5 things you didn't know about your Polar watch

Having a wearable fitness tracker is an essential if you're serious about working out. If you haven't tried one yet, trust me, it's a game changer. 

After purchasing my Polar A300, I've been able to better track my workouts and clearly see the progress that I've made. Measuring my workouts helps keep me motivated and pushes me to work harder, especially on the days that I'm not feeling the best. 

Like many people I know, I wear my watch 2/7 and if I forget to wear my heart rate monitor when I go to the gym, I seriously contemplate whether it's actually worth working out if I can't measure it ;)

I've had my watch for several months, but I've realized recently that there are many features I haven't used and many aspects to the watch that I don't quite understand. Things like what is the fitness test anyway? and how does my watch determine the fat burning vs fitness threshold? or is this calorie counter even correct?! After asking some of my friends about these things, they were just as clueless. 

That being said, I went straight to the source and did lots of painstaking research on the Polar site and sifted through the product manual to get some answers.  I did all the hard work for you, cause let's face it, I'm sure most of you were too excited to start working out with it that you barely read the manual. It's okay, clearly I did the same thing. 

After discovering how helpful some of these features are, I thought I'd share them with you! ****These apply to the A300, M400 and A360 watch models, though they might be slightly different depending on the model!


5 Things you didn't know you could do with your Polar Watch:


1. How fit are you? Take the fitness test to find out!

The Polar A300, M400 and A360 have a Fitness test that measures how fit you are. Sounds great, tell me more! The test measures your aerobic fitness which indicates how efficient your cardiovascular system is. As you consistently workout over time, you are able to improve your results (awesome!).

Taking the test is also important because your result is used to calculate the total calories you burn with each workout. SO DO IT! I didn't know about it until several months after buying my watch, but now that I've taken the test my readings have been much more accurate and in general the amount of calories has increased!

Taking the Polar fitness test is super easy. First, make sure that your personal data is up to date. The test takes into account your age, weight, height, etc so make sure it's all accurate. For the test, all you have to do is wear your heart rate monitor and watch while laying down for 5 minutes. Um, easiest test ever, sign me up!

To access the test, (for the A300 at least) start on the home screen of your watch and then click the down arrow button 4 times to see the Fitness test menu and follow the instructions. 

When the time is up, you'll be able to see your maximal oxygen uptake number, or VO2 max. You can then compare your number on the chart to see where you stand. This chart is for females, but if you are a dude, you can check that one out here.

From the Polar A300 training manual http://support.polar.com/e_manuals/A300/Polar_A300_user_manual_English/manual.pdf

From the Polar A300 training manual http://support.polar.com/e_manuals/A300/Polar_A300_user_manual_English/manual.pdf

Polar recommends that you retake the test once a month to see if you've improved. You should take it in the same place and at the same time of day each time you take the test. It's also important to not eat heavy or workout  a few hours before taking it. 


2. Forget "other indoor," customize your sport profiles

The Polar watches come with sport profiles such as: running, walking, cycling, strength training, etc. but did you know that there are dozens of other types of sport profiles that you can add to your watch? I had no idea. You can choose from the list and pick the sports that most accurately describe your workouts.

Sadly there is no BBG sport profile, so I chose circuit training and then treadmill running for HIIT. I also added spinning for when I go to Soul Cycle and beach volleyball since I play that often. 

For each profile you can customize the heart rate settings. You can choose to view your heart rate in BPM or as a percentage of your maximum heart rate. You can also edit the heart rate zones if you know your individual thresholds. Apparently you have to get those tested at a lab, so I'm guessing that doesn't apply to many of us. 

I was also super stoked to realize that you can put the sport profiles in the order of which you do most often. I put circuit training as my first profile, that way I never have to scroll through all my options to find it. Yay laziness!


For the M400 watch, there are many more options for customizing your sport profiles. You can edit your training views, or different screens you see during your workout. These options include things like altitude, total descent, HR avg lap, distance, lap distance, speed, etc. You can customize which screens you want to see for each sport profile. 

To edit your sport profiles, log into your Polar Web flow service. At the top right of your screen, click on the arrow beside your name and select "sport profiles" from the drop down menu. 

The somewhat annoying thing about this is that you do have to sync the updates to your watch after making any changes. This involves plugging your watch into your computer. 


3. Better track your progress with workout diary and training benefit 

On the Polar Web Flow site you can see a calendar view of all of your logged workouts. This is called your diary (awww, sappy) but it's actually really cool because you can click on each workout and see a graph of your heart rate throughout the entire workout. It tells you how long you were in each heart rate zone as well as your average heart rate. Here's a snapshot of what one of my BBG 2 leg day workouts looked like:

The other neat thing is that you can view the training benefit, which describes how the specific workout helped your overall fitness ability based on the heart rate intervals you reached.  Here's what the training benefit was for this particular leg day workout: 

Again, to be able to see all this data, you have to be sure to sync your watch to the app first.


4. Are you in the zone? Understand the Energy Pointer 

You might already use this one, but I thought I'd share it anyway. The energy pointer shows you the heart rate where your workout effect changes from fat burning to improving fitness. This feature is great to use for workouts like LISS where it's important to stay within your fat burning heart rate zone. If you start a workout, clicking the down arrow once should show you the energy pointer screen (A300 at least). 

The cool thing about the energy pointer is that it detects how your physical state is for the day and adjusts the energy number accordingly. Polar doesn't give much information on how this works, but it claims that on days when you are fully recovered from workouts, the energy pointer number will be on the higher end of the fat burning spectrum, whereas on days when you aren't recovered, it will be lower. Again, not really sure how that works, but I guess we can trust them on that one? Regardless, the energy pointer value is always between 69-80% of your maximum heart rate. 


5. HIIT the Bulls eye! Set your own training targets

The Polar web flow site also lets you create custom training targets that you can achieve when working out. For example, you can set a target to burn at least 400 calories in your next circuit workout. When you use this target during your workout, your watch will show you the percentage of the target calories you've burned thus far. This is a great feature for helping you achieve specific goals. 

From the Polar A300 Training manual http://support.polar.com/e_manuals/A300/Polar_A300_user_manual_English/manual.pdf

From the Polar A300 Training manual http://support.polar.com/e_manuals/A300/Polar_A300_user_manual_English/manual.pdf


In addition, you can also set phased training targets, which is great for interval training such as HIIT. You can set the time and desired heart rate zone for each interval, including a warm-up and cool down. When you workout you will be able to see which heart rate zone you are in for each interval to ensure that you are training correctly. Here's a snapshot of a few intervals that you could use for HIIT:

To create a target, go to the diary section of the Polar web flow site and select the day you want it to apply to. Then click "add" to create and customize your target. Remember to sync your watch with your computer for it to work. 


Conclusion: You're now a Polar genius 

I hope you enjoyed reading about some of the features of the Polar A300 and M400! Even though I've been using my watch for months, I was surprised at how many features I was missing out on. Now that I've started using these features, I've found that my readings have been more accurate and I have a better sense of my overall fitness progress. If you try any of these out, let me know how they work for you! 


Sources- all info came from: 

Polar.com http://www.polar.com/us-en

Polar A300 Manual http://support.polar.com/e_manuals/A300/Polar_A300_user_manual_English/manual.pdf

Polar Flow Web https://flow.polar.com