Features and Functions Explained
HRM Glossary of Icons
Thank you for getting this far in to our website and your search for the perfect Heart Rate Monitor for you. All the HRM’s we have reviewed have been given a number of ICONS that represent the main functional attributes of each product. The table below is a key to those icons and should, hopefully, help you to get the HRM / fitness product that best suits your essential requirements. If you are new to HRM training then please take a minute to review our HRM FAQ section
CHEST STRAP HRM – Heart Rate is obtained in this unit from a traditional chest strap. The chest strap is comfortable and sits under the pectoral muscles / breasts. A chest strap is NOT uncomfortable and can be worn for hours without irritation or annoyance. The heart rate data is sent to the wrist unit WIRELESSLY using either Bluetooth or ANT+ or a.n.other wireless transmission method. Some HRM straps send the HR signal in DUAL format so they can be collected by BOTH the watch and a smartphone or other device. The newest models of HRM generally use Bluetooth 4.0 for their HR transmission. This is useful as it is often compatible with smartphones both iOs and Android.
HR from WRIST – It’s something everyone has been asking since we started with heart rate monitors back in 1999. Well, FINALLY it is here and works brilliantly. This heart rate monitor get the heart rate from an optical sensor in the back of the watch. The HR data is read DIRECTLY from the wrist… no need for a chest strap. BRILLIANT. HRM’s that take the heart rate in this way will NOT give feedback on recovery or training load as they do not analyse the HR data to that level. HOWEVER, for a vast majority of our visitors EKG accurate heart rate off the wrist without a chest strap is all they need / want. All the HRM’s with strapless / optical HR sensors can be found in the strapless heart rate monitors section of the website
HEART RATE ZONE TRAINING – This is a KEY function of a heart rate monitor. Training in ONE or as many as five different Heart Rate training zones is a proven method for achieving your performance goal and training objectives. Different zones have different effects on the body and different. If you’re new to HR training pop over to our Heart Rate calculators.
CALORIES BURNT – Using the live heart rate data this watch will provide accurate feedback on the calories you have burnt throughout a training session. Knowing how many calories you have burnt is just as important for athletes as it is for those on a weight loss programme. If you know how many calories you have burnt through training, added to your base metabolic rate, you know how many calories you need to consume throughout the day.
ACTIVITY TRACKER – This monitor comes with an Activity Tracking function. Generally this is a BAR CHART displayed on the watch to show you how close you are to achieving your DAILY GOAL. For most watches this is normally a daily target of STEPS, for example 10,000 Steps per Day is considered the average for general well being
SLEEP MONITOR – Training hard is important, but equally important is the quality of recovery and SLEEP. This sports watch measure the quality of your sleeping pattern with a built-in Sleep Monitor
STEP COUNTER – This fitness product has a built in PEDOMETER. It will tell you how many steps you have taken on a daily basis. The average daily goal for a sedentary office worker is 10,000 steps per day. A pedometer is a great way of motivating yourself to achieve a daily minimum level of activity.
RECOVERY CALCULATION – At the end of a session get feedback on HOW LONG it is going to take for you to fully recover. Over-training is sometimes worse than under-training. This watch will guide you to a balance training / recovery pattern
TRAINING LOAD – Training Load is determined by a sophisticated algorithm that monitors several key points of an ECG trace. It’s not just an estimation of TIME versus avg HR. The algorithm employed by Polar, Suunto and Garmin in their training effect is a highly accurate measure of training intensity. Over training can cripple a training programme. Having a clear and accurate measure of training load can be a huge advantage.
SWIM-METRICS – These swimming watches have been fitted with a clever internal accelerometer that knows which stroke you have been doing, how many per length, when you turn and much more. Several models will also give you a Swimming Efficiency score (SWOLF in Garmin speak) Most of these watches if fitted with an internal GPS will also give you Swim-Metrics for open water swimming.
SMARTHPHONE CONNECTIVITY – This product is supported by the manufacturer’s own APP. The App is available for both iOs and Android devices. The App can generally support the upload of training session data from the watch/wrist unit to the App (and often from there onward to the Web service). Apps can often be used for quicker / simpler setup of the wrist unit with regard to time of day, activity goal (if applicable), HR training zones (if applicable) etc.
SMARTHPHONE NOTIFICATIONS – When paired and connected to a smartphone (Android or iOs) this watch can be configured to notify the user about incoming calls, received texts / emails etc. It is also quite normal for the watch unit to be able to control song choice and volume from the music App being used on the smart-device. Having incoming call notification can be useful when riding, especially if you are expecting an important call, have kids etc.
MULTISPORT – For a GPS sports watch to qualify for TRIATHLON status it must adhere to a couple of essential features. 1) It has to have DEDICATED training pages (screens) for Running, Cycling and Swimming (as a minimum 3 sports) 2) The user MUST be able to switch from ONE sport to ANOTHER with the minimum number of button presses 3) All selected sports should be included in ONE training session with an identifier of when the SPORT changed from one to another. Some will also allow for timing of transitions. Some allow the user to set custom sports like Kayaking or Roller Blading. Suunto, Polar and Garmin produce some of the best GPS triathlon watches
RACE PACER – This is a fun feature that will help you in your goal to achieve a specific distance in a set time. For example, if your aim is to run a 10K in 42 minutes, just set that as the Race Pace GOAL and press GO. The watch will tell you if you are going to achieve that goal, realtime. If you go too far BEHIND it will alert you to SPEED UP and vice versa. It does NOT take in to account HILLS… so if it’s telling you to speed up due to a BIG HILL… ignore it and get back what you lost as you descend the other side :-)
VIRTUAL TRAINING – Virtual Training (or in Garmin speak “Virtual Partner”) is where the user races against a track they (or someone else) has previously ran/cycled. If you have a favourite 10K route or 50 mile bike loop then you can add this as a ROUTE to be used to race against. The benefit of this over Race Pacer (above) is that it DOES take in to consideration the road conditions as you are racing YOURSELF… It’s a bit like running with a ghosted version of yourself to keep you company. It’s good fun from time to time and can be a useful training aid, but don’t overuse it, you cannot beat yourself EVERY TIME you train ;-)
PEDAL POWER / WATTS – Heart Rate is a great way to see how hard you are working…. it’s something we naturally endorse and promote. However, it changes on a daily basis and what is Zone 3 for me might be Zone 4 for you. If you want an ABSOLUTE measure of performance the preferred unit of measure is POWER.. more specifically Watts per Hour. Ask any TOP cyclist what their Zone 4 HR zone is.. you might get a blank look.. ask them what their max power output is and you have a friend for the next 10 minutes. Cyclists NEED to know how hard and how long they can push a certain power band. Great cyclists can push over 700 watts for entire climbs… Chris Hoy has the ability to output more than 1,000 watts per hour for short bursts. Power monitoring is something that is getting cheaper and will soon be a regular feature on most £1.5K bike setups.
We have 4 icons for Power Meters :
- BT = Bluetooth
- ANT = ANT+ as used primarily by Garmin
- BT & ANT = supports both ANT+ and Bluetooth
- S = Single sided power metering only giving averaged total power output
- D = Dual sided power metering giving total power output
PEDAL CADENCE – Not quite as useful as POWER, pedal cadence is another metric used by cyclists to ensure endured pace and power. Every cyclist has a preferred / optimal cadence. Some prefer to push a HIGH cadence with a lower power, other cyclists like to push a BIG GEAR at a LOW cadence with HIIGH POWER… Cadence is measured in Revolutions Per Minute. A LOW cadence is around 70rpm, a medium cadence might be 80-90rpm, above 100 rpm is reasonably fast. When a cyclist sprints they may achieve a cadence in the region of 150 -200 RPM.
DIGITAL COMPASS – This unit has a BUILT-IN digital compass. The modern digital compasses are extremely accurate and only found in the best ABC watches on the market. The compass can be calibrated in seconds by twisting or turning the watch unit through 360 degrees. The compass can be set to include magnetic deviation for True North or left to show magnetic North.
GPS TRACKING – This unit has a BUILT-IN GPS unit for tracking speed, distance, pace and, sometime, location. Not all GPS sports watches have location / mapping data. Many simply use the GPS for tracking speed and distance. If you want your heart rate monitor to give A to B routing please ensure it has the AUTO-ROUTING icon as well. If you think you might benefit from a GET ME HOME function please ensure the watch has that ICON too.
AUTO-ROUTING – With this product you can plan and / or follow pre-planned routes using the built-in GPS unit. Routes are either pre-planned on your Mac or PC and uploaded to the device, or, a GPX file can be downloaded from one of hundreds of websites. The GPX file is the autorouting co-ordinates of a ride/run that someone else has ridden in the past, then made public so other people can share the experience. An example of this would be this one – a GPX route of L’Etape du Tour
BACK to HOME – A brilliant feature for people who travel a lot and don’t want to get lost. Personally I have used this in dozens of GPS watches from my old Garmin Forerunner 310XT to my current Polar VR800. There is no need to set a starting waypoint, that is done automatically for you. If you decide you want to return to base, just press a few buttons and you will see HOW FAR and in which DIRECTION to get you back home.
ALTITUDE DATA – Altitude data is particularly useful to cyclists. Runners may also have an interest in it as do orienteers and adventure racers. These ABC watches provides alti-metric feedback from either the internal GPS or/and a built-in barometric pressure sensor. The Barometric sensor is the most accurate for ascent/descent feedback. For accurate real-time altitude a barometric device will need the daily starting altitude entering before commencing the activity (or the current AIR PRESSURE if known). Some units, like the Suunto Ambit’s use COMBINED barometric and GPS altitude data to give the best of both worlds.