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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

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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?

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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?

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Bushwalking Fitness | Stretches for Bushwalkers

Which muscles do bushwalkers use? Which are the appropriate static and dynamic stretches for bushwalkers to do? How should I perform each stretch?

Disclaimer: I have no training in sports medicine nor am I an elite athletics coach, so the advice given below should be discussed with a professional and modified to suit your age and fitness, or you can read the links to the research I have provided and decide for yourself.

Here are some of important muscles used in bushwalking, although most experts will tell you that bushwalking with a pack and walking poles gives just about all muscles a thorough workout.

  • Glutes: support body weight plus pack
  • Quadriceps: descending
  • Hamstrings: more important for bush walkers than runners
  • Calves: intensity of use varies with terrain, climbing
  • Abdominals: assist with posture, help you avoid back injury, stabilise pack
  • Middle and upper back muscles: stop pack swinging from side to side
  • Lower Back: for lifting and loading the pack
  • Obliques: scrambling
  • Ankle and Knee Complex: support body and pack weight
  • Inside and Outside Thigh
  • Hips: support body and pack weight
  • Neck (trapezius): support the pack weight via shoulder straps

Source: Fitness Blender Calories Burned Hiking – What Muscles are used in Hiking?

iMuscle is a great iPhone/iPad/laptop app which shows all the muscle groups and exercises associated with them.

Here are a selection of stretches for both before and after a bushwalk, recommended by three highly regarded fitness websites. Use the links provided, in the first column, to see how to do them or download one of the recommended posters or brochures, which I have cross-referenced. A search within YouTube for the particular stretch, will produce some excellent videos. You only need to select 5-10 minutes worth, and can vary these from session to session.

Many experts say that pre-exercise stretches should mimic the actions about to be performed (sports-specific) to get maximum value, while others says that each of the muscle groups should be stretched (generic). As most muscles groups are involved in bushwalking, especially with poles, I have adopted a generic, whole body dynamic warm up, as seen above, which can be done in 6 minutes, with no equipment.

  • While learning this dynamic stretch routine, you can download and play this video on your smartphone or tablet.If 6 mins is too short, you can repeat the routine or add some of the dynamic stretches below.
  • Take care when selecting dynamic stretches from websites/posters/brochures as some are really static stretches (held at maximum extension) rather than dynamic.
  • After your walk, when you are thoroughly warm, you  should select some of the static stretches from the list below. Some will be more appropriate in an outdoors setting and others should be selected to target specific areas of soreness.
  • For a sample training session, see my previous post. Bushwalking Fitness | Planning a Training Session

Click the links below to see either a photo or video of the stretch.

Dynamic Stretches, during warm up, after a low intensity 5 min walk.
Type
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
Pointers
D
D
D
D
D
D
Static Stretches, during cool down, after a 2-5 minute slow walk.
Type
Peak performance
S
S
S
S
S
S
S
S
S
S
S
S
S
S
S
Hamstring Stretch (1) (2) (3)
S
Calf Stretch (1) (3)
S
S
Abductor Stretch (1) (2) (3)
S
S
S
S
S
S=Static Stretch for during cool down D=Dynamic stretch for during warm up

References

Stretching posters and pamphlets

  1. Start Stretching Guidelines Poster (2 pages) (American Heart Association)
  2. Fact Sheet 3 Warm Up Guidelines (4 pages) (SmartPlay http://www.smsa.asn.au)
  3. Sports Medicine Australia Warm Up (poster) (SmartPlay smartplay.com.au)

Muscles in hiking

Brian Mac

About.com (moderated)

Peak Performance

Related posts

Bushwalking Fitness | Is stretching a waste of time?
Bushwalking Fitness | Planning a training session
Bushwalking Fitness (9)

Bushwalking Fitness | Planning a Bushwalk Training Session

What are the essential components of a bushwalking training session? Why are warm ups and cool down important? What types of stretching should be used and when? 

Disclaimer: I have no training in sports medicine nor am I an elite athletics coach, so the advice given below should be discussed with a professional and modified to suit your age and fitness, or you can read the links to the research I have provided and decide for yourself.

