Polar heart rate monitor

Garmin VivoFit Heart Rate Monitor Review

For Mother’s Day Logan (Michael ūüėČ ) got me a new heart rate monitor as a gift. I’ve been talking about getting a Garmin for a few years now.

I’ve been a faithful Polar HR monitor wearer for years but I feel like the Polar watch has gone downhill the last few years. I’ve had nothing but problems with them. The battery life is not great and even replacing the batteries when it dies, I was having issues with the watch just not working anymore. The price point for the Polar is “cheap” enough that whenever the battery replacement crapped out on me, I could just buy a new watch. But that was a pain and felt like a waste of money. It also irked me that I was basically having to buy a new heart rate monitor every year. I don’t know why the battery replacements wouldn’t work (at least 50% of the time). It was very frustrating.

So I started to look into some of the entry-level Garmin watches and I got really overwhelmed with reading reviews and trying to figure out which one would be best for me that I gave up.

I was really excited when Michael got this watch for me because he’s in IT and a tech guy and he reads ALL the reviews about this kind of stuff and is very knowledgeable about what is good, what is crappy, what features to look for, etc.

What I need in a watch or app is pretty basic. I want:

  • Calories burned
  • Heart rate
  • Miles ran/biked

That’s pretty much all I’m looking for. But this watch has so much more! It has dozens of activities to choose from. You can personalize it a bit, too. It also tracks steps and sleep.

I use the Garmin Connect App on my iPhone. I synced it with the watch and a few times a day it syncs automatically with the app and updates everything. ALSO, a cool feature, you can connect it to your MyFitnessPal app and it will record your steps/calories/activities in the app for your day. I like that feature. One less place I have to LOG everything! It just does it for me.

If you want to read a step by step instruction of the watch, with photos, check out this link. It was very helpful for me when I was first learning my watch. My review today is more about the functionality of it.

I didn’t think the sleep tracking would be all that interesting to me, but after using it for a few weeks I actually kind of liked that feature. It was interesting to see how well ¬†I slept — it tracks light sleep, deep sleep, and when you are awake. It’s funny seeing the graph for the nights I get up with Logan!

It also tracks steps, which is interesting to see how active I am but I don’t really track the steps in any other way so I rarely look at that info. I will say that at work I have a standing desk and I walk around a lot to the printer, mail room, around the office, etc, so I move a lot during the day. The only time I really sit at work is in meetings!

Fitness

I’ve used the Garmin watch for a few different activities now. Hiking, walking, running, cardio in the gym and strength training.

When I used it hiking in Bend, I feel like the calorie count was WAY off. But I didn’t wear my Polar heart rate monitor to compare (I had planned on using both for the first few weeks to compare the stats and see how accurate the Garmin is).

I’ve worn it going for walks–long and short–and I also feel like the calorie burn is a little on the high side. Again, I need to wear my Polar on my next walk to compare the calories and see. Maybe I’m wrong.

Running — It’s accurate and it works great! I’ve worn it running outside three times now and I compared it to my Polar heart rate monitor and the Cyclemeter iPhone app for mileage and it’s accurate in the mileage and it’s accurate in the calories burned within about 10 calories.

I’ve worn it running on the treadmill once and the mileage was NOT accurate. It was off by about half a mile. Which is no big deal to me because I have the mileage on the treadmill I can look at. I am more concerned about it being accurate when I run outside.

Running on the treadmill gave me a fairly accurate calorie burn, when I compare it to the Polar HRM. It was about 20 calories more than the Polar. Not a big deal. Anything more than that and I’d be concerned, but 10-20 calories isn’t a huge deal to me.

The above photos were from my treadmill run. I started the Garmin 1 minute late and stopped it 1 minute earlier than the Polar, but despite that, the calories were pretty close. This particular run was 3 miles on the treadmill but the Garmin thought I did 3.58.

I like the screens that show heart rate and distance. It’s easy to scroll through and see quickly while you are doing the activity.

Swimming – I wore it in the pool to check it out. The first big issue I have with it? It doesn’t track heart rate while swimming. I found that odd and I’m not sure why it doesn’t do that. It gave me a calorie count at the end of my swim session but I doubt it’s reliability because it didn’t link in my heart rate. At this point in my life, swimming is very very easy and I’m very efficient when I swim–meaning, I don’t burn the same amount of calories in a session as I used to.

I highly doubt I burned 440 calories swimming. I wear my Polar HRM once or twice a year in the pool just to check in and see where I am at calorie-wise and it rarely changes–one session according to Polar is between 300-350 calories burned. So that is a little disappointing.

I do like that it gave me the break down of the strokes, etc. It also synced to the app and gave me info:

I kind of love the charts and break down of pace and when I rested and stroke info. One other glitch? When I tried to swim some laps with the paddle board, it stopped counting my yards. I guess it’s calculating everything by arm movement. That was kind of frustrating.

So in that particular session I did 2000 yards, even though it didn’t quite calculate it correctly.

PROS

  • No chest strap!!! It’s just the watch
  • Long battery life in between charging
  • It finds GPS quickly and doesn’t seem to lose the GPS signal
  • Accurate mileage and calorie burn
  • Easy to use
  • Syncs with Garmin Connect app for full data
  • Touch Screen on watch
  • LOTS of features
  • The watch is light and fairly comfortable
  • It notifies you to move if you’ve been inactive for too long

CONS

  • A lot of features that I’m not sure how to use yet, if you’re not really “techy” it can feel overwhelming
  • Sometimes it takes too much time to scroll through all the screens on the touch screen watch
  • It doesn’t show your calories being burned DURING the activity, only once you are done
  • Exercise limitations–You can add more activities to personalize it but it would be nice to have other options instead of just “other”
  • The limitations in the pool are a big con for me

I haven’t had a chance yet to test it out biking. I’m hoping to bike to work sometime in the next few weeks and write a review on it then.

