In the workout world, you don't get much more posh than heart-rate monitors. They are the darling of the running world and the obsession of many fitness enthusiasts. I could never justify spending $100-plus on a watch that measures my intensity level (something that I feel like I can do a pretty good judging myself after years of working out—cocky, I know). However, about a year ago, just for kicks, I bought a $40 heart-rate watch Target. And I got what I paid for. To get the watch to work, you had to press your thumb on a button while working out—and wait for your heart rate to pop up on the screen about 10 seconds later. Not easy to do while running or teaching group exercise, I'll tell ya that.
The cheap watch never worked properly and would routinely report that I had "No HR." Pretty sure I wasn't dead though, as I could feel my heart rate rise in utter annoyance. Eventually my husband broke it altogether. He's one of those people who mysteriously kill all things electronic—watches, computers, rear-view mirrors. Okay so that last one isn't electronic, but you get my point. The boy breaks things accidentally. It's in his genetic makeup, and sometimes he's just too strong for his own good.
Well that, up until this point in my life, had been my sorry excuse for an experience with heart-rate monitors: mediocre, annoying and broken. Then this little bugger came into my life (and no that's not my arm; I have biceps and forearms):
This is the Impact Sports ePulse Heart Rate Monitor and Calorimeter. I call it heart-rate monitor for short. It's not nearly as high-tech as my triathlete friends' GPS monitors, and yes, it is a bit bulky, but it does the job and does it well. And with the large Dick Tracy-ish monitor, it feels very retro-modern. If that makes any sense.
When I opened the package, I immediately groaned. I hate following electronics instructions, but I knew I couldn't pawn on them on my husband as I a) need to do this review and b) he kills electronics, as previously established. So, I pulled out the ePulse Quick Start Guide and got to work. And can you believe it, I was up and running in five minutes?! I even inputted my gender, age, weight, height and resting heart rate to set a target heart zone alert. I impressed both myself and my husband with this. The best feature of the watch is that it doesn't require a chest strap, and you can constantly see your heart rate (at night it lights up like Christmas). You wear it either on your inner arm (as shown above) or on the upper outer arm.
So, like I said, I was literally running within five minutes, which was both good and bad. Because although it worked beautifully as I was walking around my living room, putting on my iPod, once I got out the door and started jogging, it kind of, err, stopped. Well, it didn't say I was dead, but it did say my heart rate fluctuated between 78 and 91, WHILE RUNNING HILLS. Um, yea, I am in good shape, but even Lance Armstrong can't do that with a just-above-resting heart rate. I kept repositioning it but still, nothing more than 91 beats per minute. I tried again later that week and the same thing. Hmpf.
And then my husband tried it, and it worked. Ain't that the kicker? He loved it; even kind of became obsessed with it, so much so that I had to hide it from him on days when I knew I'd want to use it. Eventually I learned that, for me at least, it works better if I walk for at least five minutes before hitting my running stride. If I do that, I'm golden. One day, it even clocked me at 191 beats a minute while doing running intervals. Not a chance my old watch could do that. It worked really well during other types of exercise, too. On the elliptical? Check. Turbo Jam DVDs? Check. Check. Check. ( Those had a good calorie burn by the way ). Squats, lunges and chest presses? Checkity, check, check.
The only issue during strength training is that when doing some moves, such as bicep curls, the watch's bulkiness can physically get in the way. However, you can change the position, which helps. Positioning may not save you from your friends though. Mine poked fun at my watch, calling it a "stylish" spin-off of KITT, the car on the original Knight Rider. But I didn't mind. The screen was easy to read while I was working out, and when it comes to workouts, I chose function over form. Plus, it's hard to top this level of cool, something even my friend eventually admitted:
Now the ePulse still isn't cheap. Over at Amazon, it's going for $129.95, new or used. However, if you're looking for something that's better than the heart-rate monitors at Target and aren't ready to chest strap it up or drop $300 for a higher-end model, the ePulse Heart Rate Monitor and Calorimeter just may be your best friend. Although, you'll need definitely need a nickname for it. —Jenn