Over the last few years, running has been a complete roller coaster ride for me. I reluctantly quit running 4 years ago when the pain in my feet got in the way, but it wasn’t long before I was once again lacing up my sneakers. It’s still one of my prouder accomplishments. But running through the pain in my feet caused me to change my stride and I ended up injuring my knee a year and a half later. I’ve been struggling with that nagging injury ever since. I’ve been through just about everything: saw an orthopedist, did physical therapy, went through rehab with a sports chiropractor. I rested, I strengthened, I stretched- I never healed.

I stopped focusing on my knee during pregnancy, knowing I could just be asking for more trouble since your tendons and ligaments go through enough changes while pregnant. I stayed active and maintained {maybe even improved?} my strength. But I didn’t run.

Within a few weeks after giving birth {which was a year ago today!!}, I was hitting the pavement once again. Although every muscle fiber in my body wanted to all out sprint for 10 miles, I’m no idiot. I started by walking, then slowly adding in 1 minute intervals of jogging. It wasn’t long before I realized my knee wasn’t ready for running yet.

Fast forward a few {ok, many} sleepless months later and I still wasn’t running. I’d lost my drive for the proper rehab my knee needed in order to be in running shape again. While I desperately missed the relief running provided, I knew I just wasn’t up to the consistency and dedication that was necessary to build back the needed strength to support my knee.

I’m ready now though. I’ve already learned I like to have that nice little extra motivation though- a time, a speed, and distance to beat. That’s not going to jive with my current plan though. I need to focus on building strength in my hips, hamstrings, glutes, and core. I don’t need to go far or be fast, but I’m still itching for a way to gage my intensity. Something to push me a little harder when I don’t necessarily feel like it.

It’s ironic I’m a numbers person when it comes to running, seeing as I’ve never running with a Garmin or GPS or anything electronic aside from an iPod. Since I can’t log miles or pace or speed, I turned to something else: heart rate.

polar ft40 heart rate monitor review

Sounds really boring right? Well it’s kind of cool to see my heart rate spike as I pick up the pace during intervals, then watch how fast {or not fast} it drops as I recover. I’m big into strength training anyway, but watching the numbers on the heart rate monitor spike as I go through a circuit helps me keep the intensity up. Goodness knows getting as much bang for my buck any time I can squeeze a workout in is priceless.

I’ve been using the Polar FT40 heart rate monitor that I got from FitFluential to track my progress. This model automatically tells you what “zone” you are in: fat burning or fitness. Fat burning occurs at a lower intensity, while cranking it up a notch pushes you into fitness improvement territory. That’s what I’m going for. I really don’t need to be burning fat right now, but improving my fitness is definitely a goal. It’s fun to see how little things like a fast-paced stroller walk or big things like a high intensity bootcamp strength circuit add up.

polar heart rate monitor

The FT40 shows how many calories you burn during your workout by using your weight and heart rate, which is much MUCH more accurate than the haphazard guess a treadmill or elliptical will spit out at you. I’m not one for counting calories, but a bonus of this feature is helping you figure out how to properly refuel. Protein is a great tool for muscle recovery, but you also need enough calories post workout to ensure you’re building muscle and not burning it away. On the flip side, sometimes you overestimate how many calories you burn during a workout and you eat away all your hard work.

polar ft40 review

I usually think of these type of watches and monitors as big and bulky, but I was pleasantly surprised with the size of the FT40 watch when I opened the box. It’s extremely comfortable and perfectly sized for any size wrist. The heart rate monitor also comes with a chest strap that you wear just above your ribcage. Electrodes in the strap are what measure your heart rate. It’s made of a comfortable material, although I get a little chill every time I put it on- the electrodes need to be wet to transmit a current. Although the strap is adjustable, I find it a little big unless I can get it tucked well under my sports bra.

polar ft40

A heart rate monitor is a great tool for beginners as well as avid athletes- by truly “recovering” on your rest days and pushing it on high intensity days, you can make your training much more efficient and worthwhile.

I’ve only been using heart rate as a tool for my workouts for a couple weeks, but so far I’m digging it. I’ll give you an update in another couple weeks to see what I think then. Winking smile

Have you ever used a heart rate monitor for training?

Note: I received this Polar FT40 heart rate monitor through a campaign with FitFluential. Pretty cool, huh? All opinions are my own of course!