If you’ve been reading my blog lately, you know that I’ve been doing MAF/low heart rate (HR) training. While this is a recent experiment, I’ve been curious about HR training for a while. I used a HR monitor (HRM) during the first half of my training for the Marine Corps Marathon (MCM) last year to make sure my easy runs were truly easy. Even though it was reassuring to see the HR data confirm my perceived effort, I despised the HRM I was using – the standard Garmin HRM that comes with many of their GPS watches, which was generously loaned to me by RC.
I had 4 major issues with the Garmin HRM. One, it did not fit me. Even at the tightest setting, the strap was a few inches too large. I had to cinch it together at the back with a safety pin, resulting in 1-2 inches of fabric sticking out and creating another chafing spot (see point 4, below). Two, I hated wetting the electrodes. After a few sessions of wonky HR data, I asked around and found out that most people either lick or spit on the HRM electrodes. Gross. I did it, but I didn’t like it. This leads into the 3rd point: unreliable data. Maybe it was the poor fit or not-wet-enough-electrodes, but the Garmin HRM almost always reported random spikes during the first mile, despite the fact that I usually did a short, dynamic warm-up and started out with a low perceived effort. Fourth, and the most egregious issue of all, was the chafing. Short runs were fine, but after my 2nd 20-mile long run for MCM, I chafed so badly that I gave up using the HRM for the remainder of my training. I know that some people get around the chafing using medical tape, but I wasn’t willing to try it.
Traumatized, I put away the Garmin HRM and my hopes of using HR data to help with training. Then, about 2 months ago, Kimra posted something about the Mio Link, a HRM that you wear on your wrist instead of around your chest. My interest was immediately piqued. Without even trying it, I knew it would address 3 of the 4 issues I had with the Garmin chest strap. After getting Kimra’s opinion on the Link and reading online reviews from trusted bloggers (here and here), I was even more interested in getting it. The thing that put me over the edge was deciding to embark on MAF training, which I knew would be impossible with the Garmin HRM (though for a hot second I considered getting the soft strap). All of those factors, plus the satisfaction guarantee from REI, sealed the deal. Within 5 days of ordering, I had the Mio Link on my wrist and ready for action.
Before I continue with the review, here are some of notable features according to the product website:
- Mio Continuous Technology with EKG-accurate heart rate data at performance speeds
- No uncomfortable chest strap, so you can train with heart in comfort
- Customize your workout with up to 5 user-settable heart rate zones
- Connect to your favorite fitness apps & sport devices with Bluetooth Smart (4.0) and ANT+.
- Comes in two sizes (wrist sizes: S/M – 121-175mm / 4.8”-6.9”, L: 149-208mm / 5.9”-8.2”)
- Water resistant up to 30m depths
I should also note that Mio also makes a stand-alone watch with a screen called the Alpha, which is twice the price of the Link. Unfortunately, it does not appear to have GPS capabilities or memory, so you’ll still need another device or app to track that information. And while we’re on the subject of HRM worn on the wrist/arm, Scosche also has a optical/LED HRM that’s reviewed in depth here.
After reading a lot customer reviews, it seemed like the biggest issue with the Link was irregular readings. Pete Larsen suggested some tips in his review, including wearing the Link higher up on the wrist to avoid bony parts. This makes sense because the LED technology requires a tight seal with the skin in order to block out other sources of light, which interfere with HR readings. Another thing Pete suggested was wearing the Link on the same arm as your GPS watch. Yes, this is dorky, but if you’re already wearing a gigantic GPS watch and wearing compression socks, you don’t have much room to roll your eyes at what’s dorky and what’s not, you know what I’m saying?
The Link is very easy to use – just put it on very snugly, press the power bar (the set of 10 nubs under the Mio logo), and you’re ready to go! I’ve been using the Link with my Garmin 210 and it’s worked seamlessly. The one time that my Garmin wasn’t charged, I was forced to use the Mio app on my iPhone, which could use some serious improvement.
The Link has an indicator light that flashes different colors, telling you which zone you’re in (zones are set using the Mio app). I find this feature somewhat useless because it’s not constant, only flashing every 2-3 seconds. All this to say — the Mio Link by itself is not that awesome, but when paired with a Garmin, it’s great. As for battery life, the manufacture claims that it will last 10 hours, but I haven’t tested it for myself. The HRM pops out of the wrist strap and clicks easily into the USB-charging dock — a much more reliable interface than the Garmin 210 charging clip.
I’ve used the Mio Link about 20 times over the last month and I’ve been extremely satisfied with it. After using it for about 2 weeks, I went for a run with the original Garmin HRM to compare the kind of numbers I was getting. I was happy to see that the HR/pace data was very similar to numbers I was seeing with the Link.
The only time I’ve had any issues with the Mio Link was when I didn’t have the wrist strap tight enough. It’s a bit uncomfortable at first to have the wrist strap so tight, but I get used to it very quickly and often forget about it during the course of a run. Also, because it’s on so tight, the strap leaves an impression on my skin, but it goes away within ~1 hour. Plus, it’s all relative — when compared to swim goggle racoon eyes, arm marks are definitely preferable in my book!
The summary/ low-down*:
– No chafing
– No need to wet electrodes
– Consistent readings when worn tightly
– Easy to put on, take off
– Easy to use
– Compatible with almost every running device and app on the market today
– Pricier than Garmin chest strap HRMs
– Another device to wear on your wrist
– Leaves arm marks and is very sweaty after use
– Indicator light does not flash frequently enough
– No internal memory to track HR data
*in the context of using the Link with a Garmin 210
Highly recommended, especially compared to the chest strap HRM.
Disclaimer: The above review is my personal opinion. I have not been compensated in any way to endorse this product.