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Calculating Calories Burned Hiking up Stone Mountain, Georgia

eebee's picture

Some of you may remember me last year hashing to death the subject of 'calories burned per activity'. Well I'm still ruminating on it about once a month.

Interestingly enough while climbing the 700 or so feet up Georgia's granite lump, Stone Mountain, I was gasping for breath at the steeper section near the top. Feeling like I had just skated the US10K classic, I went to check my heart rate, expecting to see 168 or even over 170. Big shock: it was a mere 152 bpm!

I went back to the University of South Carolina's .pdf file to check for a similar code for calculating calories burned while hiking up Stone Mountain, and to see how it compared with that of inline skating, cycling, running and flatland walking. Scrolling down past the calories-burned calculating codes for, oh say, Digging Worms with a Shovel (4 mets, or Metabolic Equivalent), Butchering Animals (6 mets), and Cooking Indian Bread on an Outside Stove at 3 mets (mmm...Keema Naan...), I decided the closest activity listed to climbing Stone Mountain would be perhaps walking up stairs, at 8 Mets. Bear in mind that according to USC's definitions of terms relating to this study, one Met is "...equal to the oxygen cost of sitting quietly...". Cycling at about 15mph is awarded 10 Mets, and competitive speed skating gets a whopping 15 Mets - and that's even on wimpily smooth ice, not considering all that friction we asphalters have to put up with :-)

My conclusion? Hang on...close to having a revelation here...ahh...ohh I lost it again. 

For those who want the short gist of the above-mentioned previous thread, I would simply like to understand why I burn less calories at 152 bpm hiking up Stone Mountain than I do skating around it on the park roads at 152 bpm. This has nothing to do with the fact that I'd have to be hacking up a lung to reach 170 bpm while hiking up the mountain, or that I have put on 15 lb since last year's A2A :-O

Has anybody else noticed a surprisingly lower or higher heart rate at a similar perceived level of exertion to skating while doing completely different activities, such as rowing, for example? I may be barking up the wrong tree by focusing on how difficult it is for me to breathe, or how close I am to giving myself a killer migraine; two factors that correspond to certain numbers on my heart rate monitor. 


United States
33° 48' 15.3864" N, 84° 8' 46.0752" W


andrewinnc's picture

Re: heart rate

Hey eebee this heart rate measuring can be quite confusing at times. I remember an article I read over 10 years ago, I believe it was in Speed Skating Times magazine, that skaters can skate along happily with a higher heart rate and not have it bother them. But go up a flight of stairs and get winded. I have had that happen to me. I guess our bodies get accustomed to certain activities and can perform them with lower exertion. I am still trying to figure out why I can skate Country Park in GSO and after two hours still have a heart rate down in the 120's. Sometime I even feel a little winded like my heart rate should be up in the "a few words between breaths zone", only to have it down much lower. When you get this all sorted out please enlighten us.
eebee's picture

Heart rate issues

"When you get this all sorted out please enlighten us."

I will! I will! And then, to quote Zaphod Beeblebrox in the Hitchhiker's movie, I'll have to "...go find something else for my whole life to be about".

Interesting findings, Andrewinnc, and thanks for joining my brainstorm, which has been downgraded from raging hurricane to flash floods.

"...I can skate Country Park in GSO and after two hours still have a heart rate down in the 120's" - Andy I think that just means you're in awesome shape!!

And if that Speed Skating Times article speaks the truth, or as close to it as we can ever get in the living world, then perhaps that's a clue to how USC decided on the particular "Mets" or "PELs" (perceived level of exertion). Like Slartibartfast says in the aforementioned movie - "...that's where it all falls down, of course...", because if we're more efficient as speedskaters or rowlerblayderrrzz, then howcome we actually burn more calories compared with ourselves at the same weight & heart rate doing a different sport?

Perhaps it has nothing to do with the lungs and VO2 at all.

andrewinnc's picture


Elizabeth, I beleive our bodies can adjust to the level of fitness we push it to and they have to work not as hard to maintain that level. I guess that is why interval training helps as it pushes us past that plateau and forces our bodies to work harder. As far as being in great physical shape, i wish. I think I am getting more fit but there is still a long way to go. I skated my usual route last nite, I showed you and Blake during the Asheboro skate, and pushed myself hard for the 8 mile loop. I did it in 38 min. a new PR for me. My average HR was 149 for the skate. I expected it to be much higher as i was breathing hard and when I would look at my HR watch it was 150 or above for most of it. Guess the hills helped to lower my average. One thing I don't understand is how after a couple of days of training I have trouble getting my HR up higher, but when I am training each time I go faster it goes a little bit higher? Any thoughts on this?
eebee's picture


"...after a couple of days of training I have trouble getting my HR up higher...".

 I have heard this be explained through fatigue, but everybody's different so I'm not sure. I know that Blake and I had nice low heart rates at the Burlington Training Ride 2 weeks ago, but we were huffing and puffing like a couple of steam engines :-). We had meandered 51 miles at the Tour de Guilford the day before. 

The big question baffling me doesn't factor in how long a person has been training at a particular sport, or how efficient they have become. If you go to that study I mentioned at USC, you will see that they attribute different codes for different sports to be used to calculate supposed calories burned at a particular heart rate during a particular activity. These codes vary. They don't care how long I've been training, they don't care how efficient I may have become at skating. They are telling me that at a heart rate of 152 during cycling I am burning xxx calories an hour, and at the SAME HEART RATE during skating for ME, I am burning MORE calories per hour. Very interesting! I just wanted to know what they base that on. Of course they could have picked these codes out of a hat. 

Instead of continuing to flog this dead horse I should just write to the folks responsible for the study at USC and ask them :-)

Congrats on the 149 average, btw.  Yes, downhills and a fast heart-rate recovery will help your average go down.  Those are some nice roads you have to train on.

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