Category Archives: healthy living

Polar M400: A Runner’s Dream Watch

Disclosure: I am a Polar Ambassador and as such, was provided with the M400 as part of my ongoing ambassador role and training at no cost to me. All opinions are my own.

Let’s talk watches. There are no shortage of them out there. Between all the activity trackers, sport watches, heart rate watches, gps watches, triathlon watches it can be downright overwhelming trying to find the one that meets both your athletic and financial needs. Do you need to spend $500 on a watch when a $200 will do? Ultimately, the watch you choose needs to be one that meets your needs (duh) while costing a price you’re willing to pay.

Working on my goals!
Working on my goals!

I have a lot of ambitions and drive. I have big goals I want to meet but am also very cognizant that I may not get there. As my body gets older, it’s not able to sustain the same level of stress I could once place on it with ease. I’m learning to pay more attention to what it can and cannot do, respect that and adjust my goals as needed.

Right now, my focus has been heart rate training, functional movement and getting the most out of my workouts because with 3 young kids, it’s never a guarantee when the next one will be :)

Smiling all the way to the buffet line...
Smiling all the way to the buffet line…

So why is the M400 the watch for me? Quite simply put: It meets all my needs right now.

Primarily sold as a running watch, the M400 offers everything your inner run geek is looking for: heart rate (note: the heart rate monitor is sold separately), GPS (a HUGE deal for Polar lovers who have wanted this feature added for what seems like forever!), ease of set-up/use and loads…LOADS of stats. Splits, steps, altitude, ascent/descent, fat burn, calorie burn, max/min heart rate, activity tracking. I could go on…

My most recent MAF test as seen on the Polar Flow site.
My most recent MAF test as seen on the Polar Flow site.

About the M400: (info taken from the Polar website)

  • GPS: Allows you to track distance, speed/pace and has a need back to start feature which directs you to your starting point in the shortest distance possible. Now you can check out more adventurous routes and explore them, knowing that you’re only a touch of a button away from seeing the direction to where you started. This is kind of golden when you have to adjust your route or (cough, cough) get turned around/lost.
Just some of the data stemming from my relay race a couple of weekends ago.
Just some of the data stemming from my relay race a couple of weekends ago.
  • Finish time estimator: When you head out for a run or a ride, M400 estimates your end time based on your speed.
  • Auto Start/Stop: When you turn on this feature, your training computer starts and stops training recording automatically when you start or stop moving. No more forgetting to restart your watch after the traffic light turns green!
  • Interval Timer: You can set two timers for any interval workout, based on distance or time. You can also combine or loop those timers. This takes sooooo much guess work out of interval training and lets you concentrate on getting the running done and now worrying about laps, speed changes or anything.
  • Instant and Advanced training analysis: You can easily analyze every detail of your training in the Polar Flow web service and get a deeper insight into your activities with plenty of possibilities to learn from what you do.
  • Smart Coaching features including heart rates zones (which you can manually program to meet your needs if you like), fitness test, smart calories and training benefit.
  • Training benefit: Motivating feedback that’s delivered straight to you immediately after exercise. So if you want to know the effect of different training sessions, this feature will tell you exactly what you need to know. You get a quick overview after each session, and for more detailed feedback, check your training file or get further in-depth analysis at Polar web services.
Training Benefit
Training Benefit
  • Activity tracking. Want to know how much you move, how much you sit and how efficient your sleep is, this watch can do that for you (same technology as the Polar Loop, check you my review of that here for more details on the activity tracking technology Polar uses).

Pros:

