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Female runner stretching on ground
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Get strapped

Source: Getty

It’s Kinda Like a Relationship

Why I ♥ My Heart Rate App

Why you should care

Because if you’re looking for something, anything to make you motivated to exercise, this smartphone app could be just the thing.

This editor’s pick went out on its first lap on December 18, 2013.

I confess: I have a relationship with my heart rate app. Not in the way Joaquin Phoenix falls in love with his computer in his new film, Her. But there is definitely something going on between us. I don’t go to spinning class without it.

Yes, sometimes reliance on technology can make us better people. As the new year approaches, and thoughts turn toward that spare tire, I’m here to tell you that technology may be able to guide us toward a fitter future.

This little setup knows how to push my buttons. It practically dares me to do better.

First off, I am not one of those über-fit, gym-junkie types that must have the next fitness gadget, but I do try to visit the gym several times a week. This has been going on for years without much event — that is, until I got involved with a heart-rate strap and app combo that changed everything.

My heart rate spikes just thinking about it. Because this little setup knows how to push my buttons. It practically dares me to do better. And I’m talking way better than those trendy activity trackers — like Nike Fuelband, Jawbone, Withings and Fitbit. Those gadgets let the user know how active (or not) they’ve been, which serves as an overall health barometer.

But a heart rate sensor — such the Polar H7 or the Adidas miCoach Connect or Garmin Soft Strap — is a different beast because it monitors real-time cardio activity. The fabric chest strap uses electrodes to transmit heartbeat data to a smartphone wirelessly via Bluetooth Smart or ANT+. An app uses this constant connection to measure and display effort in workout zones, letting you know in real time if you’re working hard enough in every athletic activity imaginable — from weight lifting to cardio to hiking to yoga. 

Screengrab of heart rate app with numbers on screen with various info

Further, Faster

Screengrab of heart rate app with numbers on screen with various info

Chart the burn

Screengrab of heart rate app with numbers on screen with various info

No mile uncounted

 

 

This constant connection measures and displays effort in workout zones, letting you know in real time if you’re working hard enough.

Just put on the strap, pop the phone on the bike or treadmill, start the app and press ”start.” Throughout a workout, the dashboard shows a steady stream of mesmerizing cardio-calculating data, helping you to stay in desired training zones and work out safely. Easily distracted while sweating? No problem; the sensor can transmit to around 30 feet away so the phone can be left in a pocket or bag. But really, once you see that dashboard of calories burned and fat vs. carb % breakdown, you won’t be able to not watch it.

And for those who are perhaps a bit type A (what kind of person who buys a heart rate monitor isn’t?), some apps like Digitfit let you track and synch to your computer everything from resting heart rate to blood pressure to sleep patterns — in addition to the usual height and weight. And with pretty charts and graphs. Have I ever been caught out at night checking on my progress in the glow of my laptop? Maybe.

Need more motivation? Voice feedback can announce the number of laps or miles pedaled and flag a workout zone change. And the apps have a built-in feature that works like an encouraging partner, cheering on efforts toward that next calorie-burn breakthrough and celebrating milestones, if only in ones and zeros.

But deep tech love aside, what really gets the heart rate up is making actual progress. Two months after using the heart rate sensor and app, there are better workouts, improved attitude and even a few less creaks. My muscles still hurt, but I’ve been assured that that is just the sweet burn of change. 

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