Monday, May 26, 2008

AMHL Training: Residual Volume

The AMHL Photographer and I have traveled west, back to Colorado to attend graduation ceremonies for two family members and then to Wyoming for a vacation within a vacation. We’ll we return to Massachusetts next weekend.

The bad news: I’ll miss my AMHL game on Thursday. Also, America may run on Dunkin’, but not if you’re in Fort Collins, Colorado.

The good news: My tender left foot, which blocked a slap shot last Thursday, has time to heal. Plus, I have the chance to train at high altitude to improve my stamina

Here’s the first of at least two pieces on pulmonary fitness.

Friday, May 23 2008
Fort Collins, CO
Altitude: 4,984 feet

Forty-six year-old defenseman Chris Chelios is a physical specimen. The oldest Red Wing is gunning for this third Stanley Cup Championship. He’s playing in his twenty-seventh season because he probably hasn’t eaten a donut since well before the Reagan administration and because he works out, even after games. I’m guessing he has a nutritionist and a trainer.

I have neither. But I do have Mrs. Alene Patterson in my corner. As I work on my blueberry pancake and scrambled egg substitute at the Egg and I restaurant this morning, I notice my high school Anatomy and Physiology teacher—1985 winner of the Olmsted Prize for Excellence in Secondary School Teaching—and her family sitting at a table five feet away from the one my wife, father, and I share.

I give “Mrs. P.” a big hug, and then we reminisce about the Framingham Heart Study, alveoli, and residual volume—all of which she taught me almost thirty years ago.

“I have good residual volume,” I say to Mrs. P., now nine years into retirement and looking fantastic, before I leave Fort Collins’s breakfast hot spot.

I at least had a lot of extra oxygen in my lungs after maximal exhalation. Now I’m not so sure.

I’ve never smoked, and I get regular exercise besides hockey. Yet, on Thursday mornings, I’m winded easily. I take short shifts not only because that’s what the pros do, but also because I tire more quickly than I used to. Back in high school (think Reagan administration, first term)—when Mrs. P. had us perform pulmonary function tests—I’m pretty sure all that work with the spirometer proved my vital signs were stellar.

Now, I eat better than I did back then (except on weekends when Dunkin’ Donuts beckons). I even like broccoli and no longer add sugar to my orange juice. I perform yoga, lift light weights, and dance like nobody is watching more often than you’d care to know. Yet it’s not enough. I need more prolonged and frequent aerobic activity.

I’m going to work on that, I tell myself.


Saturday morning, I get out of bed at 6:30 a.m. and then walk to the exercise room. I log twenty minutes with my heart rate above 150, maxing out at 161. I’m dripping with sweat after 7.2 miles.


Sunday morning, I spend the better part of half an hour spinning, my heart rate between 150–160, maxing out at close to 170. I don’t own a spirometer, but I know that I’m either going to die or my respiration is improving.

After a shower, I’m at the Egg and I again. Oatmeal instead of a giant pancake to accompany the fake eggs.

I’m still no Chris Chelios, but I bet Mrs. P. is proud of me.

Part II: Back in the Saddle
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