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I am interested to see how my heart rate responds while I'm doing Crossfit workouts.

I'm not interested in seeing my heart rate during workouts, but more post-hoc to see what the profile was, and to see how fast I recover afterwards. Even so, this presents a number of problems:

  1. While I'm waiting for the 3-2-1 count down I'd rather not be messing about pressing buttons to start recording.
  2. When working with a bar (e.g. multiple cleans) I run the bar down very close to my chest which knocks the sensor of a regular HR monitor off.

Issue 1. could be overcome by cropping the data or injecting markers so that it could be seen afterwards. 2. is more tricky, and might not be a problem for everyone, but it would be nice to know if there is a solution.

This is initially just to satisfy my curiosity, but it would also be interesting to see it used in competitions to improve the spectator experience. It would also be interesting to see if there is much correlation between HR derived work amounts and the work amounts derived from weight and distance moved.

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I don't know if it'll help but there are heart rate monitors that you wear like a wrist watch. I use it and it's relatively easy to check my heart rate with minimal disturbances. – Kneel-Before-ZOD May 13 '14 at 13:43
This question appears to be off-topic because it is about a shopping recommendation for a heart monitor. – JohnP May 13 '14 at 14:27
@JohnP Sorry If I didn't make it explicitly not a shopping recommendation request, but it was more of a holistic approach recommendations request. I have several HR monitors and I'm not looking to buy more just yet - what I'm really looking for is data processing techniques, or hacks like wire ecg pads to the bluetooth puck etc. – Ben May 14 '14 at 22:31
up vote 2 down vote accepted

While I'm not as familiar with how Crossfit classes are structured, I am familiar with using a heart rate monitor for barbell training. I used to use it to time when I should start the next set so that I could keep the training pretty dense, but be relatively assured that I would hit the required reps. I'm getting back to using it to time when to do the next round in my supersets. As a result, I do have some insights that apply here.

While I'm waiting for the 3-2-1 count down I'd rather not be messing about pressing buttons to start recording.

This can be solved relatively easily by using the "lap" feature on the heart rate monitor. Just start the heart rate monitor before class, but just before and after an exercise starts hit the "lap" button. The analysis software remembers these so you can easily see what's happening during a set and the rest period between. On my wristwatch, the same button that starts recording the heart rate doubles as the lap button. Just tapping it is enough. Most other HRM watches should behave similarly.

When looking at the charts afterwards, it's actually pretty easy to see the difference between work and rest, so I started only hitting the lap button when starting a new exercise. You should see a sustained spike in heart rate while you work, and then it return to a higher baseline while you rest.

When working with a bar (e.g. multiple cleans) I run the bar down very close to my chest which knocks the sensor of a regular HR monitor off.

This is a tougher challenge. It's essentially the choice between good technique and measuring the heart rate. Unfortunately none of the wrist-only heart rate monitors keep a stable enough contact during the dynamic movements required by weight training. Otherwise they would be ideal. Hopefully in a couple years that can get worked out since it is relatively new technology.

Your options boil down to:

  • Try and find the lowest profile HRM puck you can for your chest. The smaller the target, the less likely it will get hit. You also would have the hope of growing the chest enough to have it protrude more than the HRM.
  • Allow the bar to come up a little farther from the chest, and really focus on the shrug to pull yourself under the bar once it is level with the HRM. It's not as ideal as letting the bar stay skimming your chest as you focus on that shrug to get under the bar, but sometimes it's the only option.

Keep an eye on the wrist only HRM options over the next couple of years. Right now, they are good tools for runners, and the manufacturers are aware of the challenges with using them for other activities. The technology will catch up, it's just a question of how soon.

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There may be some merit in looking at how horses do it! – Ben Jun 24 '14 at 3:05
@Ben, the problem is the puck itself. As someone with a fair amount of chest hair, the idea of using the adhesive contacts are less than appealing. I personally don't want to "body sculpt" my hair--voluntarily or not. – Berin Loritsch Jun 24 '14 at 12:01

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