The Polar watches with the chest straps are really good. My husband used an entry level Polar (with chest strap) for years before wearing it out and upgrading to a Garmin 405 with GPS tracking.
I really liked the GPS thing he had when I started exercising. However, I didn't want to spend the $150+ to get it. Instead, I found that my smart phone had a choice of several free apps that would support the Zephyr HRM. It's a chest strap HRM that communicates with the phone via Bluetooth. There are now 2 versions (basically one for Android and the other for iPhone until Androids support the new Bluetooth format) and they run no more than $75. The phone apps generally have a code for at least $5 off, too. And did I mention that the phone apps are FREE? There are probably 5-10 apps that support this HRM AND give you the GPS options; upgrading to the professional version that unlocks fancy features might set you back another whole $5. It does mean that you have to exercise with your cell phone (which can double as your MP3 player).
I let my cell phone ride in a little Amphipod waistpack which usually rides on the small of my back. It doesn't bounce around a lot and it doesn't get very sweaty, either. The waistpack is small enough that I can put it under my shirt and thread the earbuds up through the neck of my shirt. Aside from removing the less-than-beautiful effect of cinching in a waist I don't yet possess, keeping it under my shirt also hides my device in the event that thieves are on the trail (a very real problem in urban parts of some trails in the area, but not so much in the suburban/rural areas).
There are two programs I like for general fitness on my Android: SportsTracker and Endomondo. There are plenty of others, but these two, plus the Zephyr HRM have met my needs quite well. Something that the smart phone apps can do that the watches can't is to vocalize live stats to you and even speak intervals to you. For example, you can set it to tell you every, say, 2 minutes to tell you your heart rate, current pace, and cadence (no need to buy a foot pod for that, either). I need encouragement along the way, and hearing the stats every 2 minutes keeps me honest about how hard I'm working. I also don't look at my phone/watch every 20 seconds, either! I really like this solution.
Is it accurate? Yes. I've tested it while also wearing my husband's Polar and Garmin watches (not all three at the same time, though!).
If you don't mind carting your cell phone along, you might check the Bluetooth chest strap options like Zephyr. There are several other brands, now, like Wahoo for iPhones. I like the fact that I can choose which app to use instead of using only the Polar or Garmin websites for tracking.
| Pounds lost: 27.0