Heart Rate Monitors?

I went to a Spinning class on Good Friday and came out with jelly legs and a serious case of gadget envy. The instructor and one of the participants were yakking about their beloved heart rate monitors. My friend Jane used to rave about hers and I know Kekster uses one. I’ve always resisted them as it seemed yet another way for me to obsess over statistics and shiny things. But I LURVE statistics and shiny things! Is that so wrong?!

Anyone out there a Heart Rate Monitor fan? Anyone think they’re baloney? I know sweat and slobber and inability to form sentences are good indicators that one is exercising hard, but… SHINY!

52 thoughts on “Heart Rate Monitors?

  1. I just read the funniest post about this yesterday over at Cranky Fitness by a guest poster: http://www.crankyfitness.com/2008/03/morning-run.html. It had me totally laughing out loud but also put all the shiny stuff in perspective. Check it out!

    My own thoughts on this: Since I’m trying my hardest to be frugal, I have resisted the siren call of most gadgets. I do have an Ironman watch that joyfully beeps out my walk/jog (waddle, whatever) intervals but that’s about it. I really do think I can handle knowing when I’m exerting myself safely, etc. I also try not to obsess about my pace either. If I’m out there doing it and trying my best, I know it and feel great. I also know when I’m slacking. I don’t need anything shiny to tell me!

  2. I don’t have one but I’ve benefited from one. I am doing running training and find on the long, slow runs, when the instructor keeps us within a certain heart rate pace, I can go further and don’t have the worn out feeling at the end.

    If I finish my next race I may splash out and get one. They can be fairly cheap so I’m not too worried.

  3. It’s a little crazy but I LOVE my HR monitor, and a lot of times it helps me go easier, rather than pushing myself. I can look at the monitor and I KNOW I am working hard, where sometimes, if I don’t have it on, I worry that I’m not working hard enough. Plus mine (fairly antiquated) lets me upload my workout data onto the computer, so I can look at a chart of my HR over the course of a workout. (I used to post this on my blog when I used to work out…) Anyway, it’s shiny but perhaps motivational. My new crave is HR monitor plus GPS where I could see a chart of my HR juxtaposed with my elevation and my route (this for out-in-the-world runs/walks/bikes rather than in the gym).

  4. Since I’m chunky right now, EVERYTHING makes me huff and puff, so i don’t need one. But when I was thinner, I found it made for a more efficient workout!


  5. I don’t know about a heart rate monitor since I spend a hefty chunk of my working life interpreting heart monitors! But I’d quite like a pedometer.

    I do like a good excuse to shop though, so maybe one day…

  6. Hey Shauna… I’m with you on the shiny things that give off numbers !! love the stats ! i have a polar F4.. there are better ones out there tho.

  7. I have a Polar HRM and love using it to workout, like another person mentioned it helps me to “keep it real” instead of half killing myself when that is really not needed. I also find it interesting to see my heart rate shoot up when I do deadlifts or what have you and it’s a good indication that my fitness is improving when I can do the same workout or even increase resistance and my heart rate stays lower. Less calories burned=sort of a bummer but improved fitness? Rock.

  8. I’ll often buy an exercise gadget just knowing that having it will encourage me to actually exercise so I can use it. Probably not the best thing for my pocketbook, though.

  9. I’ve got a HRM but rarely use it, well I wear the watch part of it when I’m running cos it’s the only watch I own but never wear the chest strap.

  10. I have been lusting after the Body Bugg (there are posters all over my gym & all the trainers there seem to have them). Take the guesswork out of weight loss!

    I have many fancy spreadsheets for my weight loss & love to chart everything. Too bad I’m so cheap.

  11. I have to say that I stopped wearing my heart rate monitor because I found the chest strap uncomfortable and I got friction burns underneath it. I gather some of the top of the range models have more comfortable straps, but my exercise involves a lot of twisting. I LOVE my trusty pedometer, though, but be careful, many of them are not very accurate, including the very expensive models. You need a techie type (Dr G? Yourself?) to open up the back, check and, if necessary, adjust the little spring.

