Fit Bride Q&A: What’s that funny red watch?

I posted a picture of my heart rate monitor the other day and received a few questions in the comments and via Twitter about it, so, without further ado–a post about my pretty red wristwatch!

In…July or August, maybe? of 2008, I purchased this baby from Amazon.  She is a Polar F4 Heart Rate Monitor, and came with a chest strap and watch.  I’ve worn her for pretty much every workout since then, and I have had exactly zero problems.

A lot of people ask if the chest strap is comfortable.  And the answer is yes!  It sits right under your boobs, basically behind the bottom elastic of your sports bra.  I barely notice it, and actually just had my first chafing issue with it last night after a year and a half of use.  So, yes, it’s fine, and the Polar strap adjusts to fit pretty much anyone–it can be extended to be very large or very small.

Now, what does it do?  Keep in mind that this is a very basic model of heart rate monitor, and there are fancier ones out there with more bells and whistles.  This one, however, has gotten me through a lot and I’ve never missed anything with it.

First and foremost, it measures your heart rate. Heart rate watches that do not have chest straps are not accurate, so if you buy one, buy one with a chest strap! I like this because your heart rate is an indicator of how hard you are working.  When I first got mine, I was surprised to see how high my heart rate got when I ran as opposed to how low it stayed on the elliptical.  It’s a great way to be able to determine “hard” versus “moderate” versus “easy/recovery” workouts.

Knowing my heart rate is also helpful when running.  If I’m running a longer distance, I need to keep my heart rate down for endurance.  If I’m running intervals, I want to watch it spike up high and then dip back down low.  It’s, if nothing else, interesting.

I also use my heart rate monitor to calculate calories burned. This was more important to me when I was tracking my food intake and in full-on weight loss mode.  Now, I generally use it in the sense of “hey, I burned a lot of calories, better have a big dinner”  rather than strict calorie calculations.  BUT, if you are counting calories, this is a useful tool for you.

It also keeps a timer of how long you’ve been working out, and shows your target heart rate zones and where you’re falling in it.

Now, don’t confuse this with my Garmin.  I use my Garmin Forerunner 305 strictly for outdoor running.  Garmins calculate distance through GPS satellites, and heart rate monitors do not.  Garmins ALSO have a chest strap and calculate calories burned and heart rate, but they calculate calories burned off of distance and speed rather than off heart rate, so they are less accurate in that sense.  That said, I use both of these tools in the appropriate situations–Garmin for outdoor running, Polar for indoor everything else.

Do you have a heart rate monitor?  What kind?  Do you love it?


14 Responses

  1. Thanks for the info. on your HRM!

    I actually received a PolarF6 for Christmas but couldn’t get it to work! It couldn’t get my initial heart rate reading…just kept saying “00.” Well since I’m alive and well, I knew that wasn’t right! I’m thinking mine just had a faulty battery or something…I’ve shipped it to Polar’s service center and will hopefully have a new one soon!

    • Did you wet the transmitters on the chest strap? You’re supposed to so they transmit better. Usually I don’t need to because I sweat so much, but when I don’t get a read a little spit (gross!) does the trick!

  2. I have the Polar F4 also, but I have a boring black watch. I used it all the time after I first bought it, but lately it’s been just laying around the apartment. I need to get back into using it. I would really like a Garmin for summer/half marathon/marathon training/long runs.

  3. I had to buy a heart rate monitor for my kinesiology classes in college. It was wonderful!! I’m looking into the garmin next.

  4. Hi, my name is Debbie Downer and I did not love training with a HRM. But I had MAJOR chafing issues. I have no idea why it hated my body so much – and it was just me, dozens of teammates used the same model with no problems – but I was glad when I graduated and could stop using it.
    I do like the info it provides – for me, it just wasn’t worth the pain.

  5. I LOVE my F4 (except mine is orange 🙂 and use it for every workout. My chest strap looks a bit different. Mine has 2 plastic pieces that hook in the front instead of the back.
    I will be needing to change the battery soon, though. Have you ever had yours changed? Was it terribly difficult?

    • I actually just had my Polar battery changed. From what I had read, I thought that it could be a fairly lengthy process, but I had it back in a week (I shipped it to Polar’s servicing center – more expensive, but they recommend using only their center – I think it cost $25 with the battery & shipping both ways).

  6. Polar F11 here and YES I love it!!! I noticed I was a little tender where the chest strap was my first few workouts with it, but now I can’t even notice it (besides the awkard bump I get under my boobs in my workout shirts).

    For outdoor running I have a Nike + which isn’t as accurate as a garmin, but for $80 I get my money’s worth! I plan on splurging on a nice Garmin when I train for my 2011 marathon 🙂

    P.S. I had an orange at work today and is was a messy embarrassment 😛

  7. I have a blue Polar F11. I used it frequently when I was calorie counting and doing NROL. But now that I am a fatass and don’t work out at all, it is probably dead. Towards the end there, I started having issues with the watch picking up my heart rate. I’m assuming I need to replace a battery or something.

  8. Hi! I just started reading – and love your blog. Your honesty and frankness is awesome. …moving on, I have a Polar F11? I think? It’s a little bigger than yours and I love it. I never had chafing problems. But, there were times when I couldn’t find a comfortable fit with the strap…it was either sliding down, or making it difficult to breathe. I still like it though!

    congrats on your major progress so far…I just started a second blog to track my weight loss before my 6/26 wedding…

  9. I have the exact same heart rate monitor -and i love it! I like that it’s simple and basic – i get freaked out by the fancier versions because of all the buttons and functions.

  10. I have the Polar F6, in pink, but I don’t use it much anymore. When I first got it, I used it religiously, but I’ve sort of forgotten about it lately. It’s a good tool, especially if you are extra motivated by seeing your progress, right before you eyes.
    I like your red one.
    The pink I have is a light color and it gets kind of dirty/dingy looking from sweat.

  11. I have a pink polar F11 that I got for Christmas this year and I adore it! I thought I was going to hate the chest strap but it really isnt even noticable. Mine has the data I can upload online to keep in a dairy which is nice. I also was shocked by how off the “calories burned” counts on ellipticals and treadmills were for an hour workout some of mine were off by 200 calories.

  12. I have the same one and I love it!!!

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