Fitness is one of those weird things that's hard to pin

down. Sure, you can be generally fit in the sense that you can walk

up the road without collapsing into a wheezing heap and you don't

have any injuries, but beyond that things get more complicated.

Fortunately OUTDOORSmagic is packed with information to help you

get fit and stay fit.


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Dashing through the snow - Andrew Terrill from Running

- The Album

Fit For What?

It's all about being fit for your activity. To explain what we

mean, look at it like this, both an Olympic 100-metre sprinter and a

marathon runner are 'fit' but in different ways. The sprinter will

have massive explosive power needed to propel himself over short

distances as fast as possible.

The marathon runner, on the other hand, will have a combination of

great localised muscular endurance and general cardio vascular

fitness combined with a system that burns fuel incredibly

efficiently.

Both are as fit, but ask one to do the other's event and you'll

realise that their fitness is very specific. For most OMers, it's all

about being fit for hill and mountain walking, backpacking,

scrambling and maybe climbing or mountaineering.

Let's call it being 'hill fit'...


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Runner's High by Marcus Crompton from Running

- The Album

What's Hill Fit Then?

As an experiment we went mountain walking with a heart rate

monitor. What we found was interesting - on flat or downhill

sections, our heart rate dropped dramatically, so our system was

ticking over at quite a low level. Our mucscles were still working,

but metaphorically speaking, our engine was running at quite low

revs.

Hit a climb though and things change. Your legs start working

harder as you lift your pack and bodyweight against gravity and your

heart rate rises fast towards the point where you start using more

oxygen than you can process.

Mostly though, you'll pace yourself below this level because you

can only maintain anaerobic activity for a short time. We had to push

really hard to reach the sort of heart rate levels common during

running and, to be honest, most walkers simply won't go that

hard.

The more weight you're carrying - both in your pack and as part of

your body - the more mass you'll be lifting with every step and the

harder you'll work. A good reason to lose

weight from both or either.

So far then, it's about being able to maintain a reasonable level

of aerobic activity, which is general endurance, combined with

localised muscular endurance, so your legs can keep working.

That doesn't necessarily mean it's pointless training harder than

you'll be walking though. By working hard - hill running for example

- you'll increase your power right through your rev range, meaning

that you can walk at the same speed for less effort. If you don't

train hard, then you'll stay a plodder...

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Running into Cwm Tryfan by Andrew Terrill -

Running

- The Album

Fuelling...

To keep your body grinding away over an entire day, you need to

keep it fuelled. With practice you become better at processing food

and slow-burning fat in particular, but you can make your life a lot

easier by eating the right things, both as you're walking and believe

it or not, in advance.

In the morning you're powered largely by what you've eaten the

night before and, to a lesser extent by your breakfast that morning,

get it right and you'll feel the benefits all day.

The same's true of hydration - more information on both in our

star article below.

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Recovering

If you're off on a multi-day backpack or even just a weekend one,

then not only do you need to be able to go all day, but you'll have

to do it all over again next day.

You might think it's just practice and it's true, with use, your

body will adapt to repeated stress, but you can still give it a big

helping hand by treating it well at the end of the day. That means

eating the right things at the right time, maybe doing some gentle

stretching and, erm, perhaps some self-masssage.

More details in our star article below...


Training Off The Hill

If you're lucky enough to live in a hilly area where you can walk

regularly then your body will adapt relatively quickly, though

training specifically to improve aspects of your fitness will also

help - hill running, for example, will both strengthen the muscles

you use while walking and turbo-charge your cardio-vasular

fitness.

If on the other hand you're stuck in the big city and can only get

away for the occasional weekend, you can still train for the hill

using the gym and the pavement. Our next star article tells you

how...

Just scroll down for a selection of articles covering everythingLoads More Health And Fitness Information On OUTDOORSmagic

from training to dealing with common injuries and even minimising the

risk of the common cold, yes, it is possible :-)

And for even more information, check out our Health

and Fitness section.