Bring in the numbers -The use of tools during training and expedition time

In our previous blog we took a closer look at what fatigue is. Besides the theory of the causes and outcome of fatigue in the body, I hope you also had the change to take this theory with you while training and already tried to focus on what you where feeling when you came closer to your limit of fatigue. This can be different from person to person and is a personal journey that you have to go through to get to know yourself well in this area. When you find yourself in total awareness of the signals your body is giving you, there is another world you can enter. It is the world of technology, using tools to monitor your training and collect data to get even better understanding about your body’s response to the training schedule.
Let’s take a look at a few interesting tools we use while training.

Rate every work out, every exercise

This obviously doesn’t require expensive equipment. It is simply being done by writing down the grades behind the exercise. It immediately gives you a great overview on the possibilities to build up the training load or where you need to take a step back.

Measure hart beat

A normal resting heart rate for adults ranges from 60 to 100 beats per minute.
Generally, a lower heart rate at rest implies more efficient heart function and better cardiovascular fitness. For example, a well-trained athlete might have a normal resting heart rate closer to 40 beats per minute. There is a wide range of normal. That’s why you rather compare yourself with previous measurements you’ve done on yourself instead of looking ad the averages of others. Remember, you want to measure your current state, your improvements etc. The more understanding we gain about the personal hart rate and ho wit responds to different circumstances, the better we can make decisions when needed!
Keep in mind that many factors can influence heart rate, including:

  • Age
  • Fitness and activity levels
  • Being a smoker
  • Having cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol or diabetes
  • Air temperature
  • Body position (standing up or lying down, for example)
  • Emotions
  • Body size
  • Medications

Measuring the hart rate during exercise helps you to exercise in the right zone as agreed on in the training schedule. Keeping an eye on the heart rate monitor protects you against crossing the threshold to a higher/lower energy system, one that doesn’t match your plan.

Dexa body scan

When it comes to analyzing total body composition, the most accurate type of scan you can get is the DEXA scan. DEXA, or Dual-Energy X-ray Absortiometry, will provide you with accurate results of your body fat percentage, lean body mass, skeletal muscle mass and bone mineral density.
Jur and Boris undertook this test at the start of the training plan to estimate take-off position, do you remember ;).
A few weeks ago they did it again when just coming back from Khan Tengri. It gave us a good indication about the impact of the expedition on the body. We got better understanding about the way their bodies respond to heavy labor and the long duration of being up higher than 4000m. The results on this last test came out promising, telling us we are well on track.

When on expedition some more tools are being used to keep an eye on the condition of their body’s.
These tools are mainly being used for accurate planning and decision making on the mountain and in between expeditions.  It gives us information about the impact of the effort being done, and the recovery time that is needed to get their physics ready fort he next task. The tools we add to the list during this period are:

Blood pressure monitor
We took some time to find a proper blood pressure monitor that can withstand the extreme cold and altitude. The reason we want to measure blood pressure has to do with measuring the adaptation of the blood to altitude. This is important to make a good decision on either waiting a bit longer to go further up or to conclude that the body is ready to continue the ascent.  As frequently mentioned, the amount of oxygen in the air becomes less and less when you go up higher. More red blood cells are needed to transport enough oxygen to the cells to keep it going. Your body needs time to produce these red blood cells and adapt to the environment. To do so the blood volume  (read: pressure) drops to create space for more red blood cells and after a while it starts to produce these new cells, meaning blood volume (read: pressure) increases. This is the reason why we can figure out the state of acclimatization by measuring blood pressure.

Oxygen saturation monitor (to measure the risk of Hypoxemia)
Oxygen saturation, commonly referred to as “sats”, measures the percentage of hemoglobin binding sites in the bloodstream occupied by oxygen. (Hemoglobin is responsible for the transportation of oxygen in our blood. At low partial pressures of oxygen, most hemoglobin is deoxygenated. Normal arterial oxygen is approximately 75 to 100 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). Values under 60 mm Hg usually indicate the need for supplemental oxygen. Normal pulse oximeter readings usually range from 95 to 100 percent. Values under 90 percent are considered low.

pulse oximeter relies on the light absorption characteristics of saturated hemoglobin to give an indication of oxygen saturation. It gives us a very good indication about the readiness the body has to go further up. When “sats” are under 90 percent they need to wait a little longer at a lower altitude for their bodies to acclimatize. When this given is ignored there is severe risk of hypoxemia that causes the different types of altitude sickness. And we already know, this means game over.

Regularly puncture of blood values
Like almost all the aforementioned measurements, this one is particular important to monitor whether everything is still going according to plan. To check if they picked up unwanted intruders and to check if there are severe nutrient imbalances. Similar to all other measurements we need an indication about their “normal” state and therefor I made them do a blood test at the start of the project, and I want another test rapport right before departure to Mnt. Vinson, the first Summit on the list.

What doe this means for you?

I hope this gives you a few valuable tips to take into account when going on an expedition. Even though i might be stating the obvious, I like to mention It is important you use tools that work! Keep in mind you will concur rough environments that will also have effects on the tools you use. If possible, try them out!
Make sure you measure every point of attention up front to be well known with your “normal” stats.
We did our research on which tools we prefer to use and why. Feel free to ask your questions in the comments below or send me an email to; [email protected]

Related posts

Monitoring your training requires understanding of fatigue

Judith Huysmans

Can cold training, breathing techniques and focus strengthen the body for stressful situations?

Judith Huysmans

Training is on! – Shifts in the distribution between strength and endurance

Judith Huysmans

Leave a Comment