  12. I have a HRM and love to use it that only problem at the moment is to remember to put the god dame thing on. i do be so busy about gettin the dogs lead and him ready to go for a walk i forget and im out about 15 minutes before i notice ive done it again and forgotten it to put it on.

  13. I love HRM… I have a polar one which is fantastic for training for… marathons! Mistress Julia has had the same one for years and she introduced me to one as well. Shows you if/when you are over/under exercising when training for runs. It’s fun to wear around the house too, you can see what kind of activities bring up or lower your heart-rate. I can’t find mine recently so I probably have to go out and buy one but – they are definitely worth he bit… The only thing I don’t like about teh Polar ones are their colour fades over time and replacing a battery is a pain in the ass and they are a bit clunky. However, you’re in Europe so I am sure there are a wider variety for you to choose from than rural, northern Ontario 🙂

  14. I love my heartrate monitor. I have a Polar RS200 (I think) and it has a nice soft chest strap so it doesn’t chafe or anything. And I love seeing how hard I’m working and how many calories I’ve burned. I mean I know it’s not 100% accurate, but it’s definitely more accurate than your basic cardio machine and it it so nice to see the numbers in front of your face.

  15. Thanks very much everyone! Hmmm hmmm hmmm. Pros and cons! All them cool numbers! But pricey! I got a pedometer for £1 and it rules. But not very useful for spinning or kickboxing, hehe.

  16. Got one. Wear it to spinning all the time. It’s just something to let you know how hard you are working – and it doesn’t lie. My instructor LOVES to get off her bike and check everyone’s HR; calling them out if they are slackers. It keeps you honest!

  17. Hi Shauna, I have just got your book today and have already read half of it! I’ve just lost 3.5 stone on WW and needed some more inspiration, so I got your book after all the people on the WW forum raving about it! It’s fab, I’m off to bed to read the rest soon. I’ll be back to read your blog properly when I’ve finished the book but just wanted to say hi, you’re amazing and I am in love with your book.

  18. I’ve got a heart rate monitor and it’s been great to use when I’m out on the trail. I don’t always know how fast I’m going, but I can check how fast my heart is beating to see if I should push myself more or less.

  19. Helloooo Rachel! Thanks very much! Hope you enjoy the rest of it too 🙂

    Awwwwwww KEK! You rule.

    And the QUEEN has one too!

    Tempting I tell ye!

  20. The QUEEN has one? You do mean the actual queen, as in Lizzie from Buckingham Palace, and not your neighbour Darryl who wears pink shirts, sips margheritas, calls everyone DAHHHLING and owns every CD Kylie ever made?

    Just checking…

  21. Hi,

    have a Polar heart rate monitor and love it. It doesn’t need to be a fancy model, but Polar now has models that come with a fabric chest strap which is very comfy and doesn’t chafe or slip.

    I ride bikes quite a bit, as well as rowing, and have found the heart rate monitor more useful than a bike computer in a lot of ways. Riding into a tail wind, up an incline, can feel very slow and be demoralising, so it’s nice to look down at your heart rate and see that you are working hard. Or if you a have a consistent route, it’s nice to see the heart rate drop on climbs as you get fitter. With rowing knowing what my heart rate is during races or high intensity pieces, has given me the confidence and feedback to train harder and know that my fitness is improving.

    In conclusion heart rate monitors are spendy, but totally worth it.

    Cheers, Nic

  22. I have a very basic Polar one that cost less than US $50. But I sort of want the kind that tells me how many calories I’m burning, so I secretly hope mine will break.

  23. I have (had) a Polar A5. I really really enjoyed wearing it, but as another poster mentioned, changing the battery is a real pain (you have to mail it back to the company – and the sneaky bastids moved between the time I bought it, and it was time to change the battery).
    I’d say go for it! The Polar A5 was about $100(US), but I had a 25% off coupon for Sports Authority, so, I scored one for $75.

  24. I can’t recommend enough the Garmin Forerunner 305.

    It’s a bit pricey but if you’re into techy gadget things, it will keep you amused for hours and hours.

