The Easiest, Cheapest Way to Train by Heart Rate

The Easiest, Cheapest Way to Train by Heart Rate
Photo: wavebreakmedia, Shutterstock

With fitness watches becoming more popular over the years, training by heart rate has gotten even more accessible — you can just glance down at your Garmin, Fitbit, Apple Watch, or whatever expensive gadget you wear on your wrist to find out how your heart rate is doing. But what if you never hopped on the smartwatch bandwagon in the first place? What if you don’t even like wearing a watch while you exercise?

Good news: Instead of a watch, you can measure your heart rate with a chest strap, and single-purpose chest straps are cheap. I got a Coospo for about $US30 (A$42), and it pairs directly with my phone, no watch needed.

In addition to being cheap and easy, chest straps are also the most accurate way to find out how fast your heart is beating during exercise. Wrist monitors sometimes get confused with fast motion, and some watches are more accurate than others. Chest straps are your best bet for accuracy.

How to use a chest strap without a watch

So a chest strap is cheaper and more accurate. How do you use it?

On my iPhone, I found the simplest way was to download the Polar Beat app, which pairs with my strap over Bluetooth. If you’re going for a run or a bike ride while carrying your phone, it can also use your phone’s GPS to track your pace and record where you went on a map.

I tend to use mine for indoor cycling, though, and for kettlebell workouts (which I log as “other indoor”). Using a strap without a watch is especially handy with kettlebells, since the bell otherwise knocks into the watch in certain positions.

But if you have a fitness watch and you like using it, most models will allow you to pair the watch with a chest strap directly. That way you can get the most accurate readings, and be able to check the numbers from your wrist.

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