This post is to alert bushwalkers to recent changes in the advice given by sports coaches and researchers and to offer some safe alternatives, which can be incorporated in training sessions for bushwalkers, leading to more enjoyable bushwalking.

 Controversy

 In the 80’s, coaches and sports medicine practitioners were recommending static stretches before exercise as a way of preventing injuries and muscles soreness. Unfortunately, this incorrect advice is now incorporated into the pre-walk routines of many bushwalkers.

Recent research has shown that static stretches before exercise don’t prevent muscle soreness or injuries and can actually be counter-productive by reducing the explosive power of major muscles, for as long as several hours after the stretching.

Essential components

If you wish to reduce muscle soreness and injuries, the most important thing  you should do before exercise is to warm up fully and only once this has been done, attempt some dynamic stretches. 

Dynamic stretching increases range of movement, blood and oxygen flow to soft tissues prior to exertion. Increasingly coaches and sports trainers are aware of the role in dynamic stretching in improving performance and reducing the risk of injury. (Wikipedia)

Traditionally stretching before exercise has been static  (ie held for 10 – 60 seconds at maximum contraction), but more recently dynamic stretches, typically swings and lunges, have become favored, as they mimic more closely the actions which occur naturally in the activity and can be considered part of the warm-up. During the controlled swing, the maximum stretch is reached but is not held and this is then repeated in a fluid motion. These are the sorts of activities you see Olympic runners and swimmers doing just before they reach the starting blocks.

After strenuous exercise, low intensity cool down exercises, involving the muscles just used, such as slow walking, are essential to remove metabolic products such as lactic acid from the muscles, to return the body to a pre-exercise levels, to reduce muscle soreness and aid in quick recovery.

 Static stretching can be used as part of the cool down as it stretches tightened and contracted muscles back to original size, and in so doing produces a feeling of relaxation. For those over 65 years, this is the ideal opportunity to increase flexibility, without the risk of injury, as the body is already warm.

Example of a Training Program for Bushwalking (Thanks Jarrad)

Warm up

This may take more than 5 minutes initially, but this will soon decrease with familiarity. Once you have completed the dynamic warm up, try some light repetitive exercise eg walking up and down stairs 10 times just prior to stepping off for your walk. Alternatively, commence your training session at a slow pace and low intensity for the first few hundred metres.

Your training walks

Logically, your training sessions should exercise all the muscles you will be using on your walk. In a gym environment, it is difficult to know which muscles to exercise and upon which to give more focus, but when actually walking this all happens automatically.

If your aim is to walk off-track with a heavy pack, in hilly, rough terrain then that’s the training you should do. If you intend walking on the flat with a light day pack then that’s how you should exercise.  Training off-track has the additional benefits of developing balance, and adding interest to what can be repetitive and boring.  Balance is an often ignored attribute of a good walker, and can have a major impact on speed of movement and safety.

Don’t forget to build up slowly: increasing either distance or speed a little each day, beginning on the flat and increasing the steepness of the terrain, and adding weight to your backpack at regular intervals, when you feel you have reached your maximum speed.

Unfortunately not everybody has access to a suitable training environment, so your gym programme will need to exercise all the muscle groups you will be using, developing the balance and strength that climbing on rough terrain automatically produces. I highly recommend that you incorporate a Pilates or yoga class or two, as they incorporate stretches which focus on the core muscles so essential for balance and carrying a backpack.

Cool downs

  • 3 -5 min slow walk
  • 5 -10 min Static Stretches (eg www.brianmac.co.uk/stretch.htm)
  • Refuel: both fluid and easily digestible food (eg fruit or sport drink)

Once, again Brian Mac has a number of very good stretches that should be conducted after exercising. The longer you can hold a stretch for, without bouncing, the more benefit you will gain. To start with hold a stretch for about 20-30 sec and conduct each stretch twice. Those over 65 years, may need to hold for 60 seconds to get maximum benefit.

Another site which is also very helpful is:

http://www.topendsports.com/medicine/stretches/index.htm

It has pretty much the same stretches as the Brian Mac site, and maybe a few alternatives if you find that some of the stretches are hurting etc.

