Fitness Goals Help !

I’m a sucker for fitness goals.

My most recent string began in 2013, when I latched onto Strava. screenshot 9Keeping track of miles became easier more meaningful, for myself, but as well as others, through Strava’s ability to link to our friends’ and families’ runs,  bike rides,  or swims.  Plus, you get a map of each or your outdoor activities. Then there is the data that’s getting added up and enumerated that sometimes ends up in the form of a little gold trophy next to Top Results with something like “Today you broke out a personal record  on the first mile up Rummy Ridge!”  If you have not discovered Strava, then I urge you to give it a try.  You are welcome to follow me, and I would do likewise.

In 2014, Carey Kish published an article about the idea of hiking a thousand miles in Maine in a calendar year. Check!  I had a great time that year, getting out and exploring the Maine back country. Better than the miles were the hundreds of hours I spent navigating along the rough surface of our corner of the USA  while I was getting myself reacquainted with the land of surprisingly unfettered boundaries.

For 2015, My oldest son Lincoln suggested I take on the goal of hiking, running, or biking an hour a day for a whole year.  Sold.  I did that.  My weight has stayed 10 pounds under the usual for over a year now.  I also cancelled my gym membership.

For 2016:  hike 1,000 and bike 1,000 miles in a calendar year.  That’s the deal now.  I have upped my daily average to 75 minutes a day, which is what I think I will need to make this happen.

Mr. Kish is now back from his second thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail with his Best Day Hikes Along the Maine Coast, where he identifies 50 of the best trails along the Atlantic Ocean.

50natib0003My wife and I heard Carey present on this book in Rockland a few weeks ago, where I bought my second copy ( I can’t remember who I lent my first copy to.) , and now Marcia has this idea to hike all 50.  We have already visited two new places nearby, Montville’s  Northeastern Headwaters Trail and Belfast’s  Little River Community Trail, and both lived up to Kish’s superlatives.

Wait!   Now there’s this easy way to measure fatigue and to gauge when to back off and take a low intensity workout or a rest day.  Have you heard about heart rate variability training?  I first learned about it this winter from Larry Starr, a local psychologist who uses it to reduce anxiety and stress in his clients.   Check out this recent article from Outside magazine: Is Your Heart Healthy? Ask Your Phone , it’s subtitled Heart-rate apps bring Olympic-caliber recovery to everyone.

Maybe your final takeaway from reading this post is to set a goal or two for this season’s hiking, biking, or swimming season. It has been working for me, keeps things fresh, and just maybe may result in better health, lower weight, or a finely tuned heart.

 

 

 

Fitness Update: Jan-Feb 2016

How much persuasion do we need to expand our  lives?

Yet another research summary from the Health section of the NY Times came into my in-box this week with yet another angle of evidence for getting up off the couch and pushing out a run or fast walk.
I’ve been on a biking/ running/ walking routine ever since I was a teenager.  Now that I am finally collecting Social Security, I have the time and motivation to get this exercise thing dialed in just right.

I am spending 2016 with a goal of 70 minutes a day moderate to intense activity.  I’m backpacking, hiking, walking, and biking to get there.
How’s it going so far?
It’s not easy, but, 60 days into 2016,  I am there. Here’s some hard earned hours, thanks to Strava’s support:

screenshot 14
I got some support and direction from what I read this past year in Younger Next Year,
a book I read at the end of 2015.  51Y1MfFUvKL._SX318_BO1,204,203,200_  The book’s premise is this:  exercise six days a week, don’t eat crap, and connect and commit to others.

What I find missing in most people’s fitness plan is that they lack one, or they set themselves up for abandoning their plans by not making the exercise activities fun enough to look forward to.

Since I gave up my decades-long practice of hitting the gym several days a week in September of 2013, I’ve kept 15 pounds off my frame, and have improved my cholesterol numbers.

This book helped- Microadventures. 2015-07-03-micro-adventures  It turned around my thinking about the meaning of an adventure.  We crave adventures in our lives, but think of them as divorced from our everyday routines.  Humphrey shatters that misconception in this book, which encourages viewing your local terrain as a rich source of potential mini-adventures.

