How to Choose a Heart Rate Monitor for Me or Yourself

I know the importance of having a heart rate monitor, but I currently do not have one.  Why don’t I have a heart rate monitor?  Because it’s hard to choose one that fits my needs and my budget.  When I get a heart rate monitor I want to make sure it’s accurate and I want to make sure it can measure my high interval workouts.

There are 2 popular types of models.  Chest Strap and Wrist heart rate monitors.  There are others like arm band and finger sensor models as well.  But all of them have different features and the trick is finding a match for the model you are interested in and finding all the features you want.  Yes as you read through feature possibilities it’s easy to start adding more features to your list that you want that heart rate monitor to do.

Target Zones:  Basic heart rate monitors offer up to 3 target zones; more advanced models feature from 3 to 6 target zones. With the capacity for multiple target zones, you can preprogram your heart rate monitor for a series of different workouts (Click Here to Review Target Zones). If your heart rate monitor offers only a single aerobic target zone, you’ll need to reprogram it every time you want to change the exercise parameters.

Other basic features to consider when shopping:

Sport watch features: Include basic features such as a countdown timer, calendar and clock.

Stopwatch and lap/split times: Models with a stopwatch feature may also have a lap/split option. After each lap at a track or every mile on a marked-distance race course, hit the “Lap” button to see how your pace has changed throughout your workout or race (a.k.a. your “split”).

Recovery heart rate mode: Tracks the time it takes your heart to return to its normal, resting rate. It’s a good indicator of cardiovascular fitness and especially important if your workouts include sprints or interval training.

Time in target zone: Tracks the time you spend exercising within your target zone. Some zones and goals require more time than others.

Calorie counter: Estimates the calories burned during exercise. This can be especially handy if your workouts are part of a weight-loss program.

Speed and distance monitor: Calculates the speed and measures the distance covered in a particular workout. This is typically done via a GPS receiver for outdoor use or a foot pod for indoor use or use in an outdoor area with limited satellite reception. A foot pod attached to your shoe uses an accelerometer to determine the length of each stride. <#comment>For more information, read the REI Expert Advice article about Speed and Distance Monitors.

PC interface: Connects your heart rate monitor to your home computer so you can download training statistics for analysis and storage. This may require a separate computer connection accessory. A wireless interface is available on some models.

Fitness trainer: This feature provides alerts for intensity levels that fall above or below your chosen training zones.

Coded transmitter: Encrypts transmissions from the chest strap to the wristwatch-style receiver to prevent crosstalk, which are signals from the wireless heart rate monitors of others exercising around you.

Bicycle-mounting options: Many heart rate monitors can dock to a bicycle’s handlebar, though doing so may require a mounting accessory. Add a speed and cadence sensor to your bike to help maintain your cycling rhythm. The combination of a heart rate monitor, mounting bracket and cadence sensor can be a great asset for cyclists or triathletes.

Battery replacement: Many, but not all, HRM wrist receivers use consumer-replaceable batteries to simplify maintenance.

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