Tag Archives: HRM

Bushwalking Equipment | Can I Really Do Without a Smartphone?

As a bushwalker, can you afford not to own a smartphone? Which smartphone apps can replace dedicated equipment? What are the limitations?

Over the last few years technology has made smartphones invaluable to bushwalkers, replacing many of the devices, which previously had to be bought and carried individually.

Probably the first device carried by bushwalkers to be incorporated into the iPhone was the still and movie camera. Today’s smartphone has a high quality camera which can take video and stills, including panoramas, mark each with the location at which the photo was taken, and then upload it to the web using wifi or mobile (cellular) data.

Next, the GPS became available, allowing routes to be mapped live, waypoints determined and marked, and distances accurately determined. Recently, apps which allow the viewing of calibrated digital maps have become commonly available, and some apps now incorporate the navigation features found in a dedicated GPS. High resolution colour screens make viewing these maps and navigational features easy. Modern smartphones have built-in compasses which can be calibrated and are accurate enough for the day walker, but not accurate enough for bearings over long distances.

Then high quality heart rate sensors came on the market which could pair with a smartphone, initially using a “dongle” plugged into the earphone socket but more recently using low energy interference-free Bluetooth.

Some apps even use the smartphone camera and built-in light to measure blood flow pulses in a finger, without the need for an independent sensor. Fitness training had become more scientific!

The next advance was the ability to measure heart rate variability (HRV) (see previous post), using the powerful analysis capabilities of modern smartphones. Initially measuring HRV was only possible with expensive laboratory based equipment, but soon Polar had incorporated this ability into some of their top-of-the-line wrist computers. In the last few years, this technology has migrated to the smart phone, allowing bushwalk training to be fine tuned.

Bush walkers visiting remote areas often feel the need to take emergency devices with them to obtain help if an emergency occurs. We are all familiar with personal location beacons (PLBs) which can transmit a message, including location, to an overhead satellite, and from there to emergency rescue services.

SPOT gen3 s can send a message via satellite to your emergency contacts or to the same rescue service. Version three is much better functionally according to the reviews, but has a more expensive subscription.

Recently smartphone apps (GetHomeSafe) have become available which can send an SMS or email, if a bushwalker fails to return on time, without the need for any action by the “injured” or “lost” person or instantly in a critical emergency to a contact list or even rescue services directly, including the current location, participant details and a route plan. “You don’t need a working phone (be within range) or even to be be conscious for an alert to be sent.”

Bush walkers on day walks and within range of a mobile tower, up to 70 km from a high enough vantage point, can add weather and tide apps  and the ability to visualise routes or places in 3D using Google Earth.

We now have GPS, fitness, navigation, mapping, emergency notification and weather services available at low cost in the one device! The only problem is a lack of battery capacity, but even this can be overcome to some extent with a solar charger.

What is next?
How do you overcome these limitations?
Where will the future take us?

Creative Commons LicenseThis article by Bush Walker is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Bushwalking Fitness | Pt 3 My Choice of Smartphone Apps for Fitness Training

Which apps should I choose to monitor my fitness? How should they be integrated? How should I fine tune my training, using the data collected?

As mentioned in the previous two posts, Part 1 and Part 2, technology incorporated into the smartphone and low cost, high quality apps now enable bushwalkers to monitor their fitness and training program in a way previously only achievable by elite athletes working in an  exercise laboratory. Both of these posts should be read as they provide necessary background for this post.

To maintain a high level of fitness, the bushwalker needs to be able to

Many of these can also be monitored by advanced wrist computers incorporating GPS and heart rate monitors, but these usually lack the versatility of a smartphone.

Measuring Personal Fitness

Polar Beat has an in-app purchase which allows your to do a Fitness Test (see previous post for more details) which you can then match with VO2max norms for your age and gender. This should give  similar results to the values produced by Polar OwnIndex® found in many of the high-end Polar wrist computers, but I have found them to be about 5 points lower.

iThlete, BioForce HRM, and HRV4training use HRV as an indicator of fitness, with higher values indicating higher fitness levels. I am currently trialling both iThlete and HRV4training and may continue with both, as they offer slightly different but important features.

iThlete enables you to log important “environmental” factors such as sleep, fatigue, training load, muscle soreness, stress, mood and diet and check for correlations with HRV scores. HRV4training automates the HRV measuring process, giving the option of lying down or standing or both. If this option is chosen, the difference between standing and lying down is automatically calculated and can give valuable information about fitness, as the difference increases with fitness.

