I own a fabulous Polar F6 heart rate monitor (HRM), but I don’t wear it anymore.
There’s nothing wrong with the watch or the strap – both are in perfect condition. But my HRM is a reminder of a bad time in my life, when lived at the gym and I was obsessed with exercise. Back then, my HRM was my everything: my personal trainer, my motivator, my drill sergeant. I was one of those people that had to burn X calories. I couldn’t stop at any odd numbers and would always need to round up … 430 calories wasn’t good enough; I’d pump out a few more minutes for 500.
I share this because this weekend at the gym I overheard a couple girls talking after class about their HRMs (comparing models and calories burned) and I remembered mine, collecting dust in a drawer at home. For 2.2 seconds I flirted with the thought of wearing mine to class for kicks, but just as quickly as the idea passed into my head, I squashed it.
As I discussed in my Triggers post, for most people, a HRM is just a tool for inspiration and for measurement and nothing more. It motivates them, pushes them … and that’s that. In fact, it was at one point for me, too.
But over time I became obsessed with my HRM and literally couldn’t work out without it. I had to wear it for runs, for bike rides with Luis or friends, for walks on my lunch break at work. In fact, I can remember running into the bathroom one morning many moons ago at the gym to re-wet the band six times because it wasn’t syncing to the watch and I wasn’t getting a read and could not bear the thought of exercising without my HRM! Though the machine I was on — the Precor elliptical — told me calories burned based on my weight and stats, how could I trust it?! I had to know EXACTLY how much I was burning.
What should have been a simple tool had become, like the scale, an unhealthy obsession. In many ways, I feel like it enabled me to over-exercise. Sure, the watch didn’t actually do the work [that was all me] … but seeing the numbers blinking “pushed” me to work out harder/longer, sometimes doubling on workouts just to see some crazy magical number.
Things are very different now. When I work out, I want to get in and out — maximum burn, minimal time. I’m working with a personal trainer twice a week now and the sweat I’m dripping each session and muscles I can see starting to show are proof positive that I’m working hard enough. And Zumba — which I do 3-4 times a week — is an hour of solid cardio each class … plenty to get me in decent shape, provided I were to clean up my eating 😉
If your 20s are the years of “finding” yourself and your 30s are really when you “know” yourself … then I feel confident in saying I know myself well enough to know what will lead to obsessive-compulsive behavior. Wearing a HRM might be a great idea for you, but it just could set me into an ugly downward spiral .. and I simply won’t go there.
How about you? Do you wear a HRM when you work out? Do you feel it helps motivate you or does it drive you into over-exercising territory?