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Spinal cord injuries

2 Sep

“”The way I see spinal cord injury is that it’s part loss, part hardship, part change and part challenge. They’re…

Good warm-up

1 Jul

To my mind, the warm-up I had on a recent workout was just about perfect. I think a warm-up should challenge my muscles a little bit, but not be so hard that I can’t keep up. Here’s what warm-up looked like in graphical terms:


The purple line is the resistance offered by the FES bike, while the black line is the average power during each step of the work out. The teal line is the amount of stimulation provided to my muscles. As the resistance is being controlled automatically during the warm-up, if the stimulation level reaches 100% then the machine will reduce the amount of resistance, deciding that my muscles can’t keep up. In this warm-up, the stimulation got very close to 100% at the end of the warm-up, but the machine did not have to reduce the resistance. Mission accomplished, muscles warmed up! Any questions?


accessible housing

20 Jun

A short film about the Accessible Housing Society, the people that are providing and managing my residence.



Assessing fatigue

9 Jun

You may well ask, if I can’t feel my legs, how can I tell whether the exercise I am doing on my FES bike is overdoing it or not? Good question. I use a couple measures to help me determine I level of fatigue:

  1.  if the level of stimulation goes up to 100%, and then the automatically controlled resistance begins to reduce and reduce and reduce, that’s a sure sign that my legs are getting tired.
  2. When I am doing an intense interval with manual control of resistance, then the machine will not reduce my resistance even if my legs are getting tired (though the RPMs will fall). In this case, I can look at the average power per lap during the session and see whether it was falling towards the end. Also, I can monitor my power output during the exercise and see whether it is stable or decreasing.
  3. In addition, when I do more than one session of the same type I can monitor whether my power output was higher in the second session than the first, or whether it is beginning to decline with each succeeding session. A variation of this, when I am doing an easy session, is to see whether the level of stimulation required increases in each successive easy session.
  4. Lastly, though I can’t feel the skin on my legs, it seems that after an intense workout my brain can sense that the legs are tired. There’s a heaviness that I don’t sense prior to my workout. This is fascinating, because my injury is considered complete, which means my brain receives no sensation from nerves below the entry level. How is it possible then that I can sense fatigue?
  5. Related to this, if I had a really hard workout, afterward I find that I cannot stand in my chair for very long without my consciousness fading away. When I am fresh, I can stand much longer.
  6.  If I have pushed too hard during a workout, when I stop, my blood pressure may fall precipitously and I will bonk seriously. If I have trouble remaining consciousness after a workout, that’s a sure sign that I have overdone it.
  7.  And finally, if I do two identical workouts several days apart and experience much worse results on the second workout, that’s a sign that I am either fatigued, or coming down with a cold, or something similar. It’s a clear indication that I should take it easy for the next couple of workouts.



There are a few graphs from today’s workout illustrate my points.




In the graph above, the black line shows average power per lap during this session. Average power was higher in the second left in the first as my legs got used to the level of work required, and was only 10% less in the third lap. After a 15 minute break, the average power during the last lap was nearly as high as in the second lap. Conclusion: in this session, fatigue is not an issue.


Well now, let’s look at the two easy sessions I did during this workout. In the first, below, the stimulation level (blue line) rose to nearly 100% and then stayed fairly constant around 95%. In the second easy session, further below, the stimulation level only rose to around the 80% level, indicating that my legs were not worn out yet. However after two hours of riding, I was ready to take a break!


LSD (long slow distance) session 1:



LSD (long slow distance) session 2:



Any questions?

Best workout yet

8 Jun

Well, if I keep riding an FES bike, I might have to reuse the title of this post a few more times in the future. but still, I did enjoy a great ride on Saturday this week.   I have learned that I enjoy my rides more, and often get better results, if I mix it up a bit and don’t simply do the same thing for my entire workout. So in this latest workout, I actually logged four different sessions in succession. First, I did a 20 minute warm-up where I gradually increased both stimulation level and RPM, so my muscles could slowly get warmed up and get used to the stimulation level. Then, I moved on to interval training to work at a high, intense, level. After half an hour of that, I dialled it back and took it easy with some LSD [long slow distance], where I tried to recover my energy with some nice easy pedaling. Finally, one last blast with the interval training, which is where I achieved a new record energy output.  More on that below.


