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Heart Rate Monitor aka my geek is showing

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

A DailySpark blog showing fitness gadgets happened to have the Polar RS100 heart rate monitor shown. I followed the link to Amazon, saw the price, and decided it was time to move ahead with my plan to get one.

It arrived on Monday. I didn't get it out and swoon emoticon until after work. I liked how neatly it was packaged, a small black box. Not sure why I expected something big and clunky. There's three pieces - the watch which tracks the data, the chest strap, and the transmitter.

It didn't take me too long to figure out how to get into the settings on the watch, just a few looks at the little guide and some button poking, and soon enough it had my vitals and was ready to go. The chest strap thus far seems to be reasonably comfortable. Then again, a few decades of wearing bras makes one used to a snug band around your rib cage.

It was at that point I ran into my first confusion. I know my resting heart rate - usually in the 58 bpm to 62 bpm range. It read 32. Adjust strap. No change. Turn off and turn back on. No change. Wet the electrodes more. ( emoticon That sounds horribly kinky for some reason ... or my mind is just in the gutter ... MOVING ON ...) No change.

Fuss, fuss, fuss. Take off strap, put it all back on. Ah! There's a 64! That's more like it.

Beep! Beep! Beep!


Okay, I know I set the sounds to OFF ... why is it beeping at me? Oh! My HR is below the limits set. Well, DUH! I'm sitting here figuring the thing out. How do I make it stop beeping?

I didn't actually figure that out the first day, but it wasn't obtrusive enough once I was outside of the office to worry over. I did learn just how freakishly (in a GOOD way) fast my HR drops back to a resting level. I already knew that even my very brisk walk isn't enough to get my HR up all that high, but it was amusing to see it in action.

I did my lower body workout that night and had it running through the majority of that. The calories burned it calculated and what SP came up with were nearly dead-on (4 calories apart). I have to admit I was rather shocked at that. With any strength training exercise that I've manually entered, I just put 5 calories. The ones that come from SP calculate numbers in the 13 to 15 range. Somewhere in the adding all of that together, it worked out.

Then yesterday it went back to showing me 32 again. NOTHING that I did would get it to show me the expected range.

I went online and searched. It BETTER NOT be the battery was my thought after reading numerous forums. (I'd be rather miffed to be sent an almost dead battery.)

Fuss, fuss, fuss. Ponder buying whatever gel some were recommending. Fuss, fuss. Change heart rate limits so it doesn't warn if I pass the Low. There, no more beeping ... if I can just get it to show the right .... wait a minute. 64? emoticon It's fixed!

Yesterday's cardio workout, it showed about 100 calories less burned than SP came up with. I did 30 minutes each on the elliptical and the recumbent bike. I've always thought SP's numbers for the stationary bike seemed a little high. They're about 200 over what the bike itself calculates per hour workout. Since I did both, it's a little hard to tell if that's where all the difference was from.

I also messed around a little bit last night and recorded an hour's worth of laying in bed writing and browsing on my laptop. Multiplying the resulting calories burned by 24 came up with around 1725. That's higher than the calculated BMR of 1520 (but that's to be expected as it wasn't completely at rest with minimal motion) but lower than the sedentary AMR of 1815 (which again makes sense because I wasn't doing any getting up and walking around which would be normal through a full day).

(Of course, it likely bases the calories burned on the same basic calculations, so it SHOULD be right in that range. This just gives me a nice confirmation that the numbers outside of deliberate activity are in the right range.)

Oh, and the 32 - 40 numbers?

Happened again. It was looking fine for the first couple hours, but suddenly it was reading 32 again.


Wet the electrodes. Nothing.


Poke buttons on the watch.


OHHHHHHHH! There's my 60. Poke button again. And there's the 32. I feel like a dodo. All this fussing and fussing and it was just me bumping a button on the side. My griping and frustration were purely self-inflicted.

Okay, so the button toggles between HR ... and what? Onto the website I went and pulled up the manual.

emoticon emoticon

It's a percent of my maxHR.

Y'know, for all that I know quite well that I want 60 - 85 % of maxHR when working out, I had never once wondered what percentage the resting HR was of maxHR.


Now, beyond that, I haven't quite decided how I want to use it most effectively. Today I'm doing a longer BMR test of sorts. I put it on and started the timer early this morning. I plan to use "laps" to break up my workout (cardio, weights, stretching), but otherwise have it run until I'm getting ready to sleep. The end result (plus the remaining hours to hit 24) should give me a pretty good guesstimate of my calories out in a typical workday.

I definitely wanted this for my weight workouts - to see where they actually sit in terms of basic calorie burn. It will also be useful when I do longer walks or when I know I'll be out and about on my feet most of a day - to get a better feel for how much more I burn.

I did wear it while walking Buster yesterday. That's always interesting because there are times we're running along and times I'm standing around waiting on his sniffer, so 20 minutes to go around the block (about 0.4 miles) isn't quite as light a workout as a mile in 45 minutes would register as. Natural intervals, hmm?


More generally, I am satisfied with the heart monitor at this point - though I wish the display had been clearer about being a percentage. (Now that I look, there is a tiny % off to the left that shows up. But not being larger and to the right of the number, I would not have seen it.)

Keeping the strap clean seems easy enough. It's noticeable that I have the strap on, but not bothersome. Being able to easily unsnap the transmitter when I'm not using it to save the battery is nice, though being a woman that could look a little odd if I do it in public. emoticon

The watch is lightweight, though of necessity has some bulk. In fact, it remains to be seen how well it stands up to the typical abuse being on my wrist entails. (Years back I had a very nice watch I really loved. About every 6 months, it seemed, I had to have the glass / crystal face replace because it would end up so scratched up I couldn't read it. Another watch snapped where the band meets the face when it caught on something. I'm rough on them without intending to be.)

