Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Workout Gear Review: Polar FT4 Heart Rate Monitor

I started using a Polar FT4 Heart Rate Monitor about three weeks ago, and I decided to write up a quick review now that I've put it to the test.

Doing my Homework

I am a little obsessive when it comes to doing research when I'm trying to decide on something I'll be using almost every day.  Thanks to the magic of Google it's pretty easy to find out all you need to know about the different heart rate monitors on the market.  After reading reviews I decided on a Polar.  Then I narrowed down the models by comparing features.  They have some more expensive models with more features, but the FT4 has plenty of features for a lower price.  Speaking of price...I searched around to try to find the lowest price and decided to order from Amazon.  It qualified for free shipping, but I wanted it right away...even with the added shipping expense it was still cheaper to buy it from Amazon than it was to buy it from a local store. 

First Impressions

I will admit that I was a little worried about being able to use all of the features that the Polar FT4 has to offer.  I consider myself to be reasonably tech savvy, but for some reason I have a hard time with watches.  A heart rate monitor is like a watch on steroids, so I was expecting to be a little confused at first ;)  I was pleasantly surprised by how simple it is to use!  I read to instructions, but I honestly think I could have figured it out without them.  It's VERY user friendly.

My other concern when I ordered the Polar FT4 was whether or not it would fit.  I have tiny wrists...like super tiny...freakishly tiny...I used to call them bird wrists, but then I realized that birds don't have wrists.  I guess I could say that I have bird ankles for wrists...but that just sounds weird lol  Again I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that the entire band of the Polar FT4 has notches so that it can be tightened even further than what I need for my tiny freakish bird ankle wrists.

My last concern was with the chest band.  I was hoping it would be comfortable, and that it would fit properly.  It's very soft and comfortable to wear.  It's no more noticeable than the band of a sports bra (and you wear it about the same place).  It wasn't hard to get used to wearing it at all.  The band it also very adjustable and should fit a wide range of sizes.

The Features

-Automatic age based target zone: There's a quick set up process that involves entering your age into the Polar FT4.  The training computer (the part that looks like a watch) will generate a target heart rate zone for you.  No need to pull out the calculator ;)
-Tracks your average and maximum heart rate of training: At the end of each training session you can see what your average heart rate and maximum heart rate were during your training session.  You can also see how much time you spent in your target zone.  The last data from the last ten training sessions is saved and can easily be accessed.
-Heart rate display: With the press of a button you can change the display on the Polar FT4 so that you can see what your heart rate is in real time.
-Heart rate based target zones with visual and audible alarm: When you are not in your target heart rate zone the Polar FT4 has a visual cue to let you know, and there's also an audible alarm.  It's easy to go into the settings and turn the sound off.  I love that I can have the sound on while I'm doing my cardio, but I can also shut it off if I wear my Polar FT4 to yoga class or Pilates.
-Manual target zone: You can override the automatic target zone and set your own.  My trainer has me working in at 75-90% of my max rate, so it was nice to be able to quickly/easily change the target zone to fit my current training plan.  This feature is also great if you have a health issue and need to adjust accordingly.
-Polar OwnCal: The Polar FT4 calculates the number of calories expended during each training session. This feature allows you to track the calories expended during one training session and cumulative calories expended during several training sessions.  You can go back and look look at past data to see how your latest workout compares to your past workouts.
-Training Files: The Polar FT4 can store ten training files (with training summary...max heart rate, average heart rate, total time, total calories burned).  I love being able to look back at my previous workouts to compare my average heart rate, max heart rate and total calories burned.
-Totals: The Polar FT4 also tracks your total cumulative training time and calories burned (from initial start up or your last reset).  It's pretty neat to be able to look back and see just how much work you've put in. 

Trouble Shooting

I've had two "why the heck isn't this thing working" moments, but I am pretty sure they were both caused by user error.  Once I put lotion on before putting the heart rate monitor on.  This is a no no.  The sensors couldn't make contact properly and wouldn't pick up my heart rate.  I was able to use some rubbing alcohol to remove the lotion from my skin where the heart rate sensors go.  Then it worked perfectly.  The second time I didn't tighten the band properly before starting my workout.  It still stayed in place and worked during the cardio portion of my workout, but when I moved on to some core work it shifted around and wouldn't pick up my heart rate.  So the only malfunctions I've experienced were my own ;) 


I decided to purchase a heart rate monitor because it's a great way to make sure that you are getting the most out of your cardio workouts.  We all have a target heart rate range based on our age, and knowing whether you're in this range or not is key to maximizing your calorie burn during cardio sessions. I'm a big believer in making the most out of each and every workout.  Using the Polar FT4 has helped me to make the most of my cardio workouts.  I love how easy it is to set up and use.  Changing the display mid workout doesn't slow me down.  Being able to track my previous workouts helps me to push myself harder so that I can beat my previous calorie burn.  After almost a month of use (five to six days each week) I am very pleased with this purchase.

A quick note....
I don't get paid to do reviews.  I purchased this product as a regular consumer, and I'm just sharing my personal opinion ;)


  1. Thanks for sharing. I think this will be the watch I will buy. Simple. Love your reference to your bird ankle wrists... very funny