    It’s got a GPS on it so you know exactly how far you’ve run/walked, what your pace is etc (way too many features to mention, or remember).

    You can also download all the information onto a software package (SportTracks is a very good one) and then you can see where you’ve been on Google Earth.

    You can also download all the info about the HR too.

    Wouldn’t be without mine. His name is Gav.

  25. Ooh, ooh! I forgot about the bike thing….Nic reminded me. You can get a handlebar mount thingie to attach the watch to. Then you don’t have to take your hands off the handlebars to check your HR! Coz I know how you love to hang on with the Grip of Death (TM).

  26. Hey Shauna

    I just want to say I have just read your book and I loved it and it has reinspired me to investigate working in the UK. It was such an honest account…

    Thank you again.

    Btw I have a HRM and mainly use it for running and I love it. It lets you know when you are working really hard or when you can actually push your self a little harder.

    Have a great weekend


  27. Why exercise if you can’t have toys?

    I bought a HR monitor as I like to read while I’m on the bike in the gym. What do the two have to do with each other? Well, a friend spotted me one day and said that if I went any slower on the bike then I would fall off. As the book gets more interesting then I get slower. If I set the machine to adjust the difficulty to keep my heart rate at a certain level then I can’t get slow as the resistance makes it extremely tough to pedal.

    And besides, SHINY! I’ve just bought a Garmin GPS watch now that I’ve started running. You must have one of them! 😀

  28. I have a polar f11 just like Kek and i would honestly be lost without it. Like she says it lets you know when you arent pushing it hard enough but have somehow convinced yourself that you are going hard. I also love that it tells me how many cals i’ve burnt.

    Just seen your book mentioned in the Aussie Oxygen mag. Ive read it and loved it, Well done

  29. If you do get one Shauna just remember to take it off should you go for a swim after your class, would you believe I have forgotten to do this three times?! You’d think I’d learn… nevertheless it still works. I do find I obsess a bit over it and can’t enjoy my exercise properly as I’m too busy staring at the numbers!

  30. Hello there Shauna, I just finished your book. Fantastic! and Congratulations i might add… I have recently purchased a polar heart rate monitor. I love it! tells me excatly how well im working out and whether im slacking off! And mines a bit fancy and can send all my workout stats online to this diary! Gotta love technology! Keep up the good work! Renee, a fan!

  31. I’m with the crowd of people who get irritated by chest strap… there is a new model which is a glove and I’m looking in to it because numbers are fun 🙂 It’s just the whole chest strap pain/sweat/itch/chaffe that I can’t stand.

  32. Im a fan of the RATE OF PERCEIVED EXERTION and on top of that Im a BIG FAN of the “sometimes I do not freakin feel like pushing myself and am just glad Im here and a monitor would get on my last nerve!!” school of exercise.


  33. Chiming in to say I have the Polar F5 and I use it a fair bit. Mainly for timing, and calorie counting – I like to see how much eating I have earned (800 calories on my run last night!) I had to turn off the wee alarm that beeps when you exceed your recommended maximum heart rate because I always exceed it and the constant beeping was driving me mad!

  34. Chiming in to say I have the Polar F5 and I use it a fair bit. Mainly for timing, and calorie counting – I like to see how much eating I have earned (800 calories on my run last night!) I had to turn off the wee alarm that beeps when you exceed your recommended maximum heart rate because I always exceed it and the constant beeping was driving me mad!

  35. Hey Shauna! I just wanted to say that today I finished your book for the second time.. The first time I read it I was probably stuffing my face with [insert junk food here], whereas this time I was laying out in the sun in a bikini…(I’m a Brit living in Spain, I’ll allow you to feel jealous!) I’ve lost around 10kg and I just want to thank you for inspiring me and motivating me. You’re amazing!! Thank you!

