The following article is one of the most frequently visited posts on my site. I am updating it (below) to discuss the Polar Running & coaching program. Polar offers plans with varied run lengths, intervals and strength training with bodyweight exercises. Although I also offer custom plans & personalized coaching, I think the Polar program is a viable FREE alternative to help athletes reach their goals.
I’ve been training for the Portland Marathon with the Polar Heart Rate Monitor for the last 7 weeks. For the last 6 years, I have been using the Garmin 110 Forerunner. In this article, I will discuss the features of the M400 that I have put to test, how they have significantly improved my training and why I’m switching to the M400 from Garmin.
The 110 is Garmin’s older base model. It’s a good watch and has served me well with basic distance and time tracking of my runs. I’ve also used Garmin’s heart rate sensor and monitor features, but I often have challenges syncing the watch and the heart rate sensor.I started testing my Polar M400 at the beginning of August. It was a little challenging to set-up and sync with the (Polar Flow) iPhone app, but by following the directions very carefully, I was able to load all my personal information (age, weight, running goals, etc) and complete the set-up so I could take advantage of the benefits of the watch and Polar Flow (the online 24/7 activity, training and sleep tracking web service that is also an app for iPhone and Andriod). Downloading the app allows Bluetooth sync between the M400 and your mobile phone. Not only can I see workout details on my phone, but now I can see incoming texts and alerts on my watch (similar to the Apple Watch).
M400’s Amazing Technology
Once the set-up was complete and I started to use the watch, l felt like I had moved into the “21st Century” from the “Dark Ages” compared to what I was used to with my Garmin 110. I’m very impressed with the technology that Polar packs into this watch. It’s easy to instantly sync workouts to Polar Flow via Bluetooth to my iPhone. This allows me to instantly see all the details of my workouts.
Polar Flow iPhone App
Following are a couple of screen shots of my watch and the Polar Flow iPhone app with workout details. As you can see, basics of the workout are covered. I didn’t wear my heart rate sensor with this particular workout.
Polar Flow Workout Stats
Map of Run
Splits & Ave Heart Rate
Although I have not had the time to use all the features offered with the M400 GPS watch, I can assure you that this watch does far more than simply track your pace and distance. It tracks steps, daily calories burned and your sleep at night. The watch is very smart. In fact, it knows when it isn’t being worn, when you are sitting, standing, walking, jogging or resting.
Heart Rate Sensor & Monitoring
When coupled with a heart rate sensor, the Polar M430 is a heart rate monitor. I really like this feature, I not only use heart rate zones during my training, but I rely on my heart rate monitor during the later stages of marathon training to keep me from overtraining. One of the signs of overtraining is an inability to elevate your heart rate even though you may feel tired and unable to run much faster. Although, there are many other signs of overtraining, this is the one I use where a heart rate monitor is essential. The M400 shows your heart rate in big bold easy to read numbers. The watch can also verify which heart rate zone you’re in at any time during your run. The benefit is that it provides a more accurate account of your effort level.
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In my article about training with a heart rate monitor, I discuss these zones and how you can incorporate zone training into your workouts (3-5 are the most common zones that I run in).
You can get additional in depth information about Running heart rate zones by visiting the Polar Website.
Understanding your running cadence (steps per minute) and increasing it if necessary, can help you improve your running efficiency. If you’re overstriding (low cadence) you may be at increased risk of injury. Measuring your cadence is easy with the Polar watch and increasing accordingly, can reduce muscle damage caused by overstriding.
Your height, weight, leg and stride length and running ability will determine your optimal cadence. Everyday runners generally fall between 160-170 steps per minute. With the Polar M430, just multiply the average cadence shown on the watch by 2.
Average & Max Cadence
Recharging the M400
Instead of using an awkward clip with wire/pin connectors like Garmin, the M400 has a small rubber flap on the back of the watch that covers a micro USB port. I used to have problems with my clip making a connection, so charging through this port is a great feature. The micro USB port and M400 watch is waterproof (up to 30 meters). This is perfect if you’re training for or running in a triathlon so you can swim with your watch on.
