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One of the main benefits of using a heart rate monitor when exercising is that it provides an accurate picture of how hard you are working. It’s more accurate than you’ll get from times or pace/speed when running or cycling, or reps when doing strength training, because those numbers represent different things for different people. Finishing a 5km run in 25 minutes can be a significant achievement for some while others may barely break a sweat, and a couple of sets of 25 press-ups might be a warm-up for some, but a DOMS-inducing nightmare for others.
The MyZone MZ-3 heart rate monitor is all about tracking your effort during training by keeping tabs on heart rate and heart rate zones, and then awarding MyZone Effort Points (MEPs) based on how hard your heart was working.
The MZ-3 uses five coloured-coded zones to quantify your efforts. Your heart rate determines which zone you are in during exercise, and for every minute you spend in each zone you are given a certain amount of effort points. In the grey zone, you’ll only rack up one point per minute, but once you reach the heights of the yellow and red zones, you’re rewarded with four points per minute. Your zones are personal to you and the MZ-3 will initially base yours on basic information like your age and weight, but over time it will take into account your performance and tailor it further so it’s even more accurate.
The MZ-3 is becoming popular in group fitness classes that broadcast your heart rate and effort zone to the rest of the class via flat screens. No longer can you secretly ease off while wearing the grimace of someone working far harder. Your effort levels are there for all to see, and no-one wants to be the only one in the class in the green zone.
If you buy your own one, all the data the strap collects is live-streamed to your smartphone, so you can see what zone you are in during your exercise. And if you’re not near your phone while training, the MZ-3 will store all the info on your session and sync it to the partner app to review later. The tracker can store up to 16 hours of data.
Through the partner app you can also follow guided workouts with the MZ-3, where you have to hit and stay in certain heart rate zones. These Zone Match sessions can, in theory, be done with any kind of exercise, but since you follow them on your phone and have to elevate your heart rate on demand they’re suited to treadmill, rower and exercise bike users in particular. There is a good variety of these workouts at different intensity levels, and if you’re stuck for an idea of what to do on any given day they make for an effective session with little thought required on your part.
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If you engage fully with the concept of MEPs the MyZone MZ-3 is a great way to stay motivated, especially if you have a friend with the strap because you can compete to see who can rack up the most points over the course of a week or a month. It’s also useful for HIIT fans who want to ensure they really are spiking their heart rate correctly in workouts, because pootling along in the fat-burning zone isn’t going to cut it if you’re only working out for 20 minutes.
Looking beyond MEPs, it’s also worth noting that the MZ-3 is an excellent chest strap tracker full stop. It’s comfortable, reliable, quick to connect with other devices (via Bluetooth 4.0 or ANT+) and the rechargeable battery runs for 300 hours on a single charge. However, it’s more expensive than rivals like the Wahoo TICKR (opens in new tab) or TICKR X (opens in new tab) (£39.99 and £64.99 on Amazon, respectively), so if you only want a heart rate tracker for your regular training and have no intention of using the MEPs or Zone Match, the MZ-3 is overkill. Something cheaper like the TICKR X is just as accurate.
£129.99, buy on myzone.org (opens in new tab), check price on amazon.co.uk (opens in new tab)
Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.
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