How can you tell if you are getting fitter? Do you need to buy a heart monitor? Can your smartphone tell you? Can body composition weighing scales help?
If you are not technology-minded, then it's easy; simply check your watch to see if you are getting any faster on a fixed route. If you enjoy using technology, then it can be a great motivator to watch the improvement, but take great care, as a single score, without supporting data, is often unreliable.
Some signs that you are getting fitter include:
- Heart Recovery Rate increases
- Resting Heart Rate decreases
- Time to complete a fixed route decreases
- Average Heart Rate for the route decreases
- V02max increases
- Metabolic Age (yrs) decreases
There are many different formulae to calculate your maximal heart rate, so if you find the popular (220 - age) doesn't work for you, then try one of the others, which are likely to be more reliable, as they are based on research, unlike the "old standard". As an example of the difficulty of interpreting individual scores, there is a general observation that fit people have a lower resting heart rate (less than 60, and even as low as 28 bpm), but there is an enormous variation between elite athletes, even in the same sport, and a very low heart rate can indicate that your heart is malfunctioning. Resting heart rates decreases with age too, at about 0.5 bpm/year.
Despite the problems with individual measurements, trends in body measurements are usually very reliable, especially if the measurement is done at the same time of the day and in the same situation each time eg on first rising or after climbing the same hill.
If you use a heart rate monitor, trends are often plotted as graphs or can be uploaded to an associated website and viewed. Smart phone and tablet apps can record and graph your results. ( see next post).
Additional records that many people keep, which give indirect measures of fitness trends, are:
- Body fat % (calipers: skilled, scales: easy)
- Waist measurement( tape measure) better than BMI
- Body weight (scales)
- Body Mass Index (BMI): not reliable
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