I bought a Polar FT4M Heart Rate Monitor Watch because it can do everything I need in a heart rate monitor – at a really good price. I am happy to say that it has exceeded my expectations. The Polar FT4M is not just a heart rate monitor – it’s a smart training watch as well.
Out the Box
After I ordered it from Amazon, the Polar 90051040 FT4 Heart Rate Monitor arrived very quickly in a neat little box. The first thing that impressed me was that the minimalist printed documents came in five languages: English, French, and three Oriental languages. I guess this is tailored to whichever part of the world the monitor is shipped to.
The second thing that impressed me was that the instructions are short and useful. They are NOT comprehensive – they include a link to an online manual that has more details. However, I found that with a combination of the quick start manual and simple logic, I did not need to go and read the online manual.
The third good thing flows from the second: the watch is easy to use and intuitive. I set it up in about two minutes. This involved setting date, time, date of birth, height, weight, and gender. Obviously, the monitor needs all that detail so that it can calculate target and maximum heart rates, as well as calorie expenditure.
How to Use Target and Maximum Heart Rate to Train
Basically, in order to improve cardiac fitness, you need to know two things: your target heart rate training zone and the maximum heart rate you should reach. These are all based on your age. Obviously, someone who is 70 should not be training as hard as someone who is 21. So their maximum HR would be lower. Similarly, 70-year-olds would be training in a lower target heart rate zone – they could safely get fitter while working out with a lower heart rate.
Training Assistance with a Heart Rate Monitor
That leads me to the next thing I liked: as soon as I was done programing, the monitor told me what my target heart rate training zone was, and what my maximum heart rate should be.
Back in the day when I was a personal trainer (briefly), I used to have to use a calculator to figure all that out. This is way simpler. And I also don’t have to remember it, because the Polar heart rate monitor will do that for me.
Using the Polar Heart Rate Monitor
It’s all very simple. You click the chest piece into place, moisten it, and strap it around you. It is a one-size-fits-all strap, and I forgot I had it on after the first few minutes, so it’s quite comfortable.
You press the start button and wait until the monitor detects your heart rate. This happened within about five seconds. This impressed me, because I know that my heart rate is a bit tricky, for reasons unknown to me. For example, I had a Garmin Edge 705 bike computer that NEVER managed to detect my heart rate, let alone monitor it (it could pick up Mrs. Average Joe Cyclist’s heart rate from ten feet away, but remained blissfully obvious to my existence for the entire time I had it).
Once your heart rate is displaying, you press the start button again, and it enters recording mode. And off you go on your bike! The display is nice and big, and you can look down to see if you are in your target heart rate zone. This is displayed graphically, and it will tell you at the top if you are not in your zone. It will also beep quietly at you if you are not in the zone. You can change the information screen to show:
- Graphical target heart rate zone (Zonepointer)
- Duration and time of day
- Calories burned so far in huge letters
- Or just see your heart rate in huge letters.
You use the Back button to pause the recording, and then hit it again to stop altogether. The data for the ride is automatically saved. You can immediately review it, using the Up and Down buttons to switch screens and see:
- Duration of cycling plus calories burned
- Average and maximum HR;
- Amount of time you were in the target HR zone.
- You can return at a later time to review this data again.
Motivation from the Polar Heart Rate Monitor
Reading the stats at the end of a ride is really motivating. The first time I wore it I was doing a leisurely commute on my electric bike. I was very happy to find that of the 1 hour and 29 minutes I spent on my bike, I was in the target heat rate zone for 1 hour 10 minutes. I was on the lower side of the range, but I was in the range. My maximum h/r was 135, which is just below my recommended maximum.
That was great – I had been a bit worried that exercising in such a relaxed fashion would not help me get fitter. But now I know that during a commute ride like that, I am exercising at exactly the right rate, for over an hour. This really gives me peace of mind and encourages me to keep doing it. It didn’t hurt to find out that I had used up 643 calories.
For more motivation, record your rides, calories, and fitness improvements with a great bike computer – here’s a comparison of the Garmin Edge 510, 810 and 1000 Bike Computers.
Calorie Measurement with the Polar Heart Rate Monitor
The monitor uses Polar’s OwnCal technology to figure out calorie expenditure. Polar claims that this is the the most accurate calorie counter on the market. I can believe it – I know a lot about calorie expenditure, and I find the calculations to be spot on. (As opposed to some cycling Garmin GPS bike computers, which seem to overestimate.)
One thing that annoyed me – the Polar FT4M beeps when you are below and above your target rate. The part where it beeps when I am above is of course a good safety feature. But I don’t like being beeped at when I stop at a bike shop and my heart rate is too low. Of course, I can fix that by pressing the Pause button, so it’s not really a big deal.
You cannot use this watch to upload data to a computer. You basically review your data at the end of each ride, and you can review previous rides as up to ten of them are saved on the watch. However, I know from years of experience that I personally will NEVER review my old HR stats – that’s just too boring. It’s enough for me to know whether or not I am training hard enough on any given day. So I don’t care that I cannot transfer data from the watch to a computer. The watch will total up distances and calories for the ten rides, and then you have to reset.
The watch has other features that may come in handy. For example, if you want to look at different information screens but you have gloves on, you can make the screens change by bringing the watch close to the monitor on your chest. Polar calls this HeartTouch.
Also, it is of course a watch, with an alarm and a snooze. And being water-resistant to 30 m, I assume it is going to be just fine in the rain.
Bottom Line on the Polar Heart Rate Monitor Watch
This is an amazing heart rate monitor/smart watch for the money. I know it is going to motivate me to get fitter and burn more calories. If you want far more features for a higher price, go for it. But for me, this is all I need. For the features and the price, it rates an Average Joe Cyclist Gold Star!
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