In a recent post about using a food diary I made mention of using a heart rate monitor (HRM) in the aide of recording energy expenditure when exercising. So why should you purchase a HRM well you may or may not have heard of the saying “if you can`t measure it you can`t manage it”. This is a saying often used in the business world, but it is something I feel translates to the health and fitness world. Most people will often make a pledge at the start of the year to lose weight and change their lifestyle. They go out and buy all the best clothes and shoes that say I`m working out but they don’t seem to stop and pause and think about the things that help make a true impact on their progress. A HRM is one of those things. Now the best thing about HRM`s is that they are often cheaper than a pair of shoes. They range from $20 to the hundreds. Obviously the cheaper ones you get what you pay for, not just in features but quality. I brought my first HRM from the local supermarket and whilst it had the feature I really wanted, (average heart rate) it would malfunction and ultimately the band broke, this lead to me upgrading to a Polar FT4.
Right now you`ve just read I got a Polar FT4 and now you think that`s the one you are going to buy. First there are a few things you should know about HRM`s and why I have the FT4. Firstly by measuring your electrical signals from your heart the watch can tell us what our heart rate is. That is an obvious piece of information. But what differs is the extra features such as calorie expenditure calculation, average heart rate as well as training zones. Some HRM`s have GPS and can be linked to computer software for even more in depth analysis, other HRM`s are water resistant. I think one of the most important features is the average heart rate function. This allows you to calculate energy expenditure using a calculator online. Now this may seem like extra work but I did this as I found a lot of different HRM`s that calculate energy expenditure were very exaggerated. What you must understand is that the heart rate can be correlated with work the body is doing and in turn energy expenditure. Ultimately this is done through an equation which is performed by the HRM which gives you your calories burnt. A lot of research was done (especially by my gorgeous partner) about HRM`s which lead us to the FT4. I have found the energy expenditure of this model to be close to all of the other equations I have used. The watch is well built and comes with a two year warranty. The band worn around the chest is quite comfortable and comes included with the watch. It should be noted that some HRMs are sold separately from the monitor. The beauty of the FT4 like most upmarket HRMs is that it can be used as your everyday watch, being also water resistant. I use this HRM to track my heart rate and energy expenditure. My watch doesn`t have GPS but many of the more expensive Polar`s do.
It would be terribly bias to at least not mention Garmin. Now you may have heard of Garmin mainly for their navigational systems for cars but they also manufacture HRM`s. I have found that these are massive in the endurance world almost every iron man or woman I have worked with has used Garmin. Something I found out from one of the athletes I worked with is his Garmin only worked when he was moving. That was very interesting to me and whilst it has been my prerogative to use my HRM as an everyday watch a Garmin wouldn`t allow it. However I should mention all of the Gamin using athletes I have spoken to love their HRMs and would recommend you to get one. Not only do they offer you a GPS tracking to allow you to keep a record of your distance, routes or speed it also allows you to race against a digital person with the virtual partner program. Garmin also offers Garmin Connect an online community which allows you to analyse categorize and share data. Polars FT4 pales in comparison with the ability to only store 4 – 6 training sessions. More if you are willing to spend the extra money to get the cord that allows you to connect the FT4 to your computer.
If you are a very active person who is looking to take the next step in HRM`s and isn’t on a budget then yes the Garmin is the way to go. The Garmin seems to be the leader in particularly with endurance sports. So if that is the direction you are going then Garmin would be my choice. For everyday use and aiding in weight loss the Polar is my first choice. It has all the features necessary to keep track of calories burned and to keep you moving forwards in your workout. For on average $200 less the FT4 is good for those on a budget. Personally I have been very happy with my FT4 and when it comes to GPS tracking you can get the same information from mapmyfitnesss a free app I have mentioned previously. Assuming you don’t mind manually recording the information after each workout. Either way HRMs are they way to go, so spend a little less on the gym bunny outfits or the meathead gym tool shirts and get a HRM Something that can help make a difference after all “if you can`t measure it you can`t manage it”.