Thursday, January 17, 2013

Heart rate monitor: Initial thoughts and set up

So I posted a while back about my hesitation in buying a heart rate monitor (HRM) -- and by that, I mean that I told you I'd almost made it through the Amazon check-out twice and couldn't pull the trigger.

I initially wanted a HRM because it gives a read out of how many calories you burn during exercise. I've been calorie counting for over a year, but I know it's very inaccurate. I rarely take the time to measure food like I should and I don't trust MyFitnessPal or my running app about how many calories I'm burning. A HRM would at least help me be a little more accurate.

It's not the most expensive piece of fitness equipment out there -- mine rounded up to around $40. I chose the Timex Personal Trainer Heart Rate Monitor, which my former roommate Laura had used when she first started getting healthy. She's since moved on to greener HRM pastures, but seemed to love her first one and had recommended it to me before.

But even with the low-ish cost relative to other fitness equipment (and clothes!), $40 is still a chunk of change for me. Especially since I wasn't really sure how to use it or if it would be helpful for me.

I finally bought it later that night, and it arrived in the mail Tuesday.

I thought while I figure out how to use it I would kind of keep you updated. Maybe if any of you are debating the purchase, this will be helpful for you. Or maybe just entertaining. Who knows?

I've been doing a lot of fitness-y posts lately. I'm sorry if that's not really your thing. But it's what's inspiring me to write lately! Feel free to skip around or skip it all together. No hurt feelings. :)

It arrived!
I came home to an Amazon box. It's here! Yay! This HRM comes with a watch that reads out your results

and a sensor that you strap around your torso, under your sternum (basically where your bra band usually goes).
Sorry, blurry picture, but the sensor is that black stripe under my blue sports bra.
I struggled a little bit to figure out how to do the settings, like my weight. Pat showed me that he'd already figured all that out and then helped me figure out the rest.

I read through the books -- it comes with a practical booklet about how to use the functions and another helpful one about what a heart rate really means in the realm of your training (as in, if you're in this zone of heart rates, you're doing work toward a lower blood pressure and lower cholesterol, etc.) I loved this book because it gave me some ideas of how using a HRM would be helpful for my running/training/fitness goals.

We then started playing with the sensor. It's kind of a plastic-y bar thing with an elastic strap. The strap might end up actually being too big for me if the elastic stretches at all over time. I'm not sure if there are other sizes.

It was a little difficult to get the sensor to work for me. Wetting the sensor bar helped, but also pressing it flush against my skin. I think as I continue to wear it, it may stretch/mold more to me and not be so stuck in its original position.

The sensor itself beeps quietly, but I don't think anyone but me will really notice. The watch can alert you to the time or if you reach a target heart rate, but for now I have that turned off.

Finding my maximum heart rate
Before you start using the heart rate monitor, the book suggests a couple of "tests."

The point of these tests is to figure out your maximum heart rate. And, in case you didn't know, your heart rate is measured by how many times your heart pumps per minute. :) Knowing your heart rate helps you to gauge how hard you're working at a physical endeavor while you're wearing your HRM.

So for me, if I decide I want to speed train, I might set a target heart rate for a slower jog and a target heart rate for a faster pace, and then alternate between the two.

The tests to figure out your maximum heart rate are simple.

In the first, you step up and down a step for three minutes. (As in, right foot up, left foot up, right foot down, left foot down.) They ask you to do that 30 times per minute, so a total of 90 step-ups.

In the second test you sit down and stand up at the same pace -- 30 times per minute for three minutes.

This was actually a pretty difficult pace to keep! I ended up burning nearly a hundred calories (according to my new HRM!) during the two tests.

Then you do some math and you have your maximum heart rate! I did the heart rate tests while I was getting ready for work -- meaning my roommates were sleeping. :) Easy peasy.

I've only used my heart rate monitor for one run so far -- I'll post again soon after I've used it a couple more times and let you know what I think!

Do any of you use a heart rate monitor? How do you use yours? OR have you ever thought about buying one?


Kate said...

I've been loving your fitness-y posts lately! Fitness blogs can sometimes be intimidating sometimes. But when I read about your goals and progress, it just motivates me to get off my butt and focus on my own fitness! (Which I've let slip a bit recently..)

Shauna said...

Interesting! That would be fun to have! I mostly run at the gym though, but I wish I ran outside more! It's just too gross most of the year!

Katie said...

Love your fitness posts! I've always thought of actually using the one I have (my garmin has one built in) but I have no idea how to read it and don't really know what the number would mean anyway. You make it sound easy to learn though!

Melissa (Freeing Imperfections) said...

I've thought of getting a gadgety watch kind of thing to track my mileage and stuff. And if it happened to show how many calories I burned, that would be cool. But you raise a good point about calorie counting. There's no way that my 3 mile run today and my 3 mile run yesterday necessarily burned the same amount of calories. There's too many factors to consider...

I'd love to see what you think of it after using it for a while, if you think it's helpful/useful.

Melissa said...

LOVE your fitness posts too. And yes - i have almost bought an HRM tons of times. But never have. LOL.


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