My Favorite Workout Toys, Part 1: Heart Rate Monitor

I have a Polar F4 heart rate monitor that I love to use when I’m working out, or doing something active.  This one was given to me a few years ago by my sister — she rocks.   It comes with a chest strap, which is a great consistent monitor of my heart rate.  I’ve heard that the watches with sensors on the wrist are kind of in-and-out, and don’t sense your pulse as reliably.

If you’re not working out, you can use the watch as a…. well, a watch.  And it will continue to monitor your heart rate and calorie burn all day, as long as you’re wearing the chest strap.  It’s easy to press the button on the right to toggle back and forth, seeing where you are for the day (or for your workout) in terms of calorie burn, and then back to the clock mode.  I typically only wear it when I’m working out.  I try to keep my heart rate above 130 or 140 bpm, and below 200.  I tend to have a really high heart rate, though, so those numbers are going to be a bit ridiculous for most people.  When I’m running or busting my ass pretty hard, my HR is around 170 bpm.  When I’m really maxing out, like during a short interval cardio blast, it’s not uncommon for me to top out around 200 bpm.  Usually, if I see my monitor at 200, though, I try to take it easy for 30 seconds or so.  I feel a bit nervous seeing my HR that high!  I’ve had my heart checked out pretty thoroughly, so don’t worry about me.  I’m cleared for hard work.  😉

Sometimes, if I have a longer-term goal for some serious weight loss (e.g. lose lots of weight slowly, or lose a little bit fast), I’ll wear it for a few days (all day) to remind me to take stairs, and maybe walk a bit faster around hallways at work.  I have been caught a few times doing air squats in the lab while waiting for an experiment to finish. The best thing is that number at the top right of the display…  it shows you how many calories (1 kcal = 1 kilocalorie = 1 nutritional calorie) you’ve burnt since you started the watch for the day.  Seriously, it’s like a video game to me.  I feel like Mario, trying to reach extra gold coins all day.  For some reason, I find it pretty fun.

cha-ching! If I really jumped high to collect magic coins all day, I'd probably burn a ton of calories. I don't know how Mario and Luigi stay so round! Must be the pasta!

For a 1-1.5 hour workout (like our Leg/Upper Body Days), I try to aim for burning at least 500 calories.  This means I’m not taking a lot of breaks to catch my breath.  Just go go go.  Typically the set-up time between circuits gives me plenty of (sometimes too much) time to let my heart slow down.  If I keep the pace up and the intensity high, my heartrate stays elevated (100-120 bpm) for another two hours or so after exercise.

If I wear the monitor all day, I definitely want to burn at least 2000 calories.  Typically, if I’ve been diligent enough to wear the monitor during the day, I’m shooting for weight loss, which also means I’m shooting for a calorie deficit.  Those days, I aim to consume between 1500-1800 calories, depending on my ambition and the random temptations I encounter at work.  😉

What about you?  Do you have any cool fitness toys that keep you motivated?  There are lots of websites/apps (e.g. Fitocracy comes up a lot) that friends have recommended to me, but I haven’t gotten into them, really.  I guess I’m lazy about inputting my reps and weights, when I’ve already taken the time to just write it all down to design the workout.  I don’t want to fill out additional forms.  Maybe I’m a baby.  Convince me.



3 thoughts on “My Favorite Workout Toys, Part 1: Heart Rate Monitor

  1. I totally agree with you, get the heart monitor with a chest strap – way more reliable! I’m also not into fit apps. The most I will do is a food log, but that’s only every once in a while to get me back on track. So, I guess I’m not convincing you to do anything different. Great post – enjoyed reading it!! 🙂

    • Thanks!! I’m glad to hear that another fit-chick is a little bit lazy like me, in terms of which tools you want to use, and which you’d rather skip. I’m the same. Every now and then I’ll keep a food log (mainly calorie and protein counts) to get back on track, but I have never done it for more than two weeks. Hard work!


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