/ Fitness trackers, HR monitors, tracking/apps?

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elliot.baker - on 08 Mar 2018


I think I want to start tracking my heart rate both generally and during workouts.

I know the obvious thing to go for would be a fitbit or something like that, but then I read their wrist HR monitors aren't as accurate as the chest strap ones.

Then I read you can get chest strap ones bluetoothed to your phone (and presumably apps like map my run or strava?) OR you can get them as part of a set with a more expensive fitness/outdoor watch like Suuntos or Garmins. BUT I don't think those watches also have wrist monitors so they can't track your sleeping and resting rate at work etc - also they seem too big to sleep in.

Also I don't understand all the apps! Do you use one app to track your resting and all day heart rate and another to just monitor when you go for a run or something??! Does mapmyrun offer free HR tracking to sync with a bluetooth chest strap? (these are only about £20 on amazon!)

I'm lost can someone offer some advice/first hand review suggestions?

Many thanks!

GridNorth - on 08 Mar 2018
In reply to elliot.baker:

I have the Wahoo chest mounted heart rate monitor and iPhone/iPad app that you get with it.  It's inexpensive and gets good write ups.  I read many reviews and watched loads of testing on YouTube and came to the conclusion that wrist monitors, even expensive ones, were not as accurate as chest monitors, in many cases by a significant margin.  The apps monitor the device and record a simple history of exercise results.  This data can interface with many 3rd party, more comprehensive, applications. Hope this helps.


ChrisJD on 08 Mar 2018
In reply to elliot.baker:

I've been using a Garmin Vivosmart HR (non-GPS) for a good while now and it combines really well with Strava on Android Phone via ANT 'broadcast' mode (with 'lock' mode). Data builds a nice training curve in Strava via StravistiX plugin (on PC). 

Been really pleased with it - it may not be as accurate as a chest strap, but it's minimal hassle and you wear it all the time, just like a small watch (it tells the time as well, lol).

The current Android App is also pretty good and you can also input daily weight if you want to track that. 

I'm sure there are equivalent devices from Fitbit etc.


Post edited at 09:48
natehd9 - on 08 Mar 2018
In reply to elliot.baker:

You're quite right in saying that chest strap HRMs are more accurate than wrist based monitors, however the wrist monitors are improving all the time!

I'd recommend having a look on the DC Rainmaker blog, it's a triathlete who gets sent loads of gear to test for reviews, and includes his opinions on things as well as data comparisons for things like GPS and heart rate.

A good chunk of the Garmin range have wrist based monitoring, but they're also compatible with chest straps so you don't have to choose!

galpinos on 08 Mar 2018
In reply to elliot.baker:


I have a Garmin Fenix 3. No wrist HR but I have a chest strap. I have no desire to monitor HR when not doing exercise so I’m not bothered about that. I like the chest strap as I often wear my watch over a layer, especially in winter, so can still get an HR reading. My HR strap also gives me other metrics that the watch doesn’t, vertical oscillation etc, which, whilst not a vital stat, does helpfully show when my form starts deteriorating as I get tired.

I have slept in my Garmin fine, but have no desire to sleep in a watch generally and I know how much sleep I’ve had by when I go to bed and when I get up.

I have found the Fenix a great tool for winter days out though. I set the app running, and can happily flick through the screens that give me time of day, elevation, distance travelled, elevation gained, current grid ref, a compass screen and a little breadcrumb trail map. It’s a nice to have on bluebird days but in bad weather, the compass and elevation made the nav a lot easier. You also get a nice GPS track to see where exactly you were when you were stumbling about in the dark, wind and horizontal snow that you can peruse with a beer the next day.


ChrisJD on 08 Mar 2018
TMM on 08 Mar 2018
In reply to ChrisJD:

> Blimey, that's in-depth to the MAX:

Just ordered one of those off Amazon for my wife. I've been using a Garmin 235 since Christmas and I am really impressed. The functionality of the Garmin Connect app gives me plenty of insights.

