I read that you quit racing due to a heart arrhythmia. I was just diagnosed with SVT [Supraventricular Tachycardia] and told I should monitor my heart rate all of the time. I hate wearing the chest strap. Have you tried those wrist monitors?
I wear the PulseOn wrist monitor on my wrist, but I have never exercised with it.
I do use what I think is a particularly excellent solution, though: a heart monitor built into my helmet! The LifeBEAM SMART cycling helmet has an HRM that transmits via ANT+ to my Garmin unit on my handlebar (or via Bluetooth to a smartphone). It has an on/off switch, an indicator light, and a 170mAh lithium polymer battery rechargeable via a mini-USB port built into a Lazer Genesis helmet.
Chest straps invariably are wrong (they read way too high) when leaving my house, which involves descending right away. The SMART helmet generally gives a believable heart rate reading straight from my house, but occasionally it also starts out way high and takes a good 20 minutes before it settles in and seems to be providing accurate numbers. I have no idea why this sometimes happens; I’ve tried to notice if I turned it and the Garmin on in reverse order or something, but it just seems random.
I always wear a helmet, so I never forget my heart monitor now. I often forgot the chest strap; I know that’s partly because I hated how clammy it felt once sweaty, especially on a cold day. It never was accurate when descending fast, either, even when using Buh-Bump cream, which definitely improved its accuracy during the period before I got good and sweaty on a climb.
The Genesis LifeBEAM helmet seems to give a much more consistent signal, whether I’m going up, down or flat; it’s the only heart rate monitor I’ve been able to believe when descending fast down a mountain.
Unlike a chest strap, it does need frequent recharging, and the battery-level indicator always seems to read full, even on days when it poops out early on the ride. It sells for $229 MSRP. LifeBEAM is a Tel Aviv-based manufacturer focused on measuring human performance with wearable bio-sensing technology.
I still wonder about potential long-term health effects of having a radio-wave generator attached to your body, whether it is strapped around your heart, your brain, or your wrist, but I have no idea if there are any studies on this, and I certainly have no evidence that it’s not healthy, after almost 30 years of using chest straps. In my case, the downside of not knowing what my heart rate is still outweighs any unfounded health concerns I might have about effects of the monitoring hardware. Letting my heart rate go too high (I strive to keep it under 134bpm) can lead to an occurrence of an arrhythmia that I would rather not have.