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Having tried many heart rate monitors (HRMs) over the years I can say they have certainly become more reliable, and some have specifically been designed with triathletes in mind. Here’s my top picks for the latest HRMs available on the market today:
Our Top Picks
1. Best Overall Heart Rate Monitor, Garmin HRM-Pro Plus at Amazon.com ($99.67)
2. Best for Accurate Heart Rate Data, Polar H10 at Amazon.com (Price not available)
3. Best for Live Swimming Stats, Polar Verity Sense at Amazon.com ($99.67)
4. Best for Running and Cycling Stats, Wahoo TICKR X at Amazon.com ($79.99)
5. Best Budget Heart Rate Monitor, Coospo H6 HRM at Amazon.com ($29.99)
Garmin has produced many HRM’s over the years such as the HRM-Swim and HRM-Tri but these appear to have been consolidated into the Garmin HRM-Pro Plus.
This means that it has features for swimmers, runners, and cyclists with no focus on swimming. The main new feature is the “no tool” battery change compartment. In the past you had to remove four screws to change the button battery which some swimmers complained made it less waterproof. With the new compartment you just remove the outer case then twist the battery cover and remove and replace the battery then twist it shut. You then clip on the outer shell and it’s fully waterproof.
For swimmers this HRM is worn around your chest (under your wetsuit or swimsuit to secure it) and records your swim data during your swim so you can view after.
You must start a timed activity on your paired Garmin device to view stored heart rate data later. During rest intervals when out of the water, the heart rate monitor sends your average and maximum heart rate for the previous interval, and your real-time heart rate, to your Garmin device.
NOTE: To record heart rate data while swimming, your HRM-Pro Plus must be paired to your compatible Garmin device using ANT+, rather than Bluetooth technology. Only some Garmin devices support heart rate data while swimming. For more information, see your owner’s manual.
Your Garmin device automatically uploads stored heart rate data when you save your timed swim activity. Your heart rate monitor must be out of the water, active, and within range of the device (3 m) while data is uploaded. Your heart rate data can be reviewed in the device history and on your Garmin Connect account.
The HRM-Pro Plus is designed primarily for open water swimming, but it can be used occasionally for pool swimming. The heart rate monitor should be worn under a swimsuit or triathlon top during pool swimming. Otherwise, it may slide down your chest when pushing off the pool wall.
The Garmin HRN-Pro plus has new Running Pace and Distance improved for indoor running and treadmill workouts. Running dynamics Including ground contact time (GCT), GCT balance, stride length, vertical oscillation and can be used with compatible Garmin watches to calculate running power.
It can connect to indoor cycling apps like Zwift to provide heart rate data.
For swimming it is best for open water swimming under a wetsuit.
The running dynamics stats and impressive and can give running power with compatible Garmin watches.
Expensive for swimmers with limited use during swimming.
Garmin state it was designed for open water swimming and not pool swimming – it can slip down your body during pool swimming.
You can only use ANT+ not Bluetooth when swimming.
The strap itself is non-standard so you need to purchase Garmin straps not low-cost generic ones.
The strap is not designed for swimming like the HRM-Swim which it replaced so may slip when swimming in the pool.
It does not have bike cadence.
Verdict: A good HRM chest strap if you are already in the Gamin ecosystem and want and chest strap for training in open water and other sports, especially running.
This is a classic and highly trusted HRM from Polar and used by triathletes like Tim Dom. It is an extremely accurate heart rate monitor for all sports.
For the best results link the H10 with your Polar watch using their Gymlink wireless link rather than Bluetooth for accuracy. The chest strap is made of a soft textile, with silicone-framed electrodes dotted along it to get the most accurate measurement possible. (The silicone helps keep the electrodes from sliding while you are stroking along).
You can use the H10 without a Polar watch and record your swimming, running, and cycling stats and review them after your training session using the Polar Beat App. If you are using a different brand watch or device than you can connect to it via Bluetooth or ANT+.
