Best 5 GPS Watches For 2014

O.K., so everybody wants to know – what is the best GPS sports watch for me? Well, the answer is, it depends. It depends upon your particular use, sports, if you need navigation, do you want Bluetooth data transfer, how much battery life your need and a whole host of questions too lengthy to elaborate upon in a brief article.

This is why we always recommend that people call us at 866-586-7129. You can get more done in 10 minutes on the phone than you can in hours worth of e-mailing, texting, or generally avoiding verbal communication. I can talk way faster than I can type, and so can you. The problem with doing a top 5 is that some watches are great for one thing, while others are better for another. Fortunately, over the past several years, GPS watches have evolved to the point where most watches can accommodate several, if not all, sports done outdoors. Most GPS watches even have an indoor mode where they can be used as traditional heart rate monitors. IT’S ALL ABOUT THE BATTERY Most GPS watches won’t last for a full day. This is because they are usually triangulating multiple satellites at one second recording intervals and laying down a geo-cached bread crumb trail of your location. This activity takes a lot of juice, which explains why most GPS watches use a ton more battery power than a standard heart rate monitor. Thus, most GPS watches use rechargeable lithium ion batteries as opposed to the lithium coin cell batteries that many heart rate monitor use. O.K., so now you perhaps know more about GPS watches than when we started, so I’ll jump in to out top 5 for the year of 2014. #1 – Garmin fenix 2 – I love this watch, I love it, I love it, I love it and I’m not normally a

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This watch has you covered for about anything possible outdoors.

guy that repeats himself. Just scroll down and look at the post I did on skiing at Big Sky resort. The maps were awesome, the elevation charting was awesome, the heart rate data was awesome and I even used it to remote control my Garmin VIRB Elite helmet camera. Not too shabby for a guy who was born long before computers were even mainstream. What I like about the Garmin fenix 2 is the fact that it adopted all the advanced running features of Garmin’s revolutionary Forerunner 620. It also has a barometric altimeter, a 3-D compass, 1,00 waypoint markings, Backtrack navigation on screen, sunrise/sunset calendars, moonrise/moonset calendars, hunting/fishing calendars, does laps and strokes in the pool and can do just about everything besides giving you a back massage. It’s killer, it’s my “go-to” watch and, yes, it is what i have on my wrist right now. It is much more intuitive to use and has a better sports menu than the original Garmin fenix, and, while it might not be as perfectly intuitive as the Suunto Ambit 2, it is a darn big improvement. #2 Polar V800 – Polar V800 is Polar’s new Bluetooth Smart version of their long course

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Polar V800 has Bluetooth Smart, gets heart rate in the water and is the best “go to” option for triathlon.

triathlon watch. Swim, run, bike and this baby has got you covered with extraordinary data including heart rate in the water, which none of its competitors can do. Polar is the best with heart rate data and they migrated their R and R heart rate, or heart rate variability, into this new watch from what was their Polar RS800CX – Polar’s former best-in-class watch. They are also the most accurate in calorie testing compared with a true VO2 test, so we like their products a lot because years in the trenches do matter. Yeah, they haven’t kept up with the latest “cutting edge” stuff like most of the newer players, but that is not always a bad thing because they don’t make as many big mistakes once they do commit to a direction. They committed to Bluetooth Smart and, quite frankly, have done it better than the majority of other players. #3 – Suunto Ambit 2 – What is to like about the Ambit 23 is sheer simplicity, Suunto is

With a SApphire crystal this is the most durable GPS watch ever made, period.

With a SApphire crystal this is the most durable GPS watch ever made, period.

good at intuitive and there is not a giant learning curve to learn how to use their watches. They also have nicer daily watch styling and their Suunto Ambit 2 Sapphire is the most durable GPS watch ever made. Altimeter, barometer, 3-D compass, trackback navigation, waypoints, loads of sports, swim functions, bike, run and you name it – this watch has it. About the only thing the Suunto Ambit 2 lacks is Bluetooth Smart, which for the mobile generation is a big deal, but it makes up for this with its ease of use. #4 – TomTom Multisport Cardio – TomTom GPS watches are to be admired for their

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This watch uses an optical blood flow sensor to obtain heart rate from the watch unit.

