Polar Heart Rate Monitor Tutorial

I get tons of questions and emails about my Polar Heart Rate Monitor. Here is a quick guide to everything HRM. Hopefully I can address all the questions and mystery about them.

Lynne asked: “I’ve recently been thinking about getting one, and read up on them a little online. It said that you need to use a chest strap? How does that work? Does it go over your chest or just below? I weigh about 220-I’m worried if it will even fit me? is it uncomfortable to wear?”

Bethany said: “OK, I need a heart rate monitor! I leave the gym having no idea how many calories I’ve burned… at all. I don’t even really pay attention to the treadmill/elliptical because I’ve heard they are bad estimators.”

Hanna asked:  “I wanted to buy biggest loser body bug however it was like above $200. Now I saw this watch that a lot cheaper than body bug. Are these accurate to burn your calorie?”

Answer: Using a HRM is a very accurate way to calculate the calories burned–IF you enter the information in accurately. I entered my Sex, Age, Weight and it calculates the number based on that in combination with my heart rate. Read more…

How It Works

This information is based on the one I use–which is the Polar Heart Rate Monitor (ModelF6). It comes with a wrist watch and a chest strap.

The most accurate heart rate monitors use a chest strap. It fits snugly around my chest just below the breasts. My sports bra (with a thick under-wire) goes on over it and there is no discomfort in wearing the strap. In fact I usually don’t know it’s there.

The transmitter in the strap detects the electrical activity of my heart just like an ECG does. It relays the information to the wristwatch. In the photo below you can see the chest strap. It can be adjusted according to size. Mine is a Medium and it’s adjustable. Michael has one and it’s a Men’s Large, so the strap is much bigger.

I turned the HRM on and it immediately checks to see what my heart rate is. Before doing any activity, my heart rate was at 72:

Once you turn on the HRM, the first 5 minutes of it is sort of a “warm-up.” It’s analyzing your heart rate to establish what your range will be. You can also manually set it to stay within a certain range.

There are small UP and DOWN arrows near the heart rate that will notify you if you are pushing it too hard, or not enough. You can turn the sound on and off as well. For example: when your heart rate spikes over your Max Number, it will beep incessantly until you slow down. I turned that off because it was super annoying. Now I just glance down at my watch periodically to see what my number is and adjust my speed accordingly.

I wear my HRM for every activity: biking, hiking, running, swimming. It’s worked well for all of them! I also use it to accurately calculate what I’m burning when I lift weights. That really opened my eyes because I was under the impression that lifting weights didn’t burn many calories. I was wrong!

If I can’t remember what my range was supposed to be within, I can click a button and it gives me this image:

My range is 142-158. If I want to check and see how many calories I am burning mid-workout, I click another button and it tells me:

Once I’m done working out, I hit the “Stop” button and it tells me the following information:

Total Time (below it was 1 hour)

Total Calories Burned (below: 437 calories)

My Maximum Heart Rate

My Average Heart Rate (below you can see the average was 129)

It also keeps a log in the watch of my total calories burned. See the little envelope in the upper right corner? That’s my diary for the week.

At the end of the week, it gives me a total for the entire week:

Last week my total was 2059 (minus one swim and a 5 days of walks–so add about 1,000 calories to that). I burned 3,000 or so last week. It resets each week.

I love using my HRM. It gives me the accurate information I need to make healthier choices. Before I had one I went off whatever the machine at the gym told me (never correct) or I didn’t do activities outside of the machines because I wanted a number! That’s no way to live. Now I do fun things like hiking and snowshoeing.

It was a gift for my birthday a few years ago (from Michael) and I’ve never been happier with it!

QUESTION: Do you have a heart rate monitor? Which one? How do you like it?