References:

Brian Mac

About.com

Peak Performance

Related posts 

Bushwalking Fitness | Is stretching a waste of time?
Bushwalking Fitness | Stretches for Bushwalkers
Bushwalking Fitness (9)

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    Bushwalking Fitness | Is stretching a waste of time?

    Is static stretching a waste of time? Does static stretching before exercise prevent muscle soreness and injury? Can static stretching beforehand reduce power during a bushwalk?

    With a couple of  almost 3000m Canadian mountains (Mt.Begbie near Revelstoke and Mt Tupper near Roger’s Pass) to climb in September, and with the festive season having played havoc with my fitness, I have again made my annual New Year’s resolution to improve my fitness.

    Mt Begbie, Revelstoke (© goldenscrambles.ca)
    Mt Tupper, Rogers Pass (© Selkirk Mountain Experience)

    My usual weekly keep-fit regime involves 3 or 4,  45 – 60 minute walks on rugged and hilly tracks near my home, interspersed with a Pilates class or two, and as I approach a major bushwalk/climb, 1 or 2 bushwalk-specific weight resistance sessions at my local gym. In hot weather, I cool down after  my morning walk with a 1 km swim.

    While annual gym fees are substantial, cutting back on my wine consumption by a glass a day, more than pays for the cost! This training schedule may seem excessive to some, but I’ve found that to enjoy a bush walk, and in some cases a 10-12 hour day with a heavy pack, that a high level of fitness is needed. As I get older, it takes more effort to reach and maintain the same level of fitness.

    Training Route, Brownhill (3.83 km)

    I find that, as I usually train on my own, I need some incentive to improve and for this I  use the highly regarded iPhone app Walkmeter which enables me to compare my times from walk to walk and from stage to stage within the walk. It even allows me to select background music with appropriate BPM (beats per minute) and gives me feedback throughout the walk as to how I rate compared with my best, median and worst times at key points ( see map above) along this route. All of these statistics, including calories burnt, can be viewed online , exported to Google Earth (kml or gpx files) or shared with your training partner.

    As I have been noticing a little calf muscle soreness during these walks, I thought I would investigate if a stretching regime could help. To my surprise, I found that the benefits of stretching were rather controversial.

    Researchers Robert Herbert, Ph.D., and Marcos de Noronha, Ph.D. of the University of Sydney conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of 10 previously published studies of stretching either before or after athletic activity. They concluded that stretching before exercise doesn’t prevent post-exercise muscle soreness. They also found little support for the theory that stretching immediately before exercise can prevent either overuse or acute sports injuries.  (When to Stretch – Experts Recommend Static Stretching After Exercise ©2013 About.com. All rights reserved.)

    Part 2 of this post outlines a bushwalk training session which has been designed for me by a professional trainer and includes a warm up with dynamic stretches, training walk, and a cool down including static stretches.

    Other Bushwalk Fitness related posts (9)

    Bushwalking Fitness
    Bushwalking Fitness | Stretches for Bushwalkers
    Bushwalking Fitness | Planning a Bushwalk Training Session

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    Bushwalking Fitness | Pt 4 Motivate Yourself to Train by Monitoring Fitness Levels

    How do you motivate yourself to do daily exercise and maintain the fitness levels so necessary for multi-day bushwalks in mountainous terrain? How can you monitor your fitness and see the improvement?

     I have just come back from two weeks in NZ, one week of which included carrying a 25-30kg pack with all my mountaineering gear, in addition to my normal bushwalking gear and food up and down 2400m high mountains. I am glad I spent almost a year getting fit, because with early starts (4.30 am) and long days (11 hours) pushing knee deep through soft snow, not only was strength needed, but also endurance.

    My strongest motivator was to monitor my weight and fitness levels on a daily basis and seek inspiration from the long term trends, using a combination of my smartphone training app (iPhone Walkmeter), body composition monitor (Tanita InnerScan), and Polar wristwatch fitness test. In addition, I joined my local gym, when they had a special discounted rate, and they monitored my attendance, sending me an email or phoning when I missed too many sessions. I was able to see progress during these sessions too.

    My Walkmeter iPhone app has been used by me on almost every training walk I have done over the last year. It has enabled me to set up training routes and see the improvement in my times over the year. I love the way it speaks to  me during the session and tells me how I am going compared to my best, median and worst efforts on the route, or if I wished, other “competitors” at regular intervals along the walk. My competitive spirit soon had me trying to beat my best! When I repeated the route, it enabled me to compare lap times or perhaps just record times at intermediate stages eg my turn around point. If I wanted to share my progress on Google Maps with others I could have used email, Facebook or Twitter to update them every few minutes and receive feedback.

    Walkmeter iPhone app main screen

    The main screen can be customised. Mine currently shows

    • Route name
    • Activity: walk, cycle, run etc
    • Walk Time
    • Distance
    • Speed
    • Time remaining
    • From best
    • Remaining distance

    At the bottom of the screen, there are buttons for

    • Stopwatch: the start up screen
    • Map: uses Google maps and your inbuilt GPS
    • Calendar: with icons showing whether it was your best, median or worst time. This shows summaries* on a weekly, monthly or yearly basis.
    • Routes: shows history of time and speed and a leaderboard
    • Graphs: speed and elevation
    • Zones: monitor heart rate, bike speed and cadence with sensors
    • Remote control: using your audio cord buttons
    • Competitors: import your competitors or training partners data
    • Twitter, Facebook and email updates

    * Summaries show: Count, Total distance, Total walk time, Total ascent and descent, Total calories, Average walk time, Average walk distance, Average speed, Fastest speed, Average calories, etc

    Tanita Innerscan Body Monitor

    My Tanita Innerscan has enabled me to monitor my weight on a daily basis and at the same time using the electrodes built into the base plate to measure Weight, Body Fat %, Body Water %, Daily Caloric Intake, Metabolic Age, Bone Mass, Muscle Mass, Physique Rating, and Visceral Fat Rating.  I have found the Metabolic Age to be the most useful, as this measurement has  correlated well with my fitness level measured using my Polar wristwatch. You must measure at the same time each day to achieve comparable results.

    During the year, my metabolic age went from 44 years to 35 years, my weight from 82 kg to 77 kg, and  my body fat % from 21.6  to 18.2. I found these results a pleasing confirmation that my training sessions were achieving what I had hoped.

    My Polar wristwatch was used initially to monitor my heart rate to make sure that I was exerting myself enough to improve my fitness. It soon revealed that walking on the flat, even at my maximum speed, was not going to improve my fitness much, so I was soon climbing the hills nearby. Without realising the inadequacies of training on the flat, I would  never have achieved my goals.

    Initially I set up the in-built programs to decide my training program and monitor my fitness, but soon found that I could not customise the programs sufficiently to match my training sessions, which were largely determined by my immediate environment ie steep roads, hills climbs with steep descents, and flat walking tracks.

    Its most valuable feature was its ability to detemine aerobic fitness (VO2) levels to a high degree of accuracy, but simply attaching the heart rate monitor and resting for 5 mins, while it did some sophisticated analysis. Reading the literature shows that the readings it provided closely correlated with those measured by highly sophisticated laboratory testing equipment.

    Over the year, my fitness level, as measured by my Polar watch, went from 46 to 52 (VO2 ml/kg/min) which meant that I had improved  from that of an elite 50-59 year old to that of an elite 20-29 year old. Great positive reinforcement!

    The training sessions and the pain had all been worthwhile!

    WARNING:  Try to make the speed at which you are walking as realistic as possible (3-5 kph) by gradually increasing the weight you are carrying as you get fitter. Walking at too high a speed produces unnnatural leg and arm actions which can lead to soreness and don’t really help your fitness. I monitored my speed using Walkmeter and whenever it got too high or plateaued I added some more weight.

    Eight additional  fitness posts available in this blog

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    Bushwalking Fitness | My Bushwalk Training Music

    To be able to successfully train for bushwalking using background music, you must first select music with a range of suitable BPM and then be able to vary the BPM depending on terrain. Find out how to do this, get some iPhone app recommendations and my iTunes playlist.

    Firstly it is important to realise that choice of music  for bushwalking training is a very personal matter. Everyone’s playlist will be different and depends on their age and musical upbringing. Mine covers pop, country, metal, R&B, reggae, but mainly rock from the 60’s to the present.

