There are those folks who react to those of us who like to record and review our outdoor adventures by posting disparaging comments like, “Just ride the damn thing!” ( Implying that it is unnecessary to gather and work with data from program such as Strava, or Fitbit) that might take a pointers from the backpacking community, where ” Hike your own hike! ” is a well-know slogan. It translates to ” Do your own thing.”
Of course you can just ride ! You can also just walk and forgo the adoption of a technology such as a bicycle to get around in the woods.
It is motivating for me to set yearly performance goals, based on my own baselines. My goals for 2018 are amassing both 1,000 miles in riding my bike and another 1,000 in hiking. Here’s how I am doing:
Recording rides and hikes keeps me on track- I am not guessing about whether I rode or hiked enough this week.
Goal setting, along with cardiac monitoring through technology such as heart rate variability keeps me on track, and out of trouble, as I age along the path. My yearly physical took place this past week, with the blood work, prostate results, and cardiac markers all very favorable. Even my previously pathetic Vitamin D level skyrocketed into the outer limits.
Public communication about fitness goals and progress is consistently supported by science!
On 07/11/2018 I blogged: I’m tired of Taking Crap from People for Walking Fast. Myt post concluded that, “In the end, it is important to recognize the value of walking at any intensity and pace, but if you are able and willing to pick up the pace, even for short bursts of faster walking or hill work, it will result in increased bang for the walking buck.”
Here are two more recent references related to why you might consider increasing your walking speed:
This particular health article notes specific benefits to the left ventricle and coronary arteries found in Master’s athletes and individuals who have been regular and frequent exercisers for decades.
“For lifelong heart health, start exercising early in life and keep exercising often. But even if you have neglected to exercise and are now middle-aged, it is not too late.”
Similar benefits were replicated in a two year study that arrears to be solidly supported. Randomized groups were subjected to varying levels of frequency and intensity of exercise. They found that a sedentary group showed the usual effects of time, with heart muscles, particularly their left ventricles or chambers, shrunken and less powerful than in younger people. The same changes were evident in casual exercisers. However, men and women who had exercised at least four times a week for years, or in those who were masters’ athletes had left ventricles that looked and functioned much like those of people decades younger.
Amen is a bestselling neuroscientist, psychiatrist, and founder of the Amen Clinics. He’s particularly interested in preserving and even increasing blood flow, which turns out to be advantageous for folks experiencing memory decline as well as for individuals who re concerned about aging and fitness.
“The faster we walk as we age, the longer we live and the sharper we think. An 80 year old person who walks 1 mile per hour has only a 10% chance of living until 90. But if that same 80 year old moves faster, say at 3.5 miles an hour, her or she has an 84% chance of reaching 90. (1) As walking speed goes down, so do executive function and decision-making skills. If you haven’t walked at a faster pace for a long time, start slowly and work your way up safely.”
Stephanie Studenski et al, “Gait Speed and Survival in Older Adults”, ” Journal of the American Medical Association 305, no.1, (Jan. 2011): 50-58
It should be noted that Amen’s exercise recommendations for increasing blood flow include burst training ( intervals) , strength training, coordination activities, and mindful exercise.
I’m a hiker and a backpacker and I’m peeved when people react negatively to my speedy walking on trails.
Here’s what this is about: I’m descending a trail, trekking poles in hand and moving quickly. I am a heavy guy, around 200 pounds, and this much weight isn’t often the ticket to quick uphill climbs, but put me on a descent and I usually do better than most. Momentum helps! I also believe that my decades of off-road biking have trained me to discern sight lines that are the best for foot placement. It doesn’t happen often, but I have had folks tell me to slow down, or they might mutter a disparaging word or two as I hop my way past them. “Excuse me, but I can”.
And here’s a sample of citizen hiking-speed-police attitude that was only one of many reader comments from a recent national newspaper column on the added benefits of brisk walking: “What about the pleasures of feeling the breeze, watching the toddlers earnestly examining a leaf, marveling at the astonishing variety of canine life at the end of every leash? For heaven’s sake, enjoy your walks! It’s not a job, not a race to be run, it’s a walk. It feeds the human spirit. Chill out, people.” (Eleanor, CA) in reaction to Walk Briskly for Your Health. About 100 Steps a Minute. The New York Times by Gretchen Reynolds, June 27, 2018.
Auntie Mame hiking to Katahdin Lake
What do I mean by fast walking ?
A steady walk is 3 miles per hour. A brisk walk approaches 4 miles per hour.
