Category Archives: Hiking

Mt Everest climbing history

I’ve been interested in mountain climbing since reading Jon Krakauer’s epic Into Thin Air tale of the disastrous 1996 Mt. Everest climbs. It’s what got me hiking. This well-done video documentary on YouTube contains footage of Mt. Everest expeditions from 1921 (with George Mallory, dressed in sport coat! ) through 1996 (Rob Hall, Scott Fischer, et al, R.I.P.):

Despite all the mod cons used by today’s climbers, Mt. Everest still kills. (It has killed many, but Pakistan’s K2 is the deadliest Himalayan peak.)

Interval training

When a friend recently asked about my swim workouts,  I told him about interval training.  A swim champ taught me interval training in the 1980s.  It works.  It develops both speed and endurance while allowing you to concentrate on technique.  I use interval training for my swim workouts.  You can use interval training for your favorite sport.

Wikipedia has a simple definition. has a more complete explanation.

Here’s what I do1:
swimmer 150w blended

I use “fixed” intervals — intervals of a fixed duration.  I swim ten 50-yard laps on one minute thirty second (1:30) intervals.  If I swim hard I can come in on less than 0:55, but then I’m knackered and can’t recover in time for the next interval.  If I swim slowly, and come in on 1:15, I won’t have enough time to rest.  If I swim at about a 1:00 to 1:03 pace (that’s about 70 to 80 percent of full throttle), I can do ten intervals, maybe even 15.  Mind you, I’m gasping for breath by the last few intervals, but that’s a good thing.  Supposedly that’s when your body really benefits.  This ordeal requires about fifteen minutes.

stopwatchI like using a clock for intervals because it gives me an objective measurement of my performance on each lap.  When a 1:30 interval becomes easy, I’ll decrease it to 1:25, then 1:20, and so forth.  Or, I could increase the length of each lap to 75 or 100 yards (which would require me to increase the number of seconds in each interval).

I round out my workout by using a kickboard for alternating hard and easy kicking laps, and a pull buoy for freestyle pulls that strengthen the upper body and allow me to concentrate on breathing.  I don’t swim these against the clock.  I finish with some easy slow laps.

To get started in your sport — any sport — you can monitor your pulse after each interval.  You might see your pulse climb to 140 or more2.  (The younger you are, the higher you can push your pulse.)  Let it drop to 100 or less before beginning the next interval.  This will provide an idea of what sort of fixed interval works for you, for any particular exercise.

(I suppose that variable duration intervals — that is, always resting for thirty seconds regardless of how slowly or fast you swam/ran/whatever — a “fixed rest period”  — would be better than nothing.  I think, though, that fixed duration intervals, when adjusted to suit you, ensure that you always work hard on each lap.)

During the exercise portion of each interval, aim for an effort of about 60 to 80 percent of full throttle.

Once you’ve arrived at an interval that works for you, start with just a few repetitions.  Continue this routine for a few weeks until you can do these pretty easily.  Slowly — very slowly, in small steps — bump the number of repetitions up to ten.  Stick with it for months.  Try this routine at least three or four times a week.  Don’t give up.  You will see results.

  1. My times are pathetic compared to a competitive college swimmer.  He or she might swim ten 50 yard laps on a fifty or sixty second interval.
  2. An easy way to roughly measure your pulse is to feel your heart beats on the inside of your wrist or on your carotid artery on your neck.  Count the number of heart beats in ten seconds.  Multiply by six.  Easier (but less accurate): count number of heart beats in six seconds; multiply by ten.Measuring pulse


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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Take a hike.

When I began working in northern New Jersey, I missed my Florida sports (swimming, biking, waterskiing) during the winter months. Then I read Jon Krakauer’s stunning true-life adventure story (Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster) about the 1996 climbing season on Mount Everest.

Krakauer’s vivid writing awakened childhood memories of traipsing through wintery woods, hanging out on rocks, and otherwise having a blast in the great outdoors. Hiking is just walking, isn’t it? How hard can it be? I headed for the nearest outdoor store and stocked up on hiking boots and all the mod cons for hiking. Luckily, northern New Jersey and New York State are loaded with well-documented first-class hiking trails. (New York / New Jersey Trail Conference website)

A great workout

My first winter hike woke me up. I gained about 800 feet elevation within a mile of rough footing that ranged from loose gravel to granite to frozen clay. This scramble beat the stuffing out of me! When I returned home, my quads and hamstrings went into agonizing spasms. I’d never felt such painful leg cramps.

Harriman Park, New York StateI loved hiking — especially in the wintertime, when there were no insects on the trails, or snakes, or tree leaves to block vistas, and most sensible hikers stayed home. I hiked almost every winter weekend. I learned two secrets to enjoying snowy wintertime hiking: dress in layers; stay dry.

I hiked the Catskill mountains, the Adirondacks, the Ramapos, the Shawangunks. A special treat was being the first human on a freshly snow covered trail; animal tracks laced the trails. I used snowshoes on deep snow, crampons on ice, and occasionally cross-country skis in open country.

Rattlers and mooses and bears! Oh My!

Hiking in mountainous backcountry gave me a needed break from technology. Everything about hiking is dirt simple. No computers. No networks. No electricity, even. It’s a thrill to hear wolves howling, rattlesnakes rattling, or to come face to face with a moose while hours from the trailhead. Hiking also introduced me to rich local history: Revolutionary war era mines, forges, tanneries and forts.

From freezer to pizza oven

Fort Lauderdale Las Olas blvd bridge approachNow that I’m back in Fort Lauderdale, where our summers are like living inside a pizza oven, I’m finding that summertime hikes also beat the stuffing out of me. It’s a different sort of punishment. The brutal summer sun, humidity, and temperatures in the 90s mean that I sweat like a pig. The footing couldn’t be easier. I walk the two miles or so on sidewalks to my fave swimming pool and two more miles back home. During a two mile walk I drink half a liter of water from my water bottle. My shirt becomes thoroughly soaked with sweat; it looks like I’d worn it in the shower. The walk along Fort Lauderdale’s easy paved sidewalks in the hot sun is a surprisingly tough workout.

There are no moose or wolves along my route to the pool; only large lizards. The other day the thermometer read 92 degrees F; the “feels like” temperature was 110 F — just like a pizza oven.

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695