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Stay in the zone with these heart monitors

November 11, 2002

Think of it as a personal trainer on your wrist. The benefit of a heart-rate monitor, besides the simple satisfaction of knowing how the old ticker's doing, is that it makes every workout count. It helps you stay in "the zone," a heart-rate pace fast enough to increase fitness, but slow enough to prevent burnout and injuries. Basic monitors start at about $50. Spending more gets you zone alarms, calorie counters and other gizmos that you may or may not need.

Think of it as a personal trainer on your wrist. The benefit of a heart-rate monitor, besides the simple satisfaction of knowing how the old ticker's doing, is that it makes every workout count. It helps you stay in "the zone," a heart-rate pace fast enough to increase fitness, but slow enough to prevent burnout and injuries. Basic monitors start at about $50. Spending more gets you zone alarms, calorie counters and other gizmos that you may or may not need.

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Everything but the time

Polar A1: Almost everything a beginner needs from heart-rate monitor pioneer Polar. Features include current heart rate, stopwatch, average heart rate.

Likes: Simple one-button operation. Big, legible numbers. Average heart-rate feature is unusual at this price.

Dislikes: No target heart-rate zones and alarms. And no clock, so you can't wear it as a watch.

Price: $49-$59. (800) 290-6330; www.polarusa.com.

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Light but loaded

ECG Fit 2: A bargain for regular exercisers. Light and loaded with features such as average heart rate, percentage of maximum heart rate, clock and calendar, calorie counter.

Likes: Small and sleek enough to wear as a watch. Easy two-button operation.

Dislikes: No night light; need street light to check heart rate.

Price: $79. (800) 223-3207; www.sportsinstruments.com.

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Heavy on the features

Nike HRM Triax 100: Cutting-edge style for hard-core runners, triathletes. Features tilted display, two programmable heart-rate zones, alarm, night light and 100-lap memory.

Likes: Unique heart-rate bar graph of entire workout. Has a quality feel.

Dislikes: At 2.5 ounces, is heavier than other monitors. Tilt feature hurts, not helps, readability. Huge window shows just one number at a time, disrupting stride as you scroll for time, clock display.

Price: $135. www.niketown.com.

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A dashboard for your wrist

FitSense Technology FS-1 Speedometer: This wrist dashboard is truly innovative, the only device to provide speed, distance and heart rate. It also includes a stopwatch, clock and average pace display.

Likes: Angled wrist display makes all four data windows legible. Not subject to usual electronic interference from other HRMs and high-tension lines.

Dislikes: For average folks, it's too expensive, too complex and too bulky to swim with. But it's a dream for hard-core athletes who have long wanted these features.

Price: $199. (508) 303-8811; www.fitsense.com.

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-- Roy M. Wallack

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