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23-12-2008, 17:35   #1
wacoome
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Which HRM and FirstBeat Athlete?
I've done enough reading to be dangerous and not enough to be knowledgeable. I must say I'm intrigued by FirstBeat Technology's Athlete program (though I'm a Mac user and the program is PC only - I'd have to use my work laptop to run the program). I like the use of EPOC to determine body stress and thus regulate workout intensity and duration. I've read mixed views about the effectiveness of the program, but the negative reviews seem to come from athletes training for events. I don't fit that profile.

Until age 40 when I was hit by a car while riding my bike and broke my hip, I was thin and athletically fit. I ran marathons (2:25's) and full triathlons. I was also a 5.12+ rock climber. I was 6'1" and weighed 140-145 lbs. I was obsessive with sports and trained 4-6 hrs./day. After the accident I got married and totally changed my lifestyle. I led a completely sedentary lifestyle for seven years. I gained 100 lbs (still 6'1" ). Recently I was diagnosed with pre-diabetes and my father (age 72) had a small heart attack. I've also been taking medication for high cholesterol for the past 4 years. I need to change my lifestyle habits.

Three weeks ago I found fitday.com and it's been a godsend for my food intake. Restricting myself to 1500kcal/day, I'm able to record what I eat and track the data online. It's a fantastic free program that I've used religiously for the past three weeks. During that time I've lost ten lbs.

Having never used a hrm, I'm wondering how useful and effective it would be for me now. When I was in shape, I had an intuitive sense of my body and its needs. Even so, I probably overtrained. While I like running the occasional marathon and triathlon, competition didn't really do it for me. I preferred the epic mountain bike ride or a climbing challenge, and I just plain enjoyed training for its own sake. After many years this might have been my downfall; I didn't have any particular goal I was striving to achieve. So I just stopped.

Now I do have goals. I need to lose weight and get back into shape. I would like to run and ride mountains again (I was a good hill climber); I live in Colorado. I want to hike mountain trails to take pictures (photography is one of my hobbies). And perhaps I'd like to do some rock climbing again. First and foremost, I need to lose 80 lbs. I'm guessing this will take me a year. In the process I need to regain my fitness. Walking (running later), biking (road), swimming, badminton, racquetball, weights, yoga, trail hiking, etc. are my current means of exercising.

OK. Do I need a hrm? If so, which one? Would a high priced one like the Polar RS800 or Suunto t6c be useful to me, or would a basic one suit me fine? I like the idea of EPOC tracking, but is this really useful? And is FirstBeat the only means for tracking this information? It seems that knowing my body's reaction to training would be useful in prescribing the training I do next. FB Athlete appears to do this? However, to use FB Athlete, I need an expensive hrm ($300+ - t6c or RS800) and the $80 FB program that's PC and not Mac. Is there a cheaper and equally effective solution? Is EPOC gimmicky and not that useful? Do I need to download data to my computer? Is that process interesting at first, but later time consuming and forgetful? If I go for the expensive units, should I also spend money on the foot and bike pods? What about GPS?

I do like gadgets and find the computer a godsend for organizing my life, but money is somewhat tight (I'd rather spend it on photo gear). Fitday.com has been wonderful for sticking to a diet, but exercise is a different beast. I can create an exercise schedule without a computer, relying on my past training knowledge. However, I'm not in shape now and really don't have experience losing weight and starting training again from ground zero. And even when I was fit, I don't know if I trained effectively. At that time I was a bachelor and could waste my free time exercising with no ill consequences. Now I'm married and need to balance family and exercise; no longer do I have unlimited time to train.

Based on the novel I've given you about my life, goals, etc., what would you suggest? Do I need a hrm? If so, why and which one?

Thank you.
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24-12-2008, 05:22   #2
musiljan
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Good reading Michael and some impressive stats - 2:20 marathons is really good. Getting back into shape is going to take time and getting 80 pounds off may take more than a year (it took me almost a year to get rid of 40 pounds and I got sick two times - e.g. over trained).

I do not feel I should comment on usefulness of EPOC for training as I primarily use TSS/IF to assess my workouts (it is built into the WKO+ software). I do look at the EPOC/TE post workout, but use it only as a guidance. I do not use the FB Athlete coach function, but people do report good results for general fitness. That is one way and that can be done with either RS800/cx or any of the Suunto monitors I believe from T3.

You can also get Polar monitor cheaper than the RS800 if money is the issue and rely on the Tests built into the watch to help you guide the workouts. Polar also has a website polarpersonaltrainer.com where you can get a program to follow. Losing weight does not require the latest and greatest gadget, but it may help some people stay motivated.

