April 2008 Wellness Ezine

Demystifying Heart-Rate Monitors

    Heart-rate monitors have become the go-to gadget for triathletes, runners, bikers and other athletes. While their use was once for only the hard core, these devices are now used by a wide variety of athletes to get a good workout.
    So what exactly are these contraptions, and how can they benefit your athletic workout? Believe it or not, we’re not always the best judge of how hard we work our bodies during athletic exercise. If you run the same distance at the same pace every workout, you’re not challenging your body, nor are you pushing yourself to run faster. Heart rate monitors help us to determine what our maximum heart rate is. By structuring your workouts off certain percentages of your maximum heart rate, you can ensure that you continue to push yourself athletically. Many athletes who race notice benefits in a race setting, as well.
    Fortunately, heart-rate monitors have become relatively inexpensive over the years. Basic devices start as low as $30. Omron’s HR-100CN is a model that has a stopwatch and time function, a chest strap and an alarm that signals high and low heart-rate limits. Novices will definitely want to start out in this lower price range. Basic models have the advantage of simplicity. The only disadvantage to cheaper models is that signals from other nearby monitors may interfere with your heart signal—a real bummer in spinning class or other indoor workouts.
    If your budget allows, pay the extra money to get a monitor that blocks out other heart-rate monitors. Other nice-to-have extras in this mid-range category include calorie counters, the ability to record workouts and computerized workout programs, such as Polar’s Keeps U Fit workout program. To check out this program, and Polar’s F11 ($160) model that has a built-in program, click here.
    Gadget geeks looking for more add-ons will want to look for GPS tracking and capabilities. Many advanced models can track mileage and help map your end destination on trails. The Garmin Forerunner 305 ($299) has had great consumer reviews and offers the ability to upload your workouts to an online training log that has performance data analysis. This monitor also has cycling hook ups that track cadence and wheel pick up. The biggest complaint from users of this model seems to be battery life—as low as 11 hours.
    Keep in mind that before you purchase a monitor it’s important to be clear on exactly why you’re purchasing the device. Map out clear goals for yourself, and decide how the monitor will help you achieve them. And be sure to invest in a resource guide that will assist you in getting the most out of your monitor. We recommend Heart Monitor Training for the Complete Idiot, which is great for novices and experts alike. Happy hunting!

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