  36. I have one I will trade you for a copy of your book. Email me, I am in the states.


  37. Just wanted to say someone said to remember to take it off before you go swimming… well – the polar ones are waterproof (though double-check when you’re buying) which has served me well in the pool. I have two chest-straps, one that i use in the pool and one for outside of it (because nasty chlorine eats away at the elastics)… you can even hear the beeps in the pool (if you go too fast/too slow it yells at you if you want it to)

  38. Would be no use to me beeping when I exceed my recommended maximum heart rate – that more or less happens as soon as I get out of this chair!

    I feel tired now just thinking about all this exertion, shame on me!

  39. I love my HR monitor so much that I wore it ALL day to see how many cals I burnt in a day! It was rather uncomfy.

  40. I have the basic Polar model and LOVE it. I found when I started wearing it I was not pushing myself hard enough during my cardio sessions so it helped me improve. Polar says it can be worn swimming, but I am nervous to do that. But I would like to wear it during aquafit class to see what kind of workout I am getting there.

  41. Some years ago Bicycling magazine had sex issue for the Jan/Feb mag. They did a survey & asked how many people used it during-um, horizontal exercise. Surprising how many folks said they did.

    My only shiny stuff is a simple Cateye cycle computer with cadence on my two bikes. Anyhow, my hubby uses a heart monitot when he bikes. He wants me to get one too for when we ride our tandem. Silly boy thinks I’m not working hard enough. Guess he can’t hear me panting behind him. (Most tandems don’t have independant pedalling. When his pedal go ’round, so do mine.) I suppose if I did get one it’d shut up the fussy boy.

  42. Hi Shauna, I have a Polar F11 monitor and I love it! I can’t imagine exercising without one now. I love the info it gives me and lets me know if I am working hard enough or not. You can upload your weekly stats to the internet and keep a record of your progress, and you can even download cool little pictures for the display on your watch. I wrote about my watch in July 2007 if you want to read the post in my archives. PS – when you reach your exercise goals for the week you get a trophy on your display! Doesnt sound like much but the first time I got mine I was thrilled to bits… the trophy only stays for 1 week but then you get the chance to get it back again with all your hard work! Good luck with your decision making about a HR Watch 🙂

  43. I got a heart rate monitor which does its job and has a basic memory from Tesco for £20, 2 weeks ago.

    Wouldn’t be without it, an a good way to work out whether it’s worth forking out for an expensive one!

  44. I haven’t read everyone’s comments above, so forgive me if someone else has already mentioned this, but it pays to get the best heart rate monitor you can afford. Polar ones are recommended. I say this because I once bought an el cheapo £20 jobbie and it used to short out all the time — apparantly it was not compatible with my underwire bra!!

  45. I’m really lazy and just skimmed all the comments so people may have said all this already. So what.

    I loves me some heart monitor. (Polar, for me.)

    I’m not running right now because I’m pregnant and a c-section repeat offender and I’m not allowed–BUT my heart monitor turned me from couch potato to runner.

    I’m a numbers junky in addition to being a diet junky–I love to keep charts and stats. I used the heart rate numbers to motivate my runs. I set a zone and kept running until I hit a max and then walked until I hit a minimum.

    Then I kept a chart of my average heart rates and distances and kept narrowing the zone.


    I’m a NERD.

    Those goals and foci and my neat little line graphs and excel spreadsheets kept me so jazzed I couldn’t WAIT to hit the pavement.

    Oh. I can’t WAIT for this pregnancy to be done and to get out the running shoes again.

  46. I too am a HUGE devotee of the Garmin GPS/HRM – mine is the “old school” 301 model, but I am a gadget GEEK who likes nothing better than uploading my run/walk and marveling over the maps and data collection! Astounding – highly recommend it.

  47. I was already thinking about getting a new HRM (spin class envy) when i read your post… so i ordered a Polar F6 and LOVE it!!! it’s really awesome, and motivating. Taking this baby underwater tomorrow too – enjoy yours!!

  48. Just note that you can’t push the buttons on your Polar HRM if you wear it in the pool, nor while it is wet – it gets moisture/chlorine in it and stops working. They don’t tell you this in the instructions (at least not with my model A5 – very old!) If you do get moisture in it, and it’s past warranty – unscrew back pronto, remove unit from plastic wrist strap and let it dry out…

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