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Polar FT60 Heart Rate Monitor Review

The Polar FT60 heart rate monitor is your own personal coach and electronic motivator. It will plan your workouts and give you specific training advice. Here’s why you need it.

I was always taught when working out, no pain no gain. If my 10K times weren’t improving it was because I wasn’t working hard enough. Train more, train harder. Ignore pain and injury. Well, over time I’ve learned that is not what you want to do, especially if you want to get better in endurance sports like running or cycling.

You should listen to what your body is telling you. But unfortunately, your interpretation of that can be notoriously inaccurate. I know mine is. If my body is sore and I just want to go for a nice easy 5K run I always end up telling myself, “Kick it up you lazy bum!” “You need to do a 15K today with some interval sprints if you ever want to see your time drop!” In reality, I probably should just go for a light recovery type run. But without a track coach measuring my workouts, how do I really know? The only real way to know if you are over or under training is to monitor different fitness measures. And the best measure you can look at for this is your heart rate.

There are many heart rate monitors on the market, but the Polar FT60 does the best job of actually providing coaching and training recommendations. It’s like having your own personal electronic trainer. It will measure and interpret your training and cardiovascular data and make recommendations on how much and at what intensity you should train for the next week.

If you’re not working hard enough it will tell you to pick it up, and if you are working too hard it will tell you to slow down and take a recovery week. If you follow the Polar FT60 recommendations you should see a fantastic improvement in your fitness level and your running or cycling race times should really start to drop. And that is really what this technology is all about.

Here is what you can expect from the Polar FT60 in detail.

Polar FT60 Heart Rate Monitor
Polar FT60 Heart Rate Monitor

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The Polar Star Training Program Takes Your Training To A Whole New Level

When you first start using the FT60 you enter some basic data about yourself such as your age, weight, height, sex, fitness level, activity level, and training goal. Then the Polar FT60 will design a training program specific to you. Using the Polar Star Training Program you’ll know that you’re training at the optimal intensity and for the correct length of time to meet your fitness goals.

The FT60 will map out a whole training program for you based on your particular goals. You get specific feedback from the Polar wrist unit on your performance after each training session and once a week. You get constant feedback while you workout so you know what your average and maximum heart rate is, and what zone you are training in. If you go above or below the zone of the day, the alarm will sound, telling you to dial it back or speed up to get back in the right heart pace zone. On the watch face you can see your zones in a nice graph so you can tell how hard you’re working with a glance.

The FT60 will give you daily and weekly training targets and tell you exactly what you need to do in terms of length and intensity of your workout and what cardio rate zone you should be training in. After you complete a weeks worth of training, the FT60 will then analyze your training results and give you recommendations for how to train the following week. Just like a real life coach would do. The training program recommendations will automatically adapt to your improving fitness level and your particular training habits.

You can choose from three training goals on the FT60. You can change these goals at any time as your fitness level changes by creating a new training program.

  1. Improve fitness –  This is your goal if you want to boost your cardiovascular fitness level and you are able to work out consistently.
  2. Lose weight –  This training goal will focus in on burning calories and cutting fat. When training with this goal in mind, the FT60 will display how much energy and how many calories you’ve burned for each workout session. You can also look at weekly and monthly totals. The FT60 will set daily and weekly calorie burning goals for you. It will also let you know what percentage of the calories you burned were fat.
  3. Maximize fitness –  You should focus in on this goal if you want to maximize your cardiovascular fitness level and training every day is doable for you. This is for people who have been training regularly for at least 10-12 weeks prior to starting with the Polar FT60.

This video really explains the program well.

When the FT60 plans your weekly workouts you’ll see the following on the screen of the wrist monitor.

  1. Time target – this is the amount of time you should train for the week
  2. Calorie target – the number of calories you should burn during the week in kcal.
  3. Zone targets – This is how much time you should be training in each of 3 different cardio rate target zones. This is shown in a nice bar graph on the watch face. The bars will fill up for each zone as you put time in at that particular intensity level over the week. You can scroll through each bar and it will show you the time you spent in each zone as well.

Polar’s Target Training Zones

Zone% of Max Heart RateBenefits
160-70%This is an easy, comfortable intensity level that everyone can handle. It’s good for warm-ups, helps recovery, and improves basic endurance.
270-80%The level where you get improved aerobic fitness. Breathing is still easy and you have some moderate sweating. This level is typical for training sessions of moderate length.
380-90%You’ll feel very tired and have some heavy breathing at this level. It’s good for short training sessions and will increase your maximum performance capacity.

