Polar A3
Polar A3 (courtesy, REI)

Can you suggest a well-priced heart-rate monitor?

A lot of training guides I consult for my running and cycling training talk of heart-rate "zones." I have been looking at the wide range of heart-rate monitors and wondering if you could suggest one that's reasonably priced and good for running and cycling? Michael Providence, Rhode Island

Polar A3

Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.

Carefully watching your heart rate is indeed an excellent way to monitor your training level. I prefer a simpler method—if I feel as if I’m going to throw up, I back off a little.

Polar A3 Polar A3

I kid you. (Sort of.) There are lots of excellent heart-rate monitors out there, one of which is Polar’s A3 ($80; www.polarusa.com). This unit allows you to set target= zones and receive a beep warning when you’re in or out of them, in addition to basic time/heart functions. Bike Nashbar sells a monitor with basically the same features for $50 (www.nashbar.com), one seriously good deal. Or, you can spend a ton of money and get something like Polar’s S520 ($280), which provides a link to your PC so you can set up a personal training log. As if…

All of the aforementioned models require a chest strap, which contains the sending unit. You might prefer a monitor that takes a reading off your wrist, such as a Sun Heartmeter ($89; www.rei.com), offering basic heart-monitoring functions in a wristwatch-style unit. I haven’t used such a unit, so I can’t say how well it will work.

Otherwise, you know the rules: Know your VO2 max limits (maximum heart rate), and see a doc for a checkup if you’re over 40 and have any questions at all about what you’re capable of doing. And if you’re about to toss your lunch, back off…