When you buy a heart rate monitor compare the features available and why you want them.
Author: Barb Gonzalez
May 30th 2012
When you go to buy a heart rate monitor, you’ll find a number of features and accessories that sets one apart from another. Advanced heart rate monitors make it easier to find your individual maximum heart rate and zones, create a training program, track progress of speed and distance, and monitor how hard you should work out on a given day.
Heart rate monitors range in price from under £30 for a basic monitor that displays your current heart rate to systems that top £500 and include accessories for a particular sport.
If you are new to using a heart rate monitor, be sure to read “Heart Rate Monitor Basics.” You’ll learn about the types of heart rate monitors. There is also an introduction to heart rate zones based on your maximum heart rate.
Here are some heart rate monitors features and why you might want them:
Maximum heart rate – This feature helps to determine your individual maximum heart rate. Determining the maximum beats per minute(bpm) for your body is crucial to setting up the zones that will help you lose weight or increase your level of fitness.
Most heart rate monitors can be setup with a simple age-based maximum heart rate calculation. This is not reliable and could be so inaccurate that you won’t get the results you want. Look for a model that can do a fitness test and create zones based on that number. Many Polar models can run a fitness test that will find your resting heart beat and create zones based on the results.
Zone Notifications – Available on all but the least expensive models, these monitors beep or speak to you when you fall outside your planned heart rate zone. The results of heart rate training is dependent on your working out in the right zone for your goals. Rather than constantly looking at your heart rate monitor display, the verbal cues alert you to see if you need to speed up or slow down.
Zone Optimizer – This feature on the top-end Polar watches is like having a trainer that understands your body. Once your “VO2″ max (based on your maximum heart rate) has been determined by a fitness test, you can run the Zone Optimizer at the beginning of a workout. It is not only checking your heart rate but your heart rate variability to determine if you are stressed, tired, or gung ho for the day. It will adjust your zones accordingly. If your body needs to recover from several days of hard workouts, it is important not to overtrain. Overtraining can lead to injury.
Syncing with computer/online website – Many heart rate monitor models come with a USB receiver that can be connected to your computer to wirelessly sync data from your heart rate monitor watch. You set up an account (typically free) on their website. The synced information is uploaded and can be viewed to see your progress. Over time, you can track your results — effective weight loss, longer distance, faster speed—and adjust your training to reach your goals.
GPS – Some heart rate monitors will receive the data from a GPS accessory, others combine your heart rate with the GPS in an iPhone. Some Garmin watches includes the GPS in the watch unit. If you are a serious athlete that doesn’t want to carry your smartphone with you, a heart rate monitor that includes GPS could be important to you.
GPS will track your route on a map. More importantly, GPS is used to tell you your speed, pace and distance.
Be sure to learn about what types of heart rate monitors are available. One of the biggest decisions may be whether to buy a heart rate monitor watch-receiver or use a smartphone app. If you are new to using a heart rate monitor, try out an inexpensive model that has heart rate zone notifications. To start a training program, choose a model that you can “grow into;” that is, choose a model that has advanced training settings, can track your progress, and can be customized. Heart rate monitors may come in a kit for runners or for bikers. Learn more about hear rate monitor sport accessories.
What heart rate monitor features would you like most?