An amazing 75 of our club have signed up for the Bath Beat walking event at the end of April.  We have been busy writing the training programmes for the different distances - 12.5, 17, 21 and 26.5 miles – and will be sending these out next week.  It has brought to mind the meaning of fitness: what it is, why it’s important, and how to achieve it.

‘Fitness’ is a a widely bandied around word, mostly in relation to our physical state (it’s interesting that we talk about physical ‘fitness’ but mental ‘health’).  It’s important because it enable us to perform up to our potential and to meet the physical tasks that we set ourselves, whether this be daily living, elite sports or challenges such as the Bath Beat.

I naively made the mistake in my 20s of equating fitness purely to aerobic fitness.  At the time I was training for the London Marathon.  Never having done much running before, my focus was on miles covered.  I enthusiastically followed my training plan, upping my distance and pounding the pavements, without any thought to the necessity of technique, strength or stretching. 

My knees became sore and eventually I had to stop for three weeks to sort everything out.  This was a massive chunk of time out of my training programme and expensive too – rehab wasn’t cheap. 

However I learned a valuable lesson: fitness is NOT just about your heart and lungs, it involves your whole body and you need to spend time strengthening, stretching and preparing the right muscles for the task ahead, not just bashing out the miles.  I have come to recognise that Nordic walking fitness encompasses the following:

  • technique
  • aerobic efficiency (strengthening the heart and lungs) - improved posture plays a big part here
  • balance
  • muscle strength and
  • flexibility

Happily for all you who walk with us, and especially our Bath Beaters, we do much of this in our regular Nordic walking classes.  I had no clue that there was technique for running, nor how to achieve it.  Everyone in our club knows (I hope!) the Nordic walking technique and we spend time each class working on improving it.  We also do a series of stretches at the end, focusing on the major muscle groups used for walking.

Fitness benchmarking
One of the fun things about fitness is watching yourself improve.  It's immensley satisfying being able to walk faster/longer/hillier.  But your body will adapt so quickly that it's easy to forget how far you've come. 

A goal like the Bath Beat is a good way to benchmark your fitness.  But you don’t need to enter a challenge event to do this.  One of the easiest ways is to time yourself over a set route every month or so and keep a record of your results.  You will find that this will fluctuate depending on how you’re feeling on the day, weather conditions, time of year, and how frequently you’ve been walking.  You don’t even need to Nordic walk the route, just so long as you do the same thing each time so that you’re comparing like with like. 

We are now running free fitness benchmarking sessions on Clifton Downs on the first Saturday of the month. We will time you over a half mile distance and you can then compare you time against age adjusted standards, like those by SparkPeople below (these are for a one mile distance but it’s a useful indicator).  If you are doing this yourself you can use a GPS app on your smart phone (such as Map My Walk), a Fitbit, Apple watch or anything else that gives you a measure of distance and time. 

Ratings for Men, Based on Age

Age

20-29

30-39

40-49

50-59

60-69

70+

Excellent

<11:54

<12:24

<12:54

<13:24

<14:06

<15:06

Good

11:54-13:00

12:24-13:30

12:54-14:00

13:24-14:24

14:06-15:12

15:06-15:48

Average

13:01-13:42

13:31-14:12

14:01-14:42

14:25-15:12

15:13-16:18

15:49-18:48

Fair

13:43-14:30

14:13-15:00

14:43-15:30

15:13-16:30

16:19-17:18

18:49-20:18

Poor

>14:30

>15:00

>15:30

>16:30

>17:18

>20:18

Ratings for Women, Based on Age

Age

20-29

30-39

40-49

50-59

60-69

70+

Excellent

<13:12

<13:42

<14:12

<14:42

<15:06

<18:18

Good

13:12-14:06

13:42-14:36

14:12-15:06

14:42-15:36

15:06-16:18

18:18-20:00

Average

14:07-15:06

14:37-15:36

15:07-16:06

15:37-17:00

16:19-17:30

20:01-21:48

Fair

15:07-16:30

15:37-17:00

16:07-17:30

17:01-18:06

17:31-19:12

21:49-24:06

Poor

>16:30

>17:00

>17:30

>18:06

>19:12

>24:06

Recognising how much you've improved and how far you've come on your fitness journey is a great confidence booster.  And we love to hear about the fitness gains you've made since starting Nordic walking.  So please keep your stories coming.

Vicky

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