A recent study looked at not just the total number of steps people took per day but also how quickly they took them. “Those who had a faster stepping rate had similar health outcomes—lower BMI and lower waist circumference—as those who took the most steps per day,” says John Shuna, Ph.D., one of the study authors. He recommends trying for a minimum of 100 steps per minute (roughly 2.5 to 3 miles per hour) or as brisk a pace as you can (135 steps per minute will get you up to about a 4 mph pace). Keeping up a conversation tops out for most folks at a speed over 3 miles per hour. Brisk walking ramps up the pace and results in a noticeable increase in breathing and starts for me anytime I walk over 3.5 miles per hour. Some very fit folks hit this level at 4 miles per hour on a flat terrain. The very fastest walkers are race walkers who are able to reach 5 to 6 miles per hour or even faster.
Research is showing that a faster walking practice results in prolonging your life. Walking at an average pace was linked to a 20% reduction in the risk of mortality compared with walking at a slow pace, while walking at a brisk or fast pace was associated with a risk reduction of 24%, according to a new study. The benefits of walking are far more dramatic for older walkers. Average pace walkers aged 60 years or over experienced a 46% reduction in risk of death from cardiovascular causes, and fast pace walkers a 53% risk reduction, the study found. These findings appear in a special issue of the British Journal of Sports Medicine dedicated to walking and health, edited by Emmanuel Stamatakis, at the University of Sydney’s Charles Perkins Centre and School of Public Health.
80+ year old hiker on Appalachian Trail in Maine
Even Consumer Reports recommends brisk walking.
“Another way to get more out of even a shorter walk is to do it faster. A recent study looked at not just the total number of steps people took per day but also how quickly they took them. “Those who had a faster stepping rate had similar health outcomes—lower BMI and lower waist circumference—as those who took the most steps per day,” says Schuna, one of the study authors. He recommends trying for as brisk a pace as you can (135 steps per minute will get you up to about a 4 mph pace).- Sally Wadyka, April 04, 2018.
Scientists at the University of Pittsburgh recently revealed that overweight people who walked briskly for 30 to 60 minutes a day lost weight even if they didn’t change any other lifestyle habits. Because walking is a weight-bearing exercise, it can also help prevent the bone disease osteoporosis.
“Walking is a refreshing alternative to complicated aerobic routines and overpriced gym memberships,” says personal trainer Lucy Knight, author of Walking for Weight Loss. “Bones are like muscles in the way that they get stronger and denser the more demands you place on them,” Knight says. “The pull of a muscle against a bone, together with the force of gravity when you walk, will stress the bone — which responds by stimulating tissue growth and renewal.”
To burn fat quickly and effectively, you should master power-walking. Adding hills to your route will speed up calorie burning.
“On really steep inclines, it’s not unusual for even a fit person’s heart rate to increase by about 20 per cent,” writes Knight. Going downhill, you have to contract your leg muscles to work against gravity and slow your descent.
Walking on softer surfaces, such as mud, sand or grass, also uses more energy than walking on concrete. Every time your foot hits the ground, it creates a small depression so that the leg muscles must work harder to push upwards and forwards for the next step.
Walking on uneven ground may have even more benefits. Physiologists at the Oregon Research Institute have found that cobblestone walking lowers blood pressure and improves balance. Uneven surfaces may stimulate acupressure points on the soles of the feet, regulating blood pressure.
“We can still create a plan that has a fair amount of lower level aerobic movement, such as walking briskly, hiking, cycling at a moderate pace, etc. a few times a week and keep it at under an hour. Then, we can add a few intense “interval” sessions, where we literally sprint for 20, 30 or 40 seconds at a time all out, and do this once or twice a week”.-Mark’s Daily Apple (Mark Sisson) June 20, 2007.
In the end, it is important to recognize the value of walking of any intensity and pace, but if you are able and wiling picking up the pace, even for short bursts of faster walking or hill work, will result in increased bang for the walking buck.
“Aires ( March 21-April 19). To get where you want to go, you’ll have to make your way through the crowd. Start moving and people will get out of your way. Movement is what makes things change.”- Daily Horoscope-Holly Mathis, 6/25/2018
Nature is ahead of me on this one. Somehow, in a surprisingly short amount of time, the vista outside of my big kitchen window is a mass of slowly expanding movement of green: my lawn, the hay fields all around me, and the three hundred and sixty degree panorama of forest that surrounds our house.
My ever-expanding vegetable garden is fully planted and growing steadily. I’m already harvesting lettuce, green onions, beet greens, parsley , and celery. Unfortunately the deer are also moving in to eat my plants, and I plan to install my electric fencing tomorrow after this rain lets up.