Alongside Bluetooth and ANT+ it also supports 5Khz connectivity for older gym equipment and products from Decathlon. I tried it with my Decathlon Domyos elliptical machine and you can read about it here.
You can wear it when rowing, cycling, running, training indoors. Polar H10 is fully waterproof, and it has internal memory for recording one training session.
Pair your H10 heart rate sensor directly to the GoPro Hero 5 compatibility camera and overlay your heart rate data onto the recorded video.
As a side note DC Rainmaker uses this as benchmark HRM for his product testing as it is very accurate plus it supports the 5kHz analog heart rate transmission for older gym equipment.
If you want even more accuracy across all sports or don’t want to use a Polar watch, get the H10 HRM.
Supports Bluetooth, ANT+ and 5Khz so can connect to most products and gym equipment.
The H10 on it’s own will not show your HR during your swim just after swimming.
You can’t see your HR during your swim – but you can see it after.
Verdict: Polar pride themselves on accurate heart rate monitoring and the H10 will not disappoint. It’s got the best connectivity options: Bluetooth, ANT+ and 5Khz.
The Polar Verity Sense straddles both categories as it can record your swim stats including heart rate for viewing after your swim in “swim mode” plus if used with FORM Smart Goggles can be used to view your heart rate during your swim. This is why for me it is my favourite device for heart rate when swimming.
Sync your training data to the Flow app and web service to view the details of your session. The Flow app shows a detailed summary of your session including your heart rate, distance, and pace. If necessary, you can change the pool length setting from the training analysis view, and the swimming metrics will be updated accordingly.
The Verity Sense comes with a special clip which allows you to clip it to your goggle straps and take a heart rate reading from your temple. Taking a reading from this area is more comfortable, tends to be dryer and more reliable. Chest strap type monitors tend to be uncomfortable and can slip around and make the data a bit more unreliable.
The main drawback of this setup, obviously, is that you cannot see your heart rate to know if you are in the proper heart rate training zone while you are swimming without smart swim goggles or having your smartphone parked at the end of the lane.
Used on its own, the Polar Verity Sense is more of a recording tool than a monitoring tool in the water.
If you want to see your HR while swimming with the Verity Sense, you can pair it with a set of smart swim goggles, such as the FORM Swim Goggles.
Connecting the goggles allows you to view HR on the heads-up display on the FORM goggles as well as other data such as time, distance, pace, stroke rate, stroke count, DPS and more.
It also comes with an arm strap so you can use when running, cycling, at the gym etc. Polar Verity Sense suits countless different sports. You can either follow your heart rate in real time on a connected device or app or record your session and transfer your data to your phone afterwards. Another great feature is that it is rechargeable via a provided USB charging cradle.
Lightweight and waterproof.
Has a specific clip for goggles.
Low cost and rechargeable via USB cradle.
Can be used with FORM goggles to see during your swim.
Can be used on your arm for other sports and activities which may be preferable for female athletes over a chest strap.
The Polar Flow App is easy to use.
Can be used for all activities without a phone as it records your workout for viewing after.
You can’t see your heart rate during your swim unless you use with FORM smart goggles.
Verdict Best Swimming Heart Rate Recorder and In-Swim Monitor (with FORM). Arm bases design which may suit female triathletes and those who don’t like the fell of a chest strap.
Wahoo have upgraded their Wahoo TICKR chest heart rate monitor and added built in memory, multiple wireless connections, and some running stats. The built in memory means you can go for a run or bike ride without a phone, and it will record your heart rate.
It has three Bluetooth links and unlimited ANT+ connections which will help if you like to train inside using Apple devices. It also senses cycling cadence which is great if you want an easy Zwift cycling setup or want to know your cadence when out cycling. You can also use it to take your Heart Rate Variability (HRV) readings to assess your mental and physical stress levels.
For running it will record your run dynamics which are Ground Contact Time (GCT), Cadence, Vertical Ratio, Stride Length and Vertical Oscillation but NOT running power.