I had a microadventure last night, when I veered off my usual routine 5 mile loop, and  revisiting an old woods road that I have not been on in the last thirty years, despite the turn to that hidden world coming up less than a mile’s walk from my house.

The road less traveled
The road less traveled

I also got to practice improvisation on yesterday’s hike, where complete darkness settled in just as I reached the corner of a gigantic wild blueberry field.  If I were to carry out my intended route, I’d need to enter the woods and bushwhack up to the ridge above, where I’d connect with a known route.  Sure I had a GPS and a flashlight, but given the air temp of eighteen degrees and a steady north wind coming at me, my inner warning system got activated.

It’s taken me 6 decades to get there, but I now I can hear the speechless voice inside, telling me, “Not a good idea! Go back, now.”  So I reversed direction and retraced my route back home, guided by Orion above me.

Today, I plan to enjoy our snowless winter landscape on another route, right out my back door door.

from the NYTimes : How Exercise may Lower Cancer Risk

Souping Is the New Juicing – The New York Times

Some of my readers have commented and even started their own phauxpho soup lunch programs after seeing my numerous pics from Instagram. Here’s the latest:

Rich homemade broth with garden carrots and broccoli. Plus kimchi!
Rich homemade broth with garden carrots and broccoli. Plus kimchi!

I must have snagged the idea from the universe of food trends that was passing by my window a year or so ago.

Check out the newest option for those of you who crave something more than offered by the standard juicing cleanse diet.

“Soup cleanses promise an easier detox than a juice cleanse.”

Source: Souping Is the New Juicing – The New York Times

 Danny Ghitis for The New York Times
Danny Ghitis for The New York Times

Fitness Goal + Data = Gold !

You can’t purchase your miles of foot powered travel.  Sure, you can buy experiences that frame human powered travel, but to move from point A to point B simply takes work, and time.

For 2015, my oldest son Lincoln encouraged me to set a daily goal of 1 hour of either bicycling, jogging, or backpacking.  Being a data hound, I track my progress.  If data is not of the slightest of interest to you, you’d better close this window and move on.

Until January 1, 2015 I logged my exercise time with the Fitbit app on my iPhone 5s. People may not realize that Fitbit lets you track workouts without necessarily buying a $150 Fitbit wrist tracker.  The free Fitbit app utilizes my iPhone 5s’s M7 motion coprocessor, a part specifically designed to measure motion-related data from the iPhone’s accelerometer, gyroscope and compass.  My “cheater” Fitbit works fine. I  aim for 10,000 daily steps, the equivalent of 5 miles of foot travel. In fact, Fitbit just “awarded” me the Monarch Migration badge, for completing 2,500 miles since I logged in on Jan. 1, 2014.

But things clicked even better for me when I ponied up $59 (a year) for the Strava Premium membership. I wanted to access the Strava Goals, unavailable on the free version.  With a bump up to Premium, you get to set time or distance goals and track your progress by the week or the month, as my 2015 data below illustrates.  This particular feature made all the difference to me in 2015.

screenshot 11 I decided to aggregate both bicycling and foot travel (hiking/walking/jogging) toward that 1 hour goal. By checking via the  various choices of  Strava Premium’s graphics, I could see how I was doing each week. If I was experiencing a slim week, I’d plan to go outside on the weekend and would, for example, log a 3 hour hike in the State Park here in town and end up finishing the week with at least 7 hours of fairly brisk motion.

I surpassed my daily goal of 1 hour (365 hours) for 2015 !  Here’s the data:

screenshot 12I’m not going to rant about the 85 personal records that I accomplished in the 273 activities that I engaged in during 2015, however, that is another ingenious aspect of Strava.  Or the fact that many of the folks that I hike and ride with are also using Strava, where we can view and encourage each other’s efforts, and even send each other GPX tracks of interesting routes that we’ve discovered.

