Those who know me are already aware that I don’t run marathons or triathlons, despite having worked for Iron Man for almost two decades—I can’t tell you how many times I had to explain that it wasn’t that Ironman. Heck, I don’t really run much at all except when I’m playing with my son, so my use of a heart rate monitor might not make sense to many. I do work out just about every day, however, and I happen to love gadgets like the new MIO Alpha heart rate monitor sport watch.
The MIO Alpha is not only a very accurate heart rate monitor, which I confirmed after comparing it with the built-in monitor on my stationary bike, but it’s also got Bluetooth connectivity to pair up with a variety of fitness apps on your smart phone. Oh, and it happens to be decent looking enough that I’ve adopted it as a regular watch when I’m out of the gym, too.
While the Bluetooth connectivity is probably a big selling point for runners, bikers, or anyone who likes to have their smart phone strapped on while training, it didn’t prove as useful to me during weight training sessions. I use my phone for music, but I don’t use earbuds since I train at home with a PowerBlock home gym, so I find that the heart rate signal gets lost if I venture more than 15 feet from the phone. For my purposes, however, that’s not a big deal, as I don’t track that information for my weight training. It does work flawlessly when I’m on the bike doing interval cardio, however, and that’s where it matters a bit more.
Even though the available phone apps are geared more toward endurance type training, I still love wearing it for my daily weight training without being “connected.” I’m currently doing a lot of high tension-time work with low rest, and I’ve realized there’s a strong correlation between my own heart rate and my strength recovery. You can even set heart rate zones with an audible alert, though I find myself looking at it so much that the visual alerts suit me fine.
It’s supposedly accurate if you’re running up to 14+ MPH, and I have no reason to doubt that. I do find that accuracy falls off with hands over head, such as any sort of overhead pressing moving. That said, any information it’s trying to give me while I’m under load isn’t of use to me anyway, so it’s just post-set heart rate that I care about. Again, even during HIIT on a stationary bike, it’s constantly right on par with the my built-in monitor.
The MIO Alpha is a very cool piece of tech. It utilizes an electro-optical sensor to detect blood volume and rhythm, it has a motion detector and also filters “noise” to compensate for movement which would otherwise render it useless. Plus, it’s light years beyond a chest strap when it comes to comfort.
As mentioned already, I’ve also adopted it as my casual/sport watch since it’s so comfortable, and I geek out on the ability to check my heart rate when I’m watching racing, playing with my son, getting stressed, or just drinking extra coffee. There’s also no need to ever worry about replacing the battery, since it’s rechargeable and comes with a USB dock.
On the plus side, it’s very easy to use and it’s comfortable and accurate, and it just happens to look decent. The Bluetooth connectivity would be a big plus for real endurance athletes, or anyone who likes to track all the data from their training, but you obviously have to have your smart phone nearby for it to work best. The only thing close to a negative for me is the fact that there’s no back light, so the clock isn’t visible in the dark. There are audible and visual alerts (tri-color lights) for monitoring your heart rate zones, but as a normal watch, it’s not very useful outdoors at night. Otherwise, it’s a great watch and heart rate monitor, and even draws enough attention for people to strike up conversations with you.