Heart Rate Monitors

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Heart Rate Monitors

Postposted on Sun Jan 13, 2013 10:16 pm

Another advice request. this time to the fitness tech nuts around here :)

My goal is to lose around 20lbs and get my body fat under 20%.. I'm working with a fitness instructor 3 times a week, and using MyFitnessPal to log my caloric intake. One suggestion that my instructor made was to get a heart rate monitor, since everyone burns a different amount of calories for a given workout, and the only accurate way to log the burned calories is through a HRM.

Since I've got my phone near me through the workouts, I'm looking for something to help me integrate all the cool tech :). I've got an HTC One X (international version). I'd like to get a HRM which can log workouts to the phone (preferably MyFitnessPal, but that isn't a deal breaker). I'm thinking of getting the Runkeeper app, since I should be getting my Pebble watch in the next few weeks.

What advice I need would be what HRM should I look at getting, and what apps would be the most useful?

Thanks!
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Re: Heart Rate Monitors

Postposted on Sun Jan 13, 2013 11:51 pm

Hi!

A heart rate monitor can be great for managing your workout and making sure that you stay in the zone of activity best suited for weight loss (or maintenance, endurance, strength, etc; whatever your goal is).

Some of them will tell calories but this can be a very subjective figure, much the same as the treadmill display at your local health club. Any device that tells you calories burned will (hopefully) be more accurate if it allows you to input certain body factors such as age and weight, and this goes for treadmills, life-steppers, or an HRM you attach to yourself.

The best way to tell "actual calories" is to first get your resting daily caloric usage tested. I had mine done some years ago at a health club where I used to have a membership. They use a device that measures how much CO2 your body produces while at rest (and having been at rest for the preceding 24 hours or so). What will likely surprise you the most is how LOW that number will actually be, even if you are in pretty good shape. Mine was only 2200 without working out. That's two slices of pizza, and I'd have to scrape the cheese off of one of them!

Working out would raise that number in two ways (actually there are more, but this is already becoming a dissertation).

1) Direct calorie expenditure of an exercise (for example, a 45 minute treadmill run that shows 600 calories on the display, assuming that the machine is anywhere near accurate).

2) Continued raised metabolism from exercising. That 600 calorie run might result in an additional 100 or 200 calories to be burned over the next several days as my body recovers.


There are lots of HRMs available, and I think that there's no "perfect" one yet. A few years ago I bought a Polar HRM and I use it when I go walking, running, and even weight lifting. It's both fabulous and frustrating at the same time.

I think my HRM is fairly accurate, but who's to say? Yes, it knows my weight and my birth date and it can tell how fast my heart is beating, but it's not measuring my CO2 production during an exercise and it's not measuring my blood sugar levels. I trust my HRM, knowing that it's only as accurate as it can be given the inputs that it is receiving. The same thing will apply to any fitness machine with a built-in calorie display.

But even so, here's how I can still use that information:

If I run on the same brand treadmill at my health club 3-4 days per week and I perform at roughly the same levels each day, then they all "should" produce consistent results. Whether or not this is an accurate number is still doubtful, but there is (ostensibly) some consistency. So if I run for 45 minutes one day and per the display I burn only 500 calories, but I know that 600 is my norm, then maybe there's an explanation for that. Did I run it slower? Did I run it flatter (no incline)? Could one of the machines be faulty?

I decided some time ago NOT to get myself into a nit-picking mental mode where I'm worried about the accuracy of my recording device for a given workout. Kitchen-table math tells me it's not worth the time or trouble!

Let's take my 2200 resting daily intake needs as a baseline. I trust that figure, within some small margin of error unknown to me.
Let's add to that my 600 calorie intake needed to fuel an "average" run on a treadmill or outdoors.
Let's add to that 100 calories (a guess) intake needed to fuel my body's fitness recovery requirements and because I climb the stairs instead of riding the elevator.

