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The PROs and CONs of 3 Top Heart Rate Monitors

By KIM EAGLE

Should I buy a heart rate monitor? (Yes.) How do I pick the right one? These are questions I hear frequently from my clients.
 Some clients want a heart rate monitor so they can be sure they are working out in specific heart rate / calorie burning zones, and others just want to know how many calories they are burning in their workouts.

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Many of the athletes I train are also looking for heart rate functionality with GPS to assist their training. The options in monitors are almost endless!  So before you drop a ton of cash, figure out exactly why you even want this device so you can pick the right one for your specific goals and needs.

Here are three heart rate monitors that are at the top of my list and the pros and cons of each device:

1. Pear Sports Mobile Training Intelligence
This is a brand that I have recently really enjoyed using. It comes with the Pear Bluetooth Wireless Heart Rate Monitor (chest strap), Pear Earphones & Earlock Earpieces (which are awesome) and a nylon gear bag. The unit works with your iPhone or Android.  You get started by doing their "calibration" run (which is completely guided by an audio coach.)  This enables the program to give a guestimate on your heart rate zones. I say "guestimate" because it's a little subjective and you truly can't determine these zones accurately without a true VO2 test. But for my beginner clients, this is a great place to get started in zone training! Once the calibration is complete, you have the ability to use their many free workouts to guide you in your heart rate zones. These workouts are available on the free app and are very user-friendly. I like to use these when I'm working out by myself and really need an extra push. It's great to hear the instructor guide you to pick up your pace due to being in the wrong heart rate zone or to even slow you down if your heart rate is too high. And you can play your own playlist of music in the background. Fabulous!
Price: $99.95

PROs for Pear Sports:
* Very user-friendly
* Great headphones
* Fun workouts
* Good mobile phone app
* GPS and Pacing seem pretty accurate
* Customer service is wonderful

CONs for Pear Sports:
* You need your phone with you while you workout
* The calories burned seem on the high side (even after I tried to do the calibration test more than once).

2. Polar FT4
The Polar FT4 is a personal favorite of mine because it is simple and easy-to-use. It includes the heart rate strap and watch. This device displays your heart rate and zones, and it gives calories burned based on your gender, age, height and weight which seem very accurate. This model is especially good for the beginner client who does not want to be too overwhelmed with too many features.
Price: $65.00

PROs for Polar FT4:
* Easy to use
* Water resistant (can be worn in the pool)
* Pretty accurate calorie burn (in my opinion)
* Monitor is a watch so you don't have to work out with your phone.

CONs for Polar FT4:
* No GPS
* Batteries need to be replaced in the watch and the chest strap.

3. Garmin Forerunner 220
Now this is what I call the Mac Daddy of heart rate monitors! The Garmin Forerunner 220 has more bells and whistles, which means a much higher price. It includes the heart rate strap, watch and a charger. This is the monitor to buy if you are a little more advanced with exercise and running. As a runner it is amazing to know your pace and mileage. This particular unit has a high-resolution display on the watch. You can buy it with or without the chest strap, and you DO need the chest strap for the heart rate monitoring functions.  Nice features include "auto pause" (it stops if you come to a stop, you don't have to pause it manually), and I love the "Personal Record" function that keeps a history of your best times per mileage! This watch does have an app as well, although I have to say, it has a lot of glitches.
Price: $295.00

PROS for Garmin Forerunner 220:
* GPS and calories burned are very accurate (in my opinion)
* Personal Records in history is a great feature!
* The overall ease of use for such a high tech gadget is good
* There is a charger for the watch so you don't have to buy watch batteries all the time.

CONS for Garmin Forerunner 220:
* The app did not work great for me.  I have a lot of difficulty getting it to connect to the watch.
* The pace takes some time to display accurately.  My last Garmin did not take so long to see my real time speed.
* The cost is a bit high.

There are many price points and many different features you can look for in a heart rate monitor. There are also many more models and brands out there!  For my more beginner clients, I recommend the Pear or Polar FT4. These units are simple enough that you don't feel overwhelmed. If you are a more serious athlete (advanced client), then the Garmin is probably the way to go in order to get all the features you might need. The most important thing to do is truly figure out why you want that heart rate monitor. There is no point in spending a lot of money on the most expensive device if you are not going to use the majority of the functionality. So, start simple and you can always upgrade over time.

-Kim

READERS - Do you use a heart rate monitor? Have you found heart rate monitors to be helpful with your fitness and weight loss goals? Which one is your favorite? Leave a comment below and tell us what you think.

Kim Eagle, founder of Earn That Body!™, is revolutionizing the way personal training is done through her virtual coaching program!  She has helped hundreds of clients around the world lose weight, get ripped and most importantly, get healthy!  Her enthusiasm about healthy food and  fitness is contagious!  She is a trainer who gets the job done, and she eats "excuses" for breakfast!

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