Rage against the machines

I got a note from a reader who asked me about my experience with the Brookstone Heart Rate Ring. She had a similar issue and wanted to understand my specific problems with the unit. My experience with this device was similar to my experience with the HRM on my elliptical machine: inaccurate and inconsistent readings. It makes me wonder if any HRMs on the market are capable of performing their simple but important task of accurately reporting a pulse rate in real time. I have been frustrated lately by an astonishing number of technology failures running the gamut of high and low tech. A few examples are shade pulls so over engineered that breaking the cord requires a home visit by a company service rep. Other technology frustrations include my long term search for a programmable switch for my outside house lights that doesn’t fail within eight months of installation and flush mounted clothing hooks that require the use of specialized Allen wrenches when a simple screw would do.

Bringing this back to running, I’ve found that my frustration with the technologies that quantify performance comes as a result of a need to measure progress. I’ve had the experience where I failed to trigger the start of a run on my Sportband (it requires about 1,000 lbs. of pressure to activate the button) only to discover the problem ten minutes into my run. My irrational response to this is that I wasted my time. If that part of my run wasn’t recorded then it didn’t happen. So the key issue is I subconsciously value the metrics of running more than the workout itself. When the technology fails to capture the experience or records it incorrectly, irrational or not, it diminishes the way I value the effort.

Problem with my elliptical machine

We looked at a number of elliptical machines before buying ours. After much discussion with friends and lots of online research we ended up buying an X1 from BH Fitness. It’s a quality unit and we bought it from a company called Fitness Showrooms that sells high end equipment. Our unit was reasonably priced and it seemed to be built better than the units they sell at Dick’s Sporting Goods. Overall we are happy with the unit and the service (we had some small installation problems and a tech from Fitness Showrooms came by and addressed most of them). One problem that remains is that the heart rate monitor is completely inaccurate. I wonder if it was installed backward because my starting point is usually a HR of 170 and after a fairly intense session it drops below 100. The Fitness Showrooms tech told my wife that the HRM won’t work if there is a computer in the same room or even on the same floor as the elliptical unit. I know enough about wireless networks to debate that. First, although it isn’t listed in the manual I’m assuming that the the elliptical’s control panel operates on a different frequency as my home network. Second, the HRM doesn’t work even when when the computer is off. I’m going to ask the dealer to fix it or rebate me the value of the HRM so I can buy one like the Polar RS100 watch.