It just keeps going and going….If you need even higher degree of data analysis ( like the” 3D rotating elevation profiler”) of your Strava data then check out Veloviewer!

screenshot 4

So, I have three new goals for 2016:

-1,000 miles of biking

-1,000 miles of hiking in Maine

-75 minutes of daily biking, hiking, or backpacking (525 minutes / week).  To read about the magic  525 minute threshold, check out one of my posts from 6 month ago entitled  Exercising Inadequately, Excessively, or Just Right ?

Anyone else logging their lives out there, or do you just go ?

 

 

Here’s your boomer New Year’s Resolution, and thank you! 

This is all truth, boomers- found amidst this NYTimes’ fitness trends wrap-up for 2015:   Fit Body, Fit Brain and Other Fitness Trends – The New York Times

“… the ideal exercise dose seems to be about an hour per day of moderate exercise, such as walking, and less if we ramp up the intensity of a workout and make ourselves really sweat.

Personally, I’d go with 75 minutes. You get a worthwhile bang for that buck. It’s the cut point for good.

I’ll follow up with a post about how to stick with a plan of an hour a day in 2016.  It worked for me!

When is a fitness myth not a fitness myth?

I’m frustrated with the deluge of information that is channeling into my  computer and phone. Even with my ability to filter out “disinformation” , plenty of stuff slips by to leave me scratching my head, wondering how to make sense of it all.

For example, I am now down to three print magazine subscriptions  and Outside is one of them. I also follow Outside Online’s Twitter feed. Outside’s Twitter feeds draw upon current articles and reruns of past published snippets and longer pieces.

Here’s a Tweet from Outside Online them that came through this morning:

screenshotI’m not a runner anymore, but I do like to walk fast, and I’m a backpacker, so I expected to gain some tips from checking this out.
Here’s The New Injury-Proofing Rules for Runners-By: Erin Beresini. Published ( in the print magazine) on Oct 15, 2014.
From the article:  “Renowned physical therapist Kelly Starrett lays out movement standards for runners. Meet them, and you’ll stay out of his office. Don’t meet them, and you shouldn’t be running.  The problem, he believes, is nobody’s set movement standards for runners—the stretches and simple moves runners should be able to do before they ever lace up their shoes. If you run when you can’t perform certain baseline movements, it shouldn’t be surprising when you get hurt. …And don’t think you’re off the hook if you don’t log long miles. Running works its way into so many things we do.”

Just what are these rules?  They come from fitness’ old pal Stretch!  The article details two stretching moves, plus the use of an obscure mechanical roller device that “massages” your calves.

And then I started thinking, “Wait, didn’t Outside recently debunk stretching?

Outside magazine promoted a very successful article that had originally published in their magazine and subsequently Tweeted on entitled The 10 Biggest Fitness Myths of All Time ?

Fitness myths
Fitness myths

Guess where static stretching fits into all of this?

It’s the headliner!
Myth #1: Stretching Prevents Injuries
“Truth: It could ruin your 10K time.  Chances are some bogus training advice has wormed its way into your fitness regimen. Time to root it out. Most physiologists now believe that when you elongate muscle ­fibers, you cause a “neuromuscular inhibitory ­response,” says Malachy McHugh, director of research for the Nicholas Institute of Sports Medicine and Athletic Trauma at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City and an expert on flexibility. By triggering this protective  counter-response in the nervous system, which tightens the muscle to prevent it from overstretching, you render yourself less ­powerful……But stretching prevents injuries, right? Actually, in several large-scale studies of athletes and military recruits, static stretching did not reduce the incidence of common overuse injuries such as Achilles tendino­pathy and knee pain.”  This online article was shared 5896 times.

What’s the takeaway?
I was talking to my wife this morning about this. She pointed out that what is going on here may be just the perennial difference between research-based primary sources and popular press media. Magazines exist to get people to read them, turn the pages, and support their advertising clients. They hold to lower standard than do peer-reviewed journals.

Are we being hijacked by the sheer volume of data that is supposed to make our lives more informed and thereby better, but in reality is putting a choke hold on our ability to understand just about everything?

I am going to head out for a fast walk this afternoon.  No static stretching is required, or is it?

