Heart Rate Monitor - Not working very well - What affects performance.

Snakebiter71 Registered Users Posts: 26
Outstanding Explorer
edited January 24 in TomTom Sports
Having bought a Runner 3 in November last year I feel completely underwhelmed with the functionality of the watch.
It was an expensive investment and I feel I have wasted my money.
In all it has been a miserable experience.

Initially I had problems with the syncing, but eventually got used to all the faffing about. After all I had spent the money on it so it was either waste it or get used to it.
Since upgrading my phone things have improved, but it's all going pear shaped again, maybe the watch needs to be connected to the computer for one of its weekly updates.

My main concern now is the Heart rate monitor, it never seems to be stable in its operation.
I wear the watch, and if, on a good day, it actually picks up my HR it always cuts out after a few minutes.
I am constantly juggling with the position on the wrist to get it to work.

Whilst working out I am constantly looking to see if it is still working, and juggling it around if it is not working.

Reading a few posts on here I see that there are certain things that affect the functionality of the HRM.
Could you please list these factors and how to avoid them.

At present I sometimes wear the watch on the inside of my wrist where the skin is thinner, would this actually improve things, or am I imagining it?

Some factors I have seen include:
-Skin tone
-Arm hair

What effect do these actually have?

Will shaving the arm hair where the watch contacts help?
I'm afraid I can't do too much about skin tone or tattoos however.

Many thanks in advance.

(Please could I have actual answers rather than a generic cut 'n' paste reply with links to helplines that aren't really that helpful!)


  • xray79
    xray79 Registered Users Posts: 160
    Renowned Wayfarer
    Shaving isn't necessary i have a hairy arm and my HR is working fine. Some people do have issues with OHRM (optical HR measurements) it's related to the technology and not the watch. Also when it's cold it may take a while to get a proper reading the OHRM is sensing flow changes in the small vessels and in cold or when you exercise with weights this might not give a proper reading. You can try to put the watch on the other wrist or wear it tighter and not to close to the bone near the hand.
    If this is not working you might be one of the unlucky persons who have a bad wrist for OHR.
    A chest strap can be a solution and is still better than an OHRM.
  • Snakebiter71
    Snakebiter71 Registered Users Posts: 26
    Outstanding Explorer
    Thanks for the reply.

    It's a bit disappointing, but I guess I should have researched it a bit more before spending out the money.......
  • tfarabaugh
    tfarabaugh Posts: 17,004
    It is definitely a technology in its infancy and does not work well for everyone. I see people who can never get a lock or get bad readings while mine are spot on as compared to a strap every time. It is a bit of luck of genetics unfortunately and how your physiology is. Skin tone, tattoos, bone structure underlying muscle structure all play into it. If your veins are deep or you are heavier so there is more fat on the arms it will struggle to find and lock on a signal as well. I actually have more accuracy problems with a HR strap due to my chest shape and how my cardiac signals are in my chest.

    It is generally close enough to be usable data, but there is definitely a cost/benefit consideration. Most people value the convenience and comfort of OHR over having to wear a chest strap so the potential loss in accuracy is worth it (and it really is not a loss at all if you would not wear a strap at all - slightly inaccurate data is better than none at all).

    As xray79 pointed out, you can also try switching wrists and the position on the wrist. I find I got better readings on my right wrist over my left and some people find they get better readings if the watch is on the inside of the wrist rather than the outside. It also helps if you warm up a bit to get your blood moving and your HR up so it is producing a strong signal. Play around with it and see if any of this helps you.

    I hope this helped answer your question. If so, please mark it as a solution so others can look for it if they have the same question.
  • elbo
    elbo Registered Users Posts: 49
    Apprentice Traveler
    The technology is quite old and very mature. Hospitals use it all the time BUT they put the sensor on your finger. Your wrist is about the worst place on your body for the technology to work.

    For me personally, while running it is completely useless. The problem is not that there is a slight inaccuracy, but the problem is my heartrate is all over the place (+200bpm on a slow long run is not inaccurate, it's plain wrong.) I rather have no reading than a wrong reading.

    The strange thing, again for me, is that cycling gives quite good results. More or less comparable with my Suunto with cheststrap, and previous ECG read outs. I've read on some articles cycling is more difficult for OHR, because you don't use your arms and your veins will not transport so much blood.

    One thing you can try is to move your watch as far as possible away from your wrist. The farther the better.
  • tfarabaugh
    tfarabaugh Posts: 17,004
    Perhaps a more fair statement would be that the technology is not new but the application of it in this way is. And as you pointed out, what works on the finger may not work as well as elsewhere. The upper arm is much better, which is why the Scosche rhythm works so well (but you can't push it up that high with the band, unfortunately). It is funny that it works so well for you for cycling but not for running, because a lot of users have the opposite experience. Cycling causes all sorts of issues for them. But that is exactly the point, the application is not stable enough to account for a wide disparity of activities and users and it is still very hit or miss depending on who is using it and how they use it.
  • Snakebiter71
    Snakebiter71 Registered Users Posts: 26
    Outstanding Explorer
    I just think that the price you pay for the watch is just too high for the overall quality and performance.
  • Snakebiter71
    Snakebiter71 Registered Users Posts: 26
    Outstanding Explorer
    I have continued to experiment with the watch and here is what I have found:

    1) Wearing the watch on the inside of the wrist sometimes works better. The results are not consistent though.
    2) Wearing the strap tighter sometimes works better, although the results are not consistent.
    The drawback is the watchstrap quality. Wearing it tighter will cause more stress to an already poor quality strap (see numerous threads about poor quality straps).
    3) Switching wrists, for me is not a viable solution as I wear a proper watch on my left wrist. I know I don't need to, but it's habit!