Posts Tagged ‘Heart Rate Monitors’

12 days of sporty gifts — Day 6 — The gift to top all gifts

December 18, 2010

If you’re really looking to impress that sporty person on your gift list, look no further than the Garmin Forerunner 310xt.

At it’s core, the Forerunner 310xt is a heart rate monitor.  But oh is it so much more than that!

Garmin, as I’m sure you’re well aware is known for it’s GPS navigators.  And they’ve packed that GPS technology into the Forerunner.

No more mapping outdoor running or biking routes.  All you have to do is get outside and go, the Forerunner takes care of the rest, tracking your mileage as you travel.  Not only can you use it to track your runs and rides, but it’s also waterproof which means open water swimming practices are now completely accurate to the foot or meter.  (You can set it to standard or metric distance measurements means you can forget about converting that 10k into miles).  Also, you can set the Forerunner to beep or vibrate at whatever distance interval you prefer making it easy to be track and also (and this is huge for cyclists) allowing you to  keep your eyes on the road!

The battery life on this thing is long, lasting upwards of 20 hours on one charge which means you don’t have to worry about it dying during the middle of one of your long workouts or training sessions.

My absolute favorite feature is the virtual pacer.  Set it to the miles/km per hour you want to keep up with and the Forerunner will beep or vibrate to let you know if you’re keeping up.  I used the pacer during my last triathlon and it helped me turn in my best time ever.  It’s like having a trainer there with you yelling at you to pick it up.

Another noteworthy feature is the back to start map option which means you’ll never get lost.  If you get so into a run that you lose track of where you’re going and how to get back home, simply select “Back to Start” and the Forerunner will guide you back home via the way you came. — Awesome, right?

In the few months Garmin let me test out the Forerunner, I really only came up with one con.  The thing is huge…about the size of wearing two wristwatches next to each other.  That also means it’s a little heavier than most heart rate monitor watches, but the extra weight is hardly noticeable.

But you don’t have to take my word for it.  Check out this review from a marathoner friend of mine who used the Forerunner in the final months of his training for this year’s New York City Marathon.

One run with the Forerunner was all I needed to erase any concerns I had and convert me forever. It was supposed to be a post rest 4 miler, a brush up after two weeks of pool running, but quickly turned into a 6 miler. What impressed me right off the bat were the vibrating mileage alerts. Set at a beep every half mile, the alerts made the run feel quicker and broken in down into segments, so as opposed to a 6 mile run it was more like 12 half mile runs rolled into one. The real luxury of the Garmin turned out to be the heart monitor. I never knew what my heart rate was, let alone even cared, and felt any monitor was just another tool to bog a runner down. Yeah….I was wrong. The addition of a heart monitor in the final month of training, including three 14 plus milers, was invaluable. It felt like that 3 digit heart rate was a tiny digital coach. When my rate went to high, I knew I needed to slow down. When it dipped to low, I knew I could speed up. I was now running at my goal pace and removed any post run questioning, such as did I push too hard? Did I go to slow?

 An obvious attribute is the GPS. I don’t even need to spend much time here and can sum it up with one sentence. No more logging on to ‘Google Maps’ or ‘Map My Run’ and trying to remember what street I turned down when figuring out my day’s mileage.

As race day approached, I became more reliant on the Garmin and started to realize how foolish I was for questioning anyone who spent money on one. On race day, I wish I had spent it years ago. I didn’t try do anything different from my training runs, but as mile 21 approached and the inevitable wall loomed, I caught myself staring at it every few steps. Looking back on the race, I don’t even think I was staring at my pace, but my heart monitor and became lost in it, an ultimate distraction. And in a sport that can be full of external distractions, it really helped me focus.

 I finished 2 minutes under my goal pace.

 It’s been a month of running without the Garmin and its back to Google maps and choppy paces because I can’t target my heart rate on my own. You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.

 I’ll end with one quick note, the watch does not feel as big as it looks. I always thought people with Garmin’s looked like Inspector Gadgets niece, Penny. It fits like an Ironman and after a few miles you forget it’s even on your wrist.”

So as my friend alludes to, the Garmin Forerunner 310xt carries a weighty price tag, retailing for around $399.  But trust me, the athlete on your list will remember the gift for years to come.

