The Best Heart-Rate Monitors Around

author : chrisandniki
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You may not realize it, but everyone has a personal coach. This coach will tell you exactly when you’re working too hard, or not hard enough. This coach is also a training partner, the one who’s with you 24 hours a day, seven days a week.   This coach and training partner is none other than your heart.
 
Why a Heart Rate Monitor?
According to the U.S. Public Health Service, 50% of people who start exercising quit within six months. This is because they do not have a way to conveniently and accurately test their fitness level – or train at an effective level of intensity.  For those who have been training a while, heart rate monitors helps measure and track the right exercise intensity for your workout. 
 
For some great ideas on training with a heart rate, check out Heart Rate Monitor Training for Triathletes Part I and Heart Rate Monitor Training for Triathletes Part II by  BeginnerTriathlete member Scott Herrick.


Heart Rate Monitor Considerations
Heart Rate Monitors (HRMs) come in all shapes, sizes, and prices. Some attach to the earlobe, others around the chest. Some HRMs even use a fingertip sensor on the watch. Prices for HRMs range from under a hundred dollars (for a simple clock and heart rate display) to hundreds of dollars (for models that are basically personal sports research facilities at your fingertips).
 
So for the triathlete, where do you begin? Which model is best? Here are some features to consider before looking at specific models:

  • Make sure you get a waterproof model if you plan to use it for swimming. It’s hard to check your heart rate when swimming, but it can be done. To do so though, you’ll need a waterproof model.
  • Get a separate cycling computer. Don’t try to mix worlds with a cycling computer and heart rate monitor all rolled into one. It’s too difficult to check your RPMs, and then switch back to your heart rate. You’ll find yourself looking too much at your computer rather than the road.
  • Find a display with large numbers and big buttons. If your eyes are like mine, trying to read something that’s at your wrist is tricky – unless you’re looking at big numbers. Also, big buttons are easier to push when moving.
  • Find a HRM that has a chest strap. Make sure the strap fits snug (if it doesn’t fit well, the readings won’t be accurate). Trying to mess with holding your finger on a sensor or contending with an earpiece is frustrating. Since you’ll be moving when taking your HRM, go with the chest strap versions.
     
    The chest strap actually rests around the sternum (for women, just under the breasts and bra). Usually, chaffing isn’t a problem, especially if you wet the contacts on the back of the chest strap. Wetting these contacts will help make a good contact with your skin.
     
    If you do find the chest strap chaffing – loosen the strap. Also, you can try a product called Buh-Bump Cream (an electrolyte gel like what they use in hospitals) to ensure good contact. You can order this at: http://www.get-rhythm.com/index.html 
     
     In addition, some sports bras now provide a lip to hold HRM chest straps.

You can find all these features (and more) in models retailing around $100 or less. Some HRMs do provide the ability to also test stress levels, detect over-training, program target heart-rate zones, and connect to a computer through a serial port (to upload data). Of course, these models jump up in price to around $300 or more.

The Best Heart-Rate Monitors Around
Now that we’ve looked at the features you want to look for, the following list shows the best of the best. All these models include a chest strap (to transmit your heart-rate), and a wristwatch (to receive and view the heart-rate information). 
 
All these models are also waterproof (you won’t be able to scuba dive with them – but they’re waterproof enough for swimming).

 

Timex Bodylink
Tale of the Tape:
This top of the line heart-rate monitor also includes a speed and distance sensor (which measures your pace via GPS technology). A data recorder is also included, which allows you to connect to your computer to download data for analysis.
 
 Features:
 • Displays when users are above, below, or within their heart rate target range.
 • Provides users with an audible and visual out-of-zone alarm when their heart-rate leaves the target heart-rate zone.
 • Allows users to view two different readings at the same time.
 • Clear and easy to read display.
 
 Cost: $299.99

 

 

Polar S610i
Tale of the Tape:
This monitor allows you to monitor and store up to 100 hours of workout data, including heart rate and calories burned. The S610i also allows you to measure VO2 max. 
 
