Why is my heart rate monitor going crazy?

Have you found yourself asking the question, “What’s going on with my heart rate monitor?”  It’s acting erratically, giving you widely divergent readouts, and telling you that your heart is beating at a level more normal of your Grandma Edna or your dog Fido.  And you know for a fact that there’s no way your heart is beating that slow or that fast.  What the *#$& is going on?!?!

As much as we love our heart rate monitors and as much as we’d like to think they’re perfect tools for us modern-day athletes (especially given the price we paid for them), they do have one Achilles’ heel characteristic of all modern-day gadgets: they require a sufficient signal from your heart rate transmitter for an accurate reading (heck, even the venerable iPhone 4 has signal issues).

Simple enough, but what causes an insufficient signal?  Have no fear, the ActiveWatcher’s diagnosis is here.  The most common causes are:

  • No Synchronization: For your heart rate monitor to work, the transmitter must be in “sync” with the watch unit.  Syncing entails the initial connection between the transmitter and watch, so the watch knows the signal it’s supposed to pick-up.  The syncing process must be performed if you’re using the heart rate monitor for the first time, and the process varies with each watch brand.  Refer to your heart rate monitor’s manual for syncing instructions.
  • Dead or Low Battery: Most heart rate transmitters require a battery, which is usually the size of a common watch battery.  In many cases, the battery is dead or too weak to enable the transmitter to emit a strong enough signal to the watch.  Simply replace the battery with a new one.  If you do, make sure you replace the battery cover and any other accessories (such as rubber “o-ring”) exactly as you originally found it on the transmitter.  If not, the transmitter may no longer be waterproof and you may permanently damage it.
  • Improper Wear: Perhaps you’re wearing the transmitter improperly.  The transmitter is attached to a strap that must be worn around your chest.  Specific instructions for proper wear vary with each brand, but generally require you to wear the strap across you chest, right below your breasts and above your abdomen.  (For those of you with bra issues, consider purchasing the Polar Heart Bra.)  As Garmin puts it, the [Forerunner] heart-rate monitor is to be worn with the logo right-side up, directly on the skin just beneath the breastplate.  Direct contact to skin and moisture is necessary to establish an electrical connection between your body and the heart-rate monitor.”  Also, make sure that the strap is tight enough so it is constantly in contact with your skin, even while you’re moving.  (For those of you with very hairy chests, consider shaving – seriously.)  In addition, wet the sensors on your strap.  The sensors read the electricity emitted from your heartbeats, and the water essentially serves as an electrical agent that helps the sensor better recognize the electricity.  Electrode gel also helps.  As Garmin states, “it may be necessary to wet the contacts on the monitor or use electrode gel to get a reliable connection established at the beginning of a workout.  The ActiveWatcher knows this last point from firsthand experience; on several occasions, the ActiveWatcher’s heart rate monitor stopped going haywire only after sweat accumulated under the strap.
  • Signal Interference: This is perhaps one of the more common sources of heart rate monitor frustration.  Because your heart rate monitor relies on a signal from the transmitter, almost any other nearby electrical signal may interfere with the transmitter’s signal.  The result: your watch unit can’t recive the transmitter’s signal.  Common sources of signal interference include treadmills, MP3 players, bike computers, and cellular phones.  In fact, if others around you are also using a heart rate monitor, you may be picking up the signal from another monitor.  (In Polar parlance, this is called “crosstalk” and can be avoided by watches with coded transmission signals.)  Believe it or not, signal interference may even be caused by static electricity from synthetic shirts.  If any of this occurs, try moving away from potential sources of interference.
  • Dirt: For all of you hard core athletes out there, dirt may partially block the signal.  Simply clean the transmitter.  Wash by hand, use a mild soap, and dry as much as possible with a towel.  (And if your transmitter is indeed dirty, kudos to you!)

If all else fails, call the manufacturer.  Its contact information can be found in the watch’s instruction manual or on-line.  The ActiveWatcher can tell you from first-hand experience that the watch companies are eager to help, even if your heart rate monitor is no longer under warranty.  If your heart rate monitor still doesn’t work after consulting with the manufacturer, consider buying a refurbished version of the same heart rate monitor you currently have.  Finally, you may have to resort to buying a brand new heart rate monitor.  But if you’re anything like the ActiveWatcher, you’ll be excited about that prospect.  Click here to check out ActiveWatches’ broad selection of cutting-edge heart rate monitors.

The ActiveWatcher



Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: