“Watch” Your Heart Rate With MIO Alpha

mio ALPHA BluetoothThose 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 sports 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 smartphone. 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.

MIO Alpha Heart Rate Monitor Watch

I anxiously opened the box and went straight for the monitor action. Based on my heart rate, maybe I didn’t run in from the delivery truck quickly enough.

While the Bluetooth connectivity is probably a big selling point for runners, bikers, or anyone who likes to have their smartphone 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 overhead, 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 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.

MIO Alpha Sensors

A view from where the magic happens. These are the light sensors, as well as a view of where the magnetic USB charger docs.

As mentioned already, I’ve also adopted it as my casual/sports 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 smartphone nearby for it to work best.  The only thing close to a negative for me is the fact that there’s no backlight, 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.

MIO Alpha Contents

Everything it comes with: Watch/heart rate monitor, USB charging doc, quick-start guide. Simple!


Spin Your Pain Away

NSD SpinnerOver the years I’ve experimented with more training routines than I could possibly remember. I’ve had my fair share of forearm-related issues over those years, and the fact that I’ve worked a desk job with constant repetitive action for almost two decades makes it easy to understand why. 

I was a bit skeptical of the gyroscopic exercise balls at first, but mostly because I didn’t know much about them and I’m not a big fan of gimmicks.  I’ve since started to use a couple different versions of the NSD Spinner and I’ve been thoroughly impressed.

While it’s unlikely that you’re going to build Popeye forearms and bulging biceps with these alone, I will say that they’re quite effective for what they’re intended to do.  They’re also pretty simple to use… Once you get the hang of it.  The first few times trying to get it spinning might leave you feeling frustrated at your inabilities, but after a few minutes of feeling how to control them and it becomes second nature.

Most of the forearm pain I’ve dealt with would only bother me while in the gym, unless it got really bad.  At that point it would affect my daily life.  Being on a keyboard all day everyday only seemed to make it worse, so I was more than willing to give the this a try.

My pain was almost completely gone after a couple of weeks of using it just once a day a few days each week.  I’ve been so pleased with the results that I became a spokesperson for them and have continued to use mine regularly.  I have a blog you can take a look at on the NSD Spinner website which goes over a variety of different ways you can use it, but I really feel it’s a worthwhile piece of equipment to keep by your desk or wherever you’ll remember to use it once in awhile.  Plus, it’s just a fun conversation piece when you have company.

They have a wide variety of  choices on their catalog page, but I have a big preference for any of the autostart versions