    While I may like the drum beat of a rock band, someone else might like the trombone of a Bavarian oom-pah band to pace themselves. For others, the regular beat of a metronome may be sufficient.

    The essential selection criteria for me were:

    • enjoyable
    • distinctive beat
    • suitable range of BPM ( beats per minute) for my hilly terrain

    I have published my iTunes Bushwalk Training playlist (80-140 BPM) so you can check out my choices by playing a short clip.

    This playlist is for use during bushwalk training over hilly terrain, with walking speeds between 2 – 7 km/hr. Music tracks were selected because they had a distinctive beat (BPM) between 80 and 140 and because I had the songs already. They cover pop, country, metal, R&B, reggae, but mainly rock from the 60’s to the present.

    I used MIxMeister BPM Analyser (Mac), Beat Monitor and Cadence Run DJ (iPhone apps) to select suitable music. Remember that the first section of many tracks has a different BPM than the remainder, so the first 30 seconds may not be a good guide.

    Read other related articles on bushwalking fitness.

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    Bushwalking Fitness | Using Music BPM to Maintain Your Training Rhythm and Intensity

    Find your training regime is a little too boring? Want to train to music but don’t know how to select suitable music? Not sure what BPM ( beats per minute)  you need?

    Many people enjoy walking while listening to music but I must admit I have seldom felt the need. I enjoy looking around, listening to the birds and enjoying the solitude or chatting with fellow walkers.

    Now for serious training, I have recently changed my mind. When I am struggling up and down my local “mountains” carrying a 15 kg pack,  I need all the assistance I can get to stay focussed and keep in rhythm.

    To do this, requires careful selection of the music; just any old music won’t do, even if it is my favourite rock genre. There is no point listening to music which has a slower rhythm than that of your walking or is so fast that you can’t keep up and lose rhythm.

    Fortunately there is low cost ( FREE) software available for your computer and iPhone which allow you to analyse your favourite music and work out the beats per minute (BPM). Once you know this you can select suitable music for each of the stages of your walk eg slower uphill , medium on the flat, and faster downhill.

    Selecting the right BPM depends on the slope you are walking along not just your speed eg 5 km/hr along the flat will have have a different number of paces per minute than 5 km downhill, since your stride length will vary. It is of course possible to walk fast on the spot.

    While there are guides available the final decision will depend on your preferences, how your walk, whether you use poles, and the terrain. Analyse some of your favourite music and then arrange the music by BPM before transferring to your iPod or smart phone. Then as you walk skip from track to track until you find a suitable BPM. Back at home, group similar tracks with the same BPM together as playlists, named 80-99, 100-119, etc. When you are walking you can then swap between playlists as the slope varies or you wish to change the intensity of your workout.

    Alternatively, use a pedometer for each stage of your walk to determine steps per minute
     and select appropriate music from your list. Even better, use an iPhone app Cadence to select suitable BPM from your play list without needing to group them at all and easily up or down the BPM to suite the terrain or intensity.

    If you search the Web you can find playlists available for download for walking, jogging and running, but there is nothing that compares to your own music.

    Next time: selecting suitable genres for training, and some of my selections.

    See related fitness posts

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    Bushwalking Fitness | Pt 3 Getting Fit for a Multi-day Hike in Mountainous Terrain

    Do you need to prepare for multi-day hike, when you will be carrying a heavy pack, in mountainous terrain with long days? Are you a little overweight and a little unfit? Is you endurance and cardiovascular fitness lower than you would like? Want some ideas on how to improve these?

     Disclaimer: I am not a fitness trainer and hence the ideas I give here are from my personal experience, from my own research and from advice I have received from qualified trainers. Please consult you doctor and qualified fitness trainer before undergoing any intense fitness program or adopting the ideas I have outlined.
    What fitness improvements will I need?

    You will need to strengthen your leg joints and back, strengthen quadriceps (thighs) and improve aerobic fitness, agility and endurance.

    Components:

    • cardiovascular fitness 80%
    • motor fitness  20% : strength, power, endurance, agility, flexibility

    When should I start training?

