Sometimes the temptation to load up on cool electronic gadgetry is too much to resist. As a man, I accept this is part of my nature. We fix, tinker, break and ultimately ask the wife if we can buy a replacement. It’s the circle of life young Simba.
The chief electronic knick-knack for home fitness is without question the heart rate monitor and it has evolved quickly to meet the demands of the modern user. It used to be in the old days Igor would oil his masters naked chest and strap electrodes on the nipples to get a good reading. Well, we’ve come a long way since the 80’s and today you can check out your irregular heartbeat on a watch mere seconds before collapsing unconscious.
With demand naturally comes a variety in heart rate monitor types. Each has their advantages and disadvantages over the other.
One of the pioneers in watch technology, FitBit© offers several levels of functionality in their product lineup. A simple wrist-strap has a heart rate monitor that uses pulsed light to detect whether you’re dogging it. Which you probably are. This is a welcome technological change from the self-serve air balloon at the pharmacy that threatens to squeeze your arm off.
FitBit© works alongside an app that resides on your iPhone© or Android© to collect your heart-rate data and even sleep patterns. If need be it will even wake you up by buzzing on your arm which for the first few days, will scare you half to death from that dream about bees.
In the dawn of FitBit©, Apple© considered an ingenious plan. What if we took a FitBit©, other pre-existing smartwatches, made ours do the same thing, throw in some apps nobody will use and jack the price? Then throw the Apple© logo on it. Boom. Tim Cook gave a chilling nod of approval as board-members sacrificed a goat and the Apple Watch© was born.
Although late to the game, Apple© has been making up for lost time by putting a lot of dough into biomedical research. Expect some pretty wild advancements soon now that a near trillion-dollar company is telling researchers to jump. As of now blood sugar and even epileptic seizure monitors are being developed at Apple’s© skunkworks. This of course will lead to future ethical dilemmas regarding how much we really want to know. But more importantly, how much we really want corporations to know about our internal workings.
Likewise, in the dawn of Apple Watch©, Android© thought themselves a plan as well. What if we abandoned our previous efforts, copied the Apple Watch© whole-cloth and instead used parts from a Chinese windmill factory? And what if we took all that data and stored at Mountain View, CA where Google© would never, ever use that against its customers? Boom. Android© wearables were born.
Unlike Apple©, there exists a multitude of vendors that use Android© technology. LG©, Asus© and Huawei© to name but a fraction all have their own designs. While this increases variety, it also means support for these devices is fleeting as a fly-by-night used car dealership. Since Android© is opensource, it lacks the seamless integration of hardware to software that Apple© and FitBit© have cornered the market on. That means Android© watches can range from fantastic to smash-with-a-brick awful. Be sure to check reviews and obtain one from a reputable brand if you expect any life out of it.
Heart Rate Strap
Nothing says hardcore mutha’ like strapping yourself in for a ride. The heart rate strap, while more awkward to wield than a watch, is generally king when it comes to accuracy.
To use, first wake up in the morning and apply this ice-cold plastic strap around your bare upper chest. Now that you’re shocked into alertness we are ready to sync to the watch. If it’s earlier than 7am it might momentarily show you as being clinically dead.
The strap might require occasional re-positioning during high impact cardio but generally it remains in place. If you’re a particularity hairy gorilla of a man, try Velcro ® straps.
Big names in this category are Polar©, Omron© and Garmin©. Purchasing from the top players will almost assure you of receiving accurate data. Inferior products will have you cursing the damn thing as you constantly tap your chest to get the piece of junk to pick up a signal. I can certainly relate to the frustration of doing the best cardio of my life, only to look at my watch and have it read zero. I guess what I’m saying is, try to spend a few bucks and get something better than the low-end model.
This is an excerpt from the upcoming book, Dr. Parrot’s Guide to Becoming a Lean, Mean, Killing Machine.
Available summer of 2018