Thursday, January 24, 2013

Thoughts on using my heart rate monitor

Hey friends!

I figured it was about time for an update on my heart rate monitor (HRM) experiences. If you need to catch up, I posted about it here. But here's some quick facts:

--I bought a Timex Personal Trainer Heart Rate Monitor for around $40 off Amazon.
--I wanted to use it to track calories, and hopefully to gauge myself when I begin to do some running speedwork.
--I thought setup was pretty easy and was eager to start using it!

As of now, I've used my HRM for three runs (wish it was more...).

Ease of Use
After the first run, I accidentally deleted all my information of the run. I looked at it once, but not long enough to really remember what I was seeing, then it was gone.

So I learned my first lesson for this particular HRM -- I need to take off the sensor before I view my information. Otherwise, after I view it, it starts counting again, even if I'm just standing there. Thus the calorie count goes from like 452 to 4. Annoying, but manageable.

Other than that, it's super easy. One button to turn it on, one to turn it off, one to recall information.

Comfort
I was a little concerned about the comfort of the sensor but once I put my sensor on, I mostly don't notice it's there. There is a slight pressure because I strap it so tightly, but it doesn't really bother me. It slips under my sports bra a little bit and has been staying in place without any during-the-run adjustment so far. Yay!

Calorie Counting
As I mentioned, a big reason I wanted a HRM in the first place was so I could be more accurate when counting calories. I didn't trust my running app or MyFitnessPal because they had no gauge of how hard I was working.

The verdict?

I'm still not sure I trust the HRM. The results from the three sources are just SO different, I don't know what's right anymore.

For example, here are the stats from my last two runs:

Distance:                                              Two miles                                            Five miles
Time:                                                     21:45                                                     55:23
MyFitnessPal calories:                        238                                                        550
Nike Running App calories:                207                                                        505
HRM calories:                                       428                                                       1040

So, as you can see, my HRM reads out that I'm burning nearly twice as many calories as Nike thinks I'm burning and more than twice as many calories as MyFitnessPal thinks I'm burning.

And I just don't know who to trust anymore.

I did some quick internet research (which obviously makes me an expert) and found this article. If you're interested in the subject, I highly recommend you read that article, but for anyone else, here's the basic point:

Calorie estimates from different tools are going to be all over the place unless you have an "indirect calorimeter device, which most commonly comes in the form of a 5-pound backpack-sized contraption that analyzes your oxygen consumption using a face mask or mouthpiece." And if you want to use one of those, you've got to shell out  $30,000 to $50,000 and maybe also work in a lab where one is used because that's where they're usually found.

Otherwise, you can use a tool created for Joe Schmo exerciser, which is likely a ballpark guess rather than an accurate calorie counter.

Some, apparently, are fancier than  my little HRM and will measure your temperature, how much you're sweating, where and for how long you slow or stop, etc. etc. Some just measure your heart rate.

So, all in all, I suppose I'm happy with my HRM. I'm never going to get a completely accurate count. I think for the purposes of my personal calorie counting on MyFitnessPal, I might start doing an average of all my results or something, but I might cheat toward the HRM, since it is actually measuring something.

Utility
I've signed up for a 5k in February and I'm almost at the end of my current training plan. Next I think I'm going to start doing some speed work, and I think the HRM will be really helpful for that! It will help me measure whether I'm really giving it all on my faster laps or if I just feel like I'm really giving my all. :)

Other than that, I think I need to play with my settings a little bit. It measures how long you're in your "target" heart rate zone, and my low is ridiculously low -- I beat it by sitting still I think. But once I tinker with that, I think it will also help me make sure I don't slack off in any of my workouts. I think it'll be really great for Zumba, since it's really easy to half-ass Zumba.



One more interesting fact -- I described before the process I used to find my "max heart rate" -- when I had to sit and stand and sit and stand for three minutes and whatnot. I read on another blog that the writer calculated hers by taking 220 and subtracting her age! And I read somewhere that another blogger (can't remember who, sorry!) found hers by lying still for a few minutes. Maybe less scientific, but definitely easier. :)

I hope you're all having a fabulous Thursday!! Any big plans for the weekend? I'll be seeing The Perks of Being a Wallflower and running 6.2 miles!! eep! :)




3 comments:

Tristan Schlegel said...

I have been looking into one of these for at least two years. When I started getting serious about working out like 6 years ago...I had one in my shopping cart forever and then just never bought it.

I've been part of a fitness class for a couple years and the instructor uses this one (or very similar) and she loves it. She says that after trying a few she thinks this is much more accurate than anything else.

It's also super hard to use My Fitness Pal because you can really only put in cardio and specific exercises. But after going to a lifting class, I'm not going to go through and add every single lift in to see how much I burned. So she thinks that it's so great for that too!

I hope you eventually love it! :)

Melissa (Freeing Imperfections) said...

Wow, that's interesting that there's such a descrepancy between the calories. I wonder how anyone would explain that... That almost makes it more confusing, because if you really ARE burning that much, you might need to eat a ton more. But if you did eat more, and you weren't truly burning that much... well we all know what that leads to. Interesting... I'm so curious to get one, but numbers drive me insane, so I have no idea if it would even help.

Amanda said...

I got a Heart Rate monitor a few years ago and have found it to be highly accurate, however it was much more on the pricey side... I agree with the article though on accuracy. I don't usually use it to calculate calories though, more to track and increase my stamina.

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