If you’re interested in joining me, I can put together either a custom training plan or I can personally coach you. Either program will be specific to your goals and athletic abilities. Just click on the links for details.
Polar Running Programs
Polar also offers running training programs for 5K – Marathon (9 – 14 week programs). In order to get started, you simply enter the length of race, date of the race, and when you want to start the training program. You can also personalize the program a bit by selecting the number of days per week that you can train (nice for busy people). You can also select how long you want each training session to be and the desired intensity of your activity. The problem with this is that if you’re not certain what intensity you should be training, you might fall short of your goal. However, in the end, Polar uses all of the information you input to create your custom program for you.
One really cool feature of this program is that if you put together the program far enough in advance of your race, you will actually get a longer base building period. Polar then provides updated training recommendations every four weeks. The training program is synced to your Polar watch so you can continue training.
Summary of Review
Overall, I found that the buttons are easy to press and large enough to engage while running or other types of exercise. On the right side, the up, enter, and down buttons help you scroll through features such as your diary of activity, personal settings and even a fitness test. On the left, there are the light and back buttons. Managing the M400 with these buttons does not take long to figure out.
The Polar M400 GPS Running Watch gives you a considerable amount of information during and after you have completed your run. Below you can see the details of my heart rate and the amount of time I was running in a particular heart rate zone.
Ave Heart Rate
Time Spent in each HR Zone
You can view the start time, duration, distance, calories burned, fat burn percentage of calories, average pace, max pace, max altitude, ascent, descent, auto lap times, best lap time and average lap time. It will also keep track of your personal records and will notify you after you complete your longest and fastest runs.
Memory of Activity & Battery Life
The M400 can store up to 30 hours of past runs on its internal storage. All of this information can also be uploaded to Polar’s website. I really like how it’s easy to access details of previous workouts right on my watch. Following images show the workouts for a particular week that have been tracked. As you can see, I can easily scroll to any day and then click on it to view workout details.
Diary of Completed Workouts
I like the M400’s battery life. I run and use the GPS daily, but I found that the M400 goes 3-4 days before requiring a recharge. If you’re not using the GPS, Polar claims up to 10 days before a recharge is required. I found that my watch required juice the more often that I used the GPS.
Overall, the big selling point of the Polar M400 is that it’s not just a GPS enabled watch for running, but that it can be used to track other outdoor activities, like cycling and hiking. The Polar Flow is an amazing dashboard where I can track all of my personal results and progress towards my goals. There’s also multiple tabs which can connect you to a vast Community of other Polar watch users around the world, a Program tab which can generates an individualized training plan for 5k, 10k, ½ and full marathons and the Feed tab which shows you details of all of your activities.
Polar Flow Feed Dashboard
The coolest feature on the Feed tab is the “relive” button. You can get a view of the sites of your workout and the times/pace of various intervals. It literally helps you relive the experience of your run or race.
Polar Flow Relive Workout Feature
I plan on reviewing the Polar Flow web service in much more detail in subsequent posts.
For me, the Polar M400 is a great tool to effectively track both my indoor and outdoor activities. I highly recommend this GPS enabled watch, the heart rate sensor and the Polar Flow website and iPhone app to not only track your training, but all daily activities.
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If you really like the features of Garmin Forerunner 25 (Large), I understand. Garmin makes quality watches and they stand behind them if you have issues.Pros:
- Very easy to use
- Tracks run distances by GPS
- Water and sweatproof to 30 meters
- Heart rate and daily fitness (distance + pace data)
- Large numbers on easy to read screen while you’re running.
- Polar Flow iPhone app and web portal with dashboard and suite
- A little challenging to initially set up and sync with your iPhone. Just follow directions very carefully and it will work.
- Slow sync’ing if completed via Bluetooth to your mobile phone.
