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Five Most Important Features of Your Heart Rate Monitor

When you are new to running then, at some point in time, you will become interested in getting a heart rate monitor.

I have had a love-hate relationship with my heart rate monitors over the years.

The first one I got was very helpful: my heart rate monitor helped me a lot in finding the right pace.

So that an easy run did not end up being a tempo run. And vice versa !

Then I stopped using it, it sort of lost its purpose.

But I have recently rediscovered heart rate monitors. Nowadays, they are so, so, so much better than they have ever been.
Beginner Running Tips Couple
GPS, integration with Bing maps, heart rate, speed, elevation and distance measures, kilometer splits / interval splits / lap splits, it's all possible.

Check out my page with Best GPS Running Watches.

My advise to you : definitely get a heart rate monitor when you are new to running.

So many runners run too fast or too slow. A heart rate monitor can really help you set your pace.

And don't be alarmed. You don't have to fork out hundreds of dollars. Depending on what you want, you can find a decent heart rate monitor at a good price.

For cheap heart rate monitors check out my cheap heart rate monitors for less than $100,- page.

But what do you look for in a heart rate monitor ?
Which features are essential ?
And which are nice-to-have ?

Garmin Forerunner 410 GPS w/HRM Monitors
Garmin Forerunner 410 GPS w/HRM Monitors

GARMIN FORERUNNER 410 GPS w HRM - The Forerunner 410 GPS features highly accurate GPS distance tracking and Comprehensive Performance Monitoring that tracks your pace, distance, time, heart rate, elevation and location. Train smarter with Virtual Partner program that helps you improve your workout to achieve goals faster.


Click here to see this product
Well, of course, this is somewhat personal. If you wish to get a top-of-the-range heart rate monitor like some of the Garmin heart rate monitors (watch, heart rate monitor, speed monitor and distance monitor all in one) I am not going to stop you.

I love my Garmin.

So no wrong choice, definitely not.

I am not that much of a "gadgets-man" I guess, but I have been well and truly sold on the Garmin functionalities.

I am a real analyst and love to see my km-splits, compare runs over the same distance to see how much I have improved, etc, etc.

You just need to consider whether you wish to spend that amount of money.

If you don't want the full wizz-bang functionality, but do want a useful heart rate monitor, then there are simpler, cheaper options available.

When you are new to running, it is difficult to determine what is important in a heart rate monitor. That's why I decided to make this page to help you out.

So, what do I consider essential features of a heart rate monitor ?

OK... drumroll please... my selection of five most important features is :

  • Breast Strap

  • Adjustable Heart Rate Target Zones with Alarm

  • Light

  • Count Down Timer

  • Price

  • Best Heart Rate Monitor Feature #1: Breast Strap

    You have got two choices here. There are heart rate monitors which are only on the wrist. The disadvantage of this is that you can easily get interference with other heart rate monitors around. So then, your heart rate monitors reads some other runner's heart rate. Very annoying when you are running in a group or in a race!

    Most heart rate monitors however come with a velcro breast strap. Feels a bit weird at first, but after a while you don't feel the breast strap anymore. And you will never pick up some other runner's signal !

    If you are going to measure heart rate, you might as well measure your own!

    Best Heart Rate Monitor Feature #2: Adjustable Heart Rate Target Zones with Alarm

    MIO Motiva Heart Rate Watch Monitors
    MIO Motiva Heart Rate Watch Monitors

    MIO MOTIVA HEART RATE WATCH - The seasons sleekest, stylish running watch is also a patented weight-management system. The Mio Motiva Heart Rate Watch is geared to give you intense motivation to stay on top of your goals. Simply enter your target calories for the day and this amazing device will set off an alarm if you're close to going over. Plus, staying in shape is simplified thanks to its ingenious heart rate monitor. Now you can literally watch your calories burn!...


    Click here to see this product
    What you especially want when you wear your heart rate monitor during a run is to keep your heart rate in the correct zone.

    A heart rate monitor with adjustable heart rate target zones with alarm will help you achieve just that.

    What to consider here:

  • Do you want to be able to set up multiple target zones or not ?
    Considering you usually run in mainly one zone per workout this is normally not strictly necessary.

  • Do you want sound alarm only ?
    Some heart rate monitors have a beep to warn you when you "leave" your zone, some vibrate, some do both.

  • LITTLE TIP: Want to avoid scolding ? Don't use the beeping alarms on your heart rate monitor during a race. Some people really hate it... :)

  • Best Heart Rate Monitor Feature #3: Light

    Whether you run in the mornings or at night, chances are that you run in the dark at least sometimes.

