A (Bi)Polar Love Affair

1201191409I don’t own a Blackberry. I have a deeply-rooted distrust of ringing cell phones. I send out about four of the 200 texts I pay for each month. And when my sister accidentally put my iPod through the wash, I could honestly tell her it wasn’t that big of a deal.

So I was understandably alarmed yesterday, when I felt my first-ever pang of gadget withdrawal during a morning Spin class. Why was I so sluggish? What was that unfamiliar feeling of discomfort? Was I dying?

Or was I just missing my Polar heartrate monitor?

A bit of background: I first purchased the monitor a couple of years ago, under duress. After paying a completely unmentionable sum for a 12-week bootcamp class at my gym, I was forced by the head trainer to spend another 100 bucks on what I assumed would be a worthless gimmick.

So wrong. From first use, I was hooked. The Polar was a sensor-filled plastic strip that, worn under my sports bra, magically transmitted my heart rate to the display on the accompanying watch (and to my treadmill’s screen, tooLifeFitness and Precor machines are Polar-equipped). Better yet, it tracked the calories I burned to a much more accurate degree than the treadmill displays.

The Polar’s best feature, however, was that it eliminated the psychological aspect of exercising. On rough days, when I felt like I was killing myself during The Worst Run Ever, I could look down at my watch and realize that, in fact, I was only at 150 beats per minute. (I was supposed to be closer to 180.) Like a less-shrill version of my high school cross-country coach, the Polar told me to speed the hell up.

Eventually, the classic signs of addiction appeared. The monitor made me absurdly obnoxious, prone to approaching unsuspecting friends and prattling on about how it “had really changed the way I worked out.” I became a pusher, trying to coerce my middle-aged father into buying one. And I was completely obsessed with its tracking function, noting each workout’s duration, distance, and calories burned.

Overlooking any unhealthy infatuation with an inanimate piece of plastic, I will say that this gorgeous black strip proved to be the rarest of all accessory success stories: As of yesterday, its cost-per-wear was down to about 25 cents.

And then it died. The repair process, I learned from the website, requires sending the monitor away for up to two weeks. I’m pretty sure the stress of withdrawal, combined with my complete inability to exercise without it, means those pangs I felt yesterday will quickly turn into a real heart attack.

But still, you should totally buy one. I mean, it’ll really change the way you work out.

Polar F4 heartrate monitor, $100, polarusa.com.