- Uncomfortable to wear at night (not really a huge deal for me because I’ve never worn a watch to bed).
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What’s the best way to recover from a hard workout? If you’re training for an upcoming race, the need to quickly recover from your latest hard workout so you can get on to the next one is very important. Proper nutrition, light stretching and a hot shower are not always enough. Compression socks offer a unique solution to stimulate blood flow and help your legs recover faster from a hard run or workout. These socks are no longer just for diabetics. Compression socks are now worn by average to elite athletes while running, cycling, and recovering from any kind of demanding workout. You can even recharge yourself for an early morning run by wearing compression socks to bed. I recently picked up my first pair of compression socks and started wearing them a few weeks ago. In this post, I will review two different compression socks from Bauerfeind USA.
I’m always on the lookout for something to help alleviate occasional stiffness and discomfort in my lower legs and Achilles tendon. A foam roller and stretching usually is enough, but recently a dull ache in my Achilles has persisted. A number of training partners and my wife swear by the therapeutic effects of compression socks, but I had never used them as a part of my training/recovery regime. I completed a little research and found that compression socks actually improve leg muscle recovery, circulation and reduce calf muscle fatigue. Compression socks are not just for older athletes. They are supposed to improve performance and speed recovery.
I chose Bauerfeind based on the recommendation of a friend. Bauerfeind has been in business for nearly 90 years. With manufacturing in Germany, they are a leading supplier of supports, orthoses, medical compression stockings and orthopedic supports. One of their stated goals is “to help you maintain and regain health, increase well-being and ensure greater quality of life.” I started wearing the “Bauerfeind Sports Compression Sock Ball & Racket, formerly known as the Compression Sock Training” about 3 weeks ago. This sock is for muscle toning. I can comfortably wear it when I’m running and during recovery. This sock is almost “over-engineered” with “left” & “right” sewn into the top inside so you continue to use the same sock on the appropriate leg. The other sock I picked up was the traditional “Bauerfeind Sports Compression Sock Run & Walk, formerly known as the Compression Sock Performance” model. Both of these socks are exclusively developed for endurance sports and designed with multiple zones with specific benefits like recovery, energy and muscle toning. The Training sock is designed to improve personal performance and fitness. The Performance sock promotes energy.
My Field Test Results
Each of these models of socks come in various sizes to fit large and small athletes. When I was making my selection, I measured the circumference at the widest part of my calf and provided my shoe size. I was concerned that the fit may be too tight and restrict circulation. Instead I found that the highly elastic, knitted, breathable technical microfiber is very comfortable.
The Training Sock doesn’t make my skin feel itchy. I like the muscle toning zone around my calf and the protective zone below the calf muscle which is for reducing pressure and rubbing on my Achilles tendon. Another feature of this sock is the taping zone on top of the foot which crosses over the ankle. This zone is to improve stability. I’m not aware of any other compression sock with all of these features. I wore these socks on a few different runs, including a hill workout. After wearing this sock for a few weeks, I noticed that the discomfort in my Achilles was gone. Although I have continued to roll and stretch, I attribute some of the disappearance of my pain to the sock.
My son who runs High School track has also been wearing both the training and performance compression socks. His preference is the performance sock. He likes these socks so much that I haven’t been able to wear them as much as I would prefer. Bottom-line, these are comfortable and they do an excellent job accelerating recovery.
During the last 3 weeks, I also tested the Bauerfeind Performance sock. This sock is much more like your traditional tight fitting compression sock. It’s designed to promote energy through gentle compression. The blood supply to your muscles is improved in the energy boost zone around the calf muscle. This results in improved endurance. Instead of these socks feeling too tight, they use the gentle compression to stabilize the calf and help counteract premature fatigue. All zones of this sock are made of a breathable and durable material. I ran in these socks a few times, including a long run and a track workout. I found them to be comfortable and I think they definitely helped my legs feel fresh both during and after my workouts.
