A few months ago, I reviewed a heart rate monitor from Sportline that I wasn’t too happy with. After writing that post and knowing that I needed a better watch to work out with, I reached out to my fellow Girls Gone Sporty ambassadors to see what their picks were. I received some great feedback from some women and decided to go with a Polar heart rate watch, or what they refer to as a training computer.
If you’re curious as to how wearing a heart rate monitor during exercise can benefit you, check out an article I just wrote on FitKit on this subject here.
I’ve been reluctant to try a sport watch with a chest strap, for the simple fact that I was convinced it would annoy me. I guess I’m weird in that I hate things bothering me during workouts. For instance, my iPhone armband sometimes falls down or my headphones get in the way, and I found it pretty bothersome. Another annoyance is when I wear workout pants that constantly fall down. Continuously pulling up pants is the worst! I was trying to avoid the chest strap for this reason, but after hearing so many people rave about Polar watches, I decided to just give it a try.
The Look: When I received my watch in the mail, I couldn’t wait to try it out. I actually liked the look of the watch better in person. Online it looked kind of bulky to me and bigger than what I usually like, but in real life, it’s kind of cute.
The Setup: The watch was really easy to set up. It took me around 5 minutes from start to finish to get it up and running. This is a nice change from some complicated workout gear I’ve dealt with in the past.
Wearing it: The first time I wore the chest strap, I wasn’t sure where to place it – is it better below my sports bra or underneath it? After using it a bit, I decided that I like to tuck it into the band of my bra better. Though I do feel the strap when I wear it, it isn’t necessarily uncomfortable to use. A couple of times I have felt like it’s falling down a bit and I’ve had to adjust it, but besides that, the strap really isn’t bad at all. The watch itself is really comfortable to wear, and I really like the band.
Continuous Heart Rate: Besides the one new watch I know of out there that has the ability to continuously monitor heart rate without a chest strap, there are 2 options available: to wear a chest strap and have continuous heart rate measurement, or just wear a heart rate watch and constantly have to take your pulse for it to be somewhat accurate. After using the Polar F40 for a couple of weeks, I think it’s definitely worth it to get one with a strap to wear for continuous heart rate measurement. I find having to put my finger on a watch to measure my pulse in the middle of a workout to be distracting and annoying. It also takes away from the intensity and speed of my workout, so not having to worry about it is great! It also gives you more accurate results, since it’s continuously monitoring your heart rate instead of just when you take your pulse.
The other day I went mountain biking, which is a workout that I’ve found nearly impossible to measure calories burned in the past with my other watches that didn’t have a chest strap. It’s just tough to take your grip off the handle bars to put your finger on your watch and wait a bunch of seconds for it to measure your heart rate. On the other hand, with this watch it was awesome! I just put my strap and watch on, pressed start, and never needed to bother with it until the conclusion of my workout, when I pressed stop and checked out my workout summary.
Fun Features: The obvious way I’ve been using the watch for the most is the calorie burn feature. I know that people tend to overestimate how many calories they’ve burned during a workout. Though my estimates for a lot of my activities were pretty spot on with the watch’s results, there was one exception to this – during lower impact workout days when I do ab exercises, stretching, and some moderately intense cycling. I’ve learned that according to my Polar FT40, I burn only around 300 calories for 50-60 minutes of this type of workout, when I had previously thought it was more like 400-500 calories. This obviously isn’t counting a post-workout burn and revved metabolism, but it’s interesting to note.
The Polar FT40 is really easy to use, and also has some cool individualized features to help improve your workouts. For instance, the watch has a EnergyPointer feature that tells you what heart rate you’d need to be at to turn your training from the ‘fat burning’ into the ‘fitness improvement’ zone. It’s also water resistant, which is really neat if I’m ever swimming or partaking in water sports like kayaking.
Cost: With the price listed as $180 on the Polar website, it might seem a little steep if you’re just looking to try out a heart rate watch and see if you like using one. However, you can find it for a lot cheaper on other sites like Amazon or Heart Rate Monitors USA.
The Gist: This watch is pretty damn awesome! The Polar FT40 watch is a great tool for measuring the amount of work you’re putting in during workouts, and I think it’s worth the cost. This gadget is definitely one way to make exercise more interesting!