Katahdin: My First Guiding Experience

I recently completed my first experience as a paid Maine Guide. In June, I launched a web page for Uncle Tom’s Guided Adventures, where I am offering a group backpacking trip a month in Maine during August, September, and October.

In July, I received a request from a client to guide them up the 5.5 mile ( 11 miles round trip) Hunt Trail (Appalachian Trail). My suggestion to alter their route choice and make the summit trek less demanding by spending an overnight at Chimney Pond, and choose either the Saddle or Cathedral Trail was declined.

We made it to the top of Katahdin.

However, I learned a lot on that day:

-An advanced backpacking course from the Sierra Club that includes summiting Mt. Baldy, outside Los Angeles, at 10,064 feet may not be sufficient preparation for that hiker to reach the top of the 5,267 foot Katahdin.

-Trails in California tend to employ switchbacks that make going up easier.

Birdlegs ascending lower Hunt trail ( 2013 photos)
Birdlegs ascending lower Hunt trail ( 2013 photos)

The Hunt Trail goes straight up.

-Clients appreciate guides that will carry that client’s 3 quarts of water.

-Trails out west tend to have limited rocks, boulders, and roots to walk or crawl over.

Birdlegs, Bad Influence, and Quarter Moon in Hunt's  boulder field (2013)
Birdlegs, Bad Influence, and Quarter Moon in Hunt’s boulder field (2013)

The Hunt Trail has plenty of obstacles, which may also have streams running down them.

-The 10-12 hours that Baxter Park suggests it takes to summit and return via the Hunt Trail out of Katahdin Stream Campground may not be sufficient for some parties. We left Katahdin Stream at 6:55 AM and returned at 10:30 PM. Our round trip took us 15.6 hours.

-There is a reason why Baxter State park has many rules, including this one: “Hikers must carry a working flashlight.” I learned that having a client read this rule, and be reminded twice to pack the headlamp in the day pack, does not ensure that the light will be in that pack when it becomes pitch black out.

-If two hikers share one headlamp, that the headlamp should be worn by the hiker in front. The guide needs to give that headlamp to the client and walk close behind.

-Upper body strength is needed to ascend the Hunt Trail, when walking becomes insufficient at the 2.9 mile mark. It is particularly necessary when the hiker needs to extend their arms overhead, grasp the first iron rung that is imbedded in a tall boulder, and pull, hard. There is more than one of these iron rods at the base of a giant boulder field.

-Hikers with shorter inseams may benefit from assistance in ascending these boulders from other hikers. The aspiring hiker may need to step on body parts of the assisting hiker, for example, placing one’s foot on an implanted knee that is secured against a boulder or even walking on the other hiker’s back.

-Bring a wind shirt, even in the summer. It may get windy on the Hunt Spur.

Hunt Spur
Hunt Spur

For example, on our day the wind was steady at 20-25 mph with gusts to 40 mph.

-The Hunt Spur is above treeline. The upper portion is unusually exposed.

Heading down in 2013
Heading down in 2013

Hikers with a fear of heights will be challenged on this portion, particularly if the wind is gusting to 40 mph.

-Some hikers find It considerably easier to ascend than to descend the Hunt Trail. In our case, we had a 1 PM turn around time. While we made it up a few minutes after 1 PM, within the expected 6 hour window, our descent took close to 9 hours. This is why spare batteries and even a spare headlamp should be considered.

-It’s good sense to turn back when you feel you are “ over your head” on the Hunt Trail. We met several parties who were in this situation, and wisely chose to head back down. If the famed walker Henry David Thoreau can retreat just below the Tableland in 1846, so can you.

-It is quite difficult to get up and down Katahdin on the Hunt Trail. A reputable source told me that while number of Southbound thru-hiker wannabees had increased by 40% this year, 90% of them went home. Some failed to make the summit, others made the summit but tore up their feet, or they underestimated just how hard it was to keep walking in the woods after their big day heading up to the top.

-When it is pitch black out, and crawling on the ground becomes a viable option, have a bunch of trail tales to tell and maybe a few songs to sing. Humor lightens the load.

-Consider yourself fortunate to be with a hiker who is able to maintain a positive attitude despite the long, steep, and tough nature of the Hunt Trail.   I did.