I really like these socks, particularly the training compression sock. I believe that they help to improve my legs’ stamina during my tough workouts. The compression supplies a firm hug that actually made me feel more energized during workouts. There’s no doubt that compression socks support faster recovery times. The socks’ fabric seems to minimize any lingering odors, even after multiple wearings. Both of these sports socks feel lightweight and comfortable on my skin. Even in slightly warmer weather, the materials have a temperature and moisture-regulating effect. I particularly like the cut-out that’s in the sensitive area around my Achilles tendon. This prevents pressure and rubbing in that area, but also I felt like there was slight reinforcement around my Achilles which helped speed my recovery from the dull ache I had experienced in the previous month. My recommendation is to give the Bauerfeind compression socks a try, I’m sure you will be satisfied.
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Where’s the best place to hold your keys while running? Years ago I put my keys in my pocket and somewhere along a wooded trail, they fell out. Since then, I’ve always tied my car key into my shoelace. Unfortunately, this doesn’t work if you want to run with your smartphone as well. The issue is further complicated if you want to carry energy gels, money, driver’s license or anything else. The bottom-line is, my quest has continued in search of a solution to easily carry my phone, keys and more. Finally, there’s a solution that meets any runners’ needs.
I recently found and tested what I feel is the best solution,a Running Belt Pack . This belt is not just for runners. Hikers, bikers and skiers can also comfortably wear and secure their keys, smartphone, wallet, credit cards, cash, driver’s license, energy gels and more, while working out.
Exercise belts that allow you to attach small water bottles typically have a small pouch, that’s insufficient to carry a phone and a protein bar. Putting these necessities in your jacket or running shorts’ pockets isn’t desirable because it’s either not comfortable or the pockets aren’t big enough. A few running belts with lightweight pockets have hit the market the last few years, but in my experience, they rip too easily if you try to carry too much. Bigger, more durable bags may be okay for cyclists, but are not appropriate for runners because they are uncomfortable.
These days there’s no escaping the need to carry a smartphone while running. People want to listen to music or podcasts. Additionally, there’s a growing use of mobile apps like RunKeeper, Endomondo and others that track mileage, pace, heart rate and other vitals. The market demands a comfortable, spacious and durable pouch that won’t interfere with your athletic activity.
My Field Test of the Running Belt
I started wearing my running belt about 3 weeks ago and I’ve worn it on every outdoor run since (I run on hotel treadmills about 2 times/week). I can easily fit my iPhone or any other smartphone inside one pocket. Since the pouch is stretchable, I believe it will hold big phones.
Just one pouch can easily fit a protein bar, keys, money and my id. I tested this on a few runs and haven’t noticed any tearing. Besides durability and storage space, my other concern is comfort. The problem I’ve always had with water belts is that they ride up my hips. I’ve been able to correct this problem by attaching my belt to my shorts with clips (kind of “Rube Goldberg” type of fix). The running belt is easily adjustable, so I was able to get it to fit snugly around my waist. To my delight, the belt doesn’t slip (up or down) on my hips when full of my gear. In fact, I didn’t even notice the additional weight of the belt.
Features of the belt
- Two stretch phone holder pouches
- Quick-release buckle – super simple to get on/off
- Reflective pouch zippers
- Headphone grommets – great if you don’t have cordless/Bluetooth headphones
- Fits Waist Sizes 26″ through 44″
- Fits iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6, Samsung Galaxy Note 4, Galaxy S6, and other smaller smartphones
Overall summary….get the running belt
I really enjoy this belt. It meets all of my needs. It’s durable, comfortable and has plenty of room for my smartphone, keys and energy gels. Finally, I can run with my iPhone and use my newly purchased wireless headphones to catch up on podcasts. All while I use my exercise tracking app, Endomondo (I’ll be writing a review of this app in future blog posts). My recommendation is to give a Running Belt a try, I don’t think you will be disappointed.
You can purchase a Running Belt from Amazon