For anyone who follows me on Instagram (@belowthefork), you know that one of the ways I keep myself accountable is by frequently posting photos of the end screen of my Polar FT4 watch after a workout, touting the length of my workout session and the calorie burn. I’m often asked about it, so I thought it was high time I posted a product review—especially with it being so close to Christmas.
I originally learned about this product from all the TIU (toneitup.com) girls I follow on Instagram, including one of my best friends. It became even more enticing to me as I got further along in my pregnancy because I thought it was important to know my heart rate to make sure I was keeping baby safe, as well as my calorie burn to ensure I was consuming enough to support a growing human. I finally purchased one in June 2013, and 5 months later it’s still one of my favorite things!
The Polar FT4 comes with 3 pieces—a watch, an adjustable transmitter strap, and a heart rate sensor. It retails anywhere from $65-$95. I purchased mine on HeartRateMonitorsUSA.com and although the shipping took a bit longer than it would have on Amazon, it was the best price I found.
The watch’s main screen displays the time and date. A lot of times I end up wearing it for the rest of the day because it works like any digital watch and is sporty looking. Without getting into too much detail, the watch also has 5 buttons. The top left button lights up the background of the screen. The bottom left button is the play/pause button for when you have initiated a new session. Unless you have the strap and sensor activated, this button does nothing other than bring you back to the time/date display if you’ve been in the data or settings screens. On the right side of the watch, the top button accesses the data, the middle button is what you push when you’re ready to begin or end a training session, and the bottom right-hand button is to adjust your personal settings.
The Sensor and Strap
When you are ready to start a workout, you need to wet the electrode areas of the strap under running water. I do this in the locker room of my gym, or using my water bottle if I’m doing an outdoor activity like a trail run. I can confirm it will NOT work correctly if you forget to use water! The strap requires direct skin contact and goes around your upper rib cage with the two buttons centered under your bust, directly below your bra strap. Then you just snap the sensor into the two buttons and you’re ready to go. Easy peasy! From there you press the middle right-hand button of your watch twice, wait until you see your heart rate, and then you’re officially ready to start burning calories!
The maximum number of training files is 10, so it will overwrite past workout sessions; however, it does keep lifetime data of how many overall calories you’ve burned, number of workout sessions you’ve logged, and combined duration of workouts.
It’s pretty cool to see that since June 29, 2013 I have logged over 36 hours and 18,000 calories—not bad for weeks 19-39 of pregnancy!
I absolutely love the simplicity of the Polar FT4. Yes, there are many other watches out there with all sorts of bells and whistles, such as: GPS, more data storage, and an online community where you can upload all your data and access it forever. If you’re a triathlete per se, I would not recommend this watch; however, if you’re like me, and you spend more time in the gym doing cardio, weight-lifting and classes (and are perfectly content relying on Runkeeper or another phone app for keeping track of your outdoor running distance) then this is the watch for you!
My 3 main data points are achieved: calories burned, duration of workout, and heart rate.
I love knowing exactly what my personal burn is based on MY actual heart rate and body type, and not going by some arbitrary number the cardio machine is displaying (which, side note, is ALWAYS either exaggerated or underestimated). It’s most exciting to use a heart rate monitor in classes like Zumba or BodyPump, or during a weight-lifting session, because if you use another program like LoseIt (like me!) or WeightWatchers, the estimations are usually quite off which will cause you to over-eat or under-eat your allotted calories/PointsPlus for the day. Additionally, I can activate a new session as soon as I walk onto the gym floor and not end it until I’m walking back to the locker room, so no longer do I need to mentally keep track of the time spent on each machine or activity (e.g. 20 minutes on the treadmill + 12 minutes weight-lifting, etc.) while also trying to determine if my effort fits LoseIt’s definition of “intense” or “moderate.”
I honestly don’t have a bad thing to say about this product. Like I said earlier, there is certainly a segment of people who justifiably have reason to think the limited data is frustrating, but for your average gym goer, it’s perfect. I think having the Polar FT4 has improved my knowledge of my body and what it is capable of, while keeping my fitness goals more interesting. For instance, I love that I can approach workouts now thinking, “I’ll keep doing this activity till I hit X number of calories” instead of always focusing on time and distance—especially when it comes to running! I love statistics when I’m not the one calculating them, so I think it’s a very important gadget that will help you achieve your health goals.