For Father’s Day this year I got a heart rate monitor, or to be precise, I was authorized to purchase myself a heart rate monitor. Not having any experience with HRMs nor having done much research, I went to REI to pick one out.
I’d already decided that I didn’t want to spend much more than $100 on an HRM and that I didn’t need fancy features for what would mostly be treadmill use. My initial first choice was the Highgear PulseWear Duo, mostly because I was nervous about using the chest strap and liked the idea of having a model that would sample the heart rate without it. However, I was quickly talked out of it by the salesperson, who said that he’d seen a lot of returns for that model, that the fingertip-based measurement wasn’t highly accurate, and that the main benefit of the HRM comes from sustained measurement (i.e. the chest strap is the whole point). He steered me toward Polar but in the end I opted for the Timex 30-Lap Ironman Triathlon, because the feature set seemed a little more useful and I figured the Timex would be more reliable.
Not so much. I found that the HRM frequently lost contact with the chest strap, sometimes right after a workout, but sometimes in the middle of the workout. Taking the strap off and readjusting it didn’t make a difference. It wasn’t due to lack of moisture, and I tightened the chest strap and replaced its battery to no avail. After a couple of weeks I called Timex Customer Service. I was very impressed that within a minute of calling I was talking to a real tech support person, but after hearing my description of the situation his recommendation was to send the unit to them for repair. At that point I decided to go back to REI and exchange it for a different model. I’d since received two independent recommendations to "just get a Polar", so that’s what I did.
I’ve now had the Polar F6 for two days. I don’t want to jinx myself, but so far I’ve had absoutely no problems with the HRM receiving its signals from the chest strap (which wasn’t true of the Timex at that point). Furthermore, the Polar is simply a better HRM. The Timex is more of a watch-HRM hybrid, whereas the Polar is clearly designed with the primary intent of being an HRM (and is a mediocre watch). There are at least five little things in its design and implementation that make me like it better and even some of the frivolousfeatures now seem useful.
It’s also helped me have the "duh!" moment that my exercise program isn’t meeting my goals, but that’s a story for another day.