ExerciseInsulin Resistance

Insulin Resistance: I Qualified for the USA Triathlon Nationals!

We exercise for various reasons: we enjoy it, want to lose weight or do it because we know it benefits our health.

I am an event-oriented athlete. Whenever I feel insulin-resistant, a condition where my body’s cells don’t respond well to insulin, I set my sights on training for an athletic event to shift my mindset about what I can and cannot do. Exercise helps improve insulin sensitivity, making it easier for my body to use insulin effectively and reduce insulin resistance.

Years ago, I participated in my first sprint triathlon. I attended a women’s camp to learn how to train. To my surprise, most attendees were not athletes but individuals eager to become proficient in one part of the triathlon. For me, that leg was bicycling.

The most valuable advice I received at the camp was to train within my heart zone. The camp founder explained that many people quit their exercise routines because they overexert themselves by exceeding their target heart rate, which hijacks motivation.

The first thing I learned was my target heart rate. I slow down to stay within my heart zone whenever I swim, run, or bicycle. At first, this was challenging. When I ran, I had to slow my pace to a quick walk, even though my ego wanted me to go faster.

Eventually, I learned to recognize when I was stressing my heart. If it was in an event, I needed to slow down. If it was the day after, I either took the day off from exercise or only worked 30% of my heart zone.

Fast forward twenty-four years, and I am training for my fifth sprint triathlon.

After completing the event last October, I received an invitation from USA Triathlon to compete nationally. It made me smile, as I was the oldest woman competing, at sixty-four. I say this respectfully: the standards for my age group are not too high.

The event begins with a one-third-mile swim in the ocean. I hadn’t trained for ocean swimming and found myself gulping seawater. Transitioning to the next leg, I mounted my bicycle to ride uphill. Feeling sick from the seawater, I pulled over and threw up. A younger competitor passed by and said, “Seawater.” The bike ride was a 20K (14.4 miles). Periodically, I checked my heart rate on my Apple watch. Seeing the fire department and an ambulance at the starting zone, I told myself that would not be how my story ended.

Struggling to cycle uphill with a high heart rate, I dismounted and walked until my heart rate normalized. I repeated this process on the return ride.

Transitioning from cycling to running feels awkward. It takes a few minutes to get your rhythm. My best jog still resembles a fast walk. Surprisingly, I passed many younger competitors but had to stop and start frequently to stay in my heart zone.

Age is a funny thing; you are as young as you feel. Exercising within your heart zone helps you stay fit, providing endurance you wouldn’t otherwise achieve. Best of all, it helps reduce insulin resistance.

Finding Your Optimal Heart Rate Zone

To determine your best heart rate zone for exercise, speak to your healthcare professional, then follow these steps within the guidelines you have received:

  1. Calculate Your Maximum Heart Rate: Subtract your age from 220. For example, if you’re 40, your maximum heart rate is 180 beats per minute (bpm).
  2. Determine Your Target Heart Rate Zone: Aim for 50-85% of your maximum heart rate. This range is ideal for most aerobic exercises:
    • Moderate Intensity: 50-70% of your maximum heart rate.
    • Vigorous Intensity: 70-85% of your maximum heart rate.
  3. Monitor Your Heart Rate: Use a heart rate monitor or fitness tracker to stay within your target zone during exercise. For a 40-year-old, moderate intensity would be 90-126 bpm, while vigorous intensity would be 126-153 bpm.
  4. Adjust as Needed: Listen to your body and adjust your intensity to stay within the recommended range. This approach helps maintain motivation, prevents overexertion, and takes you to the finish line.

You may also be interested in reading How Diet and Exercise Helped a woman drop her A1C Significantly.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *