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Rick M
(rmjapan) - F

Locale: Tokyo, Japan
Fitness Monitors? on 11/28/2013 16:56:40 MST Print View

Appreciate some input from the BPL membership.

I *think* I would like to incorporate a fitness monitor into my training program to measure my progress. Never have used one before so not sure what I should get. I searched for some reviews and frankly, many just seemed like infomercials and some seem to be a bit over-the-top geeky. Perhaps just something that could track the distance, time, and heart rate. I don't fancy having to wear a chest strap device and I don't use a smartphone now, but probably eventually will end up with one. But it might be useful to have a device that can store and transfer data to my laptop or iPad. I already wear a Casio multi-function C/A/B wristwatch so I don't want a device to duplicate those functions if possible. Don't want to spend a lot either. Maybe ~$50 at most. TIA

Steve Meier
(smeier) - MLife

Locale: Midwest
Fitbit on 11/28/2013 17:41:39 MST Print View

The Fitbits are pretty cool. Measures steps, distance and flights of steps and syncs wirelessly with their website. Doesn't measure heart rate. MapMyWalk is an awesome app that monitors distance and speed in 15 minute increments. Also MapMyRun and MapMyHike. I use the app constantly, although it will burn through your phone battery pretty quick as the GPS function of the phone is constantly on.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Fitness Monitors? on 11/28/2013 19:02:39 MST Print View

If you don't need some whizzy device to test by, and all you need is a standard test, then the Harvard Step Test has been around for a long time.

http://www.brianmac.co.uk/havard.htm

I went on one trip where each participant had to have a certain score on this test in order to sign up.

--B.G.--

Ito Jakuchu
(jakuchu) - MLife

Locale: Japan
vo2max on 11/28/2013 22:55:50 MST Print View

I was curious too. Don't have a conclusion about a device, but came upon this article that might be of interest.
http://www.outsideonline.com/fitness/endurance-training/The-Single-Fitness-Stat-You-Need-to-Know.html?page=all

Mike W
(skopeo) - F

Locale: British Columbia
Measuring fitness... on 11/29/2013 00:25:00 MST Print View

I don't know of an easy way of measuring your fitness level while hiking but if you have access to a concept2 rowing machine (most gyms have them) then you can row 2K at the beginning of your training session and then go back every few weeks and try again and watch for improvement. I use this calculator occasionally but I often incorporate indoor rowing in my training, so I don't know how it would be as a random test for other training methods. I suspect it would probably give you a pretty good baseline to monitor your progress, even if you are not used to rowing.

http://www.concept2.com/indoor-rowers/training/calculators/vo2max-calculator

hwc 1954
(wcollings) - M
Heart rate monitor on 11/29/2013 01:03:48 MST Print View

I'm not aware of any reliable way to track heart rate for fitness other than a chest strap.

You can buy a chest strap/watch combination (Timex, low end Polar, etc.) for under $50.

To add distance to the equation, there are two options. The first is a footpod that straps to your shoes and measures foot steps. These are reliable enough for steady walking. I doubt that they would be accurate for rough terrain hiking or mountain hiking because the footsteps are so inconsistent.

For heart rate and distance, you really want something like a Garmin GPS watch. Combines GPS tracking with chest strap heart rate monitor, all displayed on the watch and uploadable to the computer for later analysis and historical purposes (displays hikes on a map, etc.). Without shopping for what's out there right now, the starting price point for this kind of setup is somewhere around $150.

Rick M
(rmjapan) - F

Locale: Tokyo, Japan
Re: Measuring fitness... on 11/29/2013 01:28:56 MST Print View

Thanks for the replies so far. I like the low cost ideas for periodic fitness testing. Still not sure what I am looking for so let me elaborate.

My immediate goal is to speed up my hiking pace by Spring so I can keep up with my friend who consistently beats trail map times by 50%.

So far, my current training program consists of "hiking" the streets of Tokyo 10-15km a day/3-4 days a week and some irregular 8-story stair climbing in my building with some balance ball and overhead ladder exercises on other days.

As it is, I don't have a reliably and easy way to keep track of my progress. I seldom walk the same route twice just for variety so I want some way to continuously measure how far I have gone while out walking (pedometer?) while keep my pace at an aerobic level (pulse monitor?).

It might be useful if the device could record/store this data at timed intervals and I could download it to my PC for my records. It has to be easy and intuitive to use too. I get easily put off by kludgy UI with endless cycling thru menus and functions.

Edited by rmjapan on 11/29/2013 01:30:10 MST.

Stuart R
(Scunnered) - F

Locale: Scotland
Re: Fitness Monitors? on 11/29/2013 02:33:35 MST Print View

Before you decide what features you want, you need to realise how you actually monitor cardiovacular fitness. There are many methods, but two common methods are as follows:

1) You run (or walk or cycle or row or...) a fixed route whilst maintaining a constant heart rate and measure the time it takes.

2) You run (or walk etc) a fixed route at a constant speed and measure your average (or final) heart rate.

You repeat the test at regular intervals and look (hopefully) for improvement in the measured parameter. You can have one or two routes - one short and faster, one long and slower.

Both methods require a heart rate monitor and all practical heart rate monitors have a chest strap.
Method 2 also requires instantaneous speed measurement which adds significant cost. Footpods (a small accellerometer attached to your shoe) give a more accurate readout of instantaneous speed than GPS systems which either jump about a lot or have a long averaging time.

I have used both methods and while technology can be exciting, it is also a distraction. It's better to learn to listen to what your body is telling you.

Robert Blean
(blean) - MLife

Locale: San Jose -- too far from Sierras
Fitness Progress on 11/29/2013 02:51:20 MST Print View

Rick,

Your stated goal was to measure your progress. You also said you have an 8-story stair climb. Other posters have mentioned heart monitors, which tends to imply a chest strap.

Suggestions:

*) Measuring progress -- climb the 8 stories keeping your heart rate at some fixed value you are capable of maintaining, such as 70% of Heart Rate Reserve, measuring how long that takes you. As you progress, that will take you less and less time -- a measure that you are in fact progressing. An alternative, but more difficult, measure of progress would be that as you improve your conditioning the heart rate you can maintain steadily for 8 stories will increase.

*) Aerobic training -- it is quite easy to find suggestions for how to use a heart monitor to increase your aerobic conditioning -- a suitable mixture of aerobic recovery (base building) workouts, tempo workouts, and interval workouts. Look into that if you want a systematic program for increasing your aerobic conditioning. (Note: different "authorities" will have different opinions about some of that, so just go with whatever makes the most sense to you.)

Edited by blean on 11/29/2013 02:52:11 MST.

Rick M
(rmjapan) - F

Locale: Tokyo, Japan
Re: Fitness Monitors? on 11/29/2013 03:10:56 MST Print View

Thanks for the incites on fitness techniques Stuart and Robert.

What measuring gadgets do you use or recommend? THAT's the question I am asking.

Robert Blean
(blean) - MLife

Locale: San Jose -- too far from Sierras
Re: Re: Fitness Monitors? on 11/29/2013 03:43:12 MST Print View

I wanted a very simple monitor for myself, with a nice simple display. I have been very happy with a Polar FT1 -- currently on sale at Amazon for $34.89. A pretty basic heart monitor, but all you need to get started.

http://www.amazon.com/Polar-Heart-Rate-Monitor-Black/dp/B003HT88JQ/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1385721439&sr=8-1&keywords=Polar+FT1

Some of the endurance athletes in these forums, such as those who try to set new JMT records, may make good use of a fancier heart monitor. But for just plain basic conditioning, such as this thread is about, the one I suggested has all the features you need.

Disclaimer -- I have not looked to see whether it is less expensive elsewhere, or whether any better basic units have been introduced since I got my FT1. The one thing my FT1 lacks and that I wish it had is minimum heart rate -- at the time I was looking that was only available on fancier (and more expensive) devices than I wanted.

Edited by blean on 11/29/2013 03:51:14 MST.

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: Fitness Monitors? on 11/29/2013 06:40:13 MST Print View

A heart rate monitor is Very useful for following a training plan, and is nice, but not necessary, to assess fitness and progress.

As you improve your fitness your resting prone heart rate will go down, your times will go down, and your recovery rate will improve.

You need a "challenge", a watch, and a journal.

My "challenge" is a 3 mile hill that climbs 1200'. I walk up as fast/efficiently as I can. I track my time to the top. I track how long it takes my heart rate to drop below 100 after I stop. I track my morning heart rate, prone, before I get out of bed (one eye open, watching the sweep hand).

In the winters when there is to much ice I use a indoor rower. In the summers I'm also on a bike.

A side benefit to this approach is repeatability day-by-day, as well as year-by-year. Resting heart rate and recovery time will tell you everything you need to know.


Edit: Also, on a 10 day hike, when you wake up, check your heart rate. If it's "typical" be happy, if it high, back off a bit. When you get to the top of a pass, check your recovery. It's interesting to watch your "bounce back" as a trip progresses. No "monitor" required.

Edited by greg23 on 11/29/2013 07:19:38 MST.

Stuart R
(Scunnered) - F

Locale: Scotland
Re: Re: Fitness Monitors? on 11/29/2013 07:49:12 MST Print View

The first method I outlined needs only a very simple heart rate monitor - it must display current heart rate in large clear digits and it must have a stopwatch function. Virtually all modern heart rate monitors meet these criterion. This method was first developed 20+ years ago when all heart rate monitors were this simple. Many modern heart rate monitors add a lot of additional complexity that is not actually useful.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Fitness Monitors? on 11/29/2013 13:28:45 MST Print View

"Both methods require a heart rate monitor and all practical heart rate monitors have a chest strap. "

In order to continuously monitor your heart rate, that is correct. Otherwise, a tiny pulse-oximeter will squeeze onto your finger and show you heart rate and blood oxygen saturation, but that is practical only for intermittent use. The oximeter function is handy if you are operating at high elevation and you want to keep an awareness of your condition long before you collapse.

--B.G.--

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Heart rate monitor on 11/29/2013 14:14:34 MST Print View

> I'm not aware of any reliable way to track heart rate for fitness other than a chest strap.

Blimey - think a bit. If your heart is beating at 80/min, your arteries and veins will be pulsing at the same rate. That's how a nurse usually measures your pulse rate: at a vein in your wrist. KISS!

> For heart rate and distance, you really want something like a Garmin GPS watch.
> Combines GPS tracking with chest strap heart rate monitor, all displayed on the watch
> and uploadable to the computer for later analysis
What fantastic marketing spin! Come on: if you just want to get a rough check on your heart rate while running, who needs a GPS? Gross overkill. KISS!

Look on Google. There are hordes of cheap wrist-mounted pulse rate monitors around. Most of them include a watch so you can time your runs as well. And way under $50 too. You don't need NASA precision after all.

Cheers

Edited by rcaffin on 11/29/2013 14:15:43 MST.

hwc 1954
(wcollings) - M
Re: Re: Fitness Monitors? on 11/29/2013 14:20:56 MST Print View

To answer your question about what we use:

1) I started with a basic Hear Rate monitor. A Timex that is currently available from Amazon for $30:

Timex

It has a basic chest strap. Can be programmed with your own max heart rate so you can display your heart rate as either Beats Per Minute or Percentage of Max. It's easier to interpret % of Max while exercising, i.e. learn what 70% feels like, what 80% feels like, what 90% feels like, what 100% feels like (bad!).

It displays average heart rate and max heart rate and time for a workout.

And, it is has a recovery feature. Starting from a very high heart rate, press the recover button and it measures how much your heart rate falls in 60 seconds. This correlates very well with odds of men keeling over dead in the next five years.

If you prefer a Polar model, Look at the

Polar FT4

Or

Polar FT7

-------------

Wearing one of these when you exercise will teach you how your heart rate responds in ways that would be hard to completely explain. You'll learn what jacks your heart rate, how it recovers. What your resting heart rate is, etc. And, you'll notice how those things change over time.

BTW, I'm pretty sure that climbing flights of stairs in a tall building would drive your heart rate through the roof. Right after your legs start burning, the heart rate will skyrocket. The burning indicates a shortage of oxygen to the muscles and the heart beats faster to try to supply more oxygen.

One of the tricks I've learned in mountain hiking is to slow down enough while climbing to keep my heart rate down.

Edited by wcollings on 11/29/2013 14:21:43 MST.

hwc 1954
(wcollings) - M
Why didn't I think of that? on 11/29/2013 14:34:13 MST Print View

>> Blimey - think a bit. If your heart is beating at 80/min, your arteries and veins will be pulsing at the same rate. That's how a nurse usually measures your pulse rate: at a vein in your wrist. KISS!

Jeez, why didn't I think of that? Next time I'm scrambling up a steep trail with my heart rate pegged, panting like a dog, I'll be sure to grasp my wrist and try to count the pulses for 60 seconds while holding my trekking poles and trying not to slip! :)

For the $30 a cheapo heart rate watch/strap costs, it's a lot more convenient to just glance at the watch and see the heart rate instantly. I have worn one for every workout, walk, jog, hike for the last 3.5 years.

Can you grab your wrist and count pulses? Sure. Is it a viable approach for real time monitoring during hard physical exercise? Not really.

-------------

The original question added the requirement of "distance" to heart rate. For that, a GPS/heart rate combo watch is the most convenient way to record those two data streams -- although GPS may not be perfect in downtown Tokyo.

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: Why didn't I think of that? on 11/29/2013 16:52:36 MST Print View

"Can you grab your wrist and count pulses? Sure. Is it a viable approach for real time monitoring during hard physical exercise? Not really."

+1

If you are fit your heart rate will drop Real fast. Even with a 6 second count you will be way low.

Robert Blean
(blean) - MLife

Locale: San Jose -- too far from Sierras
Good resource? on 11/29/2013 18:19:51 MST Print View

It seems to me that the pro/anti HRM discussion is a lot like HYOH. Some find value in a HRM, while others prefer to avoid them.

It sounded as if the OP is looking for how best to do some systematic aerobic training. Does anyone have some good reading resources to suggest to him? Books? Internet references?

hwc 1954
(wcollings) - M
Heart rate drops quickly on 11/29/2013 18:52:44 MST Print View

>> If you are fit your heart rate will drop Real fast. Even with a 6 second count you will be way low.

Yeah. A fit 50 year old guy would see his heart rate drop by 30 beats per minute in the first 60 seconds after max exertion.

So, counting heart beats at the wrist for 60 seconds is really not going to give an accurate read on max heart rate.

--------------------

As for aerobic training for hiking....

from what I can tell, aerobic training is VERY activity specific. So, training for distance running doesn't translate that well to distance cycling or to distance swimming. For hiking in the White Mountains where I hike, I would say that climbing stairs would be pretty good training for the uphill bits. It's all about finding a a pace that you can maintain without jacking up the heart rate. But, there is a huge element of technique -- efficiently walking on rough, rocky trails -- especially on the downhill which is not that aerobically challenging. The limiting factor on the downhill is whatever pace that you can maintain without twisting an ankle!

City walking, or even smooth trail hiking, didn't translate at all to White Mountain hiking for me. It was actually a bit counterproductive because the quick steady cadence of that kind of walking didn't work at all on the rough trails. I had to learn to let the trail set my pace (which for me, is very, very slow!)