    Ideally you should start improving your fitness 6 – 12 months beforehand, although an intensive program with a personal trainer can produce significant improvement over a much shorter period of 6-8 weeks, but may only reach 80% of what is  achievable over a longer period.

    What sort of training will I need?

    “Mountaineering is primarily an aerobic activity. Strength is important for lifting a pack, but it is more important to build up your aerobic fitness level and stamina for long climbing days. Aerobic fitness can only be improved over months – so start your training program now.” Fitness for Mountaineering (Alpine Guides)

    As you come close to the time for your climbing trip try to use a few weekends to load up with a 7-10 kg pack and walk all day (8 hours), up and down hills, if possible, to work on endurance.

     It is universally agreed the the best training for any activity is to train by doing the activity. If you want to climb mountains, then train by climbing mountains. Unfortunately, not all of us have mountains near us, so we are forced out on to the roads and into gyms.

    “Look for types of exercise that improve aerobic fitness. Anything that uses your legs and raises heart rate increases stamina: walking (with intent), stair climbing, jogging, mountain biking, step machines, ski machines, rowing machines are all useful. Try exercise that most resembles climbing. Hill running is effective because it is weight-bearing and strengthens bones.” Fitness for Mountaineering (Alpine Guides)

    If you are going to be wearing a heavy pack, start wearing a pack early in your training  at least once a week and perhaps as many as three and gradually build up to your eventually carrying capacity.  If you are going to require endurance with long days and heavy loads train with this in mind.

    Bushwalking, along narrow rocky tracks, over tree roots and along rocky ridges, with a high level of exposure, requires a high level of agility so don’t ignore balance exercises. Of course if you train in rough terrain you will by necessity be practising agility as you train.

    Any training you do however should include a warm up and warm down and incorporate stretching and rest days, which you should use to recover by exercising at 50-60% of your MHR* ( maximum heart rate) which can be calculated by taking your age from 220.

    Many people believe that interval training, short periods of intensive effort interspersed with more moderate levels, is very effective and often much more effective than just increasing the volume of your training. They suggest that you start interval training 3-4 months into your program and use this method once or twice a week in the last two  months.

    In general, the intensity of your exercise needs to be in the range 65-85% of MHR.

    How many sessions a week do I need.

     Aerobic fitness will require 4-5 sessions a week of 30-45 mins each.

    The following program, provided by my local gym,  may or not be suitable for  you.  It is based upon my personal requirements, based on age and fitness level, my goals and my trainers personal preferences. I am sure there are many other alternatives.

    My goal is to be able to walk into a hut over mountainous terrain carrying a 15-25 kg pack, and then carry a 15 kg pack for up to 12 hours while climbing 1300 m up then down i.e equivalent to Mt Aspiring in NZ or Mt Blanc. A high level of agility will required to cross crevasses, scramble up some steep snow ramps (40-60°) and perhaps climb up and over steeper rock with a high level of exposure.

    The program includes:

    3 sessions hill climbing
    1 Pilates session to help strengthen my lower back and core
    1 interval training (cardio) session to build up endurance
    1 weights session to build upper body strength.
    1 rest* day per week

    The cardio session includes:

    • bike: interval training session,  level 7, 1 min at 75-80 rpm, 30 sec at max rpm
    • treadmill: 6 kph at 9% grade, gradually build up grade as fitness improves, 3-5 reps, no rest

    For Strength and toning:

                                                 Sets  Repetitions Weight

    • Chest Press                  3         10               40
    • Lat Pulldown                3         10              40
    • Leg Press                     3         10               60
    • Triceps Pushdown     3         10               30
    • Bicep Curl                 3           10               30
    • Front Raise                3           10               5 kg
    • Lateral Raise             3           10              4  kg
    • Lower Back                           100
    • Leg Raise                  3            20

    How will I know if I am fit enough?

    You should be able to hike 300 m uphill in less than an hour with a 12 kg pack.

    Read other posts on fitness I have recently written.

    References:

    RMI Training Recommendations ( pdf download)
    An RMI Guide Shares his Views on Training (pdf download)
    Training for climbing, trekking and skiing…. ( IcicleUK.com)

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