    I do most of my runs in the dark.

    Not much to do about that when you have a full-time job.

    Having a light on your heart rate monitor certainly comes in useful then...

    Just to be able to tell the time, my speed or my heart rate, I really need that back light.

    Once again something that has changed over the years: when I got my first heart rate monitor, not many models had a back light.

    Now almost all come with one.

    Still good thing to check for though before you purchase!

    Best Heart Rate Monitor Feature #4: Stopwatch with lap/splits

    Especially when you mainly run shorter distances a good deal of your time is spent doing intervals on or off the track.

    Being able to time your splits is important then.

    And you will want to do that without much hassle like pushing many buttons and in the meanwhile doing the maths in your head.

    Keep an eye out for heart rate monitors with a memory function for your splits if you spend much of your time on the track. Again, this makes life just that little bit easier.

    Best Heart Rate Monitor Feature #5: Countdown Timer

    I use my heart rate monitor often for the countdown timer-functionality.

    I have a love/hate relationship with 5-minute intervals. I love how they help you get faster. But I hate doing them... :)

    My wonderful heart rate monitor is very functional, it lets me set my interval time or distance, recovery time or distance and it measures the distance covered in each individual split.

    When you have got a little more simpler heart rate monitor then just having that countdown functionality will help. This is how I used to do it:

    I'd do a 5-minute interval with 2 minutes recovery in between.

    So I'd set my timer at 7 minutes and let it count down.

    At 5 minutes my interval starts. At 0 the alarm goes off and it immediately starts counting down from 7 minutes to 0 again.

    And when my 2 minute recovery period was over the fun started again... :)

    The other way around does not work as well. The last thing you want to do when doing a strenuous workout is checking your watch all the time to see if your interval is finished already.

    When you start your count down with the recovery period it is much easier.

    During recovery you go slow and you have the time, the breath and the energy to keep an eye on your watch.

    Keep in mind there is a very cheap wonderful device available now that will help you track that so easily. It's called the Gymboss. Very useful.

    Best Heart Rate Monitor Feature #5: Price

    Last, but not least, price.
    Know what you want from a heart rate monitor and what you want to spend, then make your choice.

    Best Buys

    To conclude this guide to the most important features of your heart rate monitor I'll show you a few heart rate monitors which have most of the basic features, but are still within a reasonable budget.

    MIO Motion Heart Rate Watch - Small Monitors
    MIO Motion Heart Rate Watch - Small Monitors

    MIO MOTION HEART RATE WATCH-SMALL - This streamlined version monitors your heart rate and calories burned, as well as your speed, distance, and step count. Built with biometric sensor technology, no bulky chest strap is necessary. Simply hold it in your hand and you're on your way to success....


    Click here to see this product

    Suunto M1 Heart Rate Monitor
    Suunto M1 Heart Rate Monitor

    SUUNTO M1 HEART RATE MONITOR - Sophisticated, yet easy to use, the Suunto M1 Heart Rate Monitor is optimized for any aerobic activity with state-of-the-art accuracy. With comprehensive monitoring of heart rate and calories burned, this essential device is equipped with the tools you need to reach your fitness goals. Styled with versatility, built for comfort, you'll get the most out of each and every workout....


    Click here to see this product

    Timex Zone Trainer Digital Heart Rate Mid Monitors
    Timex Zone Trainer Digital Heart Rate Mid Monitors

    TIMEX ZONE TRAINER DIGITAL HEART RATE MONITOR - This heart rate monitor is a powerful, easy-to-use training tool that's perfect for beginners or seasoned athletes looking for a streamlined HRM. The Timex Zone Trainer Digital Heart Rate Monitor helps you set your target heart rate zone, graphically shows you how long you spend in your zone, plus your percent-of-max heart rate, calories burned, and more. Includes digital heart rate sensor and adjustable strap. Prices are so low on...


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    New Balance N8 Speed & Distance Monitor
    New Balance N8 Speed & Distance Monitor

    NEW BALANCE N8 SPEED & DISTANCE MONITOR - Track your speed, distance, and heart rate with the easy convenience of the New Balance N8 Speed & Distance Monitor. It's three advanced systems in one, with easy to use functions and an even easier to see display. Compact, convenient, and designed to stay out of the way of your workout. Slip it round your wrist or lace it to your shoes, you'll be performing at your best now that you can do it by the numbers....


    Click here to see this product

    Heart Rate Monitor Reviews

    Some heart rate monitor reviews are available on this site. Check them out for more detailed information about the best heart rate monitors around :

    Garmin Heart Rate Monitors
    Garmin heart rate monitors are well known for their sleek design, light weight and complete functionality.
    They are GPS devices measuring distance, speed, time and heart rate.

