Category Archives: Intro!

Suffer scores!

Strava has this really cool feature when you add a heart rate monitor to your rides. It’s called the suffer score. Based on your height, weight, heart rate and length of ride, it can calculate how much work you’re making your body do. The higher the score, the more work. The best part is, it even breaks down the numbers for you. So, for the sake of this blog, I’ll do my best to explain these numbers to you all.

How does it know?

First, there’s the calculation of the suffer score. Based on your heart rate compared with your height and weight, Strava calculates how intense any moment of your ride is. Pretty simple. How it tags those numbers into different categories is pretty difficult to explain, so here goes.

Based on your body mass index or BMI (using the height and weight numbers – more accurate BMI’s use other measurements like circumference of chest, waist, arms and legs), Strava can calculate with some degree of error to what degree the intensity is affecting you. Let’s look at some screen shots of today’s ride:


08.10.14 PM tempo

The tempo category. My heart rate was between 148 and 166 for 56% of the ride.

Tempo is the level of effort your body can maintain without gaining or losing any effort. In cycling this equates to the feeling of little resistance whilst pedaling. Without resistance, your body’s demands are reasonable and your heart rate is at a low rate compared to the categories ahead.


08.10.14 PM threshold

Threshold heart rate of 166-184 for 33% of the ride.

Threshold or Lactate Threshold, is the point where your body still has the ability to remove lactic acid from your muscles. Lactic acid is a byproduct of anaerobic metabolism, and we’ll get to that. Before the threshold is broken, we still use aerobic metabolism. This means there’s enough oxygen to supply the tissue in our bodies to form and use ATP (ATP is the base energy molecule for all of our tissue, including our muscles).

It is at this level that one gets the most benefit for endurance cycling. At this level, we use our energy stores and lungs to keep the bike moving.


08.10.14 PM anaerobic

Anaerobic metabolism – my heart rate is grater than 184 for 6% of my ride.

If aerobic metabolism uses oxygen…anaerobic uses? Not oxygen! Instead it uses sugar (or a form of it). The end product is lactic acid. We all know this acid by the sensation it gives us with its presence. It’s the buuuuurn! Lactic acid buildup is just our body’s way of telling us, “hey, slow down and breath harder!”

But, there’s a good reason to get to this level of exercise. In cycling, it can help us sprint and climb. These 2 activities require a lot of muscle and a lot of oxygen. By reaching anaerobic metabolism, we in effect train our muscles to be stronger. Repeat this over and over, and our muscles start to become more efficient with its oxygen use, thereby reducing the chance of it requiring anaerobic metabolism. That’s important for one big reason…improving your efficiency leads to easier climbs and sprints (no/less buuuurn!).

Clear as mud, right?

Well let me clear it up some more. The goal is to keep most of the workout at Threshold levels. Too much anaerobic is too inefficient and too much tempo means you’re not working hard enough (possibly as a result of too much anaerobic). That’s what I’ll hopefully be doing from now on.

What am I doing here?

Good question!

My name is Joel. Once upon a time, 10 years ago, I was a very active and fit nerd. I was into cycling in a very ridiculous way for someone who wasn’t a professional cycler. I would frequently ride 30-50 miles a day, 4 or 5 times a week and think nothing of it to get on the old mountain bike and do it a second time, with dirt, rocks and banged up bones (yes, that’s me in the photo). Ah, college! What a great time!

Fast forward to the present. Six years of an unstable career, 2 years of nursing school, and 2 more years of stressful “green” nursing have taken their toll on this guy and my motivation. I’m 5′ 8″ and weigh 210 pounds. I sleep like crap and, up until a few weeks ago, I did nothing that resembles exercise. But that’s going to change.

So, take me, add a very supportive wife, a very lonely Scwinn Fastback and lots of bike trails and call it an experiment! I’ll be sharing my experiences trying to get back into my oldest of loves (cycling) and all the hardships I’m sure will come with my current state of affairs (mostly the out-of-shape thing).

In the beginning,

there was…light? Or something like it. This is probably the worst attempt at a blog you’ll ever encounter. Please let me know if you have any suggestions about the page (I am trying to make this a serious attempt at blogging, eventually).


Thanks in advance!