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Polar FT40 Heart Rate Monitor
I had an overweight friend a few years ago enter a fitness contest and then went crazy over spin class for the next 2 months. She was really dedicated and the weight just peeled off. She looked incredible at the end of 2 months and placed 3rd in the contest. She credited nearly all of it to spinning class. (But I would say her consistency was the key)
Knowing that I would be working out like crazy the first few weeks of the year, and more specifically knowing I was interested in taking some spinning classes (which are FANTASTIC BTW), I wanted to look into a heart rate monitor, and I decided to go with the Polar FT40. There is a black strap that you wear under your shirt which has a heart monitoring device. The band has to be wet for it to record a good signal, and you also have to "calibrate" it for your body type, but once you have it set up, this particular model will allow you to monitor your heart rate in real time. (Meaning all I have to do is look down at the watch and it tells me what my heart is doing). The FT40 is also waterproof for swimming and water type activities.
I have always been aware of there being an optimal heart rate to burn fat, but without a heart rate monitor, I could never really tell where that point was. The watch will tell you when you are at your optimal fat burning state and when you are developing cardio fitness, which is where I have been typically training based on the intensity of my exercise- I always thought you needed to push, push, push yourself to burn fat- and now I am realizing I have been over doing it.
What I am finding now works really great is going back and forth between the two phases of cardio "fitness" and fat burning, like the spinning class. I also learned that my heart rate is about the same during a brisk walk on the beach vs. a much less interesting elliptical machine.
In any event, if you are serious about losing weigh or doing any kind of cardio training, I think this is a very valuable tool. I've used it nearly everyday since I bought it.
There are many nicer models out there, Garmin for example has one that will track your location. There are some very cheap models out there too, Wal-Mart has one for like $40, but you have to place your finger on it for it to measure your heart rate. I like the FT40 because it gives me the info in real time, is waterproof, well built and I can replace the batteries myself. If you look around you can find them online for about $110.