Results matching “Bird”

Nap in the sunThis was a very rewarding experiment in a couple of ways. Firstly, it clearly demonstrated just how effective the '30 day' approach is (there are a lot of life changes you can make if you tell yourself it's only for a month - and by then you may not wish to change back); secondly it threw quite a bit of light on the notion of biphasic sleeping. Here are a few things I discovered during that time.

The 90 minute sleep cycle
I've gone from a skeptic to a true believer on this one. The idea that in quality sleep the cycles are around 1.5 hours in length not only seems plausible, but highly likely. Think back to the last really good night's sleep you had (woke up feeling refreshed, ready to take on the day) chances are it was a multiple of 1.5 hours (4.5, 6, 7.5 and 9 hours are all quite common). By forcing myself to adapt to multiples of this, I had more feelings of 'that was a good night's sleep' than usual.

Adaptation period
It took around a week to adapt to the new structure, which was/is:

  1. a 90 nap starting around 19:00 (this time varies slightly according to how tired I feel on the day)
  2. a longer sleep of 4.5 hours starting around 02:00

In total that's 6 hours per day, or 42 hours per week (giving me a 14 hour bonus on a typical 7 x 8 hour week).

There are a few things to be aware of with the length of this adaptation period. The first is to watch your caffeine intake. Now, I'm certainly not going to be hypocritical enough to suggest that you give it away altogether (I'm enjoying a cup of coffee whilst writing this); however I would suggest that having three double espressos 30 minutes before a nap is a bit much. Use your judgement.

The second is sugar intake. As with coffee, use your common sense. A bit of maltodextrin in a shake certainly isn't going to kill you, but try to stay away from the jam doughnuts.

The third consideration - perhaps related to the previous two - is the stress factor. If you come home from work every day fired up about something-or-other, don't take your nap immediately afterward. The best routine (for me) seems to be work -> workout -> eat -> sleep. There's nothing like throwing a bit of iron around to help alleviate stress.

Impact on strength training
It has to be said that I seem to favour the frequent, short workout approach - a few sets of rack pulls there, a few sets of floor presses there. Rare is the day which doesn't include some form of strength training.

My routine was like this prior to the start of biphasic sleeping, and doesn't seem to have been affected at all by it. I was fortunate enough to avoid serious injury throughout the period of the test, and there doesn't appear to have been any impact on recovery. DOMS still rears its ugly head occasionally. The thought of an ice bath still feels me with dread.

There are two major considerations here. The first is that the periods just prior to and just following sleep are always less productive. Think for a minute of all of the projects you've completed 2 minutes after waking up, or when you're about to attain 'qwertyface' (passing out through tiredness at the computer). These periods vary from person to person and day to day, but around 15-20 minutes seems pretty typical.

Biphasic sleeping doubles the number of these periods. This means that instead of 30-40 unproductive minutes per day you now have 60-80. However, you've gained - for an 8-hour-per-day sleeper - 2 hours per day. An extra hour of productive time per day? I'll take that more than happily.

The second consideration is the quality of that productive time. This is where it becomes difficult to state just how much more productive I feel than a month ago (although the quantity of articles written for this and other sites is probably a good indicator); particularly as I've been intentionally monitoring my productivity for a few weeks now. That monitoring in itself provides a productivity boost (nobody wants to write down '30 minutes just surfing the internet, reading emails and generally slacking off').

More refreshing
Together with the productivity change in the difficult-to-measure department is the improvement in the refreshing quality of sleep. Aside from a few days (with a known cause of poor sleep) and the adaptation period - which was always expected - I've had more 'leap out of bed, ready to face the day' mornings than usual. As irritatingly happy as that may sound (particularly if you're reading this over your morning cup of coffee), it makes a tremendous difference in the way the day's problems are faced and resolved.

I was pleasantly surprised that a 90 minute cycle included the deep sleep and dream recall that occasionally accompanies a 7.5 hour night. This dream recall didn't really begin until I was past the adaptation phase, and was able to wake up naturally just before the alarm went off.

If you're not used to remembering your dreams, this may not seem like much of a benefit; however the dream recall is usually associated with feeling refreshed, which is an obvious benefit for everyone.

VegetablesVia Medical News Today : the current issue of the open access Nutrition Journal contains an interesting study on Low-carb diets. Despite common fears that people on low-carb diets replace carbs with fatty foods, the study by Richard Feinman, PhD (professor of biochemistry at SUNY Downstate Medical Center) and co found that over half of those studied increased their salad greens, and a third doubled their helpings of vegetables.

The sample group? The 90,000 members of the Active Low-Carber Forum. Very interesting.

Biphasic sleep : Day 30 - Test articles

Biphasic sleep : Day 30Final day of the experiment (though I'll definitely continue biphasic sleeping - too many positives to ignore). This morning I woke feeling refreshed, with a mixed blessing of dream recall quickly replaced by thoughts of the day's schedule. Less than five minutes after waking I was up and running, but I'd almost completely forgotten my dreams.

