Gear Review: Polar RS800CX Run Heart Rate Monitor

Picture 1While I keep promising myself that I’ll return to the ‘jumpers for goalposts’ simplicity of my youth, I’m afraid that the lure of the mighty gadget just won’t go away.

So when a new Polar 800CX Run turned up here at Jelly Baby Towers, I must admit that I was all agog to try it out. But first, I had to read the manual…

You see, unlike some of the running gadgetry I’ve tried out lately, this isn’t a ‘strap it on and head for the hills’ piece of kit. Instead, this is a very serious, state-of-the-art HRM for people who are really serious about training.

And so, being a bit of a lightweight, technologically-speaking, after a brief flirtation with the HRM function, the 800CX was left languishing on a shelf in my study, while I plucked up the courage to immerse myself in its many training features.

Getting Serious About Heart Rate Training

Now, while I have already pontificated long and hard about lessons learned with regard to heart rate, it turns out that I had only scratched the surface previously.

Where the 800CX stands head and shoulders above the competition is in allowing you to plan, monitor and analyse  your training with pre-loaded plans downloaded from the Polar website.

So rather than taking wild guesses about the optimal way to train for particular events, the 8ooCX offers you complete plans for a range of target distances, as well as offering in-depth analysis of your performance, including key fitness indicators such as your heart rate recovery times.

It will even allow you to view your actual heart rate, as well as that heart rate expressed as a percentage of your maximum heart rate while you’re running. And don’t even get me started on the number of ways it offers you to evaluate your performance once you’ve gotten home, had a shower, and put the fabric chest strap from the HRM in the washing machine.

Which means that for those who are really serious about the effect of letting heart rate rather than simply pace dictate their training, the Polar 800CX Run really offers everything you need, and quite a lot more besides.

How Easy is it to Use?

Well, this isn’t as immediately usable as some HRMs I’ve tried, mainly as the controls on the watch unit aren’t terribly intuitive, and required quite a bit of setting up.

However, the PC interface is very usable, and the fabric chest strap (which requires you to run it under the tap before and after use) is extremely comfortable, which sets it well above the hard plastic version offered by Garmin.

Once you’re out on the road, the numerals on the watch are clear and readable, and the backlight function works well; which is a boon for all of us so ungainly that we do the bulk of our running under cover of the night.

What’s in the Box?

polar usbThe kit I received included the watch unit you see above, an extremely comfortable chest strap, with removable transmitter unit, Polar S3 stride sensor and a USB dongle to plug into your PC.

As I use RunKeeper Pro on an iPhone to track distance, the stride sensor was of nominal interest, though it turned out to be easy to use and much more accurate than the Nike+ equivalent.

The Not Quite As Smug As Usual Findings

While I’ve come around to the notion that heart rate matters more than pace when you’re trying to achieve optimal fitness through running, I’m possibly just not quite as serious about this as the Polar 800CX would have liked me to be.

It offers every inducement to take training as seriously as the top pros, but I’m afraid that I’m just a little bit too old to do so.

However, for all of the committed and commendably fit runners out there who want world class support in becoming the best that they can be, I really don’t see how the Polar 800CX could be any more comprehensive.

45jellyratingNow, at a list price for the kit I had of around the £350 mark, you really do have to be serious about listening to your heart while training. But if you really are that committed, you’re going to absolutely love the 800CX.

Which is why, despite having been made to feel slightly lightweight and inadequate by this piece of kit, I suppose I have to give it a 4.5 Jelly Baby rating anyway, with half a Jelly Baby being deducted just for being a little less easy to use than it might have been.

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