Basic training plan for walking
The basis for all walking or mountain fitness is a good aerobic base. This article describes the key information you need to measure your fitness including your resting heart rate, maximum heart rate and how to begin a training programme for aerobic fitness.

Basic training plan for walking

When you talk about overall fitness for walking or mountaineering, you have to concentrate on the cardiovascular or aerobic system. This combination of your heart and lungs is the powerhouse of your body. Whatever you are doing, whether it's scrambling on the Aonach Eagach or trekking in Nepal, this is what fuels your muscles with oxygenated blood.

This combination of your heart and lungs is the powerhouse of your body

  • Increases heart and lung efficiency - left ventricle increases in size, pumping more blood in one cycle
  • Increases muscles ability to use oxygen
  • Reduces fat both on and in the body
  • Lowers resting heart rate - a good indicator of how much fitter you are getting
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Reduces stress
  • Reduces risk of coronary disease
How do you train?

There are many different activities you can choose, depending on your situation and what you enjoy:
  • Running
  • Cycling - road, mountain or gym
  • Swimming
  • Aerobics
  • Walking - with intent!
Heart rates and HRMs

However you decide to train, the most accurate way to judge your intensity of effort is by monitoring your heart rate (HR) in beats per minute (bpm). You can do this manually or with a heart rate monitor (HRM). The table below lets you see what intensity you need to work at depending on what you want. The percentages shown relate to your maximum heart rate (MHR).
  • 60-70 % - recovery or fat burning zone.
  • 70-80 % - aerobic zone - heart and lungs trained.
  • 80-90 % - anaerobic zone - muscles are trained to work under stress (lactic acid not dispersed quickly enough).
  • 90-100 % - redline zone - very high intensity, very short duration specialised training.
Sprint up a steep hill as fast as you can © Sarah Stirling
Sprinting up a hillMaximum Heart Rate

Finding out your MHR is best done in a laboratory under controlled conditions, but you could warm up and sprint up a steep hill as fast as you possibly can and measure your HR using a HRM to get a good idea of your max. As a very rough guide, you can use a formula to calculate your maximum heart rate. This is 220 minus your age (230 for women).

For a walker aged 38:

220-38 = 182

Aerobic Training Zone

To find out your aerobic training zone, multiply by the appropriate fraction of your MHR. Using the above example,

182 x 0.70 = 127.4
182 x 0.80 = 145.6

So, in this case, the aerobic training zone is between 127 and 146 bpm.

Don't overdo it to start with - approach with knowledge!

Below is a ready reckoning table:

Age MHR 85% MHR 75% MHR 65% MHR
15 205 174 153 133
20 200 170 150 130
25 195 166 146 127
30 190 162 143 124
35 185 157 139 120
45 175 149 131 114
55 165 140 124 107
65 155 132 116 101
75 145 123 109 94

NB, this is a guide only. Everyone is individual and these figures will not be accurate for all. You also need to measure your MHR according to your preferred activity (you'll find that when running your MHR will be greater than the figures obtained when cycling).

How often?

If you are not used to training, begin with no more than 20-30 minutes exercise three times a week.
Over a period of four to five weeks increase the quantity to five sessions per week, with two at about 50 minutes.
Vary what you do in exercise and on terrain - up and down hill or cross-country if possible for both mental and physical variation.
Keep a record of how long you exercise, the distances you cover and your resting heart rate (RHR) in the morning. It should get lower over the month as you get fitter.
Don't overdo it to start with - approach with knowledge!

How does it feel?

If you find that your MHR is elevated by more than ten per cent, ease back on your exercise level. You may be coming down with a cold, or not properly recovered from previous training or exercise session.
If you find that you easily cope with the level of exercise, you can increase the frequency, intensity or duration - but don't try to do too much too soon. It's better to finish training with 'a little left in the tank' rather than be totally exhausted and unable to train again for a week!


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