I'm starting to wonder whether a notepad beside the bed would be more often used as a dream diary or to-do list.

Following nap

That was a deep one. It took slightly longer to get to sleep than usual, and this brought the total just under 90 minutes (which, as expected, made little difference). The only noticeable change was that it was a bit longer afterward before I felt truly awake (to the point of operating heavy machinery, in any case).

Taking pulseThis article is the second part of the rest series, a collaboration with Blaine Moore at Run to Win.

When you're lifting weights, how long do you rest between sets? Chances are it's time based - 30sec, 2 minutes etc. In this article I'll look at the use of your pulserate to determine when to begin the next set.

I first came across this concept in the article Bulgarian Leg Training Secrets [1]. In it, Angel Spassov and Terry Todd write :

The Bulgarian team uses the pulse rate as a gauge to let them know how far to take the sets. They believe that each of the moderate to heavy sets should produce a pulse rate of 162-180 beats per minute. The lifter doesn't begin his next set until his pulse has dropped to between 102 and 108. The Bulgarian team does virtually this same workout five or six days a week, along with quite a lot of other leg work that goes with the snatch and the clean and jerk.

Now, before you race off and start measuring your pulse during sets of heavy step-ups (if you don't do them, they're well worth considering), there are a couple of things to keep in mind. The first of these is your resting pulserate.

Measuring your pulse rate
Keep in mind that this is your resting pulserate, so there's no point taking it right after an activity or when you're stressed out at work. The usual time to take it is first thing in the morning.

There are a couple of ways to take it. The manual option is to place two fingers over one of the pulse points (this video [.mov, .07mb] shows where they are) and count how many beats there are during a one minute period. Typical figures are shown below.

The second method is to use a device such as a pulse monitor watch, which essentially does the same thing (you pay for the convenience and consistency). Either way, write down the resting pulserate - preferably every day. This should gradually come down as your fitness improves - eventually it will level off, but that could take a while.

Baby heart monitoringTypical resting pulse rates

Note that these are typical values for the population at large - these rates will vary according to your personal fitness and certain medical conditions.

Babies to age 1: 100–160 bpm
Children ages 1 to 10: 60–140 bpm
Children age 10+ and adults: 60–100 bpm
Well-conditioned athletes: 40–60 bpm

Factors affecting pulse rate

If your resting pulse is well outside these ranges, the cause could be one or more of the following :

Activity: try to measure your pulse before you even get out of bed in the morning. Once you've had time to wake up fully, jump out of bed, get stressed about work etc it's too late. Keep a watch beside your bed.

Fever: one of the reasons for measuring your pulse every day is that it is often an early sign of illness. If your body is trying to fight something off, your pulse will probably be elevated.

Hyperthyroidism: an overactive thyroid gland can push up a pulse rate.

Anemia: anemia is a lack of oxygen in the blood. This can be caused by a number of things (iron deficiency and vitamin B12 deficiency are the most common), and will typically be associated with a higher pulse.

CaffeineStimulants: caffeine is perhaps the most common - so avoid that cup of coffee before checking your pulse. Other stimulants include cigarettes, amphetimines, decongestants, diet pills and asthma medications.

Heart disease: This may be direct (such as Tachycardia or Bradycardia), or indirect (such as the many forms of ischaemic heart disease). Whatever the case, see a doctor before embarking on any sort of fitness quest.

The second consideration is your active pulse rate. Once you've measured your resting pulse for a week or two you'll have an idea of how fit you are when you're not doing anything, and you'll know when you start to come down with a cold. Now you need to find out just how much your pulse changes with a bit of strength training.

This is the maximum heart rate your body will sustain in its present condition. Although most closely associated with age, the HR will vary between same-aged individuals with differing fitness profiles.

An estimate of HR often used by gym-goers and trainers alike is :

HR = 220 - age of the individual

This is by no means a detailed assessment of fitness, but it will give you an idea.

Other research by Miller et al (1993) [2] and Londeree and Moeschberger (1982) [3] proposes alternatives to this formula. An estimate combining all three approaches may be found on the Sports Coach site [4].

Target Heart Rate (THR)

The Target Heart Rate (sometimes known as Training Heart Rate) is not a single value but a range signifying the pulserates most beneficial to the heart and lungs during exercise. This value will vary according to the fitness and goals of the individual, and is commonly divided into five Training Zones :

  1. Healthy Heart Zone (Warm up) : 50 - 60% of HR. This is the easiest level and ideal for those just beginning their fitness quest.
  2. Fitness Zone (Fat Burning) : 60 - 70% of HR. Slightly more intense than the Healthy Heart Zone.
  3. Aerobic Zone (Endurance Training) : 70 - 80% of HR. Improves cardiovasular and respiratory systems in addition to strengthening the heart. This is the preferred zone for those training for an endurance event.
  4. Anaerobic Zone (Performance Training) : 80 - 90% of HR. Benefits of this zone include an improved VO2 (the greatest amount of oxygen that can be consumed during exercise), a higher lactate tolerance and a greater ability to fight fatigue.
  5. Red Line (Maximum Effort) : 90 - 100% of HR. A very intense level, and only suitable for short bursts by those who are already in very good shape.

