After my ”Typical Tuesday” post last week, I got some questions about the device I use to calculate the calories I burn during exercise.
I love my heart rate monitor, and since it’s purchase took some serious thought and research, I figured I’d do a post about it. I hope it helps if/when you’re looking at buying a heart rate monitor of your own.
Until recently, the words “heart rate monitor” conjured up images of elderly men in wheelchairs who forced me to stand in line at the airport while they were wanded over and patted down . ”What’d you say? Yes, I have a heart rate monitor and hearing aids. Oh, and a pacemaker.” [Is this just me?]
But once I started taking classes at my local gym, I noticed that the fitness instructors were wearing wrist-watches that they’d fiddle with both before and after class. I asked a good friend of mine – who also happens to be an instructor and personal trainer – what this was all about, and she gave me the scoop.
What do they do?
Heart rate monitors do just what’s implied: monitor your heart rate. I use mine specifically for exercising, which helps know how hard my heart is working, whether I’m exercising at a fat-burning or aerobic level, and the length of my workout. My HRM records my information and allows me to look back within the past 10 sessions. If I wanted to, I could connect my HRM to an online program and track my workouts through a website.
Depending on the make and model, you may also be able to see things like the distance you’ve gone, splits and laps, and your caloric deficit over a 24-hour period.
Why use a heart rate monitor?
People have varying reasons for using HRMs. Sometimes they’re needed to keep track of heart rate so as not to exceed a certain percentage; sometimes it’s to keep tabs on heart rate during Spinning classes; sometimes it’s to assist in the weight loss [or weight gain] process.
The equation for weight loss again:
Calories BURNED [basic metabolic rate & exercise] – Calories CONSUMED [food] = Differential
[Theoretically, if you burn more calories than you consume day after day, you will lose weight. If you consume more calories than you burn, you will gain.]
Seems simple, right?
Well, it’s not so simple when you’re assuming the amount of calories you’re burning, or using programs to guesstimate for you. Online programs that guess calories burned are okay, but they’re often [read: mostly] wrong. Even the machines at the gym can’t tell you for sure the amount of calories you just burned.
Before I got my HRM, it was assumed that I was burning 1000 calories during a 1-hour spin class. In actuality I was only burning about 650. That’s a 350 calorie difference… which means I was eating 350 more calories than I should have been [an entire meal], slowing down my weight loss process. The rate at which individuals burn calories varies based on age, sex, weight and ability, so having a HRM will give you your correct calories burned, which will in turn help you reach your goals more quickly.
How do I choose a heart rate monitor?
Nowadays there are literally thousands of different heart rate monitors to choose from. They range from simple wrist-only models that utilize your finger pulse, to GPS-capable models that give you print-outs of elevation, climate, and running splits. There are models that have no strap [finger pulse], models that have chest straps, and models that are strapped to your upper arm. The options are often overwhelming.
Personally, when I was ready to purchase a HRM, I spoke with my good friend/personal trainer and asked what she recommended. She always wore a Polar HRM, but I knew she also had a BodyBugg that she was trying out. She let me borrow her BodyBugg for a couple of weeks, but ultimately I wound up with a simple Polar.
Here were my biggest reasons for choosing my Polar F6 [which is no longer made]:
- I wanted something simple
- I knew it was an investment, but I didn’t want to spend a crazy amount on my HRM
- I wanted something that was waterproof
- I wanted something I could use as a full-time watch
[Obviously I’ve gotten great use of my heart rate monitor!]
I’ve heard great things about the Bodybugg, but I personally didn’t like the fact that (1) I had to wear it pretty much around the clock and (2) it was so noticeable [when I wore tanks, there was no hiding the fact that I was trying to monitor my calories burned. My Polar has a chest strap that is comfortable and easily concealed.
I’ve also heard phenomenal things about the Garmin GPS heart rate monitors, but I’m not willing to spend upwards of $300 for a piece of equipment; and I’m really not that information-obsessed. My Polar gives me all the information I feel I need.
My Polar F6 has been a champ since I bought it a couple years back. I found it on sale from heartratemonitorsusa.com for less than $100 [+ free 2nd-day shipping!], but I encourage you to check sporting good stores to get a real feel of what you like.
My heart rate monitor is my number one fitness gadget. Knowledge is power, and my HRM has give me just that – changing my weight loss progress significantly.
I hope this helps!
If I’ve missed anything you have questions about, please leave a comment! —
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