Bugs are moving. I’ve pulled out one tick and plucked off a dozen already. Did you know that tics are blind, and detect animal hosts through body odors, breath, heat, movement and vibrations?
I’ve got a few mosquito bites decorating my neck. I’m not much bothered by mosquitoes after experiencing the massive numbers of them in Labrador on several of my motorcycle and canoeing trips there over the years. Its all relative.
On thing that has assisted me in maintaining a level of activity that has kept my weight down, and in shape for backpacking is setting movement goals. I have two: biking 1,000 and walking 1,000 miles a calendar year.
I monitor my movement progress through the use of the Strava app, where one of the functions allows users to view distance totals by sport on their Profile page. As of today, I am 26 miles ahead of my biking pace
but 52 miles down on walking.
I plan to get moving on this by doing several two-hour hikes this week to climb back to hiking pace.
Lifestyle changes matter. People who live in cities often walk more daily miles than us country residents, where services are too far away to access without driving a vehicle.
Looking for ways to move that are functional helps. For example, I amassed 17,369 steps (8.4 miles via Fitbit) last Friday where I spent the better half of the day tilling, planting, weeding, fertilizing, mulching, and watering the veggie garden.
When it stops raining today, I plan to fire up my little tractor and attach a cart and move down to the woods where I have stacks of unsplit rounds that I’ll haul up to the wood shed to split and move under cover for heating the house this winter. I still cut my own firewood which leads to all sorts of strength, twisting, and core work.
This afternoon I plan to walk thee miles to my friend Dave’s house in Lincolnville Center where I’ll cop a ride to my weekly Men’s Group get together.
But I’ll be competing for a place on the path with the ticks, who will be waiting for me as I walk through the unmown hayfield and the brush that is filling up the abandoned Proctor Road as I move my way down to the pavement of the Heal Road that will lead me to open space walking to the Center. I plan to wear long pants, sprayed with Permethrin and hope for the best.
The solstice passed on June 21. Winter is coming. Get moving !
For the past four years I’ve been in the daily practice of measuring my heart rate variability (HRV). It takes me four minutes at best, after sitting up in bed, at the end of the first of my twice daily thirty 30 minute mediation sessions.
(I have maintained a continuous 48 year practice of Transcendental Meditation, which I consider it to be the core technique of my health practices. Yes, I have accumulated over 10,000 hours of meditation practice. Malcom Gladwell put forth the statement that 10,000 hours of “deliberate practice” are needed to become world-class in any field.)
I learned about HRV from a demonstration that I observed in a psychology workshop with Larry Starr, Ed D. Dr. Starr has included neurofeedback in his psychology practice, where he utilizes HRV to reduce client symptoms of ADHD and anxiety.
“Simply put, HRV is a measure of the time gap between individual heart beats while your body is at rest. The heart, in fact, speeds up when you inhale, and slows down when you exhale. This difference is known as HRV. A healthy, well-rested body will produce a larger gap, and higher variability”. – Dr. Phil Maffetone
HRV technology had been around for over 50 years but has only been recently available for home use. Long used in hospitals in treating heart patients, HRV has only recently been applied to endurance training.
I have been totally satisfied with the Sweetbeat HRV App for the iPhone, which pairs via Bluetooth with my Yahoo Ticker chest strap.
Here is a screenshot of two years of data, indicating a positive trend:
From the App Store: “SweetBeat HRV, the newest iOS application by SweetWater Health, provides real-time monitoring using state-of-the-art sensor technology and data correlation algorithms. Patent-pending correlation algorithms provide insight from other health and fitness devices. SweetBeat HRV also integrates and correlates data with popular fitness platforms like MapMyFitness, Fitbit and Withings. The next big thing in body-hacking is to understand the information presented in the data users track every day. SweetBeat HRV correlates metrics like HRV, stress, heart rate, weight, steps, calories, and so much more. SweetBeat HRV utilizes the popular food sensitivity testing and HRV-for-training features in the original SweetBeat app.”
I use the App for two purposes:
1) Primary is in determining whether my body is in a stressed state from over-training. In general, my daily 75-90 minute hike or bike ride results in a higher (better) HRV reading, but if my reading dips, the program prompts me to take an easy training day or even a day off in order to bring my body back into balance.
