Heart Rate Monitor
December 16, 2009 6:01 PM   Subscribe

What is the best heart rate monitor for my needs?

I've seen this AskMe and others but am in slightly different circumstances and have come looking for recommendations.

I'm a somewhat fit 20-year old female and I want to get a heartrate monitor to help me figure out better workouts. For what it's worth, my main workouts are running, biking, and erging (indoor rowing machine) so a heart rate monitor that doesn't interfere with those movements is key (I know I likely won't have trouble with the running/biking aspect but erging is a somewhat different motion than those two). I also do some weights but I don't know the benefits of monitoring heart rate while doing those, but if there are some feel free to enlighten me!

Budget is not a huge deal but I am a student and if at all possible would like to keep it cheaper than more expensive. I don't want a chest strap part, if that can be at all avoided. I am really pretty clueless here - they come on wristbands, I think? Will the lack of chest strap make it less effective? I looked at Amazon but they came up with ~1000 results so I figured AskMe was a better starting place :)

Also, I think I have a handle on what heart rate zones to be working out in for specific endurance/cardio/etc results but if anyone has some great online resources about that, I would be really happy to check them out!
posted by hepta to Health & Fitness (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
They all use chest straps. Sorry. The wristband is what holds it on your wrist, not where the sensor is.

Do you want to sync with a computer to log your results? If so, do you have a Mac? If so, only Garmin has Mac software (and all Garmins come with GPS, which you may or may not be happy about paying for). There is 3rd-party software that can sync with Polars and Suuntos on the Mac, but I've been butting heads with that lately and find it buggy.

I can also tell you that these companies have incredibly complicated product lines, with separate series for different activities, and a mix-n-match approach to assigning features to models within a series. It's really hard to get a handle on the HRM that's right for what you want.

My wife wanted one for running, cycling, swimming, and gym workouts, and that would sync with her Mac. I wound up getting her a Suunto T3c, which is nice enough, except for the aforementioned sync issue. From what little I know, Garmins are better for setting up intervals and other complex training regimes, if that's important to you.
posted by adamrice at 7:58 PM on December 16, 2009

AdamRice is correct that you need a chest strap. The chest strap holds a transmitter close to your heart which then transmits the information to your watch/monitor. IIRC the wrist only ones are too inaccurate for anyone to use them, though I may be mistaken.

I have been pretty happy with mid range Polar. I have the polar s210 now, and its a bit more than I need, as I dont use the storage-y stuff. One drawback is that you have to send the watch and transmitter to polar to get the battery changed every three or so years, but it only takes a week and costs around $30. If there is a chance you will seriously train someday, then maybe get a fancier one. An advantage of the Polar brand is that many treadmills and bikes are set to receive the heart rate info from the strap, so its easier to target your heart rate. Next time you go to the gym, look for a Polar logo on the cardio equipment you usually use.

If I lost mine and was buying a new one (which I would, I really like running with a monitor) I would get the basic RS100.
posted by shothotbot at 8:24 PM on December 16, 2009

Response by poster: Ah, the chest strap part makes sense now! I somehow thought you could get heart rate from the pulse in the wrist.
posted by hepta at 8:47 PM on December 16, 2009

Amazon has a couple of heart rate monitors that are strapless - search for that term in heart rate monitors.

BUT, the big caveat is that one has to place their fingers on the watch at special points in order to find the heart rate, thereby preventing you from rowing while monitoring *that was the deal with one of them & I am generalizing*.

Go for the timex T5G971 Unisex Sports Personal Heart Rate Monitor Watch, reviews are the best for people just starting out and not looking for something too fancy. Plus you can replace the batteries compared to the Polar models which apparently cost quite a bit.

I ordered that from xcelwatches.com as it was cheaper than amazon including shipping.
posted by iNfo.Pump at 9:01 PM on December 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

I got the Timex HRM that iNfo.Pump mentions about two weeks ago. It's been working great so far. I was worried about how wearing a chest strap would feel, but it's not too bed. I tend to pull the band of my sportsbra down over it to help hold it in place. (It's giving me a little bit of chafing, but I tried some Bodyglide with it today and that seemed to help.) Both the wrist band and the chest strap are waterproof, so I tend to wear them straight into the shower to have a rinse after my workout.

One big plus is that the Timex has normal watch batteries that you can change yourself. The Polar HRMs all have to be sent back to the manufacturer to replace the battery (as I understand it).

The only drawback with the Timex so far is that I think it's dramatically over-estimating my calorie burning. (You can set your weight on it, but that's the only variable and you can't adjust the formula at all.) I don't really care about that so much though so it's okay for me.
posted by web-goddess at 9:16 PM on December 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

I should add that I have a REALLY small wrist, and I was slightly worried that the wrist part would be too big. But it's fine; it's no bigger than a chunky wristwatch.
posted by web-goddess at 9:18 PM on December 16, 2009

Do you erg on a Concept 2 rower? They have a Heart Rate Monitor receiver accessory for Polar brand monitors. Your heart rate can be displayed on the console with your speed/time/SPM/&c., which is probably easier to use than glancing at your wrist.
posted by aneel at 10:11 PM on December 16, 2009

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