Heart rate monitors are great for motivation—one glance and I know whether or not I'm sweating it hard enough. I'm not a big fan of chest straps, though—they always feel a little uncomfortable jammed up under the band of my underwire sports bra. But the tiny buttons on most fingertip monitors can make them tricky to use. So I was intrigued by New Balance's new watch-style HRT Fit, which only requires that you touch the face to get a reading.
Let me say straight out that this is the simplest-to-use monitor I've seen. In addition to only needing to put two fingers on it to get my heart rate, it was easy to program, and the instructions were mostly clear (though somewhat sparse).
There's more: The HRT Fit also shows the length of my workout and calories burned, plus has a countdown timer. (A more expensive version, the HRT Fit +, adds a pedometer so you can measure distance.) And the heart rate display itself also tells what percentage that number is of my maximum heart rate, so it's easy to see if I'm "in the zone." (Which, by the way, is between 65% and 75% of my max, according to the American Council on Exercise.)
Two drawbacks, though: First, I had to stand pretty still for my heart rate to register—not ideal during a (moving!) workout. Second, the calorie burn tracker is based only on age and gender, not weight, so it's not as accurate as it could be.
Still, would I recommend the HRT Fit to someone who's new to heart rate monitors or doesn't train seriously enough to require the constant feedback of a chest strap version? In a heartbeat.
Product: New Balance HRT Fit Heart Rate Monitor
Pros: It's easy to use, only requires a touch to read your heart rate, and boasts some useful extras.
Cons: It has trouble reading your rate when you're moving, and the calorie counter doesn't account for weight.
Extra tip: Choose the pink Komen version and 5% of the purchase price will be donated to the Susan G. Komen Foundation for breast cancer research and education.