I needed a heart rate monitor in order to provide heart rate data during my
sessions on the Concept 2 indoor rower. As all this was completely new to me
I spent quite a while trying to decide which Polar unit to choose.
I decided upon Polar as they seemed both fairly cost effective, had a wide
range of offerings for all budgets and later I discovered that the Concept 2
rower is compatible with Polar devices which was lucky!
I was going to select a more expensive Polar unit, but eventually decided
that as I'm new to all this that spending extra money on additional features
I will probably not use was not necessary. So, I opted for the base FT1
For those that are new to this and perhaps might benefit from a lay mans
description of how this all works, then what you get is a chest belt heart
rate transmitter and a wrist watch receiver. The chest belt transmits your
heart rate to the watch which displays it and provides various other
The chest belt needs to be wetted on the part that is in contact with your
chest. This is
to allow the electrical signals from your heart to be conducted through to
chest belt unit. Don't worry, you don't feel anything as the belt detects
the signals passively and so no shocks or tingles are felt and once on it
just feels like a belt and nothing else.
Be advised that for best results the chest belt unit should be worn just
under the breasts/pectorals, so you need to be comfortable with wearing it
in this location.
The belt unit is sealed and waterproof as is the wrist watch receiver, so
can be worn in the shower or swimming pool, but you
must not press the watch's button when in water. The
watch has just one button on the lower side of the watch face which controls
all the functions and as such is pretty simple. This is another reason why
the lower end Polar products are perfect for those like me who just want to
see their heart rate. There are other functions such as a one workout memory
that shows you the duration of your session, average heart rate and maximum
heart rate. When you start your workout, simply press the button on the
watch once and press it again at the end of the workout. Pressing the button
twice in quick succession will then show you the stats as mentioned above
for that workout. So, it's pretty simple stuff which when you're like me and
needing just the essential information, it's just what you need.
The wrist watch receiver also displays the time of day and so can be used as
a regular watch should you desire. it's rugged enough and feels solid. The
strap should fit any size from the smallest girl to the largest man as the
strap doesn't use the standard hole arrangement found on wrist watch straps.
Instead it cleverly uses the close-cut ridged inner surface of the strap to
allow infinite and fine grain fitting adjustment to be made.
The wrist watch receiver unit - or heart rate computer as it's sometimes
called has a nice big display for the heart rate and can even be setup so
that the watch beeps your rate audibly. You can also set a lower and upper
heart rate that once you go out of bounds of an audible alarm sounds.
Although the volume of these audible indicators isn't particularly loud, I
found that on a recent session on the rowing machine that I could hear the
watch beeping to tell me I had exceeded my upper heart rate zone I'd defined
without any difficulty over the considerable noise of the rowing machine.
If you're interested in calories or fat burned stats then you'll need to
spend more and go for one of the more sophisticated Polar units like the
FT4. Note, some gym equipment offer calorie/fat burning data as well as
picking up your heart rate from a Polar unit, so you may not even need a
more expensive unit like the FT4. However, one useful feature of the FT4 is
multiple workout stats memory. In other words, the FT1 can only store your
last workout stats and you lose them when you next do a workout. The FT4
stores several, so you can keep track of your progress more easily if this
is important to you and your gym equipment doesn't have such on-board
A quick note to those wanting gym equipment to show heart rate. If you're a
gym user and simply want to have the equipment you use show the heart rate
and nothing else and don't want to wrist watch receiver then you can save
money and purchase the chest belt alone from Polar. It's useful to know
that the chest belt provided in the FT1 package (the T31) is also sold
separately in both coded and uncoded versions. The uncoded version is
slightly cheaper, but being an uncoded signal may mean that other people's
heart rate signals from their Polar units may interfere with yours if in
close proximity. The coded T31 chest belt is only marginally more expensive
and therefore worth the money. The coded T31 was included in my FT1
package - but check to ensure this is so if purchasing yours.
Polar offer the T31 and the H1 chest belts. The key difference as far as I
know is that the more expensive H1 has a user replaceable battery and the
T31 is a sealed unit. The T31 has a battery life of approximately 2500 hours
and when the battery dies you can actually send it off to a Polar service
centre (In Warwick for UK users I believe) and for less than half the price
of a replacement T31 so I understand, they'll replace the battery and send
the unit back to you, so no need to throw away and buy again new unlike what
another reviewer stated.
Either the T31 or H1 chest belt transmitters will work for gym equipment
designed to be compatible with Polar heart rate products - so check your
gym's equipment first.
I hadn't realized this before purchasing my FT1 and strictly speaking I
don't really need the watch. The Concept 2 indoor rower I use requires a
transmitter cable that they provide at a charge that you plug one end into
the rowers monitor and the other end beneath your seat. This allows your
heart rate to be shown on the rowers monitor and actually stored as part of
your workout data if you have the appropriate accessory memory card for the
Transmitter range is probably less than 6 feet, but this is fine because the
wrist watch receiver isn't going to be farther away than that (unless you
have VERY long arms!).
Take care to carefully dry the chest belt after use so that the unit doesn't
remain active and try looking to pick up heart rate signals. Leaving the
unit damp or wet after use will only reduce battery life.
The chest belt comes in two pieces. The main T31 transmitter unit that fits
across the front of your chest and a stretchy adjustable band that you
attach to the transmitter that goes around your back.
As far as performance goes, well, I've had no reliability issues and all
seems to work fine.
I hope this review has covered all the key things you might need to know.