super simplicity and ease of use. Now add in the new optical blood flow reading which requires no strap and you have a watch well worthy of consideration, especially by the strap averse. Be warned, however, in that these wrist straps must, I repeat must, be worn snugly for the heart rate to be accurate. #5 – Garmin Forerunner 620 – This is the best ever running watch ever made, period, no if, ands or buts about it. Garmin created some accelerometer technology in the chest strap that allows run cadence, with no foot pod, plus run oscillation (stride bounce) and ground foot contact time/ These are all important

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Garmin Forerunner 620 is the best GPS running watch ever made.

biomechanical aspects for runners, so knowing this data can help you improve your running by helping you adjust your stride technique. Of course the touch screen, customizable data fields and more make this watch the one that everyone else is aspiring to be. Add Wifi and Bluetooth Smart and you’ve got an uber-running watch. TALK TO THE EXPERTS If you want to discuss any of these products you can always call us at 866-586-7129. Over and out. –Rusty Squire, copyright 2014, rsquire@heartratewatchcompany.com

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Garmin Edge 1000

Garmin Edge 1000 is the revolutionary new bike computer from the folks at Garmin and will be their flagship for 2014 with features nobody else can match.

Handlebar Remote Control

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Garmin Edge 1000 offers a handlebar remote control for safer riding.

I really, really like this feature a lot because you can control the bike computer with both hands firmly affixed to the handlebars with no need to remove a hand to touch the Edge 1000 screen. Being able to change screens and view different data while never removing your hands from the bars is a real big safety plus.

Razor Sharp, High Resolution

Edge 1000 has a screen that is much larger than the old Edge 810 and much higher resolution which should make it the best bike computer going in bright sunlight conditions for readability.

Know Exactly What Gear You Are In

This is a super useful feature for both climbers and sprinters alike but you have to be using electronic shifting with Bluetooth Smart like the Shimano Di2 for this feature to work.

Bluetooth Low Energy and Wifi

Edge 1000 has both Bluetooth Low Energy, for communication with Smartphones, and Wifi for fast wireless data transfer to a PC.

Garmin Connect Segments Feature

The new Garmin Connect Segments feature is Garmin’s answer to Strava. Now you can race your own best time, o those of others, on various courses around the world and since Garmin Connect has over 6 million worldwide users it should not be hard to find a challenge.

New Speed and Cadence Sensors

These new speed and cadence sensors are really cool. First, they use accelerometers and have been separated into two different sensors. The speed sensor is actually hub mounted in the front and the cadence sensor simply goes around the crank arm so there is nothing to mount on your frame any longer.

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The new Garmin speed and cadence sensors use accelerometers and do not have to be mounted to the bike frame.

Connect To Tons of Different Garmin Sensors, Even Cameras

Sync all your metrics to live footage of you riding. Mount a Garmin VIRB camera on the rear triangle pointing forward and get an excellent assessment of your pedal stroke, ankling and overall pedalling technique for analysis or to send to a coach.

Real-Time Weather Reporting and Data Sharing

Just like the original Garmin 810 you can receive real-time weather updates and even share your data in real-time, including map locations, with coaches or loved one.

All in all the new Garmin Edge 1000 is undoubtedly the best bike computer ever made and it just flat out does a lot more stuff than any other bike computer. I’ve been waiting to upgrade my bike computer ever since the Edge 800 and I think now it is time, there is just too much cool stuff here.

I’m not one for doing terribly long-winded reviews, so we’ll leave it at this.

–Rusty Squire, copyright 2014, rsquire@heartratewatchcompany.com

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Garmin fenix 2 and VIRB Elite Test America’s Biggest Skiing

Garmin fenix 2 and Garmin VIRB Elite action camera were taken to Big Sky, Montana, America’s biggest ski resort for testing skiing some of the best steep skiing terrain in America.

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Awesome lines from the summit of Big Sky all tracked by Garmin fenix 2

For me this was an absolute blast. Big Sky has been my stomping grounds for over 30 years but this type of technology has never existed before, meaning the ability to map it, film it and share it.

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The Garmin fenix 2 very accurately mapped our ski routes.