Only 6 shopping days left until Christmas!


Take it easy ladies!

November 30, 2010

If you exercise regularly and you use your heart rate to monitor how intense you’re working out, get ready to have your mind blown.

Turns out the normal formula of 220 minus your age is often inaccurate when calculating a women’s maximum heart rate.  Researchers at Northwestern Medical in Chicago say that approach results in a heart rate that’s too high.  Instead, they suggest another way of calculating your maximum heart.  And you’re going to need the calculator for this: 206 minus 88 percent of a women’s age.

Let’s use me as an example.  Under the old system, my max heart rate would be 191.  Calculated with the “women’s only” formula, my new max heart rate goal is 180.  Now consider this: When training for a major race, I try to exercise within the 65%-85% of my max heart rate.  With the old math, my range is 124-162bpm.  With the new math, it’s 117-153bpm.  Obviously, this means I can now workout with less intensity to gain the results I want.  A win, except that I never stay below 153 or even 162 during my most intense workouts.  But that’s ok too.

The author of the study tells the New York Times that there’s nothing wrong with exercising at a higher level if you can maintain it.  He also points out that the study is based on averages, so that for some women the numbers will be too low, for others too high.

The people who this new way of calculating things will directly affect are those who live and die by the heart rate calculators on the treadmills.  Now instead of killing themselves to achieve that elusive heart rate number, they can workout a little less intensely, but still get the same results. 

And please remember, if you’re working out to the point of utter exhaustion, you’re doing something wrong.  You should be walking out of the gym exhilerated, not frustrated.

SOURCE: Recalibrated Formula Eases Women’s Workouts

Listening to Your Heart

August 6, 2010

Remember a couple of months ago when I blasted equipment at the gym for not providing accurate calorie counts?  Well, it’s time for a follow-up.  Here’s what my non-scientific study found this time around.

Calorie counts on stationary and spin bikes are still way off.  This holds true even if you’re wearing a heart monitor, which, one would think, would help the computer to calculate correctly how many calories you’re burning.  It doesn’t, so continue to ignore it.

Treadmills are a different story.  They are by far more accurate than bikes, coming within only 50 calories or so of the count registered by my heart rate monitor while running.  So you can pay attention to those numbers if you’re looking for a guide.

I still maintain you should concentrate on your heart rate range during the exercise for the most accurate reading of how hard you’re working. 

If you’re working for endurance (i.e. exercising over a long period of time) aim for a number that’s somewhere around 65 percent of your maximum.  If you’re doing intervals…get that heartrate up to between 80-85 percent of your maximum during those intervals and although the heartrate to fall to around 60 percent inbetween.

Not sure what your maximum heart rate is?  It’s really simple to calculate.  All you have to do is subtract your age from 220.

Don’t Trust the Gym

June 15, 2010

I’ve long heard that when working out on equipment at the gym, you should ignore the “calories burned” display, as well as the heart rate number that pops up when you grab those silver patches on the handlebars.  I used to take the warning with a grain of salt, I  mean, the read-outs can’t be that far off, right?  Wrong.

I recently started using my own heart rate monitor at the gym.  You know, one of those wrist watch/chest belt combos.  Well, I noticed a couple things. 

1) When the heart rate monitor picks up the signal from the chest belt, it’s usually a few points off.  My heart rate always registered lower than what the digital watch displayed.

2) The machine counted calories the same no matter how high or how low my heart rate was.  Obviously, the harder I’m working, the more calories I”ll burn, but I believe the equipment (in this case a bike) measure calories based on cadence, not exertion.  This resulted in calorie counts being way off.  After one workout, my heart monitor said I had burned 440 calories, the machine displayed 600.  That’s a big difference when you’re counting calories in and out and trying to lose weight.

So morale of the story is, if you want an accurate heart rate/calories burned results, invest in a heart rate monitor.   You really don’t need anything fancy (and there are some really fancy and cool ones out there).  Look for one that comes as a watch/chest belt combo.  Some watches just read your heart rate, others will give you calorie counts and time spent in a certain heart rate zone.  A good place to compare and buy is