This means if you want to train with running power, you will need a footpod or new Garmin watch. If you are happy with the run dynamics listed above, then the Wahoo TICKR X is a great device.
The TICKR X can be used to detect/record your heart rate while swimming. Unfortunately, Bluetooth and ANT+ signals cannot be transmitted effectively in water. The TICKR X can record up to 50 hours of heart rate data in offline mode. Once you have completed your workout and disconnected the TICKR X to stop the recording, you can pair it to the Wahoo App on your phone to download the heart rate data recording over the time of the swim. It should appear as an offline workout on the History page. If it does not, pull down in the middle of the screen to sync.
For indoor cycling it records heart rate and cycling cadence.
Built in memory means you can go for a run or bike ride without a phone or watch and it will record your stats.
For running your can record your ground contact time, cadence, vertical ration, stride length and vertical oscillation.
For indoor cycling it supports heart rate and cadence.
For running it does not record running power.
You can not see your heart rate during swimming, but you can see it after.
It uses a non-standard HR strap so you can’t use a generic strap when replacing it.
I first got to know this brand when I was looking for a suitable but low cost HRM to use with Elite HRV to track my daily Heart Rate Variability (HRV) stress score. I found this a very cable HRM and great for HRV.
The CooSpo H6 heart rate monitor accurately tracks your heart rate and calorie burn during any activity or workout. With Bluetooth and ANT+ technology, the CooSpo heart rate sensor can be connected to your smartphone, tablet, sports watch, bike computer, treadmill, spin bike, rowing machine and other fitness equipment. This HRM sensor works perfect with Wahoo, REVOOLA, Zwift, Polar beat, Endomondo, Runkeeper, IpBike, Peloton, Elite HRV app, iCardio, DDP Yoga, Connect2, vzfit, CoospoRide, iFIT, Komoot, etc.
The Coospo H6 HRM works with many sports and smart watches from Polar, Garmin, Apple, Suunto, Samsung, etc. To use the H6 with a smartphone you will need to turn off the watch’s own HRM function before pairing with the heart rate monitor.
It has a long battery life of up to 300 hours and the battery it uses is a standard CR2032 which you can replace easily. The H6 is sweat proof and waterproof with a rating of IP67.
It uses a standard heart rate chest strap so you can buy a generic replacement strap for not much money.
It cannot be used for swimming and has basic features for running and cycling.
A capable low-cost Bluetooth and ANT+ HRM.
It works with many Apps such as Zwift, Wahoo and Elite HRV for HRV readings.
A low-cost way to take morning readiness scores on the Elite HRV App.
It’s a bit on the bulky side compared to others.
It can not be used for swimming.
The Importance of heart rate monitoring in triathlon training
Heart rate monitoring is crucial for your triathlon training, providing you insights into exertion levels and cardiovascular fitness. Using a dedicated heart rate monitor offers you the following benefits:
- Precision Training – Train within specific heart rate zones for targeted objectives.
- Avoid Overexertion – Stay in the optimal range to prevent burnout and reduce the risk of injuries.
- Track Progress – Analyze heart rate data over time to monitor improvements and adjust training.
- Objective Feedback – Receive concrete metrics for performance assessment and motivation.
A dedicated heart rate monitor will enhance your triathlon training by optimizing performance, preventing overexertion, tracking progress, and providing motivation based on objective data. Many training plans will specify your training zones for each session so it’s useful to know you are training in the right zone to know you are getting the desired training effect. You can checkout the TriNewbies training plans with heart rate training zones here.
Key Considerations for Triathlete Heart Rate Monitors
When choosing the best heart rate monitor for triathletes, several criteria are important to consider. Unlike specialized monitors for individual disciplines, triathletes require a device that offers compatibility across all three disciplines. While this cross-functionality is limited to a select few heart rate monitors, understanding their features is crucial for triathletes.
Here are the 5 key considerations to keep in mind:
- Water-resistant heart rate monitoring – Triathletes need a monitor capable of accurately tracking heart rate in water during the swim leg.