Logging Training Sessions

Precision Pulse HRM monitors, HRaverage and HRmaximum, kCal burnt, and training load, as measured by an objective TRIMP score, determined by time in each training zone and heart rate. Without this knowledge, training loads become rather subjective, especially if there is variation in the type of activity, volume and intensity, and therefore affect the reliability of the HRV data.

I have been using Walkmeter ( Apple) for about 5 years and find it to be an excellent app for maintaining a log of your training sessions, including GPS location, Activity, Route, kCals, Heart Rate, Elevation climbed and Duration, which can then be graphed and mapped or viewed live. Most importantly it is very user friendly, making excellent use of the remote controller on the earplug to control start/stop, playing of motivational music and user defined voice announcements such as pace, time, progress in relation to worst, medium, best previous times for the route. This means you don’t have to take your iPhone out of your pocket to control the app. It has the ability to automatically stop if you are stationary for more than a user defined duration, which is very handy. All of this information can be shared live using social media, if you are so inclined.

Polar Beat offers some of the above features  such as measurement of distance, calories, speed, heart rate, and provides voice announcements and map location,  but appears to be not yet fully developed. It does however integrate well with the Polar website.

Planning Future Training Sessions

Both iThlete and HRV4training provide bushwalker friendly advice about the day’s training session by relating  the morning’s heart rate and HRV measurements to previous days.

Careful analysis of data provided by Walkmeter, such as average and maximum heart rates, time in each training zone, and duration in relation to previous times, can provide a limited guide, but lacks the predictive ability of the first two apps..

Social Media and Web Integration

Many fitness apps allow social media integration with Facebook and Twitter, and may allow upload to a proprietary website, for more detailed analysis.

Related posts

Bushwalking Fitness | Pt 1 Smart Phone Apps to Fine Tune your Bushwalk Training
Bushwalking Fitness | Pt 2. Using a Heart Rate Monitor and a Smartphone to Measure Fitness Variables

  Creative Commons LicenseThis article by Bush Walker is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Bushwalking Fitness | Pt 2. Using a Heart Rate Monitor and a Smartphone to Measure Fitness Variables

Knowledge of which heart rate variables can help you to plan your training? Can a heart rate monitor help you decide whether you are over-training? How do you know if you are getting fitter? How can measuring heart rate variability (HRV) help you decide?

Disclaimer:  I am not a trained sports medicine professional, and therefore the advice given here needs to be checked with your doctor or fitness professional before application. Values vary enormously from person-to-person and depend on your health, age, gender and fitness level. Sometimes a value which would be excellent for a very fit person can indicate a heart malfunction for someone who has a sedentary lifestyle.

As mentioned in the previous post, there are now a number of low cost, high quality smartphone (both Apple and Android) apps which allow you to very accurately measure, and store, many of the heart rate variables of interest to bushwalkers and other athletes.

Aerobic Capacity (VO2 max)

This is one of the most reliable measures of your cardiovascular fitness, and measures your body’s aerobic capacity ie  ability to take up and use oxygen.

Some smartphone apps such as Polar Beat and many of the Polar wrist computers with OwnIndex®  can estimate this with 86-93% accuracy by measuring your heart rate (255 beats) over 3-5 minutes, when you are lying flat at rest.  The watch takes into account your resting heart rate and HR variability, along with body weight, height, and activity level. Care is needed in taking measurements in a consistent manner, usually as early in the morning as possible, before any activity, to allow day-to-day comparisons.

The improvement you may observe in as little as 4 weeks of aerobic training, is more important than the absolute value, and tells you whether your training program has been successful. I have used an F11 Polar wrist heart rate monitor for many years, and find that measurements taken every week give a very reliable indicator of my fitness trend.

You can download a copy of the Polar OwnIndex® chart,  which gives you an indication of your level of fitness, based on age and gender.

More…

Heart Rate Variability (HRV)

Overtraining is a major worry for those who train hard and often, as it may take many months to years to recover. Fortunately, overtraining can be predicted (controversial) by some high quality heart rate monitors and appropriate apps, which are able to sense small variations in resting heart rate and heart rate variability, the variation in the time difference between peaks,  from day to day. In general, HRV decreases with overtraining and resting heart rate increases.

