Sunday, November 01, 2009


The first activity Julie and I shared was walking. She came into my office and asked "Do you still walk each evening? Can I walk with you?" I replied yes to both questions and we set a time to meet and walk. During some of our first walks I struggled to keep up with her while listening to her talk with ease. Over the years she's asked me to slow down only a few times. My male pride has prevented me from ever asking her to slow down regardless of the pain I felt.

Recently I decided to set a goal of walking daily for speed with a target of 5 miles with a 30 pound pack that I plan on increasing to 50 pounds. We've been monitoring our blood pressure and resting heart rate for a long time but I decided to monitor my heart rate while walking. I bought a monitor that displays rate and percent of maximum heart rate. According to theory my maximum rate is 158, 220 less my age of 62.

Today shortly after we started walking I was having trouble keeping up with Julie's pace. I was a half step behind her so I increased my pace or so I thought. Perhaps she increased her pace but I couldn't catch up. I checked my heart rate and it was 132.

Our route is about two and one-half miles round trip. We walk to the national forest fence which is higher in elevation than our house. The closer we get to the fence the steeper the grade becomes. The firm ground becomes small loose cinders and the walking is much like walking on a sandy beach.

As we got to the shifting ground I began to catch up and then I was a half step in front. Julie faltered a step and I started to slow down to let her catch up but she waived me on. My heart was up to 140-some. I pushed hard to get to the fence and assumed I was leaving her behind. I couldn't hear her behind me because I was breathing so hard. When I arrived I touched the post that I always touch and turned to find Julie right behind me.

I checked the monitor: 157 beats per minute, 99% of maximum heart rate. Julie checked her pulse: 114.

I'll say it loud. UNCLE!


Blogger Tim Hodgens said...

Was she carrying a 30 lb pack?


11/02/2009 05:47:00 AM  
Blogger Tim Hodgens said...


I've been thinking about your calculation of max recommended heart rate for your age.

Have you factored in your weight plus the weight of your go bag?

Average ranges mean average ranges. I doubt they take into consideration elevation, and I'm wondering what elevation you are at in Arizona. Is that high plateau range? If so, have you factored in the accuracy of heart rates, especially at the higher ranges, when your are at your elevation?


11/02/2009 07:29:00 AM  
Blogger Paul said...


Prior to buying an inexpensive heart rate monitor I did some research and briefly read several theories about maximum heart rate. Since there is no definitive method I wrote "According to theory..." intentionally.

You raise the important questions.

We live at approximately 5,675 feet in elevation (and work in Flagstaff at 7,000 feet) so the heart has to pump more blood to carry the amount of oxygen it would at sea level. I'm not certain how to calculate the effect of the additional weight. Perhaps one way would be to estimate the additional calories required to carry the weight and the elevation gain during our walk and the oxygen required to burn the calories.

I'm confident the heart rate monitor isn't accurate. I've tested it by counting my pulse and by comparing it to the BP monitor we have. It's fairly accurate but the 157 may have been an anomaly since it measures heart rate with only a 3 to 8 second sampling. On previous walks with the pack the highest rate I've achieved is 132 but yesterday was definitely the fastest pace.

Julie was not carrying weight. In fact, she hung her water bottle on my pack so I was probably carrying about 32 pounds. She is younger, consistently has a lower resting heart rate and a low BP. It would be interesting to walk again without the pack while Julie carries a proportional amount of weight and get the results.

About 1994 I read a book by a faculty member who taught at the University of Louisville in the discipline of fitness. He was an exercise addict who finally acknowledged new research that indicated his extreme regimen was without foundation and reduced his exercise. He wrote that people get 90 percent of the benefit of olympic athletes of they get moderate exercise, take stairs, mow their own grass, carry their groceries, park on the remote areas of lots and incorporate lifestyle changes related to exercise, diet and stress management. I think his point is on target.

My goal is to stay active and improve cardiovascular health to be able to do the things I enjoy and to keep the brain functioning well. I'm not interested in competition or breaking records. The heart monitor keeps me honest with myself as to my perceived effort.

My immediate motivation is the backpacking trip in March. I'm going with three young men aged 38 to 44. This is a strenuous trip and I want to be prepared to enjoy it without struggling to keep up with them. I'd like to find some men my age who enjoy backpacking but, to date, haven't met them.

11/02/2009 09:00:00 AM  
Blogger Alex Pendragon said...

My worst fear is that I get to visit you guys, head out on a hike with you, and get totally owned by a guy some years my senior. Then again, I might embarrise the hell out of you despite my recently relatively sedentary lifestyle, in which I will politely chaulk it off to you having a bad day and me being such a young buck and my dreams........

11/02/2009 09:06:00 AM  
Blogger MojoMan said...

As you know, the 220-age way of estimating max HR is just a rule of thumb. It's an individual thing and the way for an individual to figure it out on his/her own max is is to push as hard and long is possible and see what happens. Pack weight and elevation may help you get there quicker, but I think it's a more-or-less fixed number that tends to drop with age. I also tend to think you have to be in pretty good shape to find out what your max is because you have to be able to tolerate a serious amount of pain to get there.

That said, max HR isn't all that important for most of us. Just figure out a comfortable aerobic HR range and try to stay in that for long periods of time, say, an hour. I like to be at around 130-140 BPM. That usually requires slowing down. It's easy to let the rate get too high.

Don't forget the warm-up period. My HR doesn't really settle down into a regular pattern until I've been at it for 15 minutes, or so.

11/02/2009 09:15:00 AM  
Blogger Paul said...

MM, I have found that the most difficult period for me is the first few minutes. It's as if my system is slow responding to the increased need for oxygen. After a few minutes I settle into rhythm. I'm intentionally pushing for a few weeks to see what happens. I agree that staying the the 130s for a period of time is best and I've been doing that lately. For some reason yesterday I didn't have the energy that I usually have..

11/02/2009 08:18:00 PM  
Blogger MojoMan said...

Just walk and relax for the first mile or so. Don't even think about HR and stuff. As we (dare I say) get older, we just need more time to warm up and get the joints loose. It's all about slowly and steadily permeating the deep recesses of our bodies with life-giving oxygen and cleaning out the cobwebs.

11/03/2009 04:55:00 AM  
Blogger likes2watch said...

Just think, if Julie was 106 years old, you'd be in better shape than her.

11/05/2009 09:19:00 PM  
Blogger Paul said...

If Julie was 106 then I'd be long dead and she would still be in better shape than me.

11/06/2009 11:38:00 AM  
Anonymous Acai said...


11/06/2009 03:46:00 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home