AN EXERCISE AFICIONADO knows the importance of working out in his or her target heart-rate zone during a cardiovascular session. But how do you know if you've reached the proper level, or whether you're maintaining it throughout the workout? Well, with a little help from microcomputer technology, it's easy: Just strap on a Polar heart-rate monitor.
Polar USA offers six wireless models (priced from $149 to $495) that work on the same principle as an electrocardiograph (ECG). During exercise, an elastic band with embedded electrodes is worn just below the pectoral muscles. A transmitter sends electronic signals directly to a monitor, which is worn on the wrist or mounted on a stationary bike, rower or treadmill. A digital readout on the monitor graphically displays the user's heart rate in beats per minute.
Model features include: beeper signals that indicate staying within the target zone; recording of up to 33 hours of training information; a stopwatch; the ability to download data into a computer for short- and long-term analysis; and, for swimmers, water resistance.
But you don't have to understand how the gadgets work in order to use one effectively. And they make ideal stocking stuffers for that exercise nut in your life. The Polar USA line is available at Bikecology, 1550 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica, (213) 451-9977; I. Martin Imports, 8330 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, (213) 653-6900; and at Dynutrex Health Specialties, 8280-130 Clairemont Mesa Blvd., San Diego, (619) 571-1770.