These apps (see previous post)  can measure your HRV, in a few minutes prior to each day’s training, and advise whether you need a rest day for recovery, or whether you are making real progress. They are sensitive enough to be able to detect an approaching illness, changes in stress level, over-training and even variation in diet, if coupled with a high quality heart rate sensor (eg BlueTooth Polar H7); far more reliable and sensitive than the Tanita body composition scales I had been using until now to measure fitness trends.

These apps are widely used by athletes and professional sports people and have a lot of sports science research to back up their reliability claims. In the few days, since I have been measuring HRV, I have found these apps  easy and quick to use and that they produce results consistent with my subjective assessment.

While trends on their own are useful, they are much more valuable if the trends can be correlated with changes in activity, diet, stress, training load etc. and several of these apps allow this “environmental” data to be logged simultaneously. Other apps such as Precision Pulse, allow training load to be calculated objectively, using the TRIMP method. Without an accurate measurement of your training load, a meaningful assessment of the trend is difficult.

More….

Maximum Heart Rate (HRmax)

 If you are using a heart rate monitor to adjust your training load then you need to know your maximum heart rate (HRmax), as it is essential measurement to determine your training zones. This can be estimated by a formula, but the actual value (as measured by a heart rate stress test) will vary in the range ± 20 bpm for most people.

Many smartphone apps use one of these formulae to calculate your HRmax, but usually offer the opportunity to enter a user value, if you have had it measured accurately.

During my training sessions of about 4 km, which include a 200m climb and a similar descent, my maximum heart rate reaches an average of about 82% of my HRmax (162 for myself) and my average heart rate is about 63% of HRmax.

More…

Resting Heart Rate (HRrest)

This is usually measured after 15-20 minutes of lying down, before your day starts. If you are using a HRM, wait until it stabilises. The value depends upon fitness, stress, diet and health status, which varies on a daily basis. Very low HRrest may indicate a heart abnormality in someone who is not an athlete.

 As you get fitter your resting heart rate should get lower. My average HRrest is 44, but varies daily  between 40 and 49. An increase of more than few beats can indicate that your are over-training, but there are many other possible explanations, hence this measurement on its own has limited value.

Heart Recovery Rate (HRrec)

Heart rate recovery, a measure of the drop in heart rate when you stop exercising, is considered an excellent measure of fitness, with a more rapid drop indicating a higher level of fitness. After 30 minutes, your heart rate should have returned to its pre-exercise value, and if greater than 120 after 5 minutes, you have probably pushed yourself too hard. Walking slowly (cool down) for 5 minutes after stopping exercise is advised to increase recovery and reduce heart stress.

An alternative method involves taking your pulse during exercise and then again 1 minute after cessation. Divide the difference by 10 to get the Recovery Rate Number.

  • Outstanding greater than 6
  • Excellent 4-6
  • Good 3-4
  • Fair 2-3
  • Poor less than 2

You should consult a doctor if it is 1.2 or lower, as there is a potential heart risk.

The recovery rate is independent of age, but is linked to fitness and heart mortality.

More….

Orthostatic Heart Rate (OHR)

Your heart rate increases when you stand, and this increase is usually in the range 15-20 bpm. If it is greater than this you have probably not recovered from training the previous day, are under stress or have an illness approaching.  This can be used as a rough guide to your fitness, as the lower this figure, the fitter your heart.

Measurements should be made after 15 minutes resting in a supine position (HRrest) and then again 15 seconds after standing, or alternatively just take the maximum reached after standing.

Alternatively, the difference between the your resting HR and standing HR  can be recorded over a few weeks and the average used as a guide to decide the meaning of each day’s measurement and how to vary your training. My average difference (OHR) is 14 but varies widely between 6 and 31 depending on whether I have over-reached or have an illness approaching.

More…

Heart Rate Training Zones

There are many apps and web sites that allow you to calculate your heart rate zones, if you know your resting pulse and maximum heart rate. If you don’t already know this, you can allow the app to estimate it from your age. Polar have a free app Polar Beat which can monitor your training while it is actually happening and store the results, but I prefer to use Walkmeter, as it gives excellent voice (Australian) feedback during the walk and  can be controlled with the remote.

