If you exercise regularly but never get in better shape, it’s time to check your pulse. Training at an elevated heart rate can noticeably improve your cardiovascular fitness. “The simple act of changing your pace strengthens your heart,” says personal trainer and professional adventure racer Michael Tobin. “And strengthening your heart develops stamina and endurance.” Runners and cyclists have used heart-rate monitors (HRMs) for years to fine-tune their workouts. As a hiker, you can benefit from these tools as well, whether your goal is to cover more miles or tackle a multi-day trip with less fatigue.
Even the most basic HRMs, like the Timex Ironman Triathlon Heart Rate Monitor ($90, timex.com) include a chest strap to measure your heart rate and a watch to record and display the results. More advanced systems like the Polar RS800sd ($500, polarusa.com) record heart rate, speed, distance, and elevation data, which can then be downloaded to training software on your PC.