Ignoring other factors for a moment (sleep, illness, metabolism, increased muscle mass from weight workouts, etc), I've got to take in approximately 2900 calories per day. Less and I will likely lose weight, more and I will likely gain weight).

Now let's assume that the treadmill I used on Tuesday told me a lie, and I only burned 550 calories instead of the 600 it seduced me into thinking I burned. 50 / 600 = .08 right? That's an 8% rate of error for that machine (which of course is unknown to me). Okay, maybe significant. But here's why I decided not to worry about it:

Actually burning 2850 calories instead of the 2900 I "thought" I burned, would be a 1.7% rate of error. Not enough for me to get fat from!

Accuracy is important, yes. Our consumer devices are "mostly" accurate, I'm sure. But not razor sharp accurate. And in the big scheme of things, I very much doubt that it matters. I'm still going to have a glass of wine when I take my lady friend out on Saturday night. And if she wants desert, you can bet we're going to get desert!

Best of luck on your weight loss goal!
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Re: Heart Rate Monitors

Postposted on Mon Jan 14, 2013 1:25 am

It's pretty easy to tell if a heart rate monitor is accurate or not. Either it's recording heart rate in a meaningful zone, or it's not. Having used a really crappy one that was included on my Nordic Track years ago, and a Polar unit that I had a few years ago, the difference was night and day. You could clearly tell that the Nordic unit was dropping heart beats. The Polar was very accurate -- I thought it did a great job. I have never used one that counted extra beats, so that's pretty much what you're looking for: dropped beats.
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Re: Heart Rate Monitors

Postposted on Mon Jan 14, 2013 8:08 am

I use a "cheapo" Pyle HRM, specifically the PHRM28. It has you input height, weight, gender, and VO2max and calculates your calorie burn from that. It also accepts a type of workout setting, but I don't know that it impacts the calorie calculation particularly. The only realy problem is that the chest strap will miss read on occasion. Unfortunately if doesn't just drop, but reads rediculously high until you reset the connection to the watch. It's most common when I am doing something that requires significant upper body motion like butterflies or lat pulldowns, but it also happens other times. Still, I paid a whopping $20 for the thing so I'm not complaining too much.

Myfitnesspal and a heartrate monitor and honesty. Really, that's all you need to get the weight off. Buy a kitchen scale an weigh all your portions when you eat. After a while, you get good at estimating, but until then use a scale and measuring cups.

I dropped 55lbs over six months simply insuring that my intake matched by burn.

--SS
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Re: Heart Rate Monitors

Postposted on Mon Jan 14, 2013 8:46 am

I've got a Garmin forerunner watch/GPS thing that comes with a HRM that I use for running. I guess you could use it for monitoring your heart rate while doing weights too.
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Re: Heart Rate Monitors

Postposted on Mon Jan 14, 2013 10:08 am

I use the Polar H7 but I also have a iPhone 5. I use it for mtn biking and DDP yoga. 8)
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Re: Heart Rate Monitors

Postposted on Mon Jan 14, 2013 12:48 pm

Thanks for the advice...

Would something like Polar Wearlink work? And specifically with Runkeeper?

Also are the bluetooth issues as bad as people claim? I've got a BT sports headset that I use for running, and I don't have any issues with my phone in my front pocket, and the receiver behind my neck.
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Re: Heart Rate Monitors

Postposted on Mon Jan 14, 2013 1:15 pm

druidcent wrote:Since I've got my phone near me through the workouts, I'm looking for something to help me integrate all the cool tech :). I've got an HTC One X (international version). I'd like to get a HRM which can log workouts to the phone (preferably MyFitnessPal, but that isn't a deal breaker). I'm thinking of getting the Runkeeper app, since I should be getting my Pebble watch in the next few weeks.

What advice I need would be what HRM should I look at getting, and what apps would be the most useful?