Here’s how the warm-up looked: 140607-warmup


My idea for the warm-up, as outlined in a previous post, is to slowly increase both speed (green line) and resistance (magenta line) so that that the stimulation level (light blue line) gradually increases up to a maximum of 100% at or near the end of the 20 minute warm-up.  On this day, I hit the 100% level after 18 minutes, and the machine did not substantially reduce the resistance during the last two minutes of the workout. My average power (black line) during the last step of the warm-up was around 20 W, while maximum power (black dots) was around 22 W.  Warmed up muscles: Mission accomplished!


After one intense interval session, as I mentioned earlier, I took it easy for a while. Here is what that easy interval looked like:




At first, I had the resistance sent too high, so the machine rapidly increased the stimulation level to 100% and then had to begin reducing the resistance so that my legs could keep up. In the second lap, I got smarter and reduced the resistance. Then the machine slowly increased the resistance level but it never got to 100%. As you can see the average power output was higher in the second lap than in the first lap.   Now I was ready for one last intense session. Here’s what that last workout session looked like:   140607-ride


I did four laps, each one at the maximum resistance of 20.75 Nm and the maximum speed of 55 RPM, followed by 30 seconds of taking it easy. Each successive lap, my average power output increased, with the last one being at 77 W. My overall energy output during this session was over 55 KCalories per hour. That is equivalent to an average of 64 W over the 20 minute period.   After my nearly 2-hour workout, I was both happy and tired, and ready for a nice cold beer!   Final word: as always, I owe a huge debt of thanks to my fiancée Julie, without whose assistance none of this would be possible.

Exercise program at the CPA gym

18 May

here’s a video from last year regarding the exercise program at the CPA Jim here in Calgary. I appear in the video along with several other people. The program is still ongoing, and I go there twice a week. Beats sitting around watching TV!


My warm-up

5 May

These days, each time I start riding my FES bike, I begin with a warm-up. I have found that slow RPM and low resistance is what my muscles need in order to begin responding effectively to electrical stimulation. Accordingly, I slowly increase both  RPM and electrical resistance over my 20 minute warm-up. Here are the details:


and here are the specific numerical values:


Killin’ It!

5 May

Over the past few weeks, I have been trying to increase the duration at which I work at a high level of intensity on my FES bike. Gradually I have gone from working three minutes  at a time at the highest possible resistance  [ torque ] of 20.75 Nm to eight minutes at a time, with multiple repeats over the course of an hour or even longer. As a result, the amount of work I am doing is increasing. And with it, the number of calories that I’m burning in each workout session.Apparently, I am now burning as much as 700 cal per hour. But the main point is to try to do enough work to actually increase my level of fitness. One way to measure this is to calculate the number of MET-minutes* of work per week. The chart below documents my progress over the 1 1/2 years since I started using my FES bike. Since some sources suggest we need to be doing at least 500 to 1000 MET-minutes per week of exercise in order to get a health benefit, it seems that I wasn’t meeting the minimum during the entire first year. However, since then my progress has been steadily uphill, and in the last month I have really taken off. In the last week of April, I did about 2200 MET-minutes of work, more than double what I need to do to maintain a level of fitness,  and the highest since I started riding my FES bike. It will be interesting to see where I get to in the next weeks or months.   MET--minutes

*MET-Minutes and Health Benefits

A key finding of the Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee Report is that the health benefits of physical activity depend mainly on total weekly energy expenditure due to physical activity. In scientific terms, this range is 500 to 1,000 MET-minutes per week. A range is necessary because the amount of physical activity necessary to produce health benefits cannot yet be identified with a high degree of precision; this amount varies somewhat by the health benefit. For example, activity of 500 MET-minutes a week results in a substantial reduction in the risk of premature death, but activity of more than 500 MET-minutes a week is necessary to achieve a substantial reduction in the risk of breast cancer.


Good bike ride

28 Apr



Thanks to my daughter and brother who set me up, I had a really good 2 hour ride yesterday on my FES bike. I have been getting slowly stronger over the past months, and the graph above shows my power output during my ride. Peak power was around 94W, while the highest and average power during a 3 minute interval was about 69W. Best of all, I burnt about 700 calories during my ride.

Spinal shocks revive paralysed legs

8 Apr

Spinal shocks revive paralysed legs says the BBC.

And here’s the CBC news story on the same topic.

CNN news has a short video on the same topic, as does Global TV News.

While these stories are all good news, of course, there is apparently nothing immediately new being reported at this time, according to a specialist website that deals with spinal cord injury research. Still, they post a good dozen or more links to mainstream media reports on this same story.

So, which media source do you think has the most informative and illuminating coverage?