Monday, December 2, 2013


"In running, it doesn't matter whether you come in first, in the middle of the pack, or last.  You can say, "I have finished".  There is a lot of satisfaction in that"

- Fred Lebow



By monitoring heart rate, the simple observation that the harder we exercise, the faster our heart beats is put to good use.  A heart rate monitor essentially measures your pulse rate, immediately and accurately, even during your exercise period.  You do not have to stop exercising to check your pulse in your wrist or by palpating your neck.  Professional athletes and amateurs alike have, for decades, been relying on the information provided by their heart rate monitor for the following reasons:

A heart rate monitor is like a rev counter, giving a precise measurement of exercise intensity. Training at your own ideal pace is made possible with a heart rate monitor. Direct measurement of heart rate during exercise is the most accurate way to gauge performance.Progress can be monitored and measured, increasing motivation. It maximizes the benefits of exercise in a limited amount of time.It introduces objective observation. Are you on the right track? Are you improving? It is a tool for regulating frequency and intensity of workouts. Because of the immediate feedback it provides, heart rate monitoring is an ideal training partner.

The heart moves blood from the lungs (where the blood picks up oxygen) to the muscles (which burns the oxygen as fuel) and back to the lungs again. The harder the training, the more fuel the muscles need and the harder the heart has to work to pump oxygen-rich blood to the muscles. When there is a load placed on the heart, as in exercising, the rate of the heart beat speeds to a higher level and the monitor can monitor the progress of the heart rate.

There are some excellent monitors on the market and it’s important to know what to look for when you purchase one.  My suggestion is to look in sporting goods stores, compare one model with another and also be sure that you buy the kind with a chest belt rather than just a wrist monitor.  The belted types are more accurate.  Also, it’s important that you purchase a monitor that ‘blocks out’ stray electronic signals.  This requirement is called Coded Transmission by Polar.  Other manufactures have their own terms for protected transmission of your heart rate. You will be exercising in a gym with treadmills, bikes, etc., that have monitors built in, some television monitors nearby, and they can all affect the cheaper heart rate monitors.  Note:  I have noticed that many times while working out in a commercial fitness center, the reliability of the built-in heart rate monitors are not always accurate, and accuracy is very important when checking your heart rate.  Many times the built-in monitors do not work at all – get your own and learn how to use and benefit from it.
When you start your workout, your heart rate increases rapidly in proportion to the intensity of your training.  In Heart Rate Monitors, the transmitter belt, worn around your chest, detects the electrocardiogram (ECG - the electric signal originating from your heart) and sends an electromagnetic signal to the wrist receiver where heart rate information appears.
As you get fitter, your heart is able to pump more blood with every beat. As a result, your heart doesn’t have to beat as often to get the needed oxygen to your muscles, decreasing resting heart rate and exercise heart rate on all exertion levels.  In other words, it becomes more efficient and stronger.

Go to Google, type in ‘Heart Rate Monitor’s by Search, and see what’s available online.  I buy many things online, you can save money, and sometimes you can buy without paying for shipping or taxes.
You should get a monitor that has the following, as minimal requirements:
1.      Be able to set the parameters; high and low bpm (beats/minute) limits, and some units        have sound warnings when exceeded.
2.      Get one with ‘Coded Transmission’.
3.      It should give you the calorie expenditure for the time of your exercise period.
4.      The battery should be able to be replaced.
5.      It should have the total amount of time you exercised.
6.      Be sure you can read the face of the monitor while exercising.  Don’t buy one with tiny      markings!
7.      Check out the return policy and guarantee period.  When in the gym, check to see if the    heart rate is close to the monitors on the treadmill, bike, or elliptical trainer.

My personal choice and the one I use is a Polar Monitor FT7 but it’s relatively expensive and probably more than what you need.  Polar has been making monitors for many years and I think they make the best ones available.  Note:  I get no rebate for recommending this company and I do not benefit in any way in making the recommendation!  Also note that whatever type of activity you may be involved in, a quality monitor is worth what you pay for it.  Besides looking into a mirror to check your progress in exercising, a monitor can give you a pretty good idea of what your cardio-respiratory progress is.  You can check your VO-2 reading, a leading guide on evaluating your fitness.