All consumer-grade heart rate monitors have issues. Chest straps are pretty good. The optical captures from wrist (Google Pixel watch, etc.) or finger (Oura ring) are quite a bit less accurate.

I’ve generally just tolerated it—taking the reported data with a grain of salt—but sometimes it would be nice to get good data. Today I did a little experiment with my Google Pixel watch—tightening the strap at the midpoint of my run—and found that it seems to give me pretty good data this way.

A graph of heart rate data, with a distinct break at the mid-point

What you see is my warm-up, followed by 1 mile out and then 1 mile back. The HR shown for the “out” phase (averaging maybe 180 bpm) is ridiculous—what it’s capturing is not my HR, but rather my step rate.

In the second half my HR goes from about 160 to slightly above 170 (gradually rising as I get tired), and that’s probably just about right.

(The standard formula for estimating your maximum heart rate is 220 minus your age, which would give a max HR of 156 for someone of my age. But that’s clearly wrong for me. I pretty regularly see peak HRs of just over 170 that seem entirely legit. I assume that my genes and my training history just give me a higher max HR than typical. Sadly, it doesn’t make me faster, as you can see from my average pace for this run. I was running literally as fast as I thought I could maintain for 2 miles.)

Anyway, I think I can recommend tightening up the Pixel watch band as tight as tolerable, for getting the most accurate data.

The books say not to take your dog running until they’re at least a year (better: 18 months) old, so they’re running on mature bones and joints.

Early on, I instead let Ashley take me on runs, letting her drag me on the leash while she sprinted off in random directions at breakneck speed for 30 or 40 seconds, only to cut in front of me and then come to an abrupt stop. It wasn’t really satisfactory. After I fell and badly split the skin on my knee, I mostly quit doing that. If I wanted to go for a run, I’d leave the dog behind with Jackie and run by myself. But that was unhandy for all of us.

Now that it’s spring, and we’re getting some nice running weather, I thought I’d see if Ashley could run with me.

Me with Ashley, who is refusing to look at the camera.
I took a bunch of pictures of us yesterday, but never got one that included Ashley looking at the camera.

I’d done some preparation: In the winter I took a “loose-leash” walking class, and she’d gotten a lot better at walking with me. For loose-leash walking I wrap the leash around her chest and then back through that loop you can see on the collar in the picture. That has a couple of positive effects: the leash is effectively shorter, and when she does pull, the friction from the leash constricting around her chest makes the pull gradual, rather than an abrupt hard yank. The key, though, is that it serves as a signal that I want her to walk like a pet, and stay by my side, and she’s gotten pretty good at doing so.

Yesterday I thought we’d give running together a try, and it worked great! I walked her a few blocks on a long leash, so she could get her sniffies in. Then, once we reached a multi-use path that’s about a quarter mile away, I put her on the leash wrap, and started running—and she did just what I wanted her to! She ran along, next to me, at my pace. She didn’t try to run off in some other direction. She didn’t try to sprint ahead. She didn’t lag behind like she didn’t want to run. She just loped along next to me.

It was great!

I had neglected to bring water for her, so I was a little worried that she’d overheat, but she seemed to do okay. We ran a mile, then turned around and walked partway home, but when it seemed that she wasn’t overheated, I picked up the pace again and we ran the rest of the way back to our starting point, then I put her back on a loose leash and we walked home (where she did proceed to drink a whole bowl of water).

For future runs I will bring water. I’ll also make a point of getting out early, before the weather gets hot.

If this doesn’t turn out to be a one-off thing, and she’s willing to run with me on a routine basis, I’ll start taking her running every other day, sticking to short runs for a while to make sure we don’t over do it, then gradually increase the distance until one or the other of us hits some limit or another. (I’ve been routinely walking her over 6 miles nearly every day, so we’re both already in pretty good shape.)

I’ve had a draft post that was originally called my “fall workout plan,” and then called my “late fall workout plan,” but that I never posted because while I was sick I couldn’t work out at all, beyond walking the dog. I will post it. Perhaps not until it makes more sense to post a “winter workout plan.”

25 lb dumbbell and 45 lb kettlebell in front of some weight plates.

In the meantime though, I am, finally, back to doing workouts, and thought I might talk about what I’m doing, because my workout plan is to do workouts very similar to what I’ve been doing over the past week or so.