An HRM is the kind of device where being purpose-built is a big bonus, in my opinion. So instead of a smartphone + app + HRM, I'd recommend an HRM watch from Garmin or Polar. Both provide some sort of online logging platform and are supposed to be compatible with many 3rd party sites. I am particularly happy with my Garmin GPS+HRM for the bike but I have also owned 3 Polar watches. You can't go wrong with the Garmin Forerunner 610 although the 310XT is better for "multisport" use.

The accuracy of most HRM devices for calorie counting is not optimal, but they should be able to provide approximate guidance, especially if you feed them some measured VO2 max data. The calories indicated are most accurate when comparing different workouts for the same individual rather than as absolute values. Same thing for the onboard GPS. Precision is not bad, but single-digit % error is not uncommon.
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Re: Heart Rate Monitors

Postposted on Mon Jan 14, 2013 1:41 pm

druidcent wrote:Also are the bluetooth issues as bad as people claim?


I dont notice any lag or such. But I also know that what is being shown is an approximation in time. I normally give at +- 5.

ptsant wrote:An HRM is the kind of device where being purpose-built is a big bonus, in my opinion. So instead of a smartphone + app + HRM, I'd recommend an HRM watch from Garmin or Polar. Both provide some sort of online logging platform and are supposed to be compatible with many 3rd party sites.


Having to plug in a 'watch' to download the information is a pain. That is where I see the bonus of a smartphone because all the data is automagically upload to what ever app I am using without me having to go to a PC, connect the 'Watch or doohicky', log in, download the data.

I mentioned the Polar H7 and I was wrong, I actually use the Wahoo Blue HR. (polar was one that I was looking at) The wahoo has an open API and works with like 30+ different apps it also works with Nike+. It also runs an a replaceable cell coin battery. So there is no charging cables.

EDIT: I can also use the Wahoo as a sleep monitor. Its actually cool to see how many times I wake up and to see how long I am in REM sleep.
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Re: Heart Rate Monitors

Postposted on Mon Jan 14, 2013 1:56 pm

:P I like the Wahoo HR monitor, but unfortunately, it only works with iPhones :( Is Polar my only option then?
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Re: Heart Rate Monitors

Postposted on Mon Jan 14, 2013 6:03 pm

druidcent wrote::P I like the Wahoo HR monitor, but unfortunately, it only works with iPhones :( Is Polar my only option then?


I dont know, honestly. But Wahoo and Polar are the top two.
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Re: Heart Rate Monitors

Postposted on Mon Jan 14, 2013 7:19 pm

If your primary goal is to calculate how many calories you are burining throughout the day or during excercise then I would recomend the bodymedia fit armband. It is more acurate than a HRM. It monitors 5 diffenent aspect of your activiey and activity levels to calculate caloric burn. http://www.bodymedia.com/the_science.html The line describes how caloric burn is calculated. It is not a HRM though. HRM's are mostly usefull to monitor what heart rate zone you are in durnig excercise, not caloric burn.
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Re: Heart Rate Monitors

Postposted on Mon Jan 14, 2013 7:35 pm

MechWarrior wrote:If your primary goal is to calculate how many calories you are burining throughout the day or during excercise then I would recomend the bodymedia fit armband. It is more acurate than a HRM. It monitors 5 diffenent aspect of your activiey and activity levels to calculate caloric burn. http://www.bodymedia.com/the_science.html The line describes how caloric burn is calculated. It is not a HRM though. HRM's are mostly usefull to monitor what heart rate zone you are in durnig excercise, not caloric burn.


That looks interesting.. do you know if it interacts well with MyFitnessPal and/or Runkeeper?
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Re: Heart Rate Monitors

Postposted on Mon Jan 14, 2013 7:54 pm

If you are looking at Polar, definitely also take a look at Suunto.

They have a lot of different HRM watches, both for climbinb, diving, and other specialized sports, as well as Cardio work out.
I have an older T6c with the comfort belt and a foot pod and bike pod. They also have double coded belts that can be paired with threadmills / biks on many gyms that can take uncoded input. And with the dual pods I can just set the watch to on when staring a bike run or run and it will record speed for my choosen vehicle beyond heartrate, height above sea level (T6c doesnt have a true barometric device, but calibrates and sense differences) and a bunch of various other paramterers. At the start you need to enter a few options on who you are, and if possible, you can do an test to find out your MET and VO2 max, etc to get it more accuruate. Also, any good heart rate monitor should and would measure R-R value (heart rate variability) which is often a better indicator then the avarage heart rate for things to base the calculations on.

