sure I’m doing all I can do (in a smart way!) I want to start lifting again and slowly getting back into running again!
Thank you in advance!
What the Coaches say:
- Get on your DR exercises, core/pelvic floor is everything! Even a few minutes daily makes a difference.
- Breath work for DR: Jill Miller: Prevention and Healing of Diastasis Recti During Pregnancy and Postpartum and the Crucial Role of Proper Breathing
- IG recommendation: ajcorectology for more DR exercises
- Don’t overthink it. Like with the previous question, I think going by RPE is the best possible thing you can do and just shut out what other moms may or may not be doing after birth. I started with 1 mile….. then 2 miles… then by 4-5 months later I hammered out a 6k trail race and my HR was soaring but that was about right volume-wise for where I was at.
- As I built back into volume I was sure to stick to mostly MAF because I felt like my metabolic function was all off and whacky after pregnancy. Some say pregnancy is a state of insulin resistance, by the way, which is an interesting concept. So I wanted to hone my metabolic function back in and it took a long time to get some breakthroughs with my MAF efforts.
- Don’t stress over the “pressure” we place on ourselves and feel externally to get back to some level of pre-pregnancy fitness. Honor thy season you’re in—you are a mama now and that baby needs you first and foremost. I promise you’ll get it back with time.
- From the health and holistic side, make sure you’re not pushing it too hard so your milk supplies diminishes prematurely.
- Another EP Podcast resource: Brie Wieselman: Postpartum Recovery Plan – A Functional Health Approach For Athletic Mamas and Baby’s Wellbeing