The day started off with gray, overcast and about 25 degrees. I caught the tram right and found a snowboarder to be the first sign out for the Big Couloir, a 45 degree chute that drops from just over 11,000 feet back down to the tram base station at about 9,800 feet. The snow was knee deep which was a big change from the 2 inches on the lower mountain.

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Garmin fenix 2 shot all the elevation profiles for all runs

Following the Big Couloir run I did two laps of the 3rd Gully. The 3rd Gully drops back into the Bowl area and tips up to about 40 degrees. I hooked up with Frank Silva over lunch and we departed for the tram to do two laps of the North Summit Snowfield and then into a nice steep chute called Double Direct that was loaded up with powder. Frank and I finished 2nd place twice in the Power 8 National Championships and 5th in the World’s together, so it was great to ski with my old friend again. I’m not going to overly bore you with the details of the day. Instead, I’ll share the maps, heart rate statistics and video with you.

Heart Rate

Skiing steep terrain is a lot harder work than many people think. The steeper the terrain the more G forces you pull in every turn. My peak heart rate was right up close to 180 when skiing the Big Couloir, the steepest skiing of the day, and I’m almost 56 years old so this means I was exceeding my age based estimates by a good 15 beats per minute.

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Garmin fenix 2 mapped out the heart rate data for all routes skied for the day.

I only point this out because I always tell our customers not to rely on age-based calculations when they have anecdotal empirical evidence that would suggest their maximum heart rate is higher. Since most of the day was spent above 9,000 feet even my low heart rate figures were in the 120 range, so a hard day of skiing gives you more of a workout than many might think, especially if you are skiing hard. For me this day was a thrill because I only have so many year’s left of skiing this type of terrain.

I hope you all enjoy this little post, two weeks of skiing left. The Garmin fenix 2 and Garmin VIRB Elite performed phenomenally and I am so excited about the new Garmin products this year.

–Rusty Squire, copyright 2014, rsquire@heartratewatchcompany.com

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Activity Tracker Bands – Why Heart Rate Makes Them More Accurate

Activity tracker bands, like FitBit, Nike Fuel, Jawbone and others only track motion, whereas activity trackers like Polar Loop and Garmin Vivofit track motion and heart rate.

Heart rate is absolutely 100% the only way to go with these devices because those using

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Garmin Vivofit adds greater accuracy tracking activity when the wrist is not moving thanks to heart rate.

just motion are giving you, the consumer, errant readings on activity levels. We have proven this repeatedly with multiple testings and step counts are coming out 1,000 to as much as 2,000 steps per day high.

Why is this? I was using an activity tracker the other day and I brushed my teeth with the wrist my activity tracker was on and all of a sudden, miraculously I had taken 150 steps where in reality I took no steps. Scratch my arom, scratch the back of my head, swing my arm at my desk and voila, more steps appear when I took no steps.

Too Much Credit For Activity and Then Too Little Credit

So, if I ride a stationary bike for an hour, or do a spin class, my activity band gives me

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Polar Loop and Garmin Vivofit can cover spinning classes thanks to heart rate.

about the same amount of credit as if I was just sitting at my desk at work. Why? Well, it is because it senses no wrist movement. The methods are all flawed here because how hard you are working has everything to do with how hard your heart is working and 99% of the activity trackers on the market do not measure this.

While I may be getting too much activity credit for brushing my teeth I am getting way too little activity credit for riding my bike for an hour. In other words, the method of measurement, wrist movement, is a flawed method for measuring anything accurately.

Garmin Viviofit and Polar Loop

I have said for quite a while now that the only activity trackers our company will carry are the ones that measure heart rate like the Polar Loop and Garmin Vivofit. Why? Because the rest of the market is ripping off the consumer with devices whose methodologies are flawed, dramatically flawed.

I don’t care how well your device interfaces with your phone or how nifty their software is if all the data going into the cool software is flawed. Garbage in, garbage out, it is really that simple.

What I Told Wall Street

I occasionally consult with investment banks regarding fitness technology and did so in the past week. What I told the investment bankers was pretty much the same thing I have told you above.

They wanted to know what the wearables market was like and who would win. Even though the wearables market are the more casual fitness enthusiasts they don’t want to buy products that lack for accuracy but, that is what they have done in droves. The next evolution of this marketplace has to include better technology for more accurate measurement.

