I’ve decided to try exercising with a heart rate monitor (HRM) again. I first tried one of these way back in the early 2000s, before I even started this blog. Back then, Polar sold a chest electrode/transmitter strap paired with a LCD wristwatch that received the signal and displayed the heart rate. It was primitive by today’s standards, but worked pretty well. That model had a big design flaw, though — the strap had a non-replaceable battery, and once it died, the strap was worthless. Also, the transmitter was built in to the strap, and activated by moisture. As a result, unless the electrodes were bone dry, the battery would run down. The new design is much better. The model I have is the H10, and the transmitter snaps onto the strap, and has a replaceable battery. The big difference is that it no longer comes with a watch. Instead, it uses bluetooth to connect to your favorite device (phone, watch, gym equipment, etc) where you then run an app of your choice to receive and process the heart rate data. Polar has its own app for this called Polar Beat, but there are many others out there as well.
I mainly had running in mind when I got the H10, but I also plan to use it occasionally while biking. So far, I’ve used it three times: twice while running, and once while using my treadmill desk. The latter was mostly out of curiosity: I wanted to see how high my heart rate got while I walked along at 2 mph. Turns out it tops out at around 80bpm. For running, I’m evaluating 2 different apps: RunKeeper (which I’ve used for many years) and Polar Beat. The jury is still out, but I’m currently leaning towards Polar’s app, as it includes more features without a premium subscription (the premium features are unlocked when you pair a Polar HRM with the app). I’m going to run with it a few more times, and see what I like and dislike about it.
I do kind of miss having a wristwatch, as it’s kind of difficult to get a point-in-time heart rate reading from the phone, particularly this time of year, when I keep it underneath various layers to keep the battery from running down in the cold. It may be less of an issue once the weather warms up. I may go back to using an armband in warm weather. There’s also the Apple Watch, but I’m not sure I’d get enough use out of it to warrant the price. I’m sure I’ll figure something out after I’ve been using the HRM for awhile.