Features:
 • Indicates when users are above, below, or within their heart rate target range.
 • Displays the last time of exercise, time in zone, average heart rate, calories burned, total calories burned, and total exercise time.
 • Records average and maximum heart rate for workout.
 • Provides training reminders based on date, time, or workout schedule.
 • Measures the number of calories used during a workout.

 Cost: $279.99

 

 

Polar A5
Highly Recommended
Tale of the Tape:
In addition to displaying heart rate, this model counts calories during your workouts, and automatically calculates your age-based target zones. 
 
Features:
 • Measures body mass index.
 • Helps you visually understand where you are within your target zone.
 • Measures the number of calories burned during a workout.
 • Allows users to define whether they want to view real-time heart rate in beats per minute or the percentage of maximum heart rate.
 • Easy to start.
 • Stores total exercise time, time in target zone, and average heart rate of total exercise.
 
 Cost: $99.99

 

 

Polar A3
Tale of the Tape:
A slimmed down version of the A5, this model allows you to view your target zone, your heart rate limits, exercise time, and the average heart rate during total exercise.
 
Features:
 • Automatic and manual heart rate limits.
 • Displays exercise time, as well as the actual time, and date, This model also contains an alarm and backlight.
 • Easy to start.
 • Displays average heart rate of total exercise.
 
 Cost: $89.99

 

 

Timex 30-Lap Ironman
Tale of the Tape:
This model contains several useful functions, such as 5 programmable heart rate zones, recording of time in these target zones, calculations of recovery heart rate, and a countdown time, stopwatch, and alarm. 
 
Features:
 • Contains enough memory to record and recall the average heart rate of up to 30 laps (as in track laps),.
 • Measures the number of calories burned during a workout.
 • Allows users to program heart rate zones,
 • Display allows viewing of multiple information at once.
 • Allows for heart rate readings even during the most intense activities.
 
 Cost: $89.99

Cardiosport GO-10
Tale of the Tape:
Although stated it’s made for both men and women, this brand fits more comfortably on those with smaller wrists. This HRM contains a cool scan feature to show maximum, average, and minimum heart rate zones. The GO-10 also includes a training zone with alarm that tells users when to increase or decrease training intensity.

Features:
• Well laid-out display allows you to view two different readings at the same time.
• Records average and maximum heart rate for workout, as well as contains an alarm to tell when users are out of that zone.
• Displays when users are above, below, or within their heart rate target range.

 Cost: $79.99

 

 

Polar F1 Series Heart Monitor
Tale of the Tape:
The barebones Polar model has everything you need for a great price. It’s also easy to use with its one button and bold number display. The F1 tracks heart rate and exercise time continuously. The F1 also proves an average heart rate at the end of your workout.
 
Features:
 • Clear and easy to read display.
 • Records average and maximum heart rate for workout.
 • Displays an exercise file of time exercised, time in zone, average heart rate, calories burned during exercise, and total exercise time.
 
 Cost: $59.99

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About the Author: Chris Tull is a writer based out of the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Once upon a time, he was a ‘burgers-and-beer-only’ kind of guy. Chris has since lightened up on the diet and added yoga, weight lifting, and (of course) triathlon training to the mix. You can contact him at chrisandniki@yahoo.com  or visit his online journal at http://ctull.blogspot.com/

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date: November 29, 2004

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chrisandniki

Chris Tull is a writer based out of the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Once upon a time, he was a ‘burgers-and-beer-only’ kind of guy. Chris has since lightened up on the diet and added yoga, weight lifting, and (of course) triathlon training to the mix.

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avatarchrisandniki

Chris Tull is a writer based out of the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Once upon a time, he was a ‘burgers-and-beer-only’ kind of guy. Chris has since lightened up on the diet and added yoga, weight lifting, and (of course) triathlon training to the mix.

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