Heart rate was the obvious place to start so Polar and Garmin got it right. In the future, these small bands could even potentially contain GPS hardware as they already have, in most cases, lithium-ion rechargeable batteries. This will make distance tracking accurate. Making step tracking more accurate will require a recalibration of how these sensors work.

Why Testing The Products Is Essential

A lot of these “Johnny-come-lately” companies, like FitBit, don’t have decades of experience in the human performance laboratory settings like Polar, Garmin or Suunto do. Nor have they taken advantage of this practice to make an effort to make their products more accurate.

Since most of these products have no stride length calibration they assume that a 4 foot 10 inch woman has the same stride length as a 6 foot 6 inch man, which is preposterous. Thus, the distances they measure are not accurate.

Heart Rate Is The Best Solution – How To Use It

Use an activity tracker with heart rate for your real daily workout. If you walk, run, bike then simply put the heart rate strap on. I would not recommend wearing it all day long but it will give you a better indication of how hard you exercised when you are riding a stationary bike for instance.

I would subtract about 1,000 to 2,000 steps per day from existing activity tracker bands, so if your goal is 10,000 steps than make sure you legitimately hit 11,000 to 12,000 on the band. In my testing the numbers I generally got each day were at least this high to the reality.

What I Do Like

I do like the fact that these products are indeed making people more conscious of their activity, that’s a good start. However, the activity tracker band market is very large and most of the products are quite inferior to your standard GPS watch, or heart rate monitor with a calibrated foot pod, when it comes to accuracy which is why we strongly recommend Polar Loop and Garmin Vivofit. They are the only trackers we will carry until the industry evolves further and creates better products.

–Rusty Squire, copyright 2014, rsquire@heartratewatchcompany.com

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Hawaii, Garmin VIRB Elite Action Camera and The New Website

Hi, it has been a while since I’ve posted to the blog. We have been very, very busy building our new website which is going to take the Heart Rate Watch Company to a whole new level.

It takes hundreds, if not thousands, of hours to build a new website and we are really pleased with the results we are getting with our new Magento site which should launch in April. Why I went on my first vacation in 5 years in the midst of such a massive project is still a mystery, but I needed it.

Become An Affiliate

Our new website is going to allow anybody, not just customers, to share our website, our blog and our products with their friends on social networks and get paid well for doing it. We’ll track all your sales and anytime a friend you have shared with socially buys from our website you will earn credit.

For serious bloggers and website owners you can even get paid cash once those credits exceed $500, so this is pretty cool and should help expand our universe.

Hawaii and Garmin VIRB Elite HD Camera

I went to Kauai recently for 8 days with my wife Elaine and two daughters, Amanda and Danielle. The daughters and I had a bunch of fun making videos of snorkeling, boat touring the Napali Coast, dolphins, whales, a Hawaiian monk seal and anything we could find worth filming. There is even a 320 foot waterfall in our Napali Coast hiking video at the end.

I’ve installed a bunch of those videos here for you to check out. The little Garmin VIRB Elite camera really did a nice job capturing the action and, if you have never been to Kauai, it is my favorite Hawaiian island and I highly recommend it.

Enjoy,

—Rusty Squire, copyright 2014, rsquire@heartratewatchcompany.com

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Garmin fenix 2 – The Super Watch

Garmin fenix 2 was announced this past week and we have been busy building our new Heart Rate Watch Company website so I did not have a lot of time to pay attention but I reviewed it very carefully on Sunday. At first blush it looks pretty damn cool.

Looks are identical to the Garmin Tactix, not 100% sure why Garmin went with the black screen although my Tactix is very readable (been testing it for 6 weeks now) even in bright sunlight so unlike black screens of days gone by this is not the concern it used to be.

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Garmin fenix 2 performer bundle adds the HRM-Run strap to offer advanced running and fitness features

What’s To Like?

Garmin decided to used their Bluetooth Smart from previous watches in the same shell – the original fenix, Tactix, along with their pilot and boating watches – to gain access over your phone and even display your text messages on the watch screen. That’s pretty cool for youngsters that have eyes that focus like a microscope but may not work so slick for the over 45 set that has near vision issues. It’ll be great if you are the type that can read really small font but if you can’t you’re probably going to be left out on this.