  • The watch is gorgeous. I LOVE it in white. It’s sleek and comfortable and can be worn to workout or casually when you’re out an about (or spending the day in your pj’s. Not that I do that or anything…)
Bestill my beating heart!
Bestill my beating heart!
  • With several different display options, it’s easy to find something that works for you. I like the “Big” watch face the best. Not only does it make it a perfectly functional watch but it’s big enough that my little blind eyes can read it. Score one for the old lady eyes.
  • So many options! You can set everything up pretty much exactly how you want it. From the watch face to what info is displayed when you’re in training mode. I was even able to set my heart rate zones so that zone 3 is my MAF training range of 130-140 bpm. This allows me to more accurately gauge how well I’m staying within my range on each and every run.
You can set up multiple sport profiles in order to match your training as precisely as possible.
You can set up multiple sport profiles in order to match your training as precisely as possible.
  • GPS! One of the biggest drawbacks to Polar in the past is that their exceptional watches weren’t GPS enabled. For a runner wanting to track miles in a more effortless manner, track splits or head out the door for a run without a set route in mind, GPS really is a necessity more than a luxury. Now that GPS is a Polar staple, this watch works for running, biking, indoor training and more.
  • Activity tracking incorporates the features of the Polar Loop activity tracker with a GPS watch which means this watch always has a function to serve in your every day health and fitness rather than being stuffed into a drawer until your next run or training session.
Much like the Polar Loop, the M400 is also an activity tracker making is useful for every day use and not just for exercise.
Much like the Polar Loop, the M400 is also an activity tracker making is useful for every day use and not just for exercise.
  • Battery Life. It notes an 8 hour life option but that’s for active tracking. It doesn’t include when the watch isn’t tracking a fitness activity. I have yet to ever have the watch go lower than 50% battery at any point and this usually includes 2-3 workouts. It also charges quickly and when plugged into your computer, will sync your data to the Polar Flow while it’s charging so you can ooooo and aaahhhh over all your data. ALL. THE. STATS.
  • You can program your runs in so many ways, it literally blows my mind. You can set intervals, heart rate zones, measure your run by time or distance (or both in the same workout!). It’s really pure genius.
Setting heart rate zones.
Setting heart rate zones manually. The M400 can also set them automatically based on your input data.
More data than I have time to share!
More data than I have time to share!

The Cons:

  • The size of the watch, though great for the data, I’ve found it tends to get stuck under sleeves and doesn’t fit comfortably under my winter running jacket. It’s not a huge deal but it can be a bit of an annoyance when wearing long sleeves that aren’t loose.
  • The sync time to the mobile Polar Flow app isn’t always the greatest and many times doesn’t work well at all. In saying this, I should point out that this is my experience using the Android system and not iOS. I haven’t come across many issues for those with iPhones. It could also very well be my home internet, which sucks at the best of times.
  • Doesn’t track heart rate in the pool. For runners who aren’t cross training in the pool and have no interest in triathlon, this is not a big deal. But for those of us that don’t fall into that category, this can be a bit of a drawback. Not to worry, the V800 does have this capability, as well as 16 hours of battery life, but with that comes a heftier financial commitment. It really comes down to what will meet your needs. I still plan on entering into the world of triathlon next year, if possible and will definitely be looking into the V800 in the fall when indoor training starts up for the winter.
  • I’ve found that for the intensity of the workouts I do at my gym, the watch is in danger of getting destroyed. Not that the construction is poor because it’s very resilient (trust me, I have kids…), but even the best watched are not going to survive a kettle bell slamming into them repeatedly.
  • The alarm on it is a bit quiet for my liking. I tend to run along busier streets and will have either music or a podcast keeping me company. The combined noise can make it hard to hear the heart rate alarm. I would love to see future models have a bit more range choice for the volume.
  • My baby loves it. Ok, so this is not exactly a “con” per se…but I’ve had to stop wearing it around the house because when she sees it, she wants to eat it. And when she can’t eat it, she gets angry. Hulk baby is nobody’s friend.

Bottom Line:

I love this watch. I’m excited by who can benefit from it (i.e. everyone!). It really does have something for everyone. Whether you want to track movement and sleep, are a casual runner looking for a way to track your mileage or an avid runner who wants to track every last step you take, there is something for everyone. The watch can not only help you achieve your goals, it can evolve along with them.

You can't argue with that enthusiasm. Or that vertical...
You can’t argue with that enthusiasm.
Or that vertical…

In short, this is a watch that will be my constant companion for a very long time. I hope it will be for you as well.

If you’re looking for more in depth information regarding the technical set-up or how to use certain features, I HIGHLY recommend reading this review by DC rainmaker. He makes it his business to know every last feature of a sport watch and his detail is unmatched and very helpful if you run into a snag with setting anything up.

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