- Long battery life – opt for a heart rate monitor with a prolonged battery life to support extended training sessions without the need for frequent recharging or battery replacement.
- Easy cleaning – Look for a monitor that can be easily cleaned from sweat, chlorine, and dirt, ensuring hygiene and longevity.
- Instant connectivity – Ensure that the heart rate monitor can be instantly connected to your preferred device for convenient real-time tracking.
- Accurate readings – Choose a monitor known for its precision in providing accurate heart rate data, enabling you to train with confidence and make informed adjustments.
By considering these 5 important factors – water resistance, battery life, ease of cleaning, instant connectivity, and accuracy – you can find a heart rate monitor that meets your specific needs, enhancing your performance across all disciplines.
Types of Heart Rate Monitors
There are two main types of heart rate monitors, optical and electrocardiogram (ECG). Here’s a description of these two types.
ECG Heart Rate Monitors
When it comes to heart rate monitoring, ECG (Electrocardiogram) monitors are considered the gold standard. They provide highly accurate and reliable readings by measuring the electrical signals generated by your heart. ECG monitors typically require a chest strap to be worn, which houses the electrodes that capture the signals. This setup ensures precise tracking, especially during intense workouts or in situations where accuracy is critical. If you prioritize precise and consistent heart rate data, an ECG heart rate monitor might be the ideal choice for you. ECG type HRMs can also be used to measure Heart Rate Variability (HRV).
Optical Heart Rate Monitors
On the other hand, optical heart rate monitors use LED lights and photodiodes to track your heart rate. These monitors are often integrated into wearable devices such as fitness trackers or smartwatches but more laterally into arm based HRMs. They work by emitting light onto your skin and measuring the changes in light absorption caused by blood flow.
While optical heart rate monitors have come a long way in terms of accuracy, they can still be affected by factors like motion and skin tone. However, they offer the convenience of wrist-based monitoring without the need for a chest strap.
If ease of use and convenience are your priorities, an optical heart rate monitor may be the right fit for you.
Choosing the right heart rate monitor is a crucial decision for triathletes looking to optimize their training and performance. By considering the specific needs of triathlon training, such as accuracy, comfort, water resistance, battery life, compatibility, and performance during your swim, bike and run you can select a heart rate monitor that aligns with your goals and enhances your overall training experience.
Among the top heart rate monitors available for triathletes, the Polar H10 stands out with its advanced features, including accurate heart rate tracking, multisport capabilities, long battery life, and compatibility with popular training platforms. The Wahoo TICKR X also impresses with its comprehensive performance metrics, advanced training features, running metrics and indoor cycling cadence.
If you want to see your swimming stats when swimming, then the Polar Verity Sense with FORM Smart goggles will give you real time HR as you swim in the head up display.
Remember, every triathlete has unique preferences and requirements, so it’s essential to assess your own needs and prioritize the features that matter most to you. Ultimately, investing in a high-quality heart rate monitor will provide valuable insights, aid in precise training, and elevate your performance across all three disciplines of swimming, cycling, and running.
So, choose wisely, train smart, and enjoy the benefits of training with a top-notch heart rate monitor on your journey to triathlon success.
|Garmin HRM Pro-Plus||Chest||ECG||Open Water store and view after||Yes||Yes||Yes||Bluetooth, ANT+||Cell|
|Polar H10||Chest||ECG||Yes – store and view after||Yes||Yes||Yes||Bluetooth, ANT+, 5 KHz||Cell|
|Polar Verity Sense||Arm and Goggles||Optical||Yes – real time with FORM Goggles||Yes||Yes||No||2 x Bluetooth, ANT+||Rechargeable|
|Wahoo TICKR X||Chest||ECG||Yes – store and view after||Yes – Cadence||Yes – Run Dynamics||Yes||3 x Bluetooth, ANT+||Cell|
|Coospo H6||Chest||ECG||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Bluetooth, ANT+||Cell|
A heart rate monitor is a valuable tool for triathletes as it provides real-time insights into your exertion levels, allowing you to train with precision and optimize your performance. It helps you avoid overexertion, track your progress, and make data-driven adjustments to your training program.