    Integration with desktop software or Garmin Connect (website) is availabable as well to make sure that you get the most out of your training. Highly recommended!

    Also see my reviews of individual Garmin models here:

    Garmin Forerunner 110 Review

    Garmin Forerunner 310XT Review

    Garmin Forerunner 405cx Review

    Polar Heart Rate Monitors
    Used to be the absolute market leader until a few years ago when Garmin started taking over. Offer a wide range of heart rate monitors from beginner models to the really advanced.

    Adidas miCoach Pacer Review
    Interesting device offering your training information via your mp3-player. Pretty cool and with speed, distance and heart rate measured it comes in at a very good price.

    Some other pages with heart rate monitors:
    Nike Heart Rate Monitors | CardioSport Heart Rate Monitors
    Mio Heart Rate Monitors | Timex Heart Rate Monitors
    Reebok Heart Rate Monitors

    Of course, don't forget to go to the Finding Cheap Heart Rate Monitors page for a good selection of cheap heart rate monitors.
    And if you want to see some good GPS running watches, then visit the GPS running watch page.

    Heart Rate Monitor Training Information

    Zoladz Heart Rate Target Zones
    Find out your heart rate monitor target zones based on the Zoladz method. Only requires maximum heart rate.

    Karvonen Heart Rate Target Zones
    Work out what your heart rate target zones are based on the Karvonen method. This method requires both maximum and rest heart rate.

    Heart Rate Monitor Training Basics
    Some important basics that you need when you want to start running with a heart rate monitor.

    Determining Your Maximum Heart Rate | Determining Your Rest Heart Rate
    Helpful pages that tell you how to determine your maximum and your rest heart rate.

    Heart Rate Monitor Pitfalls
    Relying on your heart rate monitor alone is not good. It is a great device, but you need to learn to listen to your body as well. Read this page to learn more about some heart rate monitor training pitfalls.

    Heart Rate Monitor Running Programs
    Some running programs for your first 10k or half marathon. Can be used without use of a heart rate monitor as well.

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    Interested in more heart rate monitor information ?
    Then subscribe to my newsletter or to my site blog !

    Go from Most Important Heart Rate Monitor Features to Best Running Tips Homepage

    It's important to be aware of heart health. Today's Women and Health will keep you up to date on heart health.

    Like Your Heart Rate Monitor? Tell Me About It!

    Do you really like your Heart Rate Monitor Reviews?

    Then take a few minutes to let us know about them. It may help your fellow-readers make their mind up about their Heart Rate Monitor!

    Please tell us:
    Brand and Type of Heart Rate Monitor(incl Men/Women)
    What you like about your Heart Rate Monitor?

    What Other Visitors Have Said

    Click below to see contributions from other visitors to this page...

    Garmin Forerunner 310 XT Review Not rated yet
    Garmin 310XT Review I was looking for a simple heart rate monitor, but my friend urged me to buy the Garmin 310 XT . He said that I can use it …

    Polar FT7 Heart Rate Monitor Review Not rated yet
    I just want to tell you a little about my Polar FT7 heart rate monitor. First off, I'm thankful a friend introduced me to running because I am having …

    Garmin 405cx Review Not rated yet
    I just purchased the Garmin 405CX with Heart Rate Monitor and I am amazed by its powerful features - it's really like a small computer for runners. …

    Polar FT4 Heart Rate Monitor Review Not rated yet
    Polar FT4 Heart Rate Monitor Review I have always been a health buff. Even at an early age, I already drafted out an exercise regimen for myself, …

    Click here to write your own.

    Heart Rate Monitor
    Finding a bargain: Cheap Heart Rate Monitors
    Heart Rate Monitor Reviews: Best GPS Running Watch | Polar Heart Rate Monitors
    Garmin Heart Rate Monitors | Nike Heart Rate Monitors
    CardioSport Heart Rate Monitors | Mio Heart Rate Monitors
    Timex Heart Rate Monitors | Reebok Heart Rate Monitors
    Reviews of Individual Models: Adidas miCoach Pacer Review | Garmin Forerunner 310XT Review
    Garmin Forerunner 110 Review | Garmin Forerunner 405cx Review
    Heart Rate Monitor Training Information: Heart Rate Monitor Training | Heart Rate Monitor Training (Karvonen Method)
    Heart Rate Monitor Training (Zoladz Method) | Maximum Heart Rate
    Rest Heart Rate | Heart Rate Monitor Training Pitfalls

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