Garmin calls this new feature Smart Notification but your iPhone 4S or later is going to have to be along with you for it to work because it depends upon the watch and the phone talking to one another in close proximity.

Swim Features

Garmin fenix 2 adds all the swim features that are available in the Garmin Swim watch and the Garmin Forerunner 910XT, so it is going to be pretty handy for pool swimmers but it is going to be large enough so you feel it because it is twice the weight and not as thinly profiled as the Garmin Swim watch.

More Advanced Snow Sports Features

For skiing and boarding this watch should be the big-ticket. Ski-Board mode puts speed, distance, vertical drop and an automatic run counter (with Auto Pause for the lift line) and more at your fingertips.

Remote Control Garmin VIRB Action Cameras

Garmin fenix 2 can remote control Garmin VIRB elite action cameras and share data. You can also use fenix 2 with the Tempe sensor for temperature and any of Garmin’s run and bike sensors.

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Built-in GPS and connection to sensors with on screen heart rate, speed, distance and other data – cool!

Size

This is still a big watch, 3 ounces and rather thick, so we still don’t think this watch is ever going to appeal to the ladies, sorry ladies. Once they figure out how to nano this type of technology further and get it down under 2 ounces and lose about 40% of the size then there will be a ladies alternative. Until then there just is not a good option.

The Sports Features

This is where the watch gets really interesting. As many of you know Garmin came out with their super-duper running watch called the Garmin 620 this past December. It featured things like Vertical oscillation (bounce), ground foot contact time, VO2 max estimates based upon heart rate variability, predicted race times and more. Well, fenix 2 is going to have all of those features.

This sets fenix 2 up to be the new watch of choice for ultra-marathoners thanks to its extra long battery life. With its best-in-class navigation features and the ability to do about every outdoor sport known to man its a pretty good choice for everyone from mountaineers to snow sports enthusiasts to traditional endurance sports.

Learning Curve

Garmin fenix has a bit longer learning curve and is slightly less intuitive on menu navigation than the Suunto Ambit 2 series. That being said it is worth the effort once you can dig into all its features and for navigation it has no peers but its going to take you a couple of weeks to master it.

Guys we’ve had using the original fenix and Tactix in the military have said these watches are absolutely indispensable.

Our Take

All the critique aside this is still going to be one hell of a watch and for the right user, generally a guy with ultra ambitions at any sport and the go all day mentality it will be a really sweet product.

Combine Garmin fenix 2 with a Goal Zero Guide 10 Adventure kit for portable recharging and there really isn’t an outdoor sport you can’t conquer from multi-day sports to conquering Mount Everest.

Definitely get the Performer Bundle for $449 because it adds the HRM-Run chest strap that was originally designed for the Garmin Forerunner 620 and adds all the advanced running and body measurement features that have made this watch such a hit with runners. Otherwise the HRM-Run strap is a $99 item but its only $50 when you buy it in the Performer Bundle.

We’ll definitely update our thought further when we put one through the paces in late March but for now this really does look like the real deal and a next level advancement for GPS watches for outdoor athletes.

– Rusty Squire, copyright 2014, rsquire@heartratewatchcompany.com

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Our New Website – Get Paid For Referring Your Social Friends

I apologize that I have not written a blog post in a couple weeks. We are working on launching a new website and the new features, better navigation and layout along with social sharing features should take our company to a whole new level.

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Making money and earning credit with Heart Rate Watch Company is easy.

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Every single customer, and even just visitors, of the Heart Rate Watch Company can make money automatically by referring their friends to the Heart Rate Watch Company. For every purchase your friends make you get 10% and you even get credit if your friends refer their friends, meaning it goes two layers deep into your social network because it is your friends and then all of their friends, too!

All your credits are tracked and displayed and you earn 10% credit on every new customer’s purchases for up to 180 days.

The new website should be up and totally functional by the first week of March.
The site will feature easier navigation and category layout along with a much cleaner design. All new products and products that are on sale will be labeled over the product photo with a flyer so they are easy to identify.

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The new website is bigger, bolder, cleaner and more navigation is image driven.

I’ve included a couple of screenshots from the new website so you can get an idea of our new look.

All in all we are very excited but this has been an enormous project.

