What do you look for in a heart-rate monitor

  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Apr 20, 2009 1:23 AM GMT

    Piggybacking off this thread. I have been interesting in getting a heart-rate monitor for a while now, and the benefits of using one have been discussed extensively on this site before. But, in shopping for one, I have noticed that there is a stupid amount of options. Help me out.

    What features are absolutely essential? Which features are nice to have, but not required? Which features do you use most often? Any other suggestions?


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    Apr 21, 2009 5:25 PM GMT
    Heart rate monitors are a great tool, and the choice of which on has to be a function of what information you want. Like a lot of devices, they tend to come packed with a lot of functions you don’t need - so figure out what you want/need - and go from there.

    There are some traps to avoid:

    1) It’s easy to become dependant on the monitor to the point where you loose the feel of your body and what it’s telling you. The Scandinavians stress a “perceived exertion” scale, which with some practice, lets their athletes “set” a rate and keep pretty close to it. I’ve seen some athletes so dependent on their monitors that they get lost without them.

    2) It’s also easy to get locked into the monitor to the point where a natural interval - say a higher pulse at the top of the hill - becomes impossible: the athlete slows down or stops. Which is stupid. Don’t become a monitor-linked robot.

    It’s a good idea to get a lactate-level test, so you accurately know your various zones. A rule-of-thumb is the 20-10-10-20 rule: find your maximum heart rate by doing a good warm-up and then a series of escalating sprints or hills The last one should be long - five minutes?- and be puke-at-the-top experience. Say for round numbers this gave you a max of 100 beats per minute. Now subtract 20 beats: this gives you a rate of 180-200 for max exertion work. Now subtract 10 more: 170-180 is your interval zone; ten more gives you 160-170 for “fast cruise”; and 140 and below is your long-distance/endurance zone.

    If you can get to a lab and do a lactate test, you can establish the zones even more accurately, and this will give you the best results. Note that the zones will change as fitness increases or decreases - so re-testing every few months (whether in the lab or the do-it-yourself method) is a good idea.