2) HRV readings also correlate with the occurrence of a cold. I’m generally a healthy guy, succumbing to normal bodily aches, pains, and even tendonitis only when I have tripped on a hike or crashed on my mountain bike. In fact, over the past three years I have not had the flu (I do get the flu vaccine.) and I have only had a single brief cold that lasted for 5 days. My HRV reading dropped significantly one day a couple of years ago, where I was prompted to take it easy and rest up. The next day I experienced a sore throat and two days later my head swelled up with the full-blown symptoms of a bad cold. My initial low HRV reading had been in response to my body beginning to muster antibodies to address the cold, a situation of which I was totally unaware.
HRV literature also reports being able to detect food sensitivities through the use of HRV readings, although I have not attempted to employ this aspect of the technlogy. I’m sort of an I -can-eat-anything-person.
For further reading on HRV, I’ll refer you to this blog post by Phil Maffetone:
If you are interested in surviving or enjoying a backpacking adventure this season you better be ready to embrace some suffering. At our house, I am constantly buffering my workout plans so that I don’t get into a disagreement with my wife and hiking partner, Auntie Mame. She is encouraging me to behave like a normal 68 year old guy and chill more often.
For example, I was falling behind in mileage regarding my goal of hiking 1,000 miles this year and outside the rain was falling. Skipping today’s 75 minute hike in favor of better weather would be what normal people would do.
Well, if you are a backpacker, then you will someday walk in the rain. Better get used to it . Also, most of us have purchased rain gear but you won’t know how it works unless you wear it in the rain, drizzle, sleet, or snow. Doesn’t it make sense to get out when you are close to home and you can warm up and dry out after the outing?
I am reading more and more about Stoic philosophy and mental/ physical training.
Check out this brief, but excellent email that I received from a Stoic website I subscribe to. It’s perfect! If ancient Stoics can practice in the rain or snow, why shouldn’t we ?
Henry Flagler, a top lieutenant for John D. Rockefeller and one of the pioneering developers of Florida:
“I trained myself in the school of self-control and self-denial. It was hard on me but I would rather be my own tyrant than have someone else tyrannize me.”
Like Cato, Flagler trained himself in doing without. He wore only a thin coat, he carried his own lunch, he economized. He did this so he could get used to feeling the sting of the cold, the laugh of his peers. He didn’t want these things to have power over him, and he never wanted to feel fear—the fear of what if something bad happens.
As a result of this training, he became stronger, he became invincible to fate and misfortune and as he said, tyranny. No one could be harder on Flagler than he was on himself, and while that might seem like hard living it was also free living. And that’s the point. It’s not easy to be a Cato or a Flagler, but when things get hard, real hard, you’ll regret being anything but a Cato.
(Want to discuss today’s meditation in more depth? Join Daily Stoic Life.)
I’m concerned that I’m pushing my heart rate too high on the bike. I’m 68 years old. Two weeks ago I rode my typical Sunday ride up and around Ragged Mountain, where I averaged 155 beats per minute for over two hours with a maximum reading of 173. For a full 30 minutes of the ride my heart pushed out 161-171 beats per minute. My normal resting pulse ranges from 47-55 bpm . I record data wearing a Garmin chest strap that is linked to my Garmin eTrex 30 GPS unit. From there I send it to Strava for saving o my profile.
Here’s a Veloviewer 3D elevation rendering of the ups, downs and all-arounds of the same 8 miles ride that I took this past Sunday:
Here’s the traditional view of the ride. It ain’t easy! These two images are not aligned correctly, but I bet you can rotate them in your mind’s eye.
I talked to my doctor about it last week while he was trimming away at a plugged sweat gland that was causing me pain on the side of my foot. He thought my heart/arteries were OK, but also said that he had at least a handful of apparently healthy patients who were athletes in their early 70’s that dropped dead from unexpected heart attacks.
So he’s getting me a referral for a consultation with an electro-cardiologist who has a exercise specialty. That’s all I want, a chance to talk to someone who has knowledge and background to address concerns. My own father died at 72 of heart disease, and my paternal grandfather died from what might have been heart disease when my father was a baby.
In the meantime, I’ll keep pushing it on the bike, rest up adequately between my two-wheeled adventures, keep up the meditation, and start ramping up the relatively short summer/fall veggie consumption season.
I’m looking forward to presenting Friday night at the Snowalkers Rendezvous in Vermont in November. Great weekend experience!
“Walking Matters”- From the ages of 57 – 64, “Uncle Tom” thru-hiked four National Scenic Trails. Tom reviews the latest research on the physical and mental health benefits of walking and discusses physical training and cognitive techniques that bolster a greying snow walker’s experience on the winter path. Tom directs outdoor activities through Uncle Tom’s Guided Adventures and is author of In the Path of Young Bulls: An American Journey on the Continental Divide Trail.