Friday, April 1, 2016

Why a Heart Rate Monitor?

Whenever the issue of heart rate monitors comes up, the first question I get is “why would I use it” – a question for which the answer depends entirely on the individual and what they want to get out of it. I would caution people against using it for the “calorie count”, or at least, for the calorie count alone – it’s useful from a general interest perspective, but there are so many other factors that go into body recomposition (not the least of which is the quality and amount of calories you’re putting INTO your body) that focusing on how many calories you’re burning in a given training session can be both defeating and misleading. If you are brand new to training and fitness, I almost see it as a mandatory tool until you learn how you respond to training (side note: the age-based heart rate maximums and calculations based off this number are only slightly better than completely guessing); but I would recommend against using it exclusively for training “heart rate zones”. These can fluctuate based on heart rate variability, sleep, caffeine, (etc), BUT if you use these heart rate zones in conjunction with your own rating of (perceived) exertion, and track this over a period of time, it may provide some valuable insight into ways to improve or increase your results.

Firstly, in the interest of full disclosure: I have always used Polar products for training, as I find them the most compatible across a broad range of platforms and, for me, the most user friendly – so for that reason, this is the brand I sell. I have also used a Fitbit Surge for the last 6-8mos, and years ago trained and raced with the Garmin 405 – and while I liked these products they both had limitations and downsides that had/have me returning to the Polar products. I currently use the Surge for lifestyle tracking (ie. day to day), Polar FT80 for tracking hockey, and the Polar Beat phone app for my gym sessions. The reason I use the Polar Beat (which pairs with the H7 Bluetooth) is because I use kettlebells regularly and the wrist monitor gets in the way.

Model Comparison 
The following are the three models that, in my opinion, offer the most applicable options to people – but there are numerous other models that may interest people

Polar A360
  • Pros:  Wrist-based HR sensor that also pairs with the H7 during training sessions (wrist-based heart rate tracking in all brands is notoriously unreliable once intensity increases), lifestyle monitor (tracks steps, sleep duration/quality, inactivity time), waterproof to 30m, phone/text alerts, rechargeable battery (battery life of 2-3 weeks), full color/swipe interface
  • Cons: Does not have GPS (this may be to prolong battery life, though I’m not sure), sport/training profiles are more general than with the other two models
  • Best Suited For: Lifestyle monitoring and adaptation, general fitness, body recomposition
  • Price: $274.99 (H7 Bluetooth strap not included)

Polar M400
  • Pros:  Lifestyle monitor (tracks steps, sleep duration/quality, inactivity time), waterproof to 30m, phone/text alerts, rechargeable battery (battery life of 3-7 days depending on how much it’s used), robust run and training platform (stride length, cadence, training load, recovery status, etc), GPS
  • Cons: No wrist-based HR sensor, appearance is standard heart rate monitor
  • Best Suited For: Athletes, recreational and competitive
  • Price: $254.99 (H7 Bluetooth strap not included)

Polar V800
  • Pros:  This is the “Mac Daddy” of training watches, including swim lap tracking and other multi-sport tracking, etc – in fact, too many features to list
  • Cons: Price, a little larger than the other two, and no wrist-based HR sensor, appearance is standard heart rate monitor
  • Best Suited For: Serious trainees and elite athletes
  • Price: $549.99 
~ Guy

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