BTW the 235 is so comfortable it is the only watch I have ever worn all day, every day. 

Tall Clare - on 08 Mar 2018
In reply to elliot.baker:

My new wrist-based Garmin Vivoactive 3 is measuring heart rates very similar to my Suunto chest strap HRM. I wouldn't discount wrist-based at. I looked at the DCRainmaker blog to help make my decision, which was prompted by signing up with Vitality life insurance. 

Sam W - on 08 Mar 2018
In reply to elliot.baker:

I started off using heart rate strap (Wahoo Tickr) and phone (Strava) for running and cycling. Works great for tracking exercise and getting post ride/run feedback on performance. 

Bought a Garmin bike computer (Edge 520) a couple of years ago for live feedback and Map display, been very pleased with it, reads HR from chest strap perfectly.

Have recently started running more, and bought a Garmin Forerunner 35, primarily for live feedback on pace and distance. I've ended up wearing it pretty much 24 hours a day. Has a built in HRM which seems fine for tracking through the day/night. It will also talk to my chest strap, so I wear that when specifically exercising. Seems to be more accurate, particularly when doing intervals. Also looked at the Forerunner 235, but couldn't justify paying the extra for features which weren't hugely important to me

Sam W - on 08 Mar 2018
In reply to elliot.baker:

On the apps front, Garmin Connect will cover everything from all day/resting heart rate through to running and cycling. It will also automatically upload rides and runs to Strava, the advantage of Strava is that more people use it, so the social aspect is better (if that's important to you).

Should have said above, the Forerunner 35 is multi activity, so you can use it for running and cycling. Mine cost about £100 on eBay, brand new but box was damaged

Joez on 08 Mar 2018
In reply to elliot.baker:

I wanted to track my resting HR, so I bought a Xiaomi mi fit 2 on offer for £15.

Tracks steps, sleep has optical HR and will do continuous monitoring with the help of a phone app which is a couple of pounds.

It's fine for resting HR monitoring, correlates nicely with itself, which is all I wanted it to do (tracking fatigue)

However for exercise it's pretty rubbish, strap based hr is much better, and that's what I use for my runs and cycles.

Strava supports use of a Bluetooth or ANT+ strap ( if your phone has ant radio. I know most One plus and Samsung phones do)



BFG on 08 Mar 2018
In reply to elliot.baker:

Ayup Elliot,

Some general points:

It will be difficult for wrist based tracking to match the performance of chest straps (for the next 5 years at least), since one is using an optical sensor to gauge hr from peripheral blood flow and the other sticks a sensor basically over your heart. It's really a question of how much inaccuracy you can accept. How much inaccuracy you experience depends on your physiology, where you train / what you're doing etc.

Generally, wrist based monitors aren't very good at picking up sudden changes in heart rate; so tracking interval training is problematic.

That being said, I use an old Vivoactive HR and 90% of the time it's... fine. daily tracking is pretty much bang on and consistent running / cycling is too. You can always use a wrist based monitor and have a chest strap for gym sessions.

Personal opinion: avoid Fitbit. their sensors are significantly worse than Garmin / Suunto and there's no point in an inaccurate tracker.

These days, the running watch / fitness tracker market has converged and is underpinned by a common software package. A mid range watch from suunto will track running / workouts / daily heart rate / sleep and you'll only interact with the watch to record stuff. The phone app just keeps a record. Broadly: a cheap watch will require a phone with you to enable GPS, mid range units will be stand alone, more expensive ones add features (altimeter, advanced metrics... golf course maps).

 Walking and climbing wise, in built GPS and altimeter is fun

TMM on 08 Mar 2018
In reply to elliot.baker:

Also on the 235 you can download apps. For example it will give you a 10 digit grid ref or long/lat. This is useful for me as I don't run with my phone near me but do sometimes have a map to hand. You can also customise the face of the watch which is borderline useful/entertaining.

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