When it comes to exercise, no one wants to be seen as having all the equipment, but they have no idea. That said, having one of the best fitness trackers, best smartwatches or, for the most accurate measurements, heart rate monitors can really help improve your health and fitness in the long run.
Ultramarathon swimmer Ross Edgely, whose previous stunts included swimming 157 days and 1,792 miles around Britain, is no stranger to useful fitness tech. In a recent interview with TechRadar to promote the new Disney Plus series Limitless with Chris Hemsworth, we asked the leading author which kit he finds most helpful in his daily exercise routine.
Edgley says it doesn’t take much effort to get started in fitness, advocating “Zone 2” aerobic training, such as slow and steady jogging, swimming or cycling. He recommends using a heart rate monitor as a measure of intensity to make sure you’re not overdoing it.
“I think that’s one of the best things [you can buy] is any form of heart rate monitor, especially when it comes to Zone 2 [aerobic exercise]Edgley tells us. “It’s counter-intuitive for a lot of athletes – everyone who trains just wants to kill themselves like it’s not a good session, unless you’re lying on the floor sweating, wondering what happened. The idea behind Zone 2 fitness is to increase the efficiency of your mitochondria so that your heart rate never exceeds 120, 130 beats per minute. Using your heart rate as a measure of intensity is very important.”
Edgley continues: “There was a study – a meta-study, a study of thousands of studies – to determine the best form of cardiovascular activity for a particular sport. And in the end it turned out not to be. However, this polarized approach to training where you spend 80% of your time doing aerobic training in Zone 2 and 20% doing anaerobic training during these milk sessions is very important.”
Just to be clear: strapping a heart rate monitor to your wrist won’t automatically turn you into a He-Man of exercise. But, as Edgley explains, the idea behind these devices is to make you aware of how your chosen training affects your body’s cardiovascular fitness.
“It’s really interesting that so many people, training blindly without a heart rate monitor, end up at this weird midpoint where their bodies say, ‘What do you want us to physiologically adapt to? It is not aerobic or anaerobic. It’s one of the biggest things [that a heart rate monitor can improve]”.
Heart rate monitors usually do the job of monitoring your heart rate (surprise!) better than expensive smartwatches. The latter use optical sensors that can be easily affected by sweat, hair and movement, while dedicated heart rate monitors use electrodes that detect electrical signals from the heart.
So, if you were lucky enough to receive a swanky new heart rate monitor for Christmas: congratulations! Now go in there and run away from that turkey. For those who have yet to dive into this particular branch of fitness technology, fear not. Our guide to the best heart rate monitors has options for small and large budgets – as well as a rundown of today’s best heart rate monitor deals.
For more insights into the prowess of adventurer Ross Edgley, check out our report on Chris Hemsworth’s completely ridiculous training regime for Extraction 2. We’ll also be sharing more expert advice from Edgley in TechRadar’s Get Fit For ’23 Week starting in January 2, 2023.