After you’ve been using Polar’s training program for a while, you can look at your stats to see how well you are progressing. You can easily see the number of weeks that you hit your training goals, how many calories you burned and even take a before and after fitness test.

The Polar FT60 Coaches You To Do Better

Every Sunday at midnight an envelope appears on your wrist monitor that will show you the results of your previous week of training. If you met your target for the week based on your goals then you will get some encouraging words from your Polar. You’ll see, “Excellent,” on the display and you’ll be awarded a little digital trophy. Training goals are measured by how long you worked out, how long you spent in each training zone, and how many calories you burned over the week. It’s easy to see what you achieved for each target and what your goal actually was and compare the two.

Based on what you did the previous week, the Polar FT60 will then make a recommendation for you for the upcoming week. You’ll see messages on the wrist screen that say things like, “Train a lot more,” which means you need to work harder to see some benefits, or “Train less in zone 3.” Zone 3 is the high intensity zone, so you need to dial it back a notch in the upcoming week. The FT60 will also make a recommendation on when you should have a recovery week to avoid overtraining.

At various intervals as you reach your fitness goals each week, the FT60 will ask you to take a fitness test. This will assess how much your fitness level has improved in relation to your original fitness test that you took when you first started.

There are also extensive weight loss measurement goals. You have to input your weight each week and the FT60 will tell you how many calories you should be burning and show a graph with your weight over time.

On average it takes about 6 weeks of regular training to noticeably improve your aerobic fitness.

The Polar FT60 stores and records up to 100 training sessions. If you want to record more, just upload your data to polarpersonaltrainer.com. On the site you can see graphs and get a better understanding of your training. You need a Polar Flowlink device to transfer your data from the watch to your computer.

Polar FT60
Polar FT60

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The Polar Starting Fitness Level Test

The Polar FT60 heart rate monitor has its own baseline fitness test so that you get a handle on where you stand fitness-wise before you start using the device. They call it the OwnIndex and it’s comparable to the VO2 Max measurement. Polar has guidelines on how to perform the test in their Owner’s Manual.

Basically you put the heart pace checker and wrist receiver on and lay down for about 5 minutes. The FT60 then automatically calculates you

Optional Accessories That Can Really Enhance Your Experience

Polar offers several accessories that can really add some nice features to your Polar FT60 heart rate monitor. If you train outdoors a lot, I highly recommend the Polar GPS Sensor. This device allows you to view speed and distance data as an average and a maximum. The GPS can be attached to an armband that is included in the package or you can clasp it to your shorts. It’s water-resistant. If you want to improve your time and speed over a particular race distance then the GPS sensor is a must-have.

The GPS won’t work indoors, so if you’re going to be in the gym a lot and want to keep track of distance and speed, then you should look at the Polar S1 Foot Pod. Like the GPS device, the foot pod gives you information on the distance you’ve traveled during a single workout and the total distance you’ve traveled since the pod was last reset. The foot pod will also provide you with your current, average, and maximum speed, and your pace, which is your rate of speed. Pace tells you how fast you need to go to cover a certain distance in a certain amount of time. The foot pod easily attaches to your shoelaces.

If you want to upload your data to your computer and to the free Polar website, PolarPersonalTrainer.com, then you’ll need to buy the Polar FlowLink device. The website really has a lot of cool free things to offer so you should definitely check it out. To get the most out of it though you really need to add your own data and for that you need the FlowLink. I highly recommend getting it so that you can get an even better analysis of your training data.