  • Two weeks ago, Sunday November 11th was a HEMA practice session.
  • Monday I did some kettlebell swings with my adjustable kettlebell adjusted to 40 lb. The previous week I’d done 10 x 10 swings emom (every minute on the minute), so I went ahead and did 10 x 11 swings emom. I’ll continue bumping that up until I hit 10 x 20, and then I’ll go up in weight and drop the reps back down to 10. (There’s a 45 lb kettlebell in the fitness room, and I own a 53 lb kettlebell, so I have a couple of options.)
  • Tuesday I did a 1-handed club workout with my Adex adjustable club at 10 lbs, doing 9 x 5 L / 5 R outside circles, shield cast, and inside circle. That was pretty easy, so I did one more set with the club adjusted to 12.5 lbs. That worked okay, so I decided I could use that as my working weight for a while.
  • Wednesday and Thursday were rest days.
  • Friday I went back to 1-handed club swinging, doing 5 x 5 L / 5 R with the new, higher, weight of 12.5 lbs.
  • Saturday was a rest day.
  • Sunday was another HEMA practice session,
  • Monday and Tuesday were rest days.
  • Wednesday I did kettlebell clean and press, with the kettlebell adjusted to 20 lbs, doing 6 x 4L / 4R in a reverse ladder. (That is, I did 4 clean & press with the left hand, then 4 with the right hand, the 3 left and 3 right, then 2 left and 2 right, then 1 left and 1 right. Then I put the weight down and rested a couple of minutes. That was 1 set. I did 6 sets.) After that I bumped the weight up to 25 lbs and did one more set, which went okay. I think I can carry on with 25 lbs going forward.
  • Thursday I did 10 x 12 kettlebell swings emom with the 40 lb kettlebell. Then I did some 1-handed club swinging, doing 5 x 5 L / 5 R. I’d have expected that I’d have done 6 sets, but 5 is what I wrote down in my notebook.
  • Friday was a rest day
  • Today, Saturday November 25th, I went to the fitness room and did a (mostly) bodyweight circuit. I did 3 rounds of 5 exercises, each for 30 seconds, then with 15 seconds to rest and move to the next exercise. I did jump rope, negative pull ups, goblet squats ( with 20 lb and 25 lb dumbbells), push ups, and hollowbody holds. That’s pretty close to what I was doing during the pandemic, except the fitness room was closed, so instead of dumbells for the goblet squats, I had to just do more reps without weights.

Back at the end of September I came down with West Nile Fever, which made me pretty sick for a long time. The only time in my life before I was that sick for that long was when I had Mononucleosis when I was a freshman in college. That time I was sick for most of the term, and it took several weeks of the Christmas vacation to fully recover.

With West Nile it took about three weeks to recover from the acute phase of the illness. That is, I had a fever constantly for three weeks. Then it took another three weeks to get my energy levels back. For that period I could walk the dog, fix breakfast, and then do one thing, after which I needed to go back to bed and take a nap.

Temperature data from my Oura ring: I first showed a fever on September 25th. My temperature spiked up to a high of 5.3℉ above baseline on October 6th, and didn’t really settle back in to normal until November 6th.

As of a couple of days ago, I think I’m back to full health. I’ve been doing workouts—not as frequently as I’d like, but often enough that I’ve been able to start pushing the weights up again, although not up to what I doing before I was sick. I’ve been for a couple of runs, both of which were harder and slower than I’d like, but were okay—I didn’t feel like I was sick, just like I hadn’t been running enough the past few weeks.

On Sunday I got a Covid booster, so I felt slightly less energetic Monday, but that has already passed.

After too many weeks, I finally feel back to normal!

Because I use wearables to capture as much information about myself as possible, I can go back and see how my illness affected my activity.

Graph of my walking distance for the month of October.

Between returning home from vacation in August, and getting sick in late September, I averaged between 6 and 8 miles a day, mostly walking the dog. (Separately I got in a run each week, pushing that day’s mileage up over 10.) In October (as you can see above) my distance fell to between 3 and 4 miles each day until just about the middle of the month, then gradually started increasing. I exceeded 6 miles on October 15th. I didn’t reach 8 miles until October 30th.

Now I’m right back to 6 to 8 miles a day, same as before I was sick. And today I went for my first run since September 26th. It was a pretty crappy run, but better than not running.