Typically 60-70% of HRmax is your fat burning and recovery zone, 70-80% is your aerobic zone, 80-90% is your anaerobic zone, and 90-100% is reserved for interval training. Depending on your reasons for training, it is important to keep within the correct zones, otherwise all your efforts can be wasted

One of the main limitations of this method is that heart rate varies depending on dehydration (+ 7.5%), heat and humidity (+10 bpm), altitude (+10-20%) and natural biological variation (± 2-4 bpm). BrianMac

More…

Related Posts

Bushwalking Fitness | Pt 1 Smart Phone Apps to Fine Tune your Bushwalk Training  
Bushwalking Fitness | Pt 3 My Choice of Smartphone Apps for Fitness Training
Other Fitness Posts

Some more references

Bushwalking Fitness (14)
Training with iThlete
Maximum Heart Rate (BrianMAC)
Heat Rate Training Zones (BrianMAC)
More about the Polar Fitness Test 
Heart rate training limitations 
What Makes a Difference in Heart Rate Recovery Time After a Workout?
How Long After Working Out Does Your Heart Rate Return to Base?

  Creative Commons LicenseThis article by Bush Walker is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Bushwalking Fitness | Pt 1 Smart Phone Apps to Fine Tune your Bushwalk Training

Have you ever wondered whether you’re actually getting fitter for bushwalking? Are you over-training? Should you skip a training session due to illness or stress? Would a heart rate monitor (HRM) help? Can a smartphone replace a wrist HRM? Which smartphone apps are available to help?

Most of us judge whether we are getting fitter by subjectively assessing our level of tiredness/soreness/shortness of breadth after a strenuous walk or by trying objectively to beat our PB (personal best) on a fixed route. We may even use a smartphone app such as Walkmeter, Polar Beat, or Precision Pulse to record our training sessions, and hopefully progress.

Polar Beat

 We may think that spending more time training and climbing steeper slopes (ie increasing volume and intensity) will help, but that is not always so. Sometimes we can over-train which will be detrimental to our performance, sometimes setting back our progress for months. There are affordable smartphone apps than can help prevent over-training. (eg HRV4training, iThlete, bioForce HRV)

iThlete

Heart rate monitors have recently become affordable, with iPhone and Android apps costing only a few dollars now, replacing expensive wrist watches worth hundreds of dollars. All your need is a smart phone with a camera, and with some persistence, and a lot of trial and error, you may not even need a chest belt with heart rate sensor. (NB: some user comments, supported by my own experience, suggest that this method is often inaccurate, so I would recommend using a Bluetooth HR sensor such as the Polar H7.)

Heart rate monitors are able to measure a wide variety of heart variables that are very useful indicators of your fitness:

  • heart rate variability (HRV); time variation between your heart beats
  • resting heart rate  (HRrest): your minimum heart rate, when lying down, at rest
  • heart rate recovery (HRrec): the number of beats  your heart rate drops in a minute after reaching a peak, following intense exercise.
  • heart rate orthostatic (HRortho): measures the difference between HRrest and the maximum rate achieved on standing (or after 15 seconds)
  • aerobic capacity (VO2max): can be estimated by doing a Polar “fitness test”

The measuring of these variables was once solely in the domain of exercise physiologist using equipment worth many thousands of dollars, but then in 1983 Polar developed a chest strap with heart rate sensor (transmitter) and wrist receiver.  Heart rate monitoring (HRM) became relatively affordable for most athletes, with the cost dropping to a few hundred dollars.

In the last few years, with the development of the iPhone 4S or 5, which both have Bluetooth, wrist worn receivers are no longer necessary, with the smartphone taking over this job. iPhone apps able to perform as well as equipment once worth thousands of dollars, now cost less that $10 with some even free. Equivalent Android apps are coming on the market at a rapid rate. Chest sensors to monitor heart rate cost less than $100.

We have all seen professional athletes wearing heart rate and GPS transmitters, during sports. The science is well developed and much of this knowledge is now applicable to bushwalking.

The next post (Bushwalking Fitness | Pt 2. Using a Heart Rate Monitor and a Smartphone to Measure Fitness Variables ) in this series looks in more detail at the important fitness variables which can be measured by a smartphone and heart rate sensor and how they might be used to fine tune your training.

The final post Bushwalking Fitness | Pt 3 My Choice of Smartphone Apps for Fitness Training answers the questions:

Which apps should I choose to monitor my fitness? How should they be integrated? How should I fine tune my training, using the data collected?

  Creative Commons LicenseThis article by Bush Walker is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.