For those of you that have been reading my Fat2Forty series of posts, detailing my journey from being overweight and steadily approaching that milestone of middle age(!), you will know that for the last couple of months I have had a new training partner. In this post I would like to introduce the Polar M400 Heart Rate Monitor (HRM) with GPS. It is Polar’s entry level HRM but, let me assure you, there is nothing entry level about this device.
Having used Polar devices in the past I was expecting a slick device that did exactly what it said on the box. My first surprise was the packaging itself. Gone are the black plastic trays of the past instead the M400 is wrapped up in an iPhone style box looking stylish and compact. That feel stays with you as you open the box and straight away you know you have a well designed and thought out product that Polar has quietly put into the market at a price that is attractable to most long distance training athletes and is so feature packed that even Olympic athletes would do well with it.
Like the packaging, the setup process is slick and easily manageable even by the most technophobic of people. The process is easy to follow and allows you to setup your M400 with some personal biometrics that allows the M400 to do all of the calculations to make sure that you are training at the right level. The quick setup manual has enough information to allow you to get going with the M400 but for more detailed information the User manual can be found here. The full manual is needed for the more advanced users that want to customize specific options like Heart Rate Zones and Maximal Heart Rate. Once you have set up the device and have fully charged the battery you are ready to feel like a pro!
As well as the M400 you also get in the box: a USB cable to connect the device to a computer, a flexible chest strap that virtually fits all sizes and the H7 HRM with Bluetooth SMART capabilities. It is the chest strap that has changed most impressively over the years, going from a solid plastic 30cm strap to a soft strap (38% Polyamide, 29% Polyurethane, 20% Elastane, 13% Polyester) with sensors built in. The H7 unit fits snugly onto the strap and is a much more comfortable option for both men and women than the previous model. It attaches via press studs and remains secure even in the most demanding of activities. The watch itself is water resistant up to 30m as is the H7 unit.
After the easy setup process I could not wait to take the M400 out of a quick test. The chest belt remained both comfortable and secure throughout the run and the Watch quickly picked up and maintained an excellent GPS signal. The screen options can be fully customized so that you have exactly the data you want displayed to help you keep track of the vital statistics. My personal favourite view had the mile split time, the distance traveled and the time elapsed, but many other views are available. After the run the amount of information that can be seen on the watch itself is impressive ranging from mile splits to elevation climb. But the really impressive data analysis comes when you pair the device to a smart phone / tablet or computer and it syncs to Polar “FLOW” app. From either the web based browser or the app you can access all manner of data including daily activity logs and training activities. In this training log you can see the map of your run, a Heart rate profile during the run, how long you spent in each Heart Rate Zone and a pace profile, more than enough information to keep any athlete going!
It is this user interface where I believe Polar have really stole the show! It is a slick gateway to all of your information and allows you to fully customize many of the advanced features of the product. It also allows the basic user to access their “Running Index” – an indication of how well their run has gone it terms of Heart Rate compared to speed. Over time this can be used to measure progress in fitness levels and can be seen as an indication of improvement in VO2 Max. Tempo Training is also offered to the runner as an example of what has improved as a result of the training that has just taken place. After a long run you could expect to see comments regarding an improvement in your aerobic fitness, speed and ability to sustain high intensity effort for long periods of time. You may also see an indicator relating to your ability to resist fatigue. For most people this will be impressive and enough for them to know that they have done a good job. But for the more advanced user a delve a bit deeper is needed.
This is so much more than a HRM!! Polar have produced a really well manufactured high spec product. It will easily cope with the needs of the mass market and probably even the elite athletes as well.
Part 2: The advanced features available
Part 3: The Flow App!