Being fit for bushwalking ensures that you get over the hill with energy to spare and a happy smile on your face. A smartphone app like Walkmeter tracks your fitness training efforts and measures your fitness improvements over time, hopefully giving you new motivational insights.
My early foray into quantified fitness back in 2012 was a Fitbit. Fitbit gave me awareness into my sedentary life and motivation to move more. I loved the daily feedback it gave me on steps, distance and stairs climbed (I even loved the helicopter badges). Sadly, my Fitbit died in early 2014 after I took it for an unplanned swim.
But I had acquired an iPhone 5s by then and I had also moved up the evolutionary fitness tracking tree. I wanted more than a new Fitbit could deliver. So enter my new smartphone pedometer and tracking app, Walkmeter.
Using Walkmeter for bushwalking fitness training
At its very simplest, Walkmeter on an iPhone 5s acts as a pedometer, tracking your steps in the background, so long as you carry your phone around with you. The Walkmeter pedometer only works on the iPhone 5s, which has a M7 chip motion detector that tracks movement without draining the battery.
When heading out training, I use Walkmeter for GPS tracking. I start up the Walkmeter app, confirm I have a good GPS signal, and hit the Start button. I turn the screen off (so I don’t accidentally hit the Stop button) and pop the phone away to keep on tracking while I get busy walking or running. You can still snap a picture while it’s tracking, and send messages or make calls, but why would you want to take calls while out in the bush?
GPS tracking uses up your battery, so make sure your phone is charged before heading out, and manage your battery on longer walks.
Out on the track, I’ve configured Walkmeter to talk to me occassionally. It tells me, in a nice Australian accent, things like how far I’ve walked or run, and what my current and average pace is – which is usually enough encouragement to make me speed up a little. When I have finished training, I hit the Stop button.
Walkmeter keeps a detailed history in the app, and allows me to organise my training using Routes. I can optionally share the training session details, review them later, and compare them to previous attempts on the same route. Walkmeter has a Lap button, which is useful to measure your exact time over a hill climbing interval for example, by hitting Lap at the top and bottom of the climb.
Do trends count more than accuracy with fitness tracking?
I’m not an elite athlete or sports scientist, I’m a normal middle-aged woman. Ok, maybe I’m not normal, unless technology geeks are the new normal? I’m not training for the Olympics, but to have fun and enjoy life.
Purveyors of specialist GPS watches would have us believe GPS tracking with a smartphone app suffers from accuracy issues. Perhaps they are right, but Walkmeter accuracy is more than good enough for me.
I’m more interested in observing my general fitness trends than obsessing over precision accuracy numbers. Did I get off the couch? If not improving in great leaps and bounds, am I at least still moving? Walkmeter stores a history of all my efforts, and it’s motivating to see just how far I’ve walked, how high I’ve climbed and how many calories I’ve burned over longer periods of time.
It is also interesting to look through the detailed statistics collected – I was surprised to discover that I climb a hill faster than I descend it! I better work on my agility and balance to fix my descent times. Oh and that social morning tea stop on our training walk, turns out it wasn’t a quick 10 minute stop after all.
The lowdown on using Walkmeter
Walkmeter has a free version, with an in-app purchase ($6.49) for additional “Elite” functionality. I use and recommend the Elite upgrade. If you already have an iPhone, then at $6.49 it is a lot cheaper than a wearable like Fitbit, or a GPS watch.
I also like the simplicity and convenience of having only one device to carry and charge. Everything is stored on the app – no website login and password needed. There is no gamification, it won’t send you any helicopter badges.
Walkmeter does a lot more, including offer training plans. It links to apps like MyFitnessPal and Strava, as well as to heart rate devices and bike computers. It comes in multiple flavours (Runmeter, Cyclemeter).
Besides being useful to bushwalkers for fitness tracking, it also helps with navigating, more on that in a later post.
Walkmeter is available in both an iPhone and an iPad version, with synching of your tracking data in the Cloud. Walkmeter is an iOS only app, which means Android users need to look at other app options.
While walking or running, I carry my phone with Walkmeter activated around my waist in a neat little Runbag, made and sold by my awesome sister-in-law Audrey in South Africa.
Out on the trails, I keep my iPhone safe and recharged with a nuud Lifeproof case and a portable recharger for multi-day trails. Besides being a fitness tracker, my phone is also my camera and a multi-function communications and safety device in the Sydney bush.