Traditional heart rate monitors have a chest strap that picks up impulses from your heart and transmits them to the monitor, usually a watch in your wrist. The heart rate monitor watch processes the data received from the strap and displays it to you. Your heart beat is then read constantly and displayed.
One issue with this type of HRM is that it is reliant on the chest strap making good contact with the skin of the wearer to pick up the signal. Usually you’ll have to make the electrodes on the strap damp and in some cases a special gel is required. Synthetic fabrics can interfere with the signal by building up a static charge, as can microwaves, radios and other electronic devices.
On the plus side this style of heart rate monitor is the most accurate with a host of functions. The decision as to which type of monitor you’ll want will depend on the type of exercise you do and what you aim to achieve using your HRM.radio strap
A wealth of functions to choose from
The main job of all heart rate monitors, strapless or otherwise is to measure the speed your heart is beating at. This is shown on the receiver which is usually a wrist watch. There are also more specialized monitors designed for triathletes and for cyclists which are designed to be multi-purpose fitting on a bike as well as on your wrist. This specialized type will have a set of unique functions such as wattage output, and pedaling cadence, useful functions if you ride a bike! These will usually cost more than a non specialist one and may require some accessories. Many monitors today come with an added attachment so that your HRM can be attached to your bike, but these do not have the specialized bike functions.
Using your heart rate monitor
To set up most monitors you’ll need to enter your age, weight and some other information so that the device can display statistics for your training session or workout. Most keep track of the length of the session, your max and min heart beat as well as the average and number of calories burned. They will monitor your ideal heart rate training range depending on what you’re trying to achieve and then beep if you fall outside of the target range. The target range minimum is usually 60% of your maximum heart beat and the maximum is 80% of your maximum heart beat. To find your maximum heart beat just subtract your age from 220 (which is the theoretical maximum heart rate). This is the calculation used in heart rate monitors and is the reason why you’ll need to enter your age.
There are also some monitors that will can work out your V02 maximum (a measure of how fit you are), some have built in GPS and can calculate altitude and ascent which can be useful when you’re on the bike. All of the higher end heart rate monitors and a few of the entry level ones can download your workout data to your computer so allowing you record and monitor all of your workouts so that you can keep track of progress.
How do I get the most from my heart rate monitor?
No matter what level of fitness and what your goals and targets are monitoring your heart beat and keeping track of progress is invaluable. You can make sure you’re not over training or over doing it and seeing your progress is a great motivator. You don’t have to be a competitive athlete to get the most out of your HRM. Using the data will help you design your ideal training schedule, even if it’s just a brisk walk 3 or 4 times a week. By using the data you can develop a plan that incorporates your minimum and maximum heart rate zones setting up a schedule that varies in duration and intensity. This will help you get the most from each session and you’ll know what adjustments need to be made to the plan by looking at your heart rate data.
Introducing the strapless heart rate monitor
By far and away the biggest benefit of the strapless heart rate monitor is that it can measures your heart beat without using a chest strap. The vast majority of strapless heart rate monitors are worn on your wrist and they work by having one or two sensors on the watch. When you put your finger(s) on the sensors the watch reads your heart beat and displays it. There are also designs that have a ring sensor that fits around your finger, ones that strap to your upper arm and ones that can be held in the hand and used for walking, jogging and running.
Depending on the style you choose the heart rate monitor may show your heart beat continuously while others can only monitor your heart beat when you use the touch sensor. These non-continuous styles are cheaper (about the same price as a regular digital watch) but you do have to use one or two fingers to take a reading.
No longer are heart rate monitors just for the elite athletes and it doesn’t require a second mortgage to buy one. They are becoming main stream tools used by people from every walk of life to recover from surgery or a cardiac disease, get fitter and more in shape, or just to help motivate themselves to take a little more exercise and see how many calories they burn in a day. No matter what you need a heart rate monitor for, there’s a model with the functions to suit you at a price you can afford and you don’t have to wear a chest strap all day long.