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Both new and on sale products are clearly marked and you can access our featured technology section right from the homepage.

New, Faster Shipping, Saturday Deliveries

We decided to make changes in our shipping, too. Ou free shipping is now 2-day shipping for 95% of the USA and then will only costs $9.95 for products under $50. This means we have faster free shipping than all of our competition. Plus, thanks to US Postal, we will also have tracking and Saturday delivery with no extra charge like the other shippers have.

A few years ago we did not think US Postal was competitive, or reliable enough, but thanks to a lot of initiatives it allows us to deliver faster shipping, Saturday deliveries and better service at a lower cost.

We are super psyched to start letting all our existing customers earn free products by introducing all of their friends to the Heart Rate Watch Company. All the details will be on the Help and Affiliate tab at the top of the website. There is no purchase necessary to share our pages with your network so in reality you do not even have to be a customer to earn credits toward free products.

–Rusty Squire, copyright 2014, rsquire@heartratewatchcompany.com

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Best Tips For Fixing Heart Rate Monitors

Best tips for fixing heart rate monitors encompasses a list of ideas that will get your monitor back up and running in no time.

Basic problems often involve no heart rate signal, a sporadic heart rate signal, a dead receiving unit or watch and sometimes straps that have run afoul.

I’m going to give you the benefit of my decades worth of experience using, testing, fixing and repairing Garmin, Suunto, Timex and Polar heart rate monitors for hundreds of people and boil it down into a short, easy to use, guide in the next few paragraphs. First we’ll look at the problem in bold, followed by the troubleshooting and the solution.

NO HEART RATE ON WATCH UNIT WITH WATCH WORKING -

This would be when your watch is working and showing time and date but will not display

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They last about 10 months but are often the culprit for watch or strap failures.

heart rate. One of three possible problems here would be that 1.) either the battery in the transmitter unit is weak or dead, 2.) the chest strap is not paired to the watch, 3.) the strap is old, broken down and needs replacing or 4.) you need a transmission boost and should buy some gel.

Most heart rate monitors use simple 3 volt lithium coin cell batteries. You can test these with a commercial battery tester available at Home Depot for $6.95. If you are under 1.5 volts on a 3 volt battery its time for a change and it can be causing issues with your heart rate monitor transmitters accuracy.

battery tester, lithium coin cell

A $6.95 Commercial battery tester will tell you exactly how many volts your lithium coin cell battery has left.with a commercial battery tester available at Home Depot for $6.95. If you are under 1.5 volts on a 3 volt battery its time for a change and it can be causing issues with your heart rate monitor transmitters accuracy.

If you don’t feel like buying a battery tester than simply change the batteries – they are cheap. I recommend changing the transmitter and watch unit batteries simultaneously every 10 months. If you do that you will experience much less failure.

Generally you can buy two of the 3 volt lithium coin cell batteries for about $3.00. Simply make sure you match up the letters inscribed on the top of the battery with the replacement batteries. In other words, replace a CR3025V with a like CR3025V.
I know this sounds pretty basic but I had one of these the other day and that is make sure you get the battery in right side up because it won’t give a current to the contactors if it is upside down.

heart rate monitor straps replacement, heart rate monitors repair

We recommend replacing your straps once per year to maintain optimum functionality. They are cheap, like under $20 in most cases.upside down.

Most heart rate monitors have a screw cap on the back of the transmitter which will often detach from the strap, some have pry caps, like Suunto, and some use screw caps, like Polar.

If you replace the battery and the watch is still not receiving the heart rate then go into the settings menu on the watch and try to pair the strap again to the watch. If that doesn’t do it then it may be time to go get a new strap.

Straps are generally pretty inexpensive, like under $20, compared with straps with transmitters running around $50 or more. I recommend replacing your strap every single year. It’s a good idea for both hygiene and functionality reasons.

If you tried all the above and are getting an erratic

spectyra 360 electrode gel, spectra gel, boosts heart rate transmission

This stuff significantly boosts your heart rate signal transmission

heart rate signal then try getting some Spectra 360 electrode gel. I know a lot of the heart rate monitor manufacturers recommend putting water on the back of the strap, but water evaporates and only lasts a short time, plus it has a viscosity of zero. Gel will boost the signal for hours without evaporating.