Those involved in strength training will be looking at the Anaerobic Zone.

Calculating THR

Now that you know your estimated Maximum Heart Rate and your desired Training Zone, it's time to calculate your Target Heart Rate. This will give you a range to work with in your strength training sessions.

There are three basic ways to calculate the THR. The simplest method is :

THR = HR x % Intensity

eg: someone with a maximum heartrate of 180bpm looking to train in the Anaerobic Zone will have a Target Heart Rate of 180 x ~85% = 153bpm.

Karvonen Method

The Karvonen Method is more accurate, factoring in Resting Heart Rate (RHR):

THR = ((HRHR) × %Intensity) + HR

eg: the same individual as above has a resting heartrate (HR) of 70bmp. Strength training should elevate the heartrate to (180-70x.85) + 70 = 163bpm

NB: Kerry Neilson from the University of Colorado has a simple online calculator using this method.

Zoladz Method

An alternative to the Karvonen Method is the Zoladz Method, which derives exercise zones by subtracting values from HRmax.

THR = HR – Adjuster +/- 5 bpm

Zone 1 Adjuster = 50 bpm
Zone 2 Adjuster = 40 bpm
Zone 3 Adjuster = 30 bpm
Zone 4 Adjuster = 20 bpm
Zone 5 Adjuster = 10 bpm

NB: Zone 1 = easiest, Zone 5 = most difficult.

eg: using the same individual again, THR = 180 - 20+/-5 = 155-165bpm.

Resting upRest breaks

This brings us back to the length of rest breaks between sets. Just prior to exercise, measure your pulse. This will give you an idea of your active - though not greatly exerted - level. Each strength training set will elevate your heartrate to around your Target Heart Rate, and the intervening rest breaks should be long enough to allow your heartrate to slow to somewhere between this active rate and about 120 bpm.

How long will this take? Obviously it will vary from person to person, but it's likely to be closer to 30 seconds than 5 minutes (for workouts in the Anaerobic Zone). A good indicator is the number of sets and reps you do using this technique - it should be about the same as before; if it isn't, either the rest breaks were too long before or they're too short now. Time to do a little fine tuning.


bpm: beats per minute

Bradycardia: a resting heartrate lower than 60 beats per minute

ischaemic heart disease: heart disease characterised by a reduced blood flow to the heart

Tachycardia: a resting heartrate greater than 100 beats per minute


1. Bulgarian Leg Training Secrets
Angel Spassov, Ph.D., D.Sc. and Terry Todd, Ph.D

2. Miller et al (1993) - 'Predicting max HR' - Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 25(9), 1077-1081

3. Londeree and Moeschberger (1982) 'Effect of age and other factors on HR max' - Research Quarterly for Exercise & Sport, 53(4), 297-304

4. Maximum Heart Rate
Brian MacKenzie
Sports Coach


Blaine Moore
Track your resting heartrate
Run to Win

The Franklin Institue
Vital Signs

Pulse Measurement


Wrong Diagnosis
Types of Heart Disease

Jack Dempsey - Test articles

Jack DempseyTom Furman has a nice piece on the 'Manassa Mauler', Jack Dempsey.

The ebook mentioned in the article is an incredible find.

Chris DorrWant more Strength News? The first Strength News podcast is now ready for your listening pleasure.

Eating makes me hungry - Test articles

RatAccording to a report in this month's issue of Cell Metabolism, a study [subscription required, abstract] of rats revealed that brain activity in hunger centres spiked with the first taste of food. This goes a long way to scientifically supportting the idea of hors d'ouevres being to whet the appetite.

Interestingly, the mere thought of food was also enough to spark a bit of brain activity - a notion which seems more than a little plausible.

Biphasic sleep : Day 29 - Test articles

Biphasic sleep : Day 29A bit of oversleeping, but only 40 minutes. I'm not at all concerned by that; particularly following yesterday's change to the routine.

Still, one major observation can be made regarding going out in the evening (during the scheduled nap time): the approach I took a few weeks ago was, in retrospect, more efficient; a couple of brief naps (20 minutes or so) in the afternoon and then back to the schedule for the main sleep that night. Worked out well, and it makes the necessary allowances for having a social life.

Following nap

More of that please. Refreshing, but far too short. I'm definitely looking forward to the main sleep tonight.

Chip Morton interview - Test articles

Chip MortonJohn Du Cane conducts an interesting interview with the Bengals' Strength and Conditioning Coach, Chip Morton. Chip talks about his introduction to kettlebell training (after 30 years of using more common equipment), and the way in which it's used with his athletes.

Good stuff.

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