9A. HEART RATE MONITOR
This is my newest toy and is something I hope will help me to acheive faster results with less pain. The key point behind using a heart rate monitor is that you can acheive results faster by ensuring your body is operating at the right level of exertion for the goal you are trying to acheive. For example, if your goal is to lose fat, you should operate at a lower heart rate than if your goal is to increase your cardio. Exercising at a heart rate higher than the correct zone can actually increase the time required to acheive your objective and may lead to overtraining. Your personal heart rate zones are based on your age and your level of fitness. The manual you receive with your monitor will help you to define your zones. Some of the mid and high cost models will calculate the zones for you.
Another way to use a heart rate monitor is to track your progress toward acheiving your goal. For example, you can monitor your heart rate when running a certain pace (eg an 8 minute mile).
A heart rate monitor consists of two parts. The first is a strap that you wear across your chest that contains a transmitter. The transmitter sends a signal to the "monitor" that you wear on your wrist like a watch. Different heart rate monitors have different capabities.
When it comes to buying a heart rate monitor, you can spend anywhere from $30 to over $400. Some of the key differences I have seen are:
Low cost models: Track heart rate. Cannot change battery in transmitter.
Mid cost models: Track heart rate and can signal you when you are outside of your desired heart rate zone. Can show calories burned and % of calories that were fat at end of exercise session. Can change battery in transmitter.
High cost models: Everything in the mid-cost models plus you can download the information into your computer to see your exercise profile. Includes computer software.
I am using a Polar model M32 and have found it to be very easy to use and very helpful. I purchased it for ~$100.