Sunday, 22 September 2013

Polar FT80 heart rate monitor review

Heart rate training is probably the most sensible way to exercise not only are you listening to the most important muscle in your body but also you know that your training is totally specific to you!

The brand name most people associate to heart rate monitors would be Polar. The FT80 is marketed as 'A heart rate monitor for fitness enthusiasts who want to improve strength and cardio'.

The watch is GPS enabled, but the GPS unit needs to be purchased separate and paired to the watch. In the box the watch comes with a Polar H1 heart rate sensor and strap and the very clever Flowlink data transfer unit.

Before we get into the performance of the watch, the design deserves a mention. It's very sleek and stylish, very light, non intrusive on the wrist, and the buttons are nice and accessible and easy to press.

So it looks good, but does it work as well as it looks...that's a resounding yes!
The FT80's best bits are the Smart Coaching Features (Fitness Test, OwnZone, Smart Calories, STAR training program, strength training guidance, training load) and Polar Personal Trainer.

After setting up the watch with your, birth date, height, weight and sex, you're ready to go. The more you work out at different intensities the more the watch learns about your heart's capabilities and how to improve your personal performances.

Here's a bit about each of the standout features from the Polar website:

Fitness test: Improving your fitness and keeping up to date with how well you’re doing, the smart Fitness Test will tell you what you need to know in five minutes. By regularly comparing your test results, you can see what progress you are making and how your fitness is improving.

Ownzone: By using the OwnZone, you can be sure you're training on an intensity that improves your aerobic fitness as the feature adjusts your heart rate training zone to perfectly match your body’s current physiological condition.

Smart calories: OwnCal is the most accurate calorie counter on the market. It calculates the number of calories expended during a training session based on your weight, height, age, gender, your individual maximum heart rate (HRmax) and how hard you’re training.

STAR training program: Designed to keep you motivated, using a personal guidance program, STAR Training Programme shows you how hard and how much you need to train to reach your long-term goals.

Strength training guidance: When it comes to boosting your workouts, you should forget standardised recovery periods between sets and use more reliable guidance based on your heart rate. Strength Training Guidance determines the optimal recovery time between your sets, helping you to improve muscle tone.

Training load: Training Load helps you to find the perfect balance between rest and training. Find out your training load status at It shows you at a glance your cumulative training load for every day, advising if and when rest days are needed and when it’s best to train harder in order to maintain your performance improvement.

I've now done 7 of my last runs using the heart rate monitor and it's been interesting. It's clear I'm running most my runs probably too fast. That's not to say there's not a place for fast, but training should be varied.

I'm desperately trying to lose my middle aged tire round my mid drift, to do that I need to be running at a light intensity (60-70% of my maximum heart rate) this is Zone 1.

Zone 2, moderate (70-80% max HR) helps improve aerobic fitness and endurance.

Zone 3, hard (80-90% max HR) increases muscles to lactic acid. Training in this zone should be limited, a) It's working your heart to the max. b) hurts!

As you can see from some examples of my runs below, I've spent virtually no time in Zone 1, most in Zone 2 and probably too much in Zone 3.

Once you've done the hard work, all your information can be uploaded to the Polar Personal trainer website. You can view limited data from your workouts on the watch but here on the website you can get really nerdy and study all the vital statistics from your activities.

The Flowlink data transfer unit sits nicely on your desk plugged into the computer via a USB port. Simply lay your watch face down on the unit and within seconds the FT80 has synchronised and uploaded your information to view.

The training load feature is clever, letting you know how you should train daily.
Green: You're ready to train more.
Yellow: You're OK but don't push it
Red: Stay in bed!!!

This is the first time I've used my heart rate for training, it's been fun, taken the pressure off trying to run fast all the time, made me listen to my body more and is definitely the way forward for my training.

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