QUESTION: What kind of heart rate monitor/activity tracker to you use? Thoughts?

Weight Loss Tools

Well, we are a few weeks in to 2015! How are your new year’s resolutions going? Are you still on track? If your goal was to lose weight this year, I hope you are finding your groove and settling in to your new routine.

I think there are a lot of different ways to approach weight loss. Weight Watchers is a great program and I think it’s one of the best options out there (although I never did WW). It teaches you portion control and how to eat in a healthier way in the “real world” as opposed to a Jenny Craig type program where you only eat their food.

Whatever your path, here are a few tools that can help you along your way:

Scale

I know, I know, the dreaded scale. If you can get away with losing weight and not using a scale–just go by measuring and how clothes fit–more power to you. You’re probably better off. But for most of us, a scale is a necessary evil. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of factors that go into weight loss and health and they can’t all be measured in a number. But this is a good place to start to track your progress.

If you can, find one of those fancy scales that don’t show the number. They sound fantastic and someday I’d like to have one. Basically you set up the scale, weigh yourself, then put in your goals. The next time you step on the scale it will tell you your progress without telling you your actual weight. I like the concept–I think it’s healthier emotionally than seeing a number and feeling devastated but instead you see that you lost a percentage of your weight compared to the last weigh in.

No matter what you decide to get, make it a habit to weigh yourself consistently. Whether it’s once a week or every other week or once a month, try and be consistent: same time of day, before eating or drinking any water. Keep a journal or track the progress in some way.

green-scale-large1

Heart Rate Monitor

I’ve talked a lot about heart rate monitors on this blog. I never had one while I was losing weight and I kind of wish I’d had. I think it¬†could have spend up some of the weight loss. What the HRM did for me was twofold: 1) It taught me to TRAIN SMARTER and 2) It gave me better accuracy in the gym.

With training smarter, I noticed it first with running. It taught me how to pace myself. It really did teach me how to run. When I first started running I thought it was “run as fast as you can as long as you can” and that’s not right. Or healthy. Or effective training. The heart rate monitor taught me how to pace myself and stay within the zone for extended periods of time. I am such a better athlete because of my HRM.

With the accuracy, I finally knew how many calories I was really burning. The cardio machines aren’t accurate at all, even putting in my age and weight. And when I don’t do machines, I want to know how many calories I’m burning lifting weights or doing body weight exercises. It helps knowing the actual number.

Read this old post for more details: Polar Heart Rate Monitor Tutorial.

hrm

Food Diary App/Journal

I think tracking is THE number one way to lose weight. Being aware, being consistent, being HONEST with food tracking WILL work. The trick is to be honest with portions and calories you are consuming. If you aren’t honest in your journal, you won’t see weight loss. And this is something I know well!

There are a ton of free options out there. I know that Spark People was a really popular website for people. If you are on the go and want something that you can use anywhere, a smart phone app is probably the best choice. I use My Fitness Pal and I know that Lose It is also a really popular app.

The reason I think a calorie app or food journal is so important because it’s right in your face. It makes you be aware. You are aware of calories in food, you are aware of what you are eating, you become aware of what food makes you feel good and what food does not. Tracking your calories will show you where you need more work (for me, it’s sugar). If you get an app that breaks down your intake you can see if you’re eating enough protein and fiber, if you’re eating too much sugar (ME!), if you are deficient in vitamins. It’s just all around a great tool to help you in your journey.

Check out these old post for some more suggestions:

How Do You Track?

How to Count Calories

The Battle of The Calorie Counters.

 

Water Bottle

I am always trying to drink more water. I am so bad at this, but I’m getting better. Having a large water bottle at work that sits right next to my computer reminds me throughout the day.

Drinking water is a good thing all around, but if you are trying to lose weight drinking more water can be essential. It fills you up. It takes the edge off hunger pains. How often have you thought you were hungry and you mindlessly munch of snacks when in reality you were just thirsty? I’ve done that many times. Listening more carefully to body cues can help with weight loss (am I REALLY hungry? Or just bored? Thirsty? etc).

My tip would be to ditch the sodas, the juice, etc, stop drinking your calories and switch to water.

drinkmorewater

Food Scale

This has done so many great things for my weight loss. For a long time I just went off the nutritional labels and then eye-balled portions. Portion sizes have always been my downfall and you can go along, thinking you’re doing great and then discover you’ve been tracking for 1 serving when really eating 2 or 3! No wonder weight loss wasn’t happening. For awhile I did the food measuring with measuring cups. This is better than eye-balling it and guesstimating, but it’s still not perfect.

A food scale was so eye opening for me. We got one a few years ago and one of the first things I used it for was cereal. The box says a serving size is 3/4 of a cup or 1 cup. Okay cool. I measure out a cup and think I’m doing ok. Then I used a food scale and measured out the serving according to grams (per the nutritional label) and HOLY COW. I had been eating way more than I thought!! (Read this post:¬†M is for Measuring Mistakes!)

A food scale is fantastic. If you buy ONE THING to help in your weight loss goals, this would be the one I’d recommend.

Finally, if you’re new to my blog, check out this weight loss series I did a few years ago:

How to Lose Weight Series: 

Week One, Week One Check In

Week Two , Week Two Check In

Week Three

Week Four

Week Five

Five Truths of Weight Loss

Five Truths of Maintenance

Hope it helps jump start your weight loss resolutions!