Combine that with the cheapo pedometer I got after losing the Secret Santa gifted one, and I'm probably fitness gadgeted out for now. A good thing. I'm going to need to save money for other things, like more workout shirts in a smaller size.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    I remember using one of those - I have it a drawer somewhere.... hhmmmm.
    1961 days ago
    I love my HRMs - yes, I have several including a couple of Polars and also a Timex version. They all seem to work the same way and I don't even remember why I ended up with more than one of them. I'm just a gadget geek and like ot keep track of measurements.

    As for your BMR, while I think the HMR is more accurate than other guestimates, the only way to really KNOW what your BMR is requires a different test. I always wondered why all the calorie recommendations and counts seemed to be so far off for me - when I got my metabolism measured FOR REAL, I discovered it was incredibly low - 1238 to be exact! I got it measured again with different equipment by a different lab and it came up the same - turns out I also don't burn as many calories during exercise as expected so I started doing research into the topic and.....

    Turns out that ALL of the gadgets and programs and so forth are based on a formula calculating the 'expected' or 'estimated' calorie ranges for the 'average body' or what some people call 'the universal body.' Problem is, nobody actually HAS that 'average' or 'universal' body so it's really more like the gas mileage ratings for cars - that is, they provide interesting information but don't necessarily correlate to real life. I also found out that our metabolism changes all the time based on what we eat, when we eat, how frequently we eat, how we sleep, what activities we do and a bazillion other variables. It's taken me a long time to accept that there really is no way to get or use totally accurate data so I just play around with it and ignore the calorie parts of reports. Instead, I focus on heart rate, time it takes to do things, how far I can go and that sort of thing - that helps me keep track of my progress better than the scale, clothing sizes or 'calorie counts.'

    Anyway, good for you - I'm impressed with how well you are doing and you're definitely an inspiration for me!
    1962 days ago
  • WINNIE1978
    I really, really hope that your Polar HRM lasts longer than mine did. I received a Polar HRM for a Christmas present in 2011... and it only lasted a couple of months. It would work fine for a week or two and then stop reading my heart rate all together. I called Polar, was sent a new strap... it worked for a week or two... then nothing. Polar eventually tried to tell me that it was MY fault that it wasn't working. Funny thing though, is that I bought myself a Garmin HRM and have had zero problems from it!
    1962 days ago
    This is wonderful. I've thought about this, but never seem to have enough extra $ between pay checks/bills to comfortably get one. Maybe for tax season. ;) Thanks for sharing all the info about it!
    1963 days ago
    I want a Garmin, but currently have a Suunto and it doesn't do alot more than heart rate monitering, not even a stop watch! NOT happy about that. I hope yours does lots more!
    1963 days ago
  • KARL1266
    Glad you like the HRM. I have been tossing the idea around for a while as well and after reading your blog I will be thinking even harder. I, too, like the numbers and would love to have more data about the exercises I am doing.

    Couple of questions, if you don't mind...

    Is the strap on the watch adjustable? I have big wrists and standard watch straps just don't work for me. I don't wear a watch for that reason/

    And the chest strap...give me your honest assessment as to the comfort of it. I am a guy who doesn't like feeling constricted by "things". Could this be a potential issue?

    Can't wait to hear about future results!
    1963 days ago
  • _JODI404
    Glad you got it figured out! As a numbers girl, I knew you would love it!!

    I definitely love mine! I agree, along with a pedometer, I feel I have good data.

    Both tools encourage me to push harder/further.

    1963 days ago
    Very cool! I love my new HRM, too.

    I have heard, though, that HRM calorie counts aren't super-accurate at lower heart rates (that is, they're very accurate when you're doing cardio exercise, but not so great for weight-lifting or non-exercise times). You might want to research that a bit before relying on it for a total daily calorie expenditure.
    1963 days ago
    I enjoyed your review. I've been thinking about getting a heart rate monitor.
    1963 days ago
    I like seeing my numbers too and found my hrm to be a very useful tool. Many gyms have equipment that will sync with a Polar. That way the numbers that you see on, say a treadmill, are your actual numbers. Mine is a Sigma and actually stops working while I'm on my treadmill. I remedy this by removing the wrist watch and placing it nearby. Reads fine then. Have fun with it.
    1963 days ago
    Sounds like you are enjoying your new toy...btw thrift stores often have cheap workout clothes. I found two tops with Target tags on for .99 and one for $2 at Salvation Army on Monday.
    1963 days ago
    Thought maybe it was measuring metric heart rate until you revealed the reason for the 32. emoticon

    I tend not to trust numbers from the machines I use, the action/feel of different ellipticals (or other equipment) are disparate enough that you can easily feel like you're working out much harder and be told you're burning less calories on one, and then take it easy on another only to see it report a huge number. Which one do you believe?

    I expect I'd care more if I were concomitantly tracking food on here with any degree of accuracy.

    Appreciate the product review!
    1963 days ago
    Great review! By the way, I just picked up TWO work-out tanks at Goodwill for $2 each... like brand new! YAY!
    1963 days ago
    Does it come with the stretchy cloth strap? I swapped my Polar strap out for the waterproof version from the get go, and I think there are less problems. I also have noticed that I have to wear it lower than expected for accurate readings, or I get weird error messages, it stops, it has weird readings, etc. So there is about a good inch gap from bottom of bra - guess my heart is low!
    1963 days ago
    Oh those electronic gadgets have just about done me in sometimes!!! Even my pedometer made me crazy. Enjoy your new monitor emoticon
    1963 days ago
  • EKOSS88
    It's a device review and a comedic read all in one! AWESOME
    1963 days ago
  • 1EMMA2011
    Loved how you were trying to make it quiet! Congratulations on getting this! Sounds like fun!

    1963 days ago
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