There are many people on this site that lost significant weight by using HR monitor. When I started (or should I say re-started) I was using no HRM. Later I got S625X and used it to get in shape while keeping in aerobic zone. Later when I got little more serious about beating my own time in the next race I got the RS800sd and then there is a long list of other HRMs that I used.

Ultimately what got me off my ass was competing with other people with the Nike+ sensor in my iPod and Nike site. The Polar HRM helped me to be more clever about how I exercise and helped me not to over train. With the new Polar site design you can compete with other people as well and get motivated that way.

So no you do not need to splurge 300+ bucks on HRM. You can get cheaper model to get back in shape. Take a look at the FT line if general fitness is your thing. Or the S/RS line if you are more into running and potentially multi-sport.
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26-12-2008, 18:31   #3
wacoome
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Now more confused than ever
Musiljan,

Ack! Again, the more I read the more confused I become. I'm becoming less enthused about EPOC on the FirstBeat website, and EPOC in general. I've also discovered that measuring RR rates is nothing more than a calculation algorithm, that hrm all measure heart beats in the same manner. And relying on EPOC to determine fatigue and my training schedule is really unnecessary, especially since my immediate need is to lose weight. Also, it seems like EPOC works best with interval training rather than distance training; with my current weight of 240lbs I'm probably better off walking or hiking than trying to do interval work.

Diet is utmost important in my current state (I write this eating after-Christmas treats), and ample exercise can only add to the differential between caloric intake and output. So, does it really matter what a hrm tells me? Isn't getting the most exercise I can get the best option? What will a hrm really tell me? How will it improve my exercise regime?

I do see a hrm giving me more accurate caloric expenditure data than online charts and tables (though I suppose the online reference data on sites such as caloriesperhour are quite accurate and more than sufficient for monitoring my caloric intake and output. I guess what I'm wanting in a hrm is the following:

1) Accurate caloric expenditure.
2) Evidence of improving fitness (motivating factor).
3) Means of maximizing time exercising (exercise efficiency) - getting the most out of my training.
4) Knowing when I'm undertraining or overtraining. (This is related to #3).
5) Helping me create an efficient and productive training schedule.

I can see someone casually tell me a hrm will do all of the above. There are buttons, functions, and graphs for my entire list. But how useful and accurate are these calculations, calculations based on my heart rate and weight? Can a heart rate monitor really tell me how to train? Can it tell me when I'm fatigued or training optimally? Does training in a particular "zone" really help me lose weight better than not using "zones"?

I really want and need to lose weight. I don't mind spending $400+ on a hrm and software if it will help me reach my goal. Competing against other people really doesn't do it for me, nor do support groups and other interpersonal motivators. What has helped in the area of diet is using fitday and recording the calories I put in my mouth. Would using a hrm be a similar motivator for exercise? And if so, what hrm do I get - a simple one or more complex one from which I can download data to my computer?

On the other hand I say forget the gadget and just exercise; I was an expert at exercising several years ago. I know how to train and I can do it again. The other hands says to get a state-of-the-art hrm and use all of its bells and whistles. If it's wasted money and I lose weight - so what? And if I don't use it I can sell it on ebay for a small financial loss. Then my head says to try the cheapest hrm monitor first to see if I like it. Another part of my head says to make a compromise - to get a hrm that gives me target zones and a calorie counter.

So I return to Ack!
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Last edited by wacoome : 26-12-2008 at 20:19.
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27-12-2008, 04:57   #4
jmijares
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Michael,

I've never used the FT80, but there have been some negative reviews here on the Forum about its STAR personalized training system. Other than Polar, the only HRM I've used is the Timex Bodylink System, which was decent. The GPS features were very good, but the HRM features weren't comparable to Polar.

Here's my setup:

- Polar s725x with G1 GPS and S1 Footpod
- VidaOne Diet & Fitness for PC (along with the Palm OS versions - D&E and Polar data importer)

These items, for me, cover the first two that you're looking for.

The VidaOne software sort of covers #3 for me in the sense that I like to examine my pace and it's encouraging to see my pace increasing by seconds every single time I go out for a run. I can see it in a nice little graph that the software generates.

As for #4, over training and undertraining, I think the Polar Optimizer tests will help with that. I run my tests weekly and it tells me what the effects of my training for the past week is. Not sure how accurate it is though. I prefer to rely on my increasing pace and distance as it's being tracked with the software. However, it does help to train in different zones as it will benefit your overall cardiovascular health. When I run, I do one day a week where I train in a higher zone, and during the rest of the week I do my "slow burn" zone training.

For #5, I usually just rely on advice I see here or on the internet. I'm planning on doing a half marathon in June and have found some good training program suggestions on the internet. I'll just stick with those programs.

I'm normally a geek when it comes to technology, and having the HRM and the software helps me see how I'm doing and encourages me to improve. I wish I had the discipline and motivation that you had years ago to just get up and go...

Jay
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Last edited by jmijares : 27-12-2008 at 05:03.
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27-12-2008, 15:07   #5
wacoome
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Quote:
Michael,

I've never used the FT80, but there have been some negative reviews here on the Forum about its STAR personalized training system. Other than Polar, the only HRM I've used is the Timex Bodylink System, which was decent. The GPS features were very good, but the HRM features weren't comparable to Polar.
There's also Nike and Suunto. The T6c is interesting but if I buy a hrm it'll probably be Polar. On the low end I'm thinking F11. Though, I'd probably get the RS800CX. The 625X is also a possibility if I can find a good price.

Quote:
Here's my setup:

- Polar s725x with G1 GPS and S1 Footpod
- VidaOne Diet & Fitness for PC (along with the Palm OS versions - D&E and Polar data importer)
The S1 (or S3 if I get the RS800CX) is an interesting option, but since most of my walking/hiking is off-trail I doubt it would be accurate. I rarely walk on streets, paved pathways, etc. where I would walk with a consistent stride. Oh well . . .


Quote:
The VidaOne software sort of covers #3 for me in the sense that I like to examine my pace and it's encouraging to see my pace increasing by seconds every single time I go out for a run. I can see it in a nice little graph that the software generates.
I'll look at this software - though again it's PC only.

Quote:
As for #4, over training and undertraining, I think the Polar Optimizer tests will help with that. I run my tests weekly and it tells me what the effects of my training for the past week is. Not sure how accurate it is though. I prefer to rely on my increasing pace and distance as it's being tracked with the software. However, it does help to train in different zones as it will benefit your overall cardiovascular health. When I run, I do one day a week where I train in a higher zone, and during the rest of the week I do my "slow burn" zone training.
The RS800CX seems to use a more sophisticated (probably just more calculated estimations) use of the Optimizer by using RR values at the beginning of the workout. I believe the RS800CX is the only model that does this. Does anyone know if this measurement of fatigue is accurate, at least relatively? Is it useful?

Quote:
For #5, I usually just rely on advice I see here or on the internet. I'm planning on doing a half marathon in June and have found some good training program suggestions on the internet. I'll just stick with those programs.
I need to rephrase my desire for #5. I don't want a prescribed exercise program, but I would like to know easy, moderate, hard - long, short duration days tuned to the needs of my body. Maybe this is asking too much in a hrm. I'm still intrigued by FirstBeat Athlete, but I haven't found anyone who uses the program to provide good feedback. In searches people make mention of FB Athlete, but no firsthand experience. Anyone?

Quote:
I'm normally a geek when it comes to technology, and having the HRM and the software helps me see how I'm doing and encourages me to improve. I wish I had the discipline and motivation that you had years ago to just get up and go...
Jay
I'm a bit of a geek too and probably would find the technology, software, and tracking data to be a motivating tool. As for my discipline and motivation in the past, it was a life-long habit and a little OCD thrown in. Training is just what I did, like sleeping and eating. It was a myopic lifestyle. Now I want to find a balance, and thus maybe a need for a hrm. I now need to be more efficient in my training; I don't have all day like I did in the past.

Michael
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28-12-2008, 15:48   #6
jmijares
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Not sure about Nike, though I think it's pretty cool that they have a footpod that talks to iPods.

Suunto's T6c is supposedly very good. I almost bought one this year because I had gone through two Wearlink straps in less than six months. (That's another story altogether and there's a very long thread here on the forums about it the Wearlinks and people getting 00 heartbeat readings.) I didn't stick with the Timex because I wanted something that was more ECG accurate and also because I was lazy and didn't want to input all of the data manually. Timex will actually tell you which zones you're in through their Bodylink software, but to get it to my D&E software I have to do it by hand... One thing I do miss about the Timex is that it you use it with their GPS if actually predicts your finish times for races and you can actually pull up the GPS-tracked course you ran on the computer, along with an accurate ascent/descent profile.

If you like to analyze your workouts, I'd still go for the "S" or "RS" series. The RS 800 series will record your heartbeat intervals (R-R). I like my s725x because I can do the analysis using the Polar Pro Training software. It's not as robust as PC Coach, but does the job very well.

If you would want even more, then perhaps the Suunto is for you, especially with the EPOC features. Polar's software runs circles around Suunto's though.

For now, I'm sticking with my Polar s725x because it's the only thing that talks to my PC and my Palm PDA, and also because I found a work-around to the Wearlink problem.

There are some good deals to be found on the S and RS series on eBay - I got my s725x there - though more than likely even though those watches will be brand new, they will not be sold by an authorized Polar dealer and will not be covered under warranty.

Have you also looked at the Garmin models?
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29-12-2008, 01:51   #7
musiljan
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Originally Posted by wacoome View Post
There's also Nike and Suunto. The T6c is interesting but if I buy a hrm it'll probably be Polar. On the low end I'm thinking F11. Though, I'd probably get the RS800CX. The 625X is also a possibility if I can find a good price.
You mention that you are self proclaimed geek - hey welcome to the club. The RS800cx will do it all with exception of giving you suggested workouts. It will also help you track the speed and distance on trails if you get the multi version that comes with the G3 sensor. The R-R recording could be fed into the FB Athlete and it will suggest the training effect for the day. I'll talk about the FB in a bit - I do use it I just do not follow its suggestions although I see how its suggestions correlate with the plans my coach puts on my schedule. As for the RS800cx with G3 sensor - it will get you your calories burned (with Polar OwnCal), help you determine whether you are training optimally with the Polar OwnOptimizer (includes indication of under training and over training). Fitness test helps you see how much progress you are making. A lot of these features are also available in S625X and S725X that are also an alternative for you if you want to track details of your workout on the PC. The F and FT line of product will not provide this level of analysis. Disadvantage of the S625x/S725x is that they do not capture R-R. You can still use the FB Athlete and estimate the TE with average HR and duration of the session, but it is less accurate than feeding R-R file to the FB.

Now as to the FB Athlete - the software will suggest a training effect for each day and minimal duration to achieve the training effect. If you look at the suggestion it will also tell you what your HR average should be for the duration. The suggestion is all that - I mean the software does not care whether you take 2 hours or 20 minutes to achieve the training effect. As to quality of suggestion - it is pretty good and takes into account your training load. I would recommend to use it as a guidance to keep you on track. Good thing is that if you exercise less or more the program gets adjusted automatically. I did some more hard work this week and the plan adjusted next week to almost sleep through it - like 4 days of rest. Well I guess I either need to bump my training activity level higher or just ignore the software. It actually suggested to update my activity level like 4 weeks ago and I kept it lower. So the approach works fine - check the Suunto site and discussion about T4c which has this feature built in although not as flexible and powerful as the FB Athlete.

So my recommendation - since you do not seem to be very concerned about the higher cost of RS800cx - get the one with G3 and FB Athlete along with it. And give it a go. The FB Athlete will take about week or two to stabilize. Until then feed it data and try to follow its advice. When I first started using it the software got me all the way to level 9.5 before it started backing me off to level 8 where I am now. There is some good reading on Suunto website about how to set the parameters in the software. Basically FirstBeat and Suunto documentation is all about the same technology. FB owns the IP and Suunto licenses it.

As for whether to get the T6c or RS800cx - I bet you will like the RS800cx better as it has the mapping function and the additional functions to determine your progress and monitor your under/over training. Plus the PPT5 beats the crap out of Suunto Training Manager with its reporting flexibility and planning capabilities.

One more recommendation - take the software and hardware as a motivator. Do not get totally hung up on it otherwise it will all become very technical automatized which kind of takes the fun out of the exercise. I sometimes take the HRM for the run, but leave iPod and all other stuff at home. Then on the run I do not look at my HR and just enjoy the scenery. Sometimes it does not hurt to go just by your feel.
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30-12-2008, 02:28   #8
jmijares
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Originally Posted by musiljan View Post
One more recommendation - take the software and hardware as a motivator. Do not get totally hung up on it otherwise it will all become very technical automatized which kind of takes the fun out of the exercise. I sometimes take the HRM for the run, but leave iPod and all other stuff at home. Then on the run I do not look at my HR and just enjoy the scenery. Sometimes it does not hurt to go just by your feel.
Excellent point.

Sometimes simple is always better. I run with folks who are happy with just basic HRMs and even some who just track their speed and distance. And some of them just go by feel.

My setup truly appeals to the geek in me. Could I easily do without temperature readings, graphical analysis, VO2 max? Yeah. Do I want to? Eh, not just yet... Right now I run because it's fun and because my HRM and analysis software motivates me to do even better.

But one day I hope to free myself of the reliance on all of the gadget's bells and whistles and just run, run for the joy of running, and run to see how far I can go and how many calories I burn.
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03-01-2009, 04:32   #9
musiljan
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Originally Posted by jmijares View Post
Excellent point.

Sometimes simple is always better. I run with folks who are happy with just basic HRMs and even some who just track their speed and distance. And some of them just go by feel.
While not going by totally feel I went out on run in the past two days with just the watch and foot pod (RS800cx). Left the iPod and other stuff at home and just enjoyed the great run outside. I plan on doing another one outside tomorrow, but I guess I may need the iPod to stick with tempo pace for 40 minutes. It will be quite tough mentally.
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