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Polar F4 Heart Rate Monitor

August 29, 2009

Polar Package CU

After a few months of thinking about getting a heart rate monitor, I finally took the leap and purchased this Polar F4 heart rate monitor. I was with a friend at our local Dick’s Sporting Goods store, which I tend to avoid all costs, when I remembered that I NEEDED to have this heart rate monitor.

I knew I wanted to get Polar brand because I have consistently heard great things and even sat through a talk that a rep gave at a local shoe store. So my only choice was which style of Polar HRM to get. I was choosing between the $65 F1 and the $90 F4. With the guidance of my previously mentioned friend, I went for the F4, the only noticeable difference between the two was that the F4 would indicate the number of calories burned. Also, it came in light blue, the F1 was super dark blue.

I got home and immediately wanted to open it up and start using it, so I grabbed the kitchen scissors (there was some serious packaging that needed to be cut through) and went at it. After opening the package, reading the easy set up instructions, and wrapping the chest strap around me, I pressed start and began “exercising” profusely around my kitchen. But…

Nothing happened.

I did everything right, or so I thought. I read the instructions again, this time more carefully. I reset the whole thing and tried again, this time wetting the electrodes on the chest strap. I began “exercising” again. Again… nothing.

I repeated this process one more time and again, the same results.

I gave up, went into the other room and watched Cops. I decided to tackle this problem tomorrow morning. This will add a bit of stress to my morning routine as I prepare for a mid-morning run. I REALLY really really want this to work.

I have put off buying this thing for way too long and now when I have it in my hands, it doesn’t function.

So far I am very disappointed, but I will revisit it tomorrow and hopefully come back with a more descent review.

UPDATE: 8/30/2009 6:22 PM

This morning I felt a urgency to beat the rain and get out early for a run, and by early, I mean 10:00 AM. I grabbed my heart rate monitor from the stove (a convenient storage spot,) put on the chest strap, fastened the watch around my wrist, wet the whole “transmitter” with water from the kitchen sink, pressed “OK” on the watch and immediately received a signal.


It seems the water thing is key, even though I did try wetting it last night, I guess I just didn’t use enough water.

I went outside, did a quick calf stretch and headed down the street for a three mile run. Just  one block from my house I reached my target heart rate, less than three minutes later I was at and beyond my pre-programed maximum heart rate; for the next half hour or so, the watch continuously beeped (indicating I was above my maximum, pre-programmed heart rate). Non stop. The whole time.

The good news is that the system works, the not-so-good news is that I must now try to figure out how to configure this to beep when I reach MY maximum heart rate, not the pre-programed one.

Also, and this is likely true with any chest strap, it was pretty uncomfortable. Not that it is supposed to be comfortable, but yikes. When I got done running I noticed that my skin was really irritated everywhere the “transmitter” touched. This may mean that my ultra-sensitive skin has found something else that it is allergic to, or that I just have to get used to a new device being tied around my chest. We’ll see. I feel updated reviews are necessary at this point as I am still getting used to this Heart Rate Monitor. I am hoping I made a good purchase as this was not a cheap piece of plastic.

UPDATE: 9/29/2009

Okay, it’s been a good month of having this Heart Rate  Monitor and I feel there are a few things I should explain. First- after doing additional reading, I am very glad I went with Polar. I had an older Garmin GPS with a heart rate monitor built in, but I feel with Garmin, their priority is with their GPS, secondary (or even tertiary) comes the heart rate monitor.

Polar’s only goal (at least with the F4) is heart rate.

Here are the problems I have had so far: I still can’t figure out how to change my pre programmed maximum heart rate. This gets annoying because as soon as I reach 165 BPM, the watch beeps. Very annoying.

Also, I just can’t get the chest strap to fit snug around my chest. It comes down to needing a smaller chest strap so I can adjust it down. When I run hard or for an extended amount of time unit slips down and requires constant adjustment, this also makes me want to throw the whole thing in the trash.  I don’t want to deal with adjusting this things while I am trying to run. One thing at a time, please.

This unit does not allow you to track your progress by plugging it into your computer, however I have never tracked my progress on the computer. I do, however, write down the stats in my little Moleskine notebook so I can look at them later. With this particular unit, if you want to keep track of your progress, you need to write it down before you begin your next workout because it doesn’t store more than one set of stats. This is not a huge problem for me, but it is just a warning.

After a month, I am still glad that I made this purchase. It really helps when training. I now know when I am working hard enough or when I am being too easy on myself.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. sean f caffrey permalink*
    October 10, 2009 9:53 PM

    Well now it’s my turn to give the male perspective. So are these things made for girls or what?!! The only color I could find was baby blue and the face of the watch seems to be woman sized. I looked at my local running store for a heart rate monitor and was told that they only had them for “serious runners” who wanted to track their training on a computer program. I think what they meant was “we only have models for rich doctors with too many habits who can be easily talked into spending over $300 on a product they’ll only use for one season.” A little bitter you may ask, I guess so. This is a common problem when you are into sports dominated by well to do business men, trust fund kids, and retirees. I’ll ever ride a Cervelo (well atleast not a high end one) or have to best new state of the art running shoes. Those are reserved for the pros who are given this stuff or more often than not people who’s performance is barely enhanced by it because they have more money than skill and let sales people talk them into what ever the next best thing is by telling them all they’re buddies who they do group rides or runs with have it. I could go on for ever but let’s talk about the polar f4 heart rate monitor. I bought this because I can’t afford the Garmin forerunner’s $350 price tag nor ever the lowest end one they sold at the running store. So after deciding to wait a few more weeks and look around online I went to Target with my girlfriend. I happened to notice they had the f4 within my price range ($90) and hearing my partners review of how simple and adequate it was I decided to give it a shot.
    So far I like it, all though the fact that I can’t turn off the beeping that occurs when you aren’t “in the zone” is really annoying, but that’s my fault not Polar’s. I’ve never used a HRM before so maybe others can fill me in but the chest strap is chaffing my sides and back during runs. I assume this isn’t just something you’re expected to deal with. I also haven’t figured out how to raise the optimum heart rate because mine seems to be too low according to the rough calculations the HRM does based on your age, height and weight. Staying in within my range during uphills is nearly impossible. I too will be coming back to this review as I learn to use this product more and work out a few of the kinks I’ve had so far. Overall I do believe that this is a good HRM for people who know they’re never going to be professionals or devote more than a few hours a week to excercising. You can’t upload information to a complex computer program and antilize your training, this is the highest end model Polar makes before having those capabilities. The one more advanced feature I think I’d enjoy is a memory. You can view a summary of your workout after the workout but only once and then it resets and is lost forever.


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