Pros

  • Easy to review your workout data – The screens are very easy to read on the FT60 as you are working out. It’s also very easy to read a summary of your workouts. You can also see how much you need to train in certain zones in the coming week by looking at bar graphs. For me, the more visual cues a device has, like charts and graphs, the better.
  • A ton of training features – As I talk about above, the FT60 is just full of useful features. If you need coaching advice and guidance on your training, then the FT60 is the way to go.
  • Good looking watch – Polar offers a very sleek and sophisticated design for the FT60 and it’s available in both women’s and men’s designs. The men’s watch is more of a square design and is only available in black. The Polar FT60 Women’s Heart Rate Monitor comes in purple and black and has a more feminine design. They both offer the same tech features.
  • Optional GPS and foot pods – Many cardiac organ speed watches don’t have GPS capability built in so it’s good that Polar offers this. By using these devices you can track your speed, distance, and cadence.
  • It really motivates and guides you – The FT60 will tell you if you need to pick up the pace or if you are training too hard. Many users find it very motivating to try and meet the goals that the FT60 has set for them each week. If you hit your goals you also get a little digital trophy.
  • Accurate and reliable – Numerous testing centers and users attest to the accuracy and reliability of the Polar FT60.
  • Polar website PolarPersonalTrainer.com – The website is really cool! You can create customized training programs, track your progress, find strength building exercises and use a variety of calculators to monitor your improvement. You can use the site without purchasing the Flow Link device, but you won’t be able to add your own training data. On the website you can setup different sports training sessions. You can add activities like Wii Boxing, Yoga, Running, and Cycling in the My Sports tab on the site. You can also join competitions between other members of the site. You can go head to head in all sorts of different categories, like most weight loss, most miles run in a week, or most calories burned in a month. You can even set up your own unique competitions and ask other to join. It’s really a nice community and can be really motivating.

This video tells you more about the Polarpersonaltrainer.com website.

Cons

  • Data uplink to your computer not included – You have to pay extra for this. It would be nice if Polar included this. But you can use the watch alone and really have everything you need to progress in your training. It’s nice to be able to upload your data though.
  • There’s no stop watch – You can’t set up interval workouts or laps. If you do a lot of timed workouts, you’ll have to use another watch that has a stopwatch on it. Most all regular watches have a stopwatch. And it’s not that bad having to wear another watch on your other wrist. I’m not sure why Polar didn’t add this in though.
  • Won’t record heart rate data while swimming – If you’re a triathlete or primarily a swimmer you’re out of luck if you want to record your heart pace. The monitor and the chest transmitter can’t communicate due to interference from the water. This is the case with all wireless heart rate devices. You can however wear the watch and strap in the water because both are waterproof. If you’d like a pulse velocity gauge that you can use while swimming, I recommend the Suunto t6c pulse speed computer which has an optional swimming accessory you can use to record pulse rate under water.

What’s Included

You get the Polar FT60 training computer, the Polar WearLink transmitter, and the Owner’s Manual. All other accessories are extra.

If you’d like to check out even more detail, we have the Polar FT60 User Manual available for you to download and review.

Polar FT60 Heart Rate Monitor
Polar FT60 Heart Rate Monitor

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Where Can I Buy the Polar FT60 Heart Rate Monitor?

I checked out a number of different online retailers and I found the best prices were on Amazon.com. They also have all of the accessories that come with the FT60 like the FlowLink computer connection device and the GPS pod. Amazon often has sales on the FT60 as well. Search for the best deals on Amazon.

More About Polar

Polar invented the first wireless heart rate monitor that was as accurate as an EKG in 1977. It was developed as a training tool for the Finnish National Cross Country Ski Team. Today Polar produces a wide variety of cardio speed monitors that cater to customers at all levels of fitness. They employ over 1,200 people worldwide and supply over 35,000 retail outlets in more than 80 countries.

Other Helpful Resources

Bicycling.com’s gear reviewer, Liz Reap Carlson, tried out the Polar FT60 computer recently. She wanted to do some more cross training and felt that the FT60 would be a good device to help her keep track of her fitness level. She really loved that the FT60 would give her a report at the end of each week telling how she needed to train the next week. It would let her know if she was slacking off and needed to push a little harder. She found all of the training features with the FT60, like the fitness feedback, to be very motivating. She also thought that it was very easy to use. Overall she felt that based on the information that the FT60 gave her, she was able to become a better athlete.

Runner’s World Magazine tested several heart rate monitors amongst a variety of different level athletes. They gave the Polar FT60 to Jennifer Parker, a 31 year old mom and homemaker. Parker found that she had been training too hard and the FT60 recommended that she cut back a bit. When she started doing some slower recovery type runs instead of going all out for every workout she found that she had more energy. She also found that trying to meet the goals that the FT60 set for her each week were extremely motivating. With the help of the Polar FT60 heart rate monitor she ended up running one of her best 10K’s, finishing in the top third overall.

If you have ever trained with a Polar FT60 tell us about it. Did you like the FT60? You can add your comments below.

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