Why I DON’T like Optical HR Monitors

Why I DON’T like Optical HR Monitors

April 6, 2016 4 By Coach Ray

I’ve been meaning to write about this for a wee while. I’ll be up front: I DO NOT LIKE OPTICAL HR MONITORS.

I don’t care if they are Fitbit or Garmin or some other brand. The technology to do it at a reliable and accurate level is not there (yet). Yes, I roll my eyes and my head tips back when a client tells me “I’ve bought a Fitbit for heart rate training’.

WHY? If you are a client of mine and you are thinking of buying a major training tool, talk to me before doing so and I can advise you on how best to invest your money.  This applies whether it is a heart rate monitor, or some other tool or training equipment. The best marketed items, aren’t necessarily the best items on the market.

OK, I’ve got that off my chest (excuse the pun). I’ll go into why I don’t like them shortly. But before I do that I’ll tell you why I like them.  Yes, I know that goes against what I’ve just written, but they do have some good features and pros.

They are good for sedentary people. They are good tools for encouraging sedentary people to get active.

But if you are a client of mine, you are NOT sedentary, just by the virtue of what you are training for.

So regardless of what you are training for, if you are training with me and you have an optical Heart Rate (HR) monitor, put it on TradeMe or eBay and use the money you get to buy a Garmin, TomTom or Polar or something that is not an optical HR monitor.

Why Don’t I Like Optical HR Monitors?

Standard HR monitors pick up electrical signals from the heart each time it beats. Boom, that is how you measure heart rate. Reliable, as long as the signal from the strap to the watch isn’t picking up interference from some other source (which is possible).

Optical HR monitors detect changes in light shining through your skin from the capillary bed underneath. WOW, seriously can it do that? Yes it can, but what happens when the skin is dirty with sweat, or mud, or the watch is bouncing around as you run? That is what makes it inaccurate.

Don’t just take my word for how inaccurate they are: http://www.cnet.com/news/how-accurate-are-wristband-heart-rate-monitors/

But isn’t this the same technology they use in hospitals? Yes it is, but the difference is a nurse that puts it on your finger, cleans you finger with an alcohol swab and you are doing nothing more than lying in your hospital bed, not out and about running through the forest or something, expecting the monitor to remain error free.

On top of this, FitBit have been sued about the claims they make about the accuracy and reliability of their product: http://www.dcrainmaker.com/2016/01/fitbits-multiple-lawsuits.html

If you would like further advice feel free to contact Coach Ray.

Coach Ray is the Head Coach & Director of Qwik Kiwi – Endurance Sports Consultant and is a prominent triathlon and marathon coach in New Zealand.

Coach Ray specialises in assisting first timers and recreational athletes to achieve their sporting goals. He can be contacted at www.qwik.kiwiray@qwikkiwi.com and 021 348 729. Make sure you sign up to his monthly informative newsletter.

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