WATCH UNIT NOT WORKING

In this case simply replace the watches battery and then put on the heart rate strap. If the heart displays right away then great. If it doesn’t then go into settings and pair the strap again.

Those are most of my best tips condensed simply into one article that you can refer back to again and again or you call simply call me at 866-586-7129 and I’ll walk you through it.

–Rusty Squire, copyright 2014, rsquire@heartratewatchcompany.com

Posted in Fitness Tips, Fitness Watch Tips, Garmin, Magellan, Polar, Suunto, Timex, TomTom GPS Watches | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Activity Bands The Real Truth

We’ve been pretty truthful in the media lately regarding activity bands. Why? Quite simply, most of them don’t work and they guesstimate most of what they measure. The problem with this market is that the marketing hype comes up short on substance but people are buying into this segment like gangbusters.

We still think the Polar Loop and Garmin Vivofit are far and away the cream of the crop because they can measure real-time heart rate.

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Vivofit Offers Multiple Colors and bands that are Interchangeable so you can buy spare bands if you want different colors.

The Truth About Accelerometers

Accelerometers are nothing more than counting devices that count up based upon a shift in direction. That’s great if you are measuring steps but what about if you try to profess to measuring distance? Then each of those counts has to be associated with a known distance traveled, but there is no place to enter an average stride length into any of these accelerometers. The result? Inaccurate distance that is a WAG (wild assed guess for those not knowing the acronym) .

Polar was smart enough to be truthful and just measure steps, forget the distance and then add heart rate and other features.

In the future, it is possible that activity bands will contain small GPS chipsets that accurately measure distance and pace data, but for now all that kind of stuff is a WAG.

Head Fake On Calories

So a lot of people think this calorie measuring stuff versus the logging of dietary calories is an accurate science. The truth is that it is far from it. A calorie burned may be a calorie burned but there is a vast difference in the qualitative value when it comes to a calorie consumed.

Basically a calorie of processed food, high in sugars and fat has no where near the value to fill you up and satiate your appetite like the value of a calorie from nutrient rich foods, say like a calorie from spinach salad.

I’d hate to tell everybody that is logging their dietary calories against their calories burned that they are wasting their time, but its true – you are wasting your time, unless, you have figured out the proper type of healthy diet that allows you to be satiated and full on high nutrient value, low calorie foods.

Think of it this way. The nutrient value in one ounce of steak is as follows: Calories 55, Fat 3.3g, Protein 6g. The nutrient value of one ounce of baby spinach salad: Calories 7, Fat .11g, Protein 1g.

Now, notice that you could eat 8 1/2 times as much spinach, meaning 8.50 ounces just to get to the same calorie level as 1 ounce of steak. So, what do you think is going to leave you more filled up, 55 calories of steak or 55 calories of spinach? Plus, by the time you have eaten an equivalent caloric value of spinach it has more protein than the steak. It would be about 8 grams of protein for 55 calories of spinach and only 6 grams for the steak.

Raw vegetables have a high nutrient value per calorie and don't provide empty calories like processed foods do.

Raw vegetables have a high nutrient value per calorie and don’t provide empty calories like processed foods do.

Yet another mythbuster. A lot of vegetables have higher protein levels per calorie than any meat.

Back To The Activity Bands

So, since 37% of our country has over a 30 BMI and is clinically obese then everybody is buying these bands with the big goal of losing weight. I guess they all believe that these bands measure calories accurately – they don’t, in fact they can’t because without data related to your age, weight, sex and activity levels they are just taking a wild shot in the dark.

activity bands, cycling, spinning

Activity bands can’t sense motion cycling so give you little or no credit for the spin class.

By the same token, some of these band developers think that if you can download your band calories to an app that allows you to track food calories that somehow this magically pairing of inaccurate calories burned versus calorie intake that simply looks at all calories of food as being equal will somehow provide you with the “magic bullet” for weight loss.

Let me put it to you this way, if 90% of these fitness bands were drugs going for approval before the FDA based upon efficacy they would never come to market.

So, What Is The Best Program?

I think the best program is to pick up a copy of the book “Eat To Live” by Dr Mark Fuhrman and learn to eat right. Then buy a Polar Loop or Garmin Vivofit. Wear these round the clock and then use the heart rate to measure intensity during exercise.

