Is Your Heart Rate Monitor Acting Crazy? – Quick Tip

Garmin GPS Heart Rate Monitor, Strap and Gel

I am using a Garmin Forerunner 110 with a Garmin HRM1G Heart Rate Monitor strap. So far the Spectra 360 Electrode Gel is making a huge difference in the reliability of the heart rate readings.

A lot of the racers that I know wear heart rate straps across their chest to help measure their efforts in training and races.  Last spring, I decided to buy a heart rate monitor to help out with my training.

I figured out a rough estimate of my maximum heart rate and set up some training zones on my cycling computer.  I was ready to conquer the world one carefully calibrated workout at a time.

That’s when the frustration kicked in.  When I started my workouts I had a hard time getting my heart rate monitor to read properly.  Once, I was well into my workout and covered in sweat my monitor would start working better, but I was still plagued with dropouts in the readings.  When it was cold outside sometimes I couldn’t even get sweaty enough for it to work.  There was also the mysterious phenomenon that would occur when all of a sudden my readings would be twice as high as I knew should be.

I could see the obvious link between the amount of sweat on my body and the accuracy of the heart rate monitor so I would try to wet the sensors with water or saliva to mimic that.  It would help a little, but it was still hit-or-miss.

I was ready to throw my heart rate monitor in the trash.  It was not acting as a reliable indicator of intensity for workouts, races or calorie counting.

This christmas my wife bought me a running watch with GPS and a heart rate monitor strap.  It worked better than my previous year’s experience, but it still wasn’t perfect.  How could so many people rely on such an unreliable piece of equipment?

I have finally discovered one of the secrets and I wish someone had told me this sooner.  It would have saved me so much grief and anxiety.  I am telling you now in the hopes that your workouts can be more efficient.

USE AN ELECTRODE GEL ON THE STRAP’S HEART RATE SENSORS.

James Knott shows off his new Garmin Forerunner 110

Heart rate monitoring is so much more satisfying now that the readings are more accurate. While I would still recommend training with a power meter over heart rate training, the two of them together combine to be an even more powerful tool in mountain bike racing.

It’s that easy.

I’m not trying to take the credit for this not-so-revolutionary idea.  I actually stumbled on it on through of my favorite blogs, dcrainmaker.com.  He had an article about troubleshooting heart rate strap issues and I thought it was brilliant.  I’m just spreading the word in case there is anyone out there dealing with the same issues.

I was able to buy two tubes of Spectra 360 Electrode Gel for under $10.  This is enough gel to last me for a long, long time. I might still be using these when my young children head off to college.  It really is fairly cheap and it makes an amazing difference in the accuracy of your monitor.  Spit is cheaper and easier to access but doesn’t work nearly as well.

While I was waiting for the gel to come from Amazon, I decided to look around the house for other sources of moisture to add to the sensors.  I found that Astroglide personal lubricant gel also worked pretty well.  However, I’m not so sure that this is a recommended substance for this purpose.  I better save that for my other recreational activities. 😉

It got me wondering though, do any of you have any tips for people who are having trouble with their heart rate monitors?  Are there other common household substances that you can use to add moisture to the contact points on your strap?

Am I the only one that was having this problem?  Are other brands of heart rate monitors more reliable?  What kind of advice can you give to me and my readers?  Please share your wisdom in the comment section.

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