Polar RS300X and RS100 watches and heart rate monitors

RS300X

They Say - ‘Get all the essential heart rate features with this good-looking and simple-to-use training computer. RS300X is compatible with S1 foot pod and G1 GPS sensor, so you can combine heart rate with speed and distance. Only then you can truly make sense of your training and be sure it’s worth all the effort. Helps you to train at the right intensity with personal training zones. Displays how many calories you’ve burned. Tracks your latest 16 training sessions and your last 16 weeks of training. Transfers training data to polarpersonaltrainer.com with optional Polar FlowLink. Polar Heart Rate Monitor RS300X Black Polar Heart Rate Monitor RS300X Black’

We Say - ‘I have to take issue with the claim that the RS300X is easy to use. For me, it has not proved to be so.

I do not, generally, have much time to spend on getting to know a new watch. I want to use it, not spend a week studying the instruction manual. And that’s where the Polartech RS300X fails, in my opinion. It’s not the sort of thing you can take from the box and just use, you see. I’ll explain. 

The set up was easy. I simply had to input various statistics like my age, weight, height, etc. and then fitted the pod to my shoe, the heart rate monitor to my chest, press the red button on my watch, as the instructions advised, and start to run. So far so good. 

But within a minute the watch was beeping frantically at me. It wasn’t saying anything on the screen as a warning, and there was no way of knowing why it was making all the noise. I thought maybe it was an interval training program telling me to get a move on, but it was so close to the start of my run I dismissed that thought quickly. Still the beeping continued. One of the joys of running in the forest is to get away from the computer, on which I work a lot, and also the noise of town life, and have some tranquil silence for an hour or so. I really don’t need another computer beeping at me, spoiling my peace and quiet for no good reason that I can make out. So I turned the watch off.

The foot pod was also a problem. It’s quite bulky and since it fits to the laces of a shoe, it catches on all the undergrowth in the forest. Not good. 

Back at my house I looked at the instruction manual. But no, there was nothing on what to do if the watch beeps frantically. Nothing even about what the beeping might mean. I think I might have found the explanation if it were there. I work with computers all day, and am used to learning how to use new products. But there was just nothing there in the manual that I could see that could explain what had gone on. 

So I figured it was me, I’d done something wrong. I read the manual again. It said, when you’re ready to run, press the red button and it’ll start recording your mileage, time and heart rate. So I went out running and tried again. Same result. Frantic beeping. So I turned it off once again. 

There are two reasons why I didn’t persevere with this product. First, I think it’s a luxury, not a necessity. I’ve got 5 Kenyan mates, all of whom run the marathon in less than 2.25. Not one of them uses a heart rate monitor in their training, or on their race days. If these gadgetsreally made you run faster, it’d be all Europeans and Americans at the front of marathon races, not Africans. The second reason was that I want to spend my spare time running, not fiddling about with gadgets. And this watch does not allow me to do that.

I do not want to have to wear a separate heart rate monitor, especially one where I have dip the strap in cold water first before I put it on, as you have to with this one. It’s to much of a fuss to do that, and not much fun on cold days. Also, how come you have to dip the strap in cold water? My girlfriend has a sports bra that you can fit these heart rate monitors to, and they don’t need to be dipped in cold water before use. So why does the strap? 

If I want my watch to tell me my heart rate, why can’t it do it from feeling my pulse? The watch is on my wrist, right? That’s where a doctor would feel to get my pulse, and my heart rate, right? Ok, so how about the watch has a sensor on the inside of the wrist strap that counts my pulse. It may not be as accurate as the monitor on my chest, but it’ll be near enough to be of use, and it’ll be far more comfy. 

I do not want a huge amount of programs, or buttons whose uses are so complicated that they can’t be worked out within an hour of looking at the manual. 

Instead I want a simple start button. And then a button that gives me a range of interval training options. And a watch face that gives me heart rate, mileage completed, stopwatch and real time. That’s it, no more than that.

I also do not need a foot pod that weighs a fair bit and which catches all the time on nettles and brambles when I am running through the forest. I want it to be lighter, and fitted to a better place, maybe on the heel so it doesn’t catch on anything. Below is a photo of the watch plus foot pod.

So I asked the people at Polar if I could send the RS300X back, and get a more basic model in return. They kindly said yes, and sent me the…

RS100

I liked this more basic model much better. It has larger numbers so I can see the time (actual, and lap time) whilst running, even with rain and sweat in my eyes, which always makes things a little blurry. It’s light too, and the strap very comfy, so you don’t even know it’s there. 

This model doesn’t work with a foot pod (that’s ok by me, I get my distances worked out on the ‘map my run’ website with no fuss at all) but it does with a heart rate monitor. But I’ve given up trying to use the heart monitor at all. There are a few reasons for this. One, the cold strap business. That’s a real turn off. Two, I wear tight compression tops for my long runs, and the monitor creates this large lump on the chest that looks and feel bad. These are both minor issues. The main reason I don’t use the heart rate monitor though is that I’ve worked out that knowing my heart rate isn’t important to me right now in my training. 

I would suggest that for most people who are running races in average times (10km in around 43mins or more, half marathons in 1.45 or more and marathons in 3.30 or more) the heart monitor is just not needed. When you’re this slow, you need to work on other things, such as getting your core strength up, getting your calves used to being used for longer lengths of time, etc, way before you start work on your heart rate. What does it matter if the heart rate monitor is telling you that you’ve got to speed up to get your optimum work out – if your calves are stiff or you core is failing so much you’re doubled over through fatigue there’s no way you can increase pace! 

And anyway, if you’re serious about getting fitter, and faster, you should already be going as fast as you can anyhow, you shouldn’t need a heart monitor to tell you to try the best you can. 

It’s really important, when you read reviews, to know what the reviewer is training for, so you know how the watch/monitor is being used. I’m not looking for a ‘time’ as such, only to finish the marathon in good health, and perhaps in under 4 hours. Maybe when I get to under 3.30 pace I’ll be looking for ways to knock extra minutes off my time, but at the moment there’s really no need to know my heart rate or to use the info in my training. So this heart rate monitor is just a bulky inconvenience, to me (whilst to others it might well be a great training aid). 

And without the heart rate monitor feature, the watch is little more than a stop watch and a timekeeper. A very good one, mind. I liked wearing it on my long runs when I was new to being out for a few hours and had no idea of how to measure the passing of time as I ran. But now I realise that for me even this isn’t really necessary. I leave the house, tell people I’ll be back when I’m back, and then I go. This is the type of running I enjoy, running free, and all credit to the watch, using it has helped me realise that.

In Summary - ‘These watches and their attachments will be of interest to techies and people who want to shave minutes off their already fast race times without resorting to joining a local athletics club, or hiring a coach. For me though, with my simple objectives, they’re great watches but the foot pods and heart rate monitors are just surplus. I would add that the companies’ customer service is really good, so if you are going to get one, you can be assured that they’ll treat you right if anything goes wrong.’

To find out more about Polar and to see their full range of watches please check their website out – www.polar.fi

Comments are closed.