Your heart rate during exercise can serve as a great source of data because it reflects how hard you’re pushing yourself during your workouts. If your goal is to become a better athlete, then using heart rate monitors will unlock critical information.
Combining fitness with data is an incredibly powerful tactic. Understanding your own performance data produces insights into how your training is really going and enables you to accelerate progress towards your fitness goals.
The ability to make better, more informed choices about your training, your performance output and how you measure that progress is key to achieving superior results while also revealing the secrets to who you are as an athlete.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at the benefits of tracking your heart rate during exercise. Below that, we’ll also get into some of the best heart rate monitors on the market today.
Benefits Of Tracking Heart Rate During Exercise
1. It keeps you honest.
Let’s face it:
We all slack off at times. As we train and get fatigued, we unintentionally lower the intensity to keep going and conserve energy. As a result, the quality of our workout and our ability to perform at maximal output declines.
Having a heart rate monitor is beneficial because it gives you real-time readings and shows you when you’re slacking off.
On the flip side, it’s great for showing when you really worked hard, based on how hard your heart was pumping to shift you round your 5k run!
2. Strengthens your mind-body connection.
Heart rate monitoring is excellent for understanding your mind-body connection in more detail. By analysing your average heart rate during exercise, you can see how hard your body really found the session and compare this to how hard your mind told you it was.
Often, you will see a difference, for example if your average heart rate is lower than it could be. With each new run, look to increase your average heart rate by building further into the red zone, as shown by one of my own 8k runs below.
As you can see above, I spent most of my 8k run in the yellow zone. I now know that I could push myself harder (particularly at the start of the run) by increasing my average heart rate and aiming to build further into the red zone.
In time, your mind will become much more in tune with your body, and you’ll know when you really gave it your all.
3. Some models offer extra features.
Unlike the first heart rate monitors that only tracked beats per minute, some newer models offer a lot more data for the user. The most notable benefit of more recent models is that now you can save your data for each workout through the use of brilliant apps! Specifically:
- Peak heart rate
- Average heart rate
- Recovery heart rate
Your data is automatically stored, available for you to monitor and review as often as you like. You can then track the all important changes that occur over time.
Other super cool features of heart rate monitors can include calories burned, interval timers, GPS and route tracking.
Setting an interval timer is also fantastic because it allows you to divide your training sessions into active recovery and exercise more efficiently. For example, if you enjoy HIIT, this is a remarkable feature to have.
Best 5 Heart Rate Monitors on The Market Today
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The Garmin HRM-Pro is one of the best heart rate monitors on the market, and for good reason too. Once you’ve put it on, it begins transmitting your data in real time through Bluetooth Low Energy Connection or ANT+ to the compatible devices, online training apps, fitness equipment as well as other Garmin devices.
This nifty bit of kit captures running dynamics, such as vertical oscillation, ground contact time, stride length, vertical ratio and more. It also stores heart rate data during swimming or other activities out of range of your Garmin watch and automatically sends that data to the watch when the activity is finished.
In terms of price and build quality, the Garmin HRM-Pro stands nearer the premium end. For the price of around £96, the HRM-Pro definitely delivers.
The Polar H10 comes in at number two at a cost of £79 boasting some really awesome features. Your data is transmitted in real-time to the Polar app on your phone. The app is a huge plus for me due to its usability and functionality. (The heart rate photo you saw earlier was a screenshot from the Polar app).
In terms of versatility, the H10 can be worn when rowing, cycling, running, training indoors or swimming. Polar H10 is fully waterproof and it has internal memory for one training session.
The setup process is simple to do, and you can download the Polar app conveniently from the app store. You can use Bluetooth and ANT+ to pair up your monitor and phone.
As far as design and comfort go, many users (me being one of them…) claim that they barely feel it around their chest, which is a massive plus over some other models on the market.
Much like the Polar H10 above, the Polar H9 heart rate sensor is a more affordable version that costs around £50. The monitor doesn’t have onboard memory, so you have to pair it up with your phone to store your data for later review.
Overall, the Polar H9 works accurately, it's easy to put on, pairing through Bluetooth happens seamlessly, it’s waterproof, and uses a simple coin cell battery - the CR2025.
If you’re not the biggest fan of chest straps, the Polar OH1 is a fantastic choice because it offers incredible accuracy, and you can loop the band over your forearm or bicep.
Thanks to its Bluetooth and ANT+ technologies, you can easily pair it up with different devices and track your data in an app.
Unlike some of the models on our list, the Polar OH1 also offers water tracking. This makes it a fantastic heart rate monitor for swimmers and triathletes.
For all this piece of kit has to offer, it comes in at a modest price tag of £70.
The Wahoo Tickr X monitor is among the best products for its cost of around £65. Thanks to its new and more streamlined design, users barely feel it on their chest. Besides that, the device has Bluetooth and ANT+, offers excellent connectivity, and pairs up to three devices simultaneously.
The Tickr X also measures vertical oscillation, cadence, and ground contact time, making it an excellent device for runners.
However, unlike the Polar OH1, it can’t track heart rate underwater, so it loses some points with triathletes.
See you in the next blog post!