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My husband had been looking around for a good heart rate monitor for a while and we spotted this one in Tesco. I didn't really see the point in them but after he explained a little about why he wanted it, it seemed to make sense to have one. My own heart rate can drop down really quickly and I generally feel a bit weird so I thought it would be good to get one of these to monitor that problem whereas my husband wanted it for working out - I work out, it just doesn't bother me to monitor my heart rate while working out ;).
So for £15 from Tesco (£20 when we bought it) what do you get? First of all a pretty decent monitor. It looks very like a digital watch, is black and quite chunky. It is, I suppose, very masculine but if you're just wearing it to check your heart rate while you work out I'm sure this isn't an issue for most people. We bought this one a few years back and it's still ticking over. I did expect it to not last for very long based on the price but it works just fine. It comes with batteries included (takes CR2025 batteries), wrist and chest strap. The heart rate monitor displays the time and date and maximum and minimum average heart rate levels and has an alarm that will go off when your training session is up. It is also water resistant but I doubt you could take it scuba diving ;).
The chest strap is fairly sturdy, holds up in intense work out scenarios and is fully adjustable so will fit most sizes. It needs to be wetted on the pads so that it sticks to your skin but this can be achieved by putting a bit of water on your finger and rubbing it onto the pads. I haven't really played around with it very much if I'm honest, I just want to know my resting heart rate when it's high, so I can't talk about the other features that come with the heart rate monitor. I feel reassured knowing what my heart rate is when it feels like it's climbing to dangerous levels so for that purpose I'm quite satisfied with this heart rate monitor. I'd say it was a decent entry level/basic monitor and bearing in mind what people pay for these kinds of things I'd say £15 was a good price for this monitor. As the monitor displays the date and time you could also use this as a wrist watch on the day to day.
It's been going for a number of years despite being dropped, bashed and general use which will just wear anything down naturally so it was a purchase that has far exceeded it's life expectancy. On top of this I feel reassured to know my heart rate is either up or not as bad as I think so I really believe it's worth the investment.
As part of my concerted effort to lose weight, I not only count my calories in, but also try and count calories expended over the norm by exercising so that I can "eat them back". The theory behind this is that your body needs a certain amount of calories just to keep going and if you don't eat enough calories then your body will go into starvation mode, making it harder to lose weight. My diet allows me a specific number of calories a day, which takes my normal lifestyle into account and supplies me with enough energy for my body to keep going and still lose about one pound a week, but I also partake of cardio exercise every day and need to eat back these calories to keep my net intake at the recommended amount. While it is possible to guess how many calories I burn or use the calculations given by some machines, I much more accurate way of measuring them is to use a heart rate monitor (HRM) with a chest strap. I was originally using a Polar model, but I somehow managed to misplace the chest strap, so I looked for a cheap alternative and found the One Body HRM, which appears to be a Tesco brand, for just £19.99 and have been using it for the last few months now.
The One Body HRM is supplied in a fairly small box and consists of three components along with an instruction manual. Before I go into the components, I'm going to talk a bit about the instruction manual, or should I say leaflet. The leaflet itself is very small, but the printing on it is ridiculous. I am short sighted, but usually have no problem seeing or reading things that are close to my eyes. The printing on this leaflet though, is so small that it is almost impossible to read without a magnifying glass, I really do struggle to read it and would imagine anyone with even a hint of long-sightedness would find it completely impossible. I do feel this is very short-sighted (no pun intended) on Tesco/One Body's part as it does mean that there is a large group of people who would have to work out how to use it via trial and error.
The watch component of the HRM is fairly unisex, size-wise it does fall more in the masculine range, but it's not so enormous to immediately make you think that I'm wearing a man's watch. The transparent grey with black detailing, rubber-feel strap houses a metal buckle and plenty of holes to allow a reasonably secure fit. Personally I would have liked the holes to be in a slightly different position, but that's simply because at the moment I am between fittings meaning it's a tiny bit loose. The watch face is fairly large, with the digital display clear enough to read at a glance, if a little over-crowded with information. The buttons used to cycle between the different modes, set/reset the functions and operate the light are all flush with the bevel and yet large enough to be easy to push. The watch is powered by a CR2025 button battery which is supplied ready installed and can be changed by removing the back which is securely held in place with four tiny screws.
