Why A Heart Rate Monitor?
If you have ever used a treadmill, elliptical, or stationary bike, you are familiar with silver “hand sensors” on the handles. When you begin using those machines, you can enter information such as your weight, etc., and (while you are touching those silver sensors) it will monitor your heart rate while you are working out.
A chest strap monitor is basically the same thing, except it is portable. The strap monitors your heart rate and transmits that information to the watch – providing you with INSTANT feedback. The strap will also transmit the information to the monitor on a cardio machine so you don’t have to hold on to the sensors. (And can be a great way to test it for accuracy!)
There is a wide range of monitors available for purchase from $30 to $300. They are usually available at Sporting Good stores, Internet based retailers, and even on Ebay. Name brands include Polar, Timex, and Sports Instruments among others. Some do not require a strap, and some even come preprogrammed, etc. I have found that (as with most things) the higher priced models usually have more “bells and whistles” to them. It just really depends on what your needs and preferences are. I use a basic model. I just want to know what my heart rate is, if I am in the right “zone”, and how many calories I am burning!
The reason for using one is visual feedback of how hard your body is working, and it ultimately maximizes the time you spend exercising. There is some satisfaction to looking at that watch and seeing how many calories you have burned, or seeing how hard you are working. For an idea of where your heart rate should be (and more info about the “fat burning zone”) check out Adam’s June 8th post on this blog titled “The Fat Burn Zone – does it exist?? Busting through a Plateau.
When I started training with Adam, I began each session getting my heart rate in the right zone, and then he promised if I got it there for 15 minutes, it would stay there for the next hour while we trained with weights. He was right…as usual. It was sort of a game for me to see if I could keep my heart rate in the right zone. Over time, I have seen that staying in the right zone is the “smarter, not harder” way to get results. It can also help you avoid working out BEYOND your zone.
An additional benefit to using a heart rate monitor is being able to see your overall progression. Today I am able to get my heart rate A LOT higher than I could 18 months ago, and my resting heart rate is lower than before as well. In short, my heart (and whole body for that matter) is healthier. Ironically, it also helped me to see that I could really push myself to limits I hadn’t previously tested!