An ECG heart rate monitor measures the electrical signals generated by your heart using electrodes. It is known for its accuracy and reliability, often requiring a chest strap. On the other hand, an optical heart rate monitor uses LED lights and photodiodes to track heart rate from the wrist. While convenient, it may be slightly less accurate due to factors like motion and skin tone.
Not all heart rate monitors are suitable for swimming. Look for models specifically designed for water resistance to ensure accurate tracking during the swim leg. These monitors are typically rated for water resistance and can withstand immersion in water.
Battery life varies among different heart rate monitor models. Some monitors offer long battery life to support extended training sessions, while others may require more frequent recharging. Check the specifications of the heart rate monitor you are considering to ensure it aligns with your training needs.
Many heart rate monitors can connect to other devices and training platforms such as smartphones, fitness apps, cycling computers, or smartwatches. Compatibility may vary, so it’s essential to check if your preferred monitor integrates with the devices or platforms you plan to use.
Cleaning methods may vary depending on the specific model. However, most heart rate monitors can be wiped clean with a damp cloth after workouts. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to ensure proper cleaning and maintenance.
Yes, many heart rate monitors designed for running come in a wrist-worn format, eliminating the need for a chest strap. These monitors utilize optical sensors to track heart rate from the wrist, offering convenience and freedom of movement during your runs.
Absolutely! Heart rate monitors are excellent tools for interval training and high-intensity workouts. By monitoring your heart rate during these sessions, you can ensure you’re pushing yourself to the appropriate intensity levels and recovering adequately between intervals.
Yes, certain heart rate monitors are specifically designed for swimming and can track heart rate while you’re in the water. These monitors are typically water-resistant and can withstand immersion, allowing you to monitor your heart rate during swim sessions.
Not necessarily. While some swimming heart rate monitors use chest straps, there are also wrist-based and google mounted options available that utilize optical sensors to track heart rate. Consider your preference and comfort when choosing a swimming heart rate monitor.
Yes, many heart rate monitors are compatible with cycling computers or bike computers that support heart rate connectivity. This allows you to view your heart rate data alongside other cycling metrics, providing comprehensive insights into your performance.
Heart rate monitoring is an excellent tool for pacing during long rides. By setting and staying within specific heart rate zones, you can maintain a consistent effort level, prevent burnout, and optimize your endurance for extended periods on the bike.
Heart Rate Variability refers to the variation in time intervals between successive heartbeats. It is a measure of the fluctuations in your heart rate, providing insights into the balance between your sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems.
HRV is typically measured using a heart rate monitor that captures beat-to-beat intervals between heartbeats. This data is then analyzed to calculate various HRV metrics, such as standard deviation, root mean square of successive differences (RMSSD), or frequency domain measurements.
HRV serves as an indicator of autonomic nervous system activity, which plays a significant role in regulating stress, recovery, and overall health. Higher HRV is generally associated with better fitness levels, increased resilience to stress, and improved overall well-being.
HRV can be used as a tool to guide your training. By tracking changes in HRV over time, you can assess your body’s response to training load, identify signs of fatigue or overtraining, and make adjustments to optimize your training program. HRV-guided training can help you find the right balance between stress and recovery for improved performance.
Yes, HRV can be influenced by various factors such as sleep quality, nutrition, hydration, stress levels, illness, and external stressors. It’s important to consider these factors when interpreting HRV data and making training decisions.
The frequency of HRV measurement depends on your training goals and individual response to training. Some athletes prefer daily measurements, while others may choose to track HRV a few times per week. Consistency in measurement timing and conditions is key for accurate comparisons and trend analysis.
There are various heart rate monitors, wearable devices, and mobile apps available that can measure HRV. These include chest strap heart rate monitors, wrist-worn fitness trackers, and dedicated HRV monitoring apps. Choose a reliable and validated device or app that suits your needs and preferences.