This is very much true when spinning, or riding a bike, because the activity bands using accelerometers don’t give you much activity credit when your wrist is not moving. This means they can underestimate by 500 calories or more a one spinning class. At least by knowing your heart rate during that spinning class you will know how hard you were working.

This will allow you to adjust your day end calorie total provided by the activity band upward because it was not capable of giving you adequate credit for biking, spin classes or any activity where your wrist is static.

Enough ranting for one day.

–Rusty Squire, copyright 2014, rsquire@heartratewatchcompany.com

Posted in Activity Bands, Cycling Tips, Diet Tips, Fitness Tips, Garmin, Nutritional Tips, Polar, Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Scosche Armbands A Study In How We Select Products

Scosche Rhythm armbands use the same blood flow monitoring technology as the Mio Alpha watches except on the upper forearm to increase accuracy because there is much greater blood flow in the forearm.

It cracks me up in a way because they call this a strapless monitor but it actually has a strap, it just goes around your forearm instead of your chest. So you are just exchanging locations and, as it turns out, forearm strap comfort isn’t that great.

scosche rhythm

Is it comfortbale and does replacing one form of strap for another matter?

Compared to the Mio Alpha it has greater accuracy. We chose not to carry the Mio Alpha, a decision that has proven right because accuracy is not as great measuring blood flow from the wrist. Why? Quite simply, because there is not that much blood flow in the wrist which explains why your hands are one of the first things to get cold on a cold winter’s day.

Scosche Rhythm armbands aim for greater accuracy by measuring that blood flow where there is more blood flow in the upper forearm and to this end the product performs as billed.

Why We Don’t Carry Products That All Our Competitors Do

We try very diligently to test all the products we put on our website to insulate you, the consumer, from bad products that would be a waste of your time. None of our competitors run testing programs as religiously as we do and none of them, that is zero, zip, nada, do either distance accuracy tests or Human Performance Lab testing to make sure the products are accurate.

Our Criteria

If something is going to make it onto our website it has to meet one of several different criteria including: 1.) being better than anything we have now, 2.) solving a new problem that was yet to be solved, or 3.) at least be equivalent to the products we do have but at a better price point.

Our Final Decision On Scosche Rhythm Bands

There has been an awful lot of fuss the past 5 years about how uncomfortable chest straps are. I think mainly this noise gets made from lower tier manufacturers trying to get people to act on the old perception that heart rate monitor chest straps are uncomfortable. At one time, two decades ago, this was true, today however it is not.

In the past 5 years we have not had one person, out of tens of thousands of customers call us to return a product because the strap was not comfortable – not one. That’s quite a statement. Basically, I’d take a simple Polar heart rate monitor over this solution any day of the week.

Anyway back to the Scosche Rhythm decision. Having a strap around my forearm proved to be more uncomfortable than any chest strap I had tested in the past 5 years. Also the little blood flow sensor was flat and not curved anatomically so I could always feel it pushing against my arm.

So, while the product is accurate at measuring heart rate compared to the Mio Alpha, we just are not going to carry it because the comfort factor isn’t as good as all the chest strap monitors we sell from Polar, Garmin, Suunto heart rate monitors,  Timex, TomTom and the rest.

I wish the folks at Schotsche the best of luck, their product works just find it is simply that we can’t see where it is superior or solves a new problem and it is less comfortable.

I see that all of our competitors have picked up the product, but as I said before – they will pick up anything. I call that the “throwing mud against the wall” approach, some will stick and some will be good, but we don’t take that chance with our customers. It’s one of the reasons we eliminated all strapless heart rate monitors. They don’t work, they are seldom accurate and they don’t provide continuous monitoring so nothing else is accurate, including calories.

I hope this diatribe gives you a little bit of insight into how we select products and why we are substantially different, and we think better, than all our competitors. It is because we obsessively test and question the accuracy and level of improvement where others do not. We’ve also been testing fitness and sporting goods for over four decades, longer than most of these companies have been in existence.

–Rusty Squire, copyright 2014, rsquire@heartratewatchcompany.com

Posted in Activity Bands, Fitness Watch Tips, Reviews, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments