By Adam Drake
You see them at gyms, during races, on cyclists, and anywhere else people are pushing through a cardio workout. It’s the distinct line of non-sweat that rings their mid back, an indication that they’re using a heart rate monitor.
These devices, used by athletes looking to track their cardiovascular health, are available in two versions. The first, which consists of a chest strap and a watch-like monitor, works by detecting the subtle electrical pulse sent from your heart as it contracts. The second is only a wrist-worn device, with optic sensors beneath it that measure your pulse. The chest strap versions have been around for years, while the pulse monitors have seen recent advances in technology and also now exist in the new Apple Watch.
The best heart rate monitor for you depends on factors such as use, comfort, and durability. We’re taking a look at some of the new models for 2015, and determining what activities they’re best for.
CHEST STRAP MONITORS
My friend Nate swears by his SUUNTO CORE. A world-class rower and adrenaline junkie, he wanted a heart rate monitor that could keep up with his non-stop active lifestyle, and he found it with the CORE. Not only is the screen easy to read, but the monitor is water resistant – perfect for rowing, and its altimeter comes in handy when skiing the Rockies. While incredibly easy to use, the CORE suffers from a steep price.
Perfect For: High altitude sports
The POLAR A300 is Polar’s answer to the FitBit and Jawbone Up. Marketed as a “lifestyle watch,” the A300 will measure your sleep and calories while also monitoring your heart rate. Like the SUUNTO CORE, the A300 is water resistant to 30m, making it a nice companion for snorkeling and shallow diving. All these features, combined with a low price allows the A300 to be a great entry model for people just getting into training.
Perfect For: Cross training
Garmin has been the worldwide leader in avionics and GPS equipment for the better part of two decades, which made their entry into the activity monitor world a foregone conclusion. The FORERUNNER 110 takes their GPS tech and adds it into a compact package to help runners know their fitness levels and – literally – where they are on the planet. While the FORERUNNER 110 is also waterproof up to 50m, the real benefits of the GPS will be appreciated by runners and cyclists.
Perfect For: Running, biking
WRIST ONLY MONITORS
We’ve reviewed the APPLE WATCH before, but from a fitness tracker standpoint. This time around, we’re looking at it solely for its heart rate monitoring capabilities. The nice thing about the APPLE WATCH is you don’t need a cumbersome chest strap to measure your heartbeat. Instead, everything you need is contained in one small device. The watch itself is not waterproof and it’s fairly heavy when compared to the FORERUNNER 110. The best use of the APPLE WATCH’s heart rate monitor would be for everyday use, but not intensive workouts.
Perfect For: Lifestyle
I’ll be honest, this is my favorite heart rate monitor here. It’s got a built-in GPS, it’s easy to use, and it’s durable. The only downside is the design – which I found bulky and not suited for client meetings or wearing under a suit. That said, it’s comfortable to wear, and it stayed out of the way during weightlifting workouts. The price is a bit high, especially if you consider everything else you get for $100 more in the APPLE WATCH, but for an all-in-one fitness dedicated watch, it has my vote.
Perfect For: Weight lifting, biking
Optical sensors are going to increase the price of any heart rate monitor, which made the low price of the MIO FUSE incredibly interesting. This is a no nonsense tracker, dedicated to doing exactly what it’s meant to do. It’s comfortable, it’s water resistant, and it’s light. That said, it won’t track your sleep or monitor your position via GPS. Still, if you’re looking for a solid heart rate monitor at a great price, the MIO FUSE is where it’s at.
Perfect For: Running, biking
The problem with technology is that you’ll always have to make sacrifices somewhere. Whether you want to spend a lot of money for all the bells and whistles, or you can forego items like GPS or sleep tracking, determining the best heart rate monitor for you lies in what you need. In my opinion, the best bang for your buck comes from the FITBIT SURGE, an all around great monitor that hits all the beats.
Adam Drake is Creative Director for the Sweat Life, a former four-year varsity rower for the University of Miami, and currently rows for the Maritime Rowing Club. He is the co-founder of Kayak for a Cause, a charity event based in Connecticut. As a writer, Adam has developed television shows for Comedy Central, Bad Boy Worldwide, and Sky, written ad campaigns for clients such as Bacardi, Starbucks, Dove Men+Care, and HBO, and was a contributor to the pop culture site YesButNoButYes. In his spare time, he enjoys skiing, boating, and working on his tremendous collection of unfinished novels.