I haven't bought a heart rate monitor yet! Any suggestions on what to buy or good resources to do my research? I would like to get a good quality one, that is affordable, and would love to have one that could tell me my pace and distance and that I can use for running, biking, and swimming.
For running, biking, AND swimming ... that's going to cost you a pretty penny. The Garmin 310XT is coming out soon. That one will allow you to swim with it but it's the latest toy from Garmin so you will pay a premium.
A cheaper alternative is the Garmin 305. It has a heart rate monitor and gps system. You can take it on the run with you to give you pace or wear in on a bike ride. The is also an optional mount that you can buy so that you can mount the watch to the bike instead of wearing it on your wrist. I own a Garmin 305 and most of my running friends have the same. It's a pretty good one to have. I've used during training runs as well as during marathons.
They also have a Garmin 405 but that too will cost more. My boss was looking at a 305 on some internet site that was selling it for $150. That's about as cheap as you will find.
Polar also makes one that some people like. I don't know too much about those.
Just a reminder that if you participate in a Flexible Spending plan, you can use it for some HRMs.
www.drugstore.com has the FSA approved ones marked.
how essential is an hrm?
Not essential at all. You have a lot of folks doing Ironman distance races without ever needing one. It's one of the training tools used. You hear about people talking about zone 1, 2,3,4 when referring to their training. That's what the heart rate monitor is used for.
This sport has a lot of tools and toys. You just need to know when to say when :) I own one but have never used it. It's still in the bag that it came in.
I've never used a heart rate monitor in any of my training or races. A lot of people swear by them and rely heavily on them. To each their own. :)
The only thing I would recommend if you do not get a heart rate monitor is to really learn to listen to your body. I remember going for a run last year and felt that my heart rate was way above where it normally is for my run pace. I stopped running and took a few days off to let my body just recover. Next run turned out fine.
SO just listen to your body. Very subjective, I know. :)
Thanks, that's helpful. I think mine would stay in the box. I'll stick with heavy breathing as my key:-)
REI Outlet online has the Garmin Forerunner 50 heavily discounted. I just got it, have used it once, and am pretty happy with it.