The chest strap consists of a rubberised section that houses the heart rate sensors along with the transmitter, both of which are powered by a single CR2023 button battery, which is once more supplied and user-replacable (this battery compartment is opened with a coin). This sensor section is then held in place via an adjustable, elasticated strap that clicks into each end of the sensor. This strap has a large size range, easily fitting around my more than ample chest (44") with plenty of space to spare and able to be adjusted to fit far smaller frames. The final component is a small stand that allows you to have the watch section free-standing rather than on your wrist. This component looks exactly like the stands used to display watches in a jewellers and almost as if it is a piece of packaging you should throw away.
Before the One Body HRM can be used for the first time it needs a certain amount of setting up, including adding such details as your gender, height, weight and age along with setting the actual time and date. Although I found it easy to enter these details, I was disappointed to discover that these variables cannot easily be adjusted. In fact the only way of changing them is to remove the battery and start again, which considering that I'm using this as a weight-loss tool is a little awkward as I am losing weight weekly and the amount of calories you burn depends on your weight. Once the watch is set, using this monitor is extremely easy. The sensors on the strap need to be dampened before it is put on (the leaflet suggested licking them, but I just use tap water) and then it needs to be positioned on your chest and tightened so that it has good contact with the skin but is not so tight as to be uncomfortable. For us women, it's easy to gauge the correct position, I generally place under the strap of my sport's bra, for a man I would imagine that it is best placed just under the nipples.
When first in place the strap does feel a little strange, but not particularly uncomfortable and once I've got into the rhythm of exercising I tend to forget it is there. As long as the sensors are dampened and correctly positioned the watch picks up my heart rate within a few seconds and does not seem to lose signal. There are a number of different readings that can be displayed, including actual heart rate (including average percentage of maximum), calories burnt, fat burnt, time spent exercising and a memory function. There is also a fit level test, that checks how long it takes for your heart rate to recover along with a stopwatch. Having previously recorded details of maximum/average heart rate and calories burnt using the far more expensive Polar FT4, I can say that the results are almost identical, meaning the One Body HRM is at least as accurate. I've also used this in conjunction with the HRM that came with Active Sports 2, with the difference in readings again being negligible.
As both the watch/monitor itself and chest strap are in contact with the skin during exercise sessions where I sweat profusely, they do understandably get a little gunky and end up with a layer of salts. It's a good job then that they are easily cleaned. The watch and sensor section of the strap cannot be immersed in water, but are easy to wipe clean with a damp cloth, while the elasticated section of the strap can be hand washed then allowed to dry naturally. It is simplicity itself to cycle through the various readings, should you wish to do what I do and keep a record of how long you've exercised and how many calories you have burnt and all these readings can be reset to zero by simply holding a button down for three seconds. The batteries have so far held their charge well with three months of almost daily use and having also used this as a simple watch, I can safely say it has also kept time perfectly not losing a single second. When used as a watch it is nice to know that there is also an alarm feature that is just about loud enough to hear over a moderately loud TV.
I find that if I exercise without wearing a HRM I do not have quite the same drive as watching the calories expended and fat burnt totals rise gives me a real incentive to push myself harder. It is a great source of satisfaction to set myself a target of a number of calories to burn in a session, which in turn helps me push through the pain barrier and keep going even though I think I am completely exhausted. I also find that I lose weight at a far more steady pace if I have an accurate gauge of calories in and calories out and do feel that the use of HRMs has contributed to my 30lb+ weight-loss.
This particular HRM is far, far cheaper than it's competitors and indeed is a similar price to those heart rate monitors that do not come with a chest strap and so are far less accurate. While not perfect, it is as full featured and records at least as many different variables as my Polar FT4 did at half the price. In fact you could say that it records more variables as the FT4 did not record fat burnt while this does. My only real gripes with this HRM are that I am unable to change my weight in the setting without removing the battery and that it is not completely waterproof. But if you are looking for a cheap, yet full featured HRM to either motivate you to work out harder or keep a track of the calories you have expended then I can't recommend the One Body Heart Rate Monitor enough.