As strange as it may seem, there are still athletes who do not finish seeing the usefulness and importance of using a heart rate monitor in their workouts, competitions and even in daily life. It is clear that it is not an essential accessory and that you can live and train perfectly without it but it is a piece that we should all include or try to include in our toolkit, whether we are professional athletes or amateurs who practice sports in an occasional way.
Below, we indicate seven reasons that allow us to support this assertion so forceful and we also add at the end a list of suggestions with some of the pulsometers that we consider most interesting today.
Although we use the word “heart rate monitor“, in reality we are going to continually refer to the current sports electronic devices that include, in addition to the heart rate monitor and the basic functionalities of a “life-time” watch – chronometer, positioning capabilities (GPS, GLONASS, …), to make measurements or estimates of infinite parameters on movement, daily activity, … they are even able to communicate with mobile phones, act as music players, etc.
It’s almost like carrying a computer on the wrist and, at the rate that they are evolving, it is already possible to have, for a fairly contained price, pulsometers that do many things very well, at the level of what just a few years ago would have seemed practically something from the future.
We will not enter into evaluations on whether it is better with chest strap or integrated pulse sensor, if it is convenient to activate or deactivate one or another positioning technology, but simply we will give you seven tips that we believe can help you when making the decision to acquire (and use) a heart rate monitor in your workouts.
If you are one of those who still do not have one on your wrist, this article interests you and, if you already have it, also because you may discover new utilities to those little ones (or not so small ones) that accompany us in the trainings.
1.- It gives you a lot of information
Far is the time when it was fashionable to have a watch with a wristwatch and also a lot of those early pulsometers, which in the nineties, some began to use and now become obsolete compared to the most basic current.
At present, even the pulsometers of average ranges are very complete and offer you not only the pulse data but also allow you to know, with great precision, instant data and means of rhythm, speed, ascended or descended meters, height, cadence, caloric consumption, temperature, vertical oscillation, etc.
In addition, it does not only give you that information during training sessions or competitions but is throughout the day counting the steps you take, if you are standing a long time, that is, continuously monitor your pulse.
Not just having more information is going to be better, because the first thing is that it is information that we know how to interpret and, second, that this real or estimated measure is reliable, consistent, constant, with limited error, etc. That is, you do not have to think about that heart rate monitor that gives you a million data but that one that gives you the necessary data so that you can process the information.
2.- It is usually (fairly) objective information and does not lie to you
There are no perfect measures, neither in the pulsometers nor in anything in life. All measures, however precise, have a small margin of error. The key is to look for the compromise between the capacity to measure, the precision that can be reached and the utility that it can have to look for a greater or lesser precision.
The current pulsometers achieve very good accuracies in most of the measures they do, at least in the main ones but, as is logical, they cannot be compared with e.g. the medical device at the time of indicating the pulse. But, is it really critical to know if the indicated pulse is 100% accurate or if it is two or three pulsations above or below?
I assure you that it is indifferent and, moreover, there are so many variables that can affect the pulse that, even having a totally accurate measurement, you would still have uncertainty when using it because, with what you are comparing it: with thresholds that you determined several months behind? Have you thought that perhaps that day you are more tired and it is worthwhile to try to run with the same pulse as the day you are rested?
The same thing you can extrapolate to other measures such as GPS because it is really relevant to know if you are running at 3’59 ” / km or 4’01 ” / km, if it tells you that you have run fifty meters or so in your half marathon?
Also, even with totally accurate measurements, you have to come to a compromise with the technology and, if p. ex. you want the heart rate monitor to indicate the pulse or instantaneous rhythm of truth, the numbers will move so fast and so fast that you will go crazy as happens in the accelerations.
Therefore, within limits and with fairly decent devices, the information that they will give you will be, in most cases reliable, objective and, above all, will not lie. Yes, yes, even if you are snorting and dying, they will not have any qualms about telling you in front of your face the pace and, if you hurry me, something in plan, “Hey, you’re going so slow that the snails are going up your legs“.
3.- It helps you to know yourself better
I am a fervent defender of the phrase “train with a heart rate monitor to compete with it“, that is, pay attention to what the devices you use indicate you and the sensations that you have at each moment so that you know each time better and depend less on them.
The most accurate measurements are those of the body itself but can also be conditioned by the subjective part, so the ideal is to combine the best of the objective and the subjective and, based on what a heart rate monitor indicates, adapt it to each specific moment in time. function of our sensations.
Heat, rest, nerves, hydration, … all that can do that, although we are in the range of pulsations we are passing, we can go with a low pulse but because we are exhausted.
Learn to know yourself better and you will train and compete better and, moreover, every time you will take better advantage of technology.
4.- It helps you with self-control and motivation
It is just as bad to be a crazy horse as a vague one and in both cases the heart rate monitor can help us, in the first case, control us and, in the second, encourage us.
For those of us who are given to let ourselves be carried away by the emotion and the bites, a “do not go over this pace and these pulsations” and that’s it, we already have a red line that we know we should not exceed.
And, for those who are not very “overworked”, the fact of knowing that they have to comply with the training recorded in the heart rate monitor can be practically like having the coach on the side and thanks to that they fulfill what they planned.
5.- It serves as a guide: not only during training but in the route to follow
In a heart rate monitor you can define workouts with what is guiding you, as if you were a coach how much you have warm-up, how many blocks of series and how much rest, if you change pace at this or that threshold. But it also helps you to have the route registered and see if you go where you need to go or if you are diverting.
For someone on “asphalt” the latter may seem unnecessary but I assure you that in trail running you can save yourself from losing more than once.
Also, for whoever it is, in the stage of competitions, you will be able to know how much you have left for the goal, how the profile of what you have done is and what remains, it can be very useful.
6.- Take an automatic record of what you do
It’s finished, having to remember how much you did in each series, how you were doing. Nor will it be necessary that when you get home you write it down in the notebook, that you make sums to see the weekly or monthly volume. All that the heart rate monitor does for you!
Well, some of the applications to which the registered data can be uploaded and which offer you an infinity of graphs, tables, suggestions, tips.
It is impressive how these types of platforms have evolved and the monitoring that can be done with them, simply by synchronizing your heart rate monitor. The qualitative leap given by the trainings since this type of control can be carried is very large.
7.- Improvement of the technique
This last advice I add it as an “advanced use” and so you can see that the pulse monitors can be much more than they seem a priori and that they serve much more than to measure the pulse.
From time to time, sports watches incorporate sensors that allow measurement of movement through oscilloscopes, barometers, etc. and, thanks to that, they can give us information about stride length, vertical oscillation, number of steps per minute, basic parameters when analyzing the race technique.
Obviously, it is not as precise as if you get into a laboratory and put a mask that measures the consumption of gases, running on a treadmill with pressure platform and others, but I assure you that some of the current pulsometers are already capable of make measurements of some of the parameters of the career technique very accurately.
The best pulsometers at the moment
I hope that, after these seven points, you are convinced that it is convenient to have a heart rate monitor so, to finish taking the step and go for it or to acquire a new one in case you need it, we indicate below those that, in our opinion, they deserve more the penalty at the moment in function of your profile of use.
Heart rate monitors with better quality / price ratio
For most of us, I think it’s more than enough with a mid-range heart rate monitor because they offer possibilities that only a few years ago did not have the high-range heart rate and that have relatively low prices. Within this group, there are three firm contenders and, depending on what you are going to use, you will fit better both.
If you are one of those who go out a lot to the mountain, it would possibly place in the first place the Suunto Spartan Trainer Wrist HR, one of the most balanced within the Spartan family of Suunto. Small, light, practical, price content and performance of a medium-high range.
If you go to the gym a lot, you value the customization of the functions and workouts, share training and give much importance to the accuracy of the pulse, the Polar M430 is your heart rate monitor.
And if you like Garmin, and you want to be able to do almost everything from the clock, in addition to having a heart rate monitor that does everything quite well, the Garmin Forerunner 235 will not disappoint you.
I add the TomTom Adventurer as a fourth, although TomTom has stopped making sports devices, it may be time to have a watch that can measure many things and very well for a ridiculous price. Also, if you like the ease of use, it’s your watch, do not doubt it.
Heart Rate Monitors for Data Geeks
If you are obsessed with the data, you use a thousand devices, you analyze to the last detail, then you must go for a Garmin Forerunner 935 or, if you want something with a little more design, a Garmin Fenix 5, in one of its versions.
Pulse monitors for those who do a lot of trail running
Even if you have gone through bad times and have struggled to catch up, the Suunto Spartan Ultra and the Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR Baro are two options to keep in mind because the accuracy they have and their screen makes them tremendous, very good companions adventure.
Heart rate monitors to start with
And if you are initiating or if you simply want the heart rate monitor to accompany you and help you without spending too much money, try a Polar M200 that performs very well in almost everything (except GPS) or, if you dare, a TomTom Runner 3 that is, one of the best purchases you can make.