The Polar FT4 Heart Rate Monitor Watch is one of the more basic, and less expensive (retails for $99.95), heart rate monitors offered by Polar. After using it for the past four years, I can attest to the fact that it has definitely changed the way I workout and train. I have never felt that I needed a more expensive, complex model. I love it because when I do push myself during a workout, it helps, mentally, to be able to look down at my watch and be reassured that I can keep going and that my heart will not explode out of my chest if I do.
Setting up the Polar FT4 is very easy. When you turn on the watch for the first time, you simply set the time, select the units you’d like to use (kg or lbs), input your personal data (height, weight, age, sex, date of birth), and you’re ready to go! The FT4 uses Polar’s formula to determine your VO2 max (maximum heart rate) based on your personal settings and then automatically calculates your target heart rate zone.
Beginning a workout is also very simple. One thing to note is that you have to wear the Polar Chest Transmitter and strap it around your chest while you exercise. I wear it under my bra line with the transmitter over the left side of my chest, or right in the middle. The strap has built-in electrodes that will pick up your heart rate and has snaps to attach the transmitter that will send your heart rate data to your watch.
One important thing is that the two electrodes must be wet before you put on the strap in order for them to work properly. I usually just wet my fingers and rub them along the strap. As far as comfort goes, I barely notice the strap while I’m working out; it stays in place and almost always syncs with my watch. On a rare occasion I will notice that it disconnects. I always wear my watch on the left wrist. When I wear it on my right, I notice it will disconnect more often. Once you have the strap situated, you simply press the middle button on the right side of the watch, wait for it to pick up your heart rate, and then press it again to begin your workout.
During your workout, the watch will keep track of your heart rate, calories burned, total time spent working out, total time within your target heart rate zone, and your average and maximum heart rate. Using the up/down buttons, you can flip through several different screens during your workout to see your calories burned, check whether you are “in the zone”, see your total time, and check your heart rate.
I have used this watch for almost 4 years now and it has never let me down. One fun surprise is that is wishes you Happy Birthday on your birth date. It makes working out on your birthday all the more rewarding. Another neat perk is this is water proof. You can continue to wear it in the shower or during water aerobics.
I don’t just wear this for workouts. I put it on first thing in the morning and I wear it all day and track my daily calories burned at the end of each day.
One complaint that I do have is it’s an exercise tool, which means it is in constant contact with sweat. You need to wash and rinse it daily and even with washing it daily the combination of the plastic material on the chest strap and fabric can give off a pungent smell when combined with sweat.
If you are looking for a heart rate monitor, I say that Polar is the way to go. The FT4 would be a great option for beginners or for those of you who prefer a simpler form of tracking. If you are interested in being able to store more data files, transfer that data to the computer, use additional heart rate zones, or have a GPS track of your runs, Polar offers several HRM watches that include these features.
The Polar FT4 is also automatically detected by most workout machines at your local gym. This makes it easier to track your heart rate while you are on the elliptical or treadmill without needing to put your hands on the metal plates.
The Polar FT4 is an older model and a good entry level monitor. You can find them on Ebay for as low as $20.
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