-It’s really satisfying to assist another hiker to the top of Katahdin . My client told me that,  ” I couldn’t have done it without you.”

The actual inspiration for my  AT tattoo
The actual inspiration for my AT tattoo

– Think long and hard about guiding an individual up Katahdin’s Hunt Trail.

Strava and Suffer Scores, at Six Months

Goals matter.  At least they do to me!

We’re half way through 2015. I have the data to prove it.  With an ever-present computer not far from our reach, it is relatively easy to get numbers.  For me, numbers count.

As of today, 2015s first 182 days, or 6 months and 0 days have passed. At the half-year mark I’ve put in 200 hours of biking, backpacking, walking, or even jogging some 144 times, where I’ve  covered 820.4 miles.

What’s up with that?

Strava has been extremely motivating to me just through tracking my exercise. For those of you that don’t know about Strava, it is a social network that allows smartphone and GPS users to map their rides, hikes, walks, and swims and compete against themselves and others.
I have been using the free version but for 2015, I ponied up for to Premium (at $59/year) in order to access the additional perks-like setting time or distance goals, and to be able to  track my progress week over week.

Here’s just one of their graphics:

2015 Half-time report
2015 Half-time report

For 2015, I took the suggestion of my son Lincoln, and set myself a goal of moderately exercising, at an average of an hour a day. As  useful as this app is, it still has it’s limiting quirks.  For example, it took me months to realize that Strava only aggregates cycling or running activities.  Walking, or backpacking are not activities that are  collected and analyzed (yet). I learned to lump all footwork as runs.

I continue to be surprised to see that even at my age, I continue to improve my fitness.  I have been able to reduce the times that  travel over “segments”, or sections of trail that other riders or runners have identified as places where they would like to have their own data accumulated, as well as seeing what others have accomplished on those same segments.  For example, I’ve set 56 personal records since January 1.

As if all this data weren’t enough, I just ran up another $16 per year to access the benefits of  Veloviewer, another program that takes Strava data and  adds additional analysis.  For example, Veoloviewer reached way back to 2011 and brought in ALL the data from every ride or hike that i’ve ever recorded and analyzed that in ways that I never even imagined, like this 3D graphic of this past Tuesday’s Rockland Bog Ride.

3D view of Rockland Bog ride
3D view of Rockland Bog ride

In another hour I’m headed out for a couple of hours with Craig to ride the trails around the Snow Bowl. You can bet that I’ll be bringing along my trusty Garmin eTrex30 GPS unit, and strapping on a heart rate monitor so that I can obtain Strava’s special “ Suffer Score”  for this ride.

Did I mention that it’s another beautiful day here in Maine ?
Setting a time goal has resulted in me being active and outside for an hour a day every day.

Exercising inadequately, excessively, or just right ?

photo by John Anders
photo by John Anders

Two recent articles leave this reader confused about the answer to a vital question.

Just three days ago, National Public Radio ran a piece entitled Take A Hike To Do Your Heart And Spirit Good.
This was a study of postmenopausal women who, for six months, came into the lab to walk a treadmill while researchers watched.  The results indicated that “ metabolism of blood sugar” improved in even the control group that walked moderately for just 73 minutes a week. There was no apparent improvement in results in two other control groups, one walking for 136 minutes, and the other for 190 minutes per week.  The premise was that even walking an average of 10 minutes per day produced 95% of the benefits of jogging, without the drawbacks.

But how does that jive with the New York Times article from May 1, 2015, entitled The Right Dose of Exercise for a Longer Life ?

Gretchen Reynold’s NYTimes piece references two very large studies that were detailed in the April 2015 issue of  JAMA Internal Medicine.
The first study followed 14 years of death records of 661,000 middle aged adults. It tracked exercise habits, and grouped the findings from those who did no exercise whatsoever to those who exercised a massive amount (25 hours a week).  For reference, US National health guidelines recommend that we engage in 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise.
The results indicated that those who did no exercise at all had the greatest risk of death. The next group did exercise but did not meet the 150 minute per week guideline, and reduced their death risk by 20%.  The group that met the 150 minute US Guidelines went on to reduce their risk by 31%. The “ sweet spot” though, was a group that exercised 450 minutes per week, or just over an hour a day, reducing their death risk by 39%. After that, the investment in exercise duration tanked, with the group exercising 25 hours a week doing no better ( 31% reduction) than the 150 minute per week group.
The second cohort, an Australian study, followed 210,000 individuals, and also tracked death statistics. Three groups were aggregated:  walkers, runners, and those who exercised more intensively.
Moderate walking produced a “ substantial reduction” in death risk.
Reynolds then writes that,  “But if someone engaged in even occasional vigorous exercise, he or she gained a small but not unimportant additional reduction in mortality. Those who spent up to 30 percent of their weekly exercise time in vigorous activities were 9 percent less likely to die prematurely than people who exercised for the same amount of time but always moderately, while those who spent more than 30 percent of their exercise time in strenuous activities gained an extra 13 percent reduction in early mortality, compared with people who never broke much of a sweat. The researchers did not note any increase in mortality,  among those few people completing the largest amounts of intense exercise.”
Klaus Gebel, a senior research fellow at James Cook University in Cairns, Australia, who led the second study says, “Anyone who is physically capable of activity should try to reach at least 150 minutes of physical activity per week and have around 20 to 30 minutes of that be vigorous activity.”

My own personal research is in agreement with the “ sweet spot” in the JAMA study. For me, 150 minutes a week maintains some measure of health, but did not significantly improve my fitness.  For that, I need more activity.
Since January 2015, I’ve been riding my mountain bike in the woods three times a week, and walking the other days. If I take the occasional day off, I make up for it by putting in a few more hours some other day, maintaining my 1 hour per week average.
My weight is now down 15 pounds, and my cholesterol profile and blood pressure have moved into the normal range. I’ve gained these measurable results from exercising moderately to intensively for 420 minutes a week, or a average an hour a day.

So… just enough, not enough or just right ?

What’s working for you?

 

What’s The Right Dose of Exercise for a Longer Life ?

On our seven mile round trip walk to breakfast in Austin, Texas
On our seven mile round trip walk to breakfast in Austin, Texas

“…the ideal dose of exercise for a long life is a bit more than many of us currently believe we should get, but less than many of us might expect”- NY Times

Where’s the sweet spot?

Last December, my son Lincoln suggested that I raise my daily activity goal to 1 hour a day. He’s steered me right many times since he stood by my side at age 3 and told me that it was a bad idea for me to try and drive my 1964 BMW motorcycle up a plank and ride it into the shed for winter storage. He was right. I was bruised up pretty bad after I fell off the plank with the bike ending up on top of me.

So I took his advice, about the one hour a day fitness goal. Lincoln also recommended I pony up the $59 a year to upgrade my Strava cycling/ running app to Premium level, where I have been able to set time, distance goals, and help myself stick to the hour a day average.

A quick check on my Strava Training Log reveals that since January 1, 2015 to date I have aggregated 486 combined biking, walking, and running miles. My hourly total is 123 hours in those 121 days yields a weekly average of 427 minutes, or 61 minutes a day.

Regular readers of my blog know that I stopped going to the gym (after 43 years)  after I returned from my 2013 thru-hike of the Continental Divide Trail. Doing so has increased my fitness, lowered both my body weight and total cholesterol below 200 for the first time in my adult life,  allowed me to lose 15 pounds, and ramped up my engagement in nature.

So, click on the link below to find out if you also might want to ramp up (or down in some cases) to an hour a day.

Additionally,  one of my blog readers suggested I read Gary Taubes’ Why We Get Fat and What to Do About It .  It’s excellent!  Reading it now,  I found this: “The USDA [United States Department of Agriculture] guidelines have suggested that up to ninety minutes a day of moderately vigorous exercise- an hour and a half every day!- may be necessary just to maintain weight loss, but they have not suggested that weight can be lost by exercising more than ninety minutes.”

The Right Dose of Exercise for a Longer Life – NYTimes.com.

Thanks, son!