Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Heart Rate Monitors

I've been a pedometer person for over eight years. I discovered Fitbit four years ago. It wasn't until last year (Spring 2013) that I first invested in a heart rate monitor. I wasn't that impressed at the beginning, and I'm always anxious to take it off asap (unlike my Fitbit which I wear 24/7) ... but my HRM has become an integral part of my fitness feedback and tracking.

I had been perfectly pleased with my Fitbit, and wasn't really looking for anything new. As I joined MFP and started reading the forums there, it seemed heart rate monitors were highly recommended for calorie estimates during your workouts. I looked into some, was impressed with the reviews and price of the PolarFT4 and purchased it. 

Originally ... I didn't like it much at all and I very close to giving it away to someone who would appreciate it. Having to wear the strap (and moisten the strap, yuck!) was uncomfortable. I'd have to put the pieces together and put it on before every workout (as I would take it off immediately after).  I had to remember to actually start it (oh the frustration on finishing a workout only to determine I had not done that), and sometimes it had trouble finding my heart beat. Then of course, there were the actual estimates. They were LOW. Lower than the machine readouts, lower than the Fitbit. It seems like everyone else would say their HRM readings came in higher than their other estimates. If they were accurate, I guess that was good for me to know though.

As I'm on and off my elliptical multiple times a day ... I don't put on my HRM for it anymore (after a few times to see that I am pretty consistent, and consistently lower than the machine and Fitbit estimates). Same goes for the stationary bike. I would wear it if I walked or jogged, for my 30DS workouts, and most recently for Zumba. I'd still wear my Fitbit and then compare the estimates.

Beyond the calorie estimate itself ... a HRM can provide you with very interesting data DURING your workout. You can watch you heart rate go up and down, see what it takes to maintain it "in the zone", see how high it gets, see how quickly it can drop if you stop moving. I really use the feedback when jogging or during Zumba, and I purposely try to keep it "in the zone" (between 115-150 beats), increasing my intensity if I see it dropping down. Many will also dial it back if they get it up too high ... THAT just doesn't really seem to be a problem for me (I guess maybe I'm a bit wimpy). 

I am a numbers gal. I would LOVE to know for sure what my calorie burn (and intake) is, but I know it's all estimates (Exercise Estimates). Just to make the matter even more confusing, I keep reading that HRMs, while probably the best estimator for steady-state cardio, are NOT good for tracking other exercises (weight training for example).   Heart Rate Monitors and Strength Training & Heart Rate Monitors and Calorie Estimation. I don't know how "expert" the authors are, but as I try to look into it, it does seem to be supported. I'm always interested in learning more and trying to get my numbers as accurate as possible.

So while I'll never look at my HRM and say "I just burned xx of calories" and take it as fact, I will appreciate any and all feedback. I'll take the calorie estimate with a grain of salt, but if it's higher than yesterday's calorie estimate for the same type of workout, I consider that a thumbs up. I'll watch my max, and my average ... at how fast my heart rate drops back down (that's a good thing, right? Your heart recovering quickly?)  I'm still learning myself!  Here's another article spotlighting the PolarFT4 and another good article about HRMs in general (The Real Facts about HRMs). So much information!  

Do you own a heart rate monitor?
What's your experience?
Thoughts on their calorie estimates?

Linking up with Workout Wednesday and the Hump Day Blog Hop.

Just for fun, going along with my topic today ... I thought I'd share a couple "heart beat" songs that I've been enjoying lately. Both have a great jogging beat (around 160BPM) and both are available for FREE download from Freegal (libraries all over the US participate in this, sign in with your library card and download the MP3s for free!) Linking up with The Thrifty Home.
Heart Skips a Beat by Lenka on Grooveshark

 Song #1 is "My Heart Skips a Beat" by Lenka
Song #2 is "Pulses" by Karmin (which I couldn't find on Grooveshark to include here).



  1. Yes to a HRM! (Mine broke and needs replaced!!!). It has helped me figure out all sorts of things happening while I exercise!!!!

  2. Why I own a HRM and the Polar FT4 and I LOVE IT! Now I am anal about making sure I start it because I will freak out if I do not start it. I can even manage starting it a few minutes late but if I went through an entire workout without - I WOULD LOSE IT. LOL I also share my calories burned in boot camp. #wowlinkup

  3. I LOVE my HRM :) Started using them right after I got certified as a trainer in 2007 and haven't looked back! Thanks for sharing your thoughts on them. #wowlinkup

  4. I also own a FT4 (which is unfortunately on the fritz at the moment) and really love being able to make sure I'm keeping my heart rate in my target rate while I exercise and estimate how many calories I've burned (and how many I can eat after lol). #wowlinkup

  5. I use the Karvonen formula for my target range. I know that if I'm working out between 135 and 160 that is a good range for me. I used to own a heart mointor but I haven't had one in years. Call me primitive, I use my fingers to take my heart rate. #wowlinkup


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