I got a new GPS watch with a heart rate sensor a couple of weeks ago. I’ve had so many occasions where I have underestimated the strain from my training sessions (alternatively, overestimated my own capacity) that I’ve given up on ever learning what the correct level is for me, so I need help. It has other nice features like a reminder every time I’m sitting still for too long (which frequently happens when I work), so I can get up and do some quick stretching exercises for example. But the most important feature is of course the training tracker, using the heart rate sensor to get accurate information. Without the sensor, the training load is completely different. For example, Monday’s hike to Ånnfjället without the sensor was recorded as:

  • Training load: Reasonable
  • Recovery time: 8 hrs
  • Distance: 7.3 km
  • Ascent: 525m

Whereas Friday’s quick hike to the top of Funäsdalsfjället with the sensor was:

  • Training load: Very demanding
  • Recovery time: 1 day 5 hrs
  • Distance: 4.7km
  • Ascent: 325m

In other words, using a fitness tracker without a heart rate sensor will give you very misleading results. Having said that, I’m not completely agreeing with the recovery time the watch gives me, especially after today’s cycling trip. I’ve done the same trip countless of times, to Bruksvallarna and back, it’s about 35 km. When I came home, the watch gave me a recovery time of whopping five days! It has four levels – Very Strained, Strained, Balanced and Undertrained. Today is Sunday, I will get to Strained level on Tuesday, but Balanced will take almost two additional days. So if I wanted to do the same cycling trip again, it would be best if I waited until Thursday. That kind of a recovery time sounds a lot, but then on the other hand – what did I just say about me having a history of underestimating the training loads?

It actually starts to look green now! The picture is from my favourite fikastopp in Bruksvallarna, on the shore of Ljusnan

So I was just thinking. Last year after my long hike to Skarsfjället, I was completely beat afterwards. I even got lightheaded and dizzy, two days later. At the time, it was all put down to the extreme load (over 10 hours) and my mistake of not drinking and eating enough during and after the trip. But now when I look at my Runkeeper history, I can see a different story. I did Skarsfjället on 29 July. Before that, I had recorded 21 cycling and hiking activities during July. And just two days before Skarsfjället… guess what. I had cycled that Bruksvallarna trip that I now know has a 5-day recovery period!

So, again. Without taking some physical tests that the watch can take into consideration in estimating my fitness, my watch doesn’t really know my level beyond what’s average for a woman of my age and measurements. I could be a lot more fit than it thinks. While I am definitely not as fit as I would like to think myself. The truth is somewhere in between, but one thing is for sure – I don’t want to go through those periods of exhaustion when I feel that I’m running on fumes, and then out of them, too. I’m not 25 any longer and there’s no need to train like I was. As long as I can walk up and down mountains and have some energy to spare afterwards, then that’s all that I really need!

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