Heart rate monitors
You should train in a different heart rate zone depending on whether you want to improve endurance, boost sprint power or burn fat. A heart rate monitor (HRM) records your training intensity and ensures you’re working in the zone that best suits your goal
1 Garmin Forerunner 920XT
£ 390, buy.garmin.com
A triathlon powerhouse, the Forerunner 920XT has an abundance of modes and features, complemented by a display that’s easy to read in any environment and an interface so intuitive that the instruction guide seems like a waste of paper.
Its Running Dynamix software marries vertical oscillation, ground contact time and cadence with your heart rate to give you a VO2 max it can use to predict race times. It also comes with two swimming modes – open water and indoor. In open water it relies on GPS, while in indoor mode it uses an accelerometer to track distance. After training, you can use the USB cable and secure charging housing to link it to the Garmin Connect site, where you can crunch your data, use expert tri plans and connect with other Garmin owners.
■ Works for all types of session and environment
■ Extremely simple to use
■ Can’t program it for indoor pools less than 15m
■ Plugging it into a mobile charger during a long ride stops your session
Simply the best multi-sport tracker on the market.
Best for… Any triathlete who’s prepared to splash the cash to get the most out of their sport.
2 Polar M400
£ 170 polar.com
Thanks to the M400’s intuitive interface we barely had to consult the user manual while setting it up – good news for anyone who’d rather spend their time training than reading instructions. It further caters to the impatient with a Back to Start feature that uses GPS to send you home from your current location, so you don’t need to plan every route meticulously.
Workouts, steps, sleep and calories burned are logged into Polar Flow through the website or app. Like the watch this service is easy to use, with a bold interface. A large calendar shows your activity over the month, and you can analyse each workout in detail. Based on your recorded heart rate it also lets you know the specific health benefits of each session you’ve done and can suggest future sessions depending on your goals.
■ GPS features at a low price
■ Easy to set up and use
■ No vibration for alerts or alarms
■ Constant use requires daily charging
A combined HRM and GPS activity tracker at an attractive price.
Best for… Runners who like to track more than just their training sessions.
3 Suunto Ambit3 Peak Sapphire
A training supercomputer on your wrist, the Ambit3 has preset modes for everything from mountain hiking to open-water swimming, along with specific features for each. Lost during a run? Use the GPS route planner. Worried that a storm might be brewing? Check the weather indicator.
Pairing the chest strap and using the watch to record a training session is simple, but delving into its myriad features requires an intimate familiarity with the 121-page user manual. The supporting software (Movescount – available on web and iPhone) is equally exhaustive and even a straightforward run presents you with 22 metrics including the amount of time spent in each heart rate zone, a suggested recovery time and predicted VO2 max.
■ Detailed post-training analysis
■ Vast amount of features and metrics
■ Oversized watch
■ No vibration for alerts or alarms
A stat junkie’s wet dream, this can record – and even assist with – any activity.
Best for… The hard-training data geek who feels the only way to improve performance is to know everything about every second of a training session.
4 Timex Ironman Target Trainer
£ 140 timex.co.uk
Forgoing GPS, a companion app and any way to export data keeps the Target Trainer’s price low and its battery life long. Rather than trying to be a personal trainer, analyst and physio in one, this is more an enthusiastic stopwatch with heart rate monitoring capabilities and a variety of training session options.
Its most useful function is the ability to designate the heart rate zone you want to work in and set audio cues to let you know if you’re going too hard or easy. It also has loads of different stopwatch and timer functions, allowing you to create intervals, record laps and set nutrition and hydration timers. Perfect if you have no need for GPS or you just need an HRM for the gym.
■ No need to charge
■ Large memory
■ No GPS means no real-time pace
■ No way to export your data
A bare-bones HRM and sports watch with a long battery life.
Best for… Budget-conscious runners and cyclists who don’t race and so don’t need to clock specific distances.