M got me a heart rate monitor (HRM) a few weeks ago with expectations that I would wear it during my gym visits. His concern is not precisely misplaced  – after the fainting incident (low blood sugar) he felt like I needed something to make sure I was at least trying to monitor what was going on with me while exercising. The connection between low blood sugar and the HRM was fuzzy to me, and he very patiently explained that I would (hopefully) at least look at how hard I was working and take it into consideration if I start feeling weird.

At that point in the conversation arguing with him that I did not actually feel weird until I got home, chatted with him, and then fainted seemed pretty pointless. Besides, the watch part of the HRM is a pretty purple. Yes, I was seduced into accepting HRM by its bright colors.

Originally M wanted me to utilize the super fancy-smancy Suunto GPS watch he keeps as a backup (having upgraded to the even fancier-smancier Suunto GPS watch) so it could provide me even more vital pieces of information I could obsess about from here to eternity. I had something akin to a foot-stomping meltdown over that; my declining his generous offer was a nice, normal “no thank you, honey” artfully disguising an “oh HELL NO I’m not wearing that big chunk of junk on my wrist!” type response. Because really, that Suunto is big and metal and makes me feel like a cyborg. What is the point of having such a device strapped to my wrist if I am never going to take the time to learn what it does, how it works, or pair it with my computer to examine all the elaborate charts and data? Did his miss the “obsess about from here to eternity” aspect of my personality in our years together? Plus, do I really need something that tracks my non-run geography, elevation, altitude, etc., etc., etc. when I am inside at the same gym, morning after morning after morning? All that whiz-bang just so I could see what my heart rate was doing should I again feel weird?

Thankfully the HRM strap for the older Suunto requires replacement. And since I am the primary Amazon shopper in our household, it is unlikely to be replaced until M is ready to part with that bad boy and it’s gifted to a runner pal or listed for sale somewhere.

M can be crafty about these things, though, and next I knew he came home with the pretty purple HRM. No, it’s not just a simple “your heart rate is [HR number value]” displayed in big numbers or as a percentage value. Oh no  – the pretty purple one has all sorts of mysterious features I have yet to investigate or learn about. And it judges. Harshly, in my opinion.

Every Monday it resets itself to track its chosen weekly goals for me. Upon its first use I became curious about the 3 target HR zones and learned that 1 is 60%, 2 is 70%, 3 is 80% and above. HRM apparently desires me to spend more time in zone 2, because whatever my weekly goals are my summaries are approximately 300% in zone 1, 68% in zone 2, and 228% in zone 3 (zone 3 apparently has no budget, so a single second automatically grants me 100% status).

Last Friday (the infamous driven to juice session) HRM told me I was “maximum training was improving” or something like that. Most of the time it tells me “fat burning and fitness improving” or “fat burning improving” if I am slacking and not working that hard. But earlier today it told me something like “train a lot less in zone 3.” Ummm … excuse me? What is that supposed to mean? Am I doing it (training) wrong?

See where this is headed? This is the road to OCD Armageddon over HR readings.

So my OCD is peeking out and starting to furrow her brow. I look a little closer at the readings, something I have been valiantly trying to avoid, and discover my maximum HR is spiking up into the 140-ish range nearly every day. It could only be a second or two  – I am not watching at all when I am striving to get through The List(s) each day  – but it could be longer. Then I crunch my target HR numbers using the traditional calculation (220-age*percentage) to figure out what those zones break down to in real numbers (1 is 100, 2 is 116, 3 is 133 and above). In the daily data I looked at I am usually averaging between 110 to 116 and fairly evenly divided between 1 and 2 most days with some peaks into 3.

Confused yet? Yeah, me too. HRM, why not just add a couple of minutes to zone 3 and call it a day?

I could ask M about it, or J, but I am not sure I really want to know the answer. M will likely be thrilled, because HR stuff is a Very Big Deal in the endurance running world. But we all know I am not a runner, and my cardio training is rather ancillary at this point. I actually do not want to care that much about it, at least right now, unless I feel weird. If I feel weird then I feel justified in looking and knowing. Then I will look for correlations between how bad the weird I feel is and what HRM tells me my heart rate is doing.

For now, I am going to forgive and try to forget HRM’s judgmental sounding comments. I will keep it, I will wear it, and I will continue to try to remember to turn it on every day. Because it’s some kind of comfort to M to believe I will check and divine wisdom from it.

The bright side takeaway? It is a pretty purple and looks normal when strapped to my wrist. MUCH better than the big and clunky Suunto.

2 thoughts on “Feeling judged by my HR monitor

  1. Oh boy! Don’t get me started. I’m a bit of a fitness nut myself. And if there is anything that is overmarketed to a willing but unsuspecting population it is GPS tracking and fitness wearables. Just my humble opinion, but the extent of my fitness electronics is my trusty cheap digital watch. No GPS, no HRM, nothing to upload. Just written into my diary.

    1. I know it! If, and that’s a pretty darn big IF, I were running in the mountains like M does with his pals, I might be interested in where I went and what the terrain is like. But I go to the gym every day. I walk up the stairs and use the same treadmill. I certainly did not need something so fancy. And as luck would have it, I have yet to have another low day since receiving this gift. I use it, but I rarely check it because I have felt just fine.

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