Friday, January 2, 2009

Stepping Out

Since Christmas Day I have been revelling in the fact that my regular walking routes are much longer than I previously thought. This is because I received the above gadget as a Christmas present. It is an Omron Walking Style II Pedometer.

After tearing off the wrapping paper, you insert the tiny battery, then input the time, your weight and your stride length. You carry it in a pocket or clipped to your belt or rucsack, and it kindly tells you how many steps you have taken, how many of those steps were of aerobic benefit, how many calories you have used by walking, and the distance, in kilometres, you have covered.

The key to all this is putting in the correct stride length. Fortunately, when I do what has become my normal Friday morning walk, from Lavelanet to Puivert, the first 5 kms of the Voie Verte has signs every half a kilometre, but only for the first 5 kms - after that, nothing. I don't know whether they are accurate, but they are certainly consistent. Last Friday, before I started wallowing about in the snow, I counted my steps over a couple of these half kilometres and decided that I was taking 550 steps to cover the distance. There were a couple of interruptions to my counting, when I encountered people with dogs or bicycles. It is always necessary in France to speak to people, whether you know them or not, when you meet them, so of course I did so and quickly reverted to my counting, thinking I had not lost many counts. The discipline of arithmetic showed that my stride length was therefore 0.91 metres, so I inserted this figure in the pedometer. Then it struck me that as the pedometer counts steps, I could have let the machine do the counting, while I exchanged greetings with everybody in the Ariege.

It was after this procedure that I discovered I was walking much further than I had previously estimated. Though pleasing, this was suspicious. As a runner, I was known for fast-cadence, short strides. When I used to run with Gay, I generally covered each mile one minute faster than she did, but when we walk together I struggle to keep up, despite the fact that our legs are the same length. More evidence of a naturally shorter walking stride.

Today I decided to check it out. Same walk as last week. Step counter showed 610 steps per 500 metres, 0.82 metres per step, much less than 0.91. Inserting this figure into the pedometer brought the distance it thought I had walked into line with the known distances involved.

The pedometer resets itself at midnight to zero distance covered. I would think one of these would be very useful for somebody wanting to make sure that they walked the recommended (for health) 10,000 steps per day.

I am certainly very pleased with it, now we have had a bit of a drains-up about the stride length. Excellent.

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