Heart rate monitor (HRM) watches have revolutionized cardiovascular fitness training. Instead of simply measuring the effectiveness of a workout by the number of repetitions performed in a workout, or the number of miles covered in a daily jog, heart rate monitors allow the trainer to gauge the amount of time spent in a particular range of exertion. Metrics like repetitions or distance are only cumulative measures that don’t indicate the intensity of a workout, which is precisely what HRM watches are designed to do.
Though digital heart rate monitor watches come in a wide price range reflecting the number of features they offer, all of them have one feature in common. They allow you to enter in your date of birth, from which the watch prescribes you maximum recommended heart rate during a workout. From this data, you get to set a “target zone”, which is a percentage of the maximum heart rate. For instance, you might decide to work out at a consistent 65% to 80% of a your maximum heart rate. If you push yourself too hard and go above your target zone, or slack off and fail to push yourself enough to keep above the minimum heart rate, the watch will beep repeatedly until you return to the target zone.
Some HRM watches have a sensor build directly into the wrist band, but these tend to accumulate sweat more readily than watches that have heart rate data sent to them from a chest strap, and that sweat interferes with the accuracy of the sensor.
Chest straps have their own accuracy issues. Though it’s easier to clean sweat buildups from them, their wireless transmitters can pick up interference from other nearby transmitters. If you work out on your own, this won’t be an issue, but if you work out in a busy gym, the odds are that other users of HRM watches will be transmitting signals that will interfere with yours. To obviate this issue, some higher-end models, like the Polar F11, have coded transmitters that send heart rate information over a private channel. These high end watches are also able to record and upload your workout information to the manufacturer’s website, allowing you to analyze and optimize the effectiveness of your workouts.
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