What it also lets you do is actually log your data. Nowdays they have some form of web thing, but there is an older application available where you can compare data, etc. And if you want it, it can also place you in a certain zone of training, since better trained people can work out harder without getting as much effect. So it takes the logs and see how often you trained to place you in a certain zone, which affects the results if you are using their zone training, etc.
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Re: Heart Rate Monitors

Postposted on Mon Jan 14, 2013 8:17 pm

Thanks.. I'll look at Suunto.

I'm really looking for a monitor that can interface with my smartphone, since I'm keeping track of everything there. I use MyFitnessPal for food (their food database is has just about everything I eat). I'd like to get a workout/monitoring app that will talk to MFP, and there are indications that Runkeeper may do so in the future. I don't want a watch type device, since I want to route the critical information through to the Pebble watch. Right now Runkeeper is integrating support for Pebble into their app. I'm also looking for other apps that plan on adding pebble support.
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Re: Heart Rate Monitors

Postposted on Mon Jan 14, 2013 9:19 pm

Just a note on RunKeeper, I have had horrible results with the GPS tracking when I run. YMMV, but the GPS accurracy on my Atrix just isn't good enough for running. On a 5k run, it may be off by a half mile or more. It isn't always that the location data is way off, but jumping back an forth by 5-10ft a bunch adds up real quick.

Is it really so hard to enter your workout data in myfitnesspal? I know the gadget factor is high and all, but for something you are going to do three or four times a week and takes about 30 seconds to do, it certainly seems more like a want for whiz factor than anything.

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Re: Heart Rate Monitors

Postposted on Mon Jan 14, 2013 9:43 pm

druidcent wrote:
MechWarrior wrote:If your primary goal is to calculate how many calories you are burining throughout the day or during excercise then I would recomend the bodymedia fit armband. It is more acurate than a HRM. It monitors 5 diffenent aspect of your activiey and activity levels to calculate caloric burn. http://www.bodymedia.com/the_science.html The line describes how caloric burn is calculated. It is not a HRM though. HRM's are mostly usefull to monitor what heart rate zone you are in durnig excercise, not caloric burn.


That looks interesting.. do you know if it interacts well with MyFitnessPal and/or Runkeeper?


not sure if it works with either of those apps ... I have never used either so I cant say. I know that it has its own online workout / food / nutrition logging app and there is a phone app you can download also. there is a monthly subscription to the app.
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Re: Heart Rate Monitors

Postposted on Tue Jan 15, 2013 12:42 am

SecretSquirrel wrote:Just a note on RunKeeper, I have had horrible results with the GPS tracking when I run. YMMV, but the GPS accurracy on my Atrix just isn't good enough for running. On a 5k run, it may be off by a half mile or more. It isn't always that the location data is way off, but jumping back an forth by 5-10ft a bunch adds up real quick.

Is it really so hard to enter your workout data in myfitnesspal? I know the gadget factor is high and all, but for something you are going to do three or four times a week and takes about 30 seconds to do, it certainly seems more like a want for whiz factor than anything.

--SS


It's not a deal-breaker.. it's a nice to have. Mostly I'm trying to find out my burn after a HIIT workout.. Distance/GPS tracking would be nice, but that's not a priority. I've had pretty good results with MapMyRun with the Atrix for GPS tracking, as an FYI.
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Re: Heart Rate Monitors

Postposted on Tue Jan 15, 2013 6:41 am

I literally can sit down next to my PC after a run and watch auto uploads the data to the net via the usb "doohicky" plugged in at the back of the PC. It has ~5m range. (This is a garmin 610)
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