I am really excited to announce that I have been selected to be one of the brand ambassadors for Polar’s latest sports watch, the M430, after applying for the role through The Running Bug online running community. I have never been a brand ambassador before, and needless to say, this is a huge honour as I have been working really hard on raising my profile as a fitness & running blogger and building strong relationships with reputable sports and healthy lifestyle brands over the past few months. This opportunity also comes at the perfect time as I’m looking to take my running to the next level, by running 12 half marathons in 12 months this year as a personal challenge.
I can’t believe how fast time flies – it was a week ago that I was invited to attend the UK Polar launch event in London’s Regents Park, where I became the happy owner of a new M430 sports watch and participated in the official UK test together with dozens of other runners! Here are some highlights from the day and my early experiences with my new running and workout ‘buddy’, the M430.
Loving my new watch!
I arrived at the Sports HUB in Regents Park on a balmy afternoon after spending the day working from my firm’s Canary Wharf office. It was nice to escape the tall concrete blocks and swap the chilly airconned office to some fresh air.
After being greeted by some people from Polar, and being kitted out with my new watch and a goodie bag, I started chatting to some others also waiting around. It turns out that amongst the invitees, there were people from a range of different backgrounds – a sports editor at The Guardian, other running bloggers and influencers, triathletes, tech gadget reviewers, writers for magazines such as Outdoor Fitness and Men’s Running, some peeps from Running Bug, coaches from Running with Us, and I even spotted Sam Murphy who is one of my favourite columnists at the Runners World Magazine and whose workshop I attended a few years ago to learn more about marathon training. I felt I was in great company!
Getting acquainted with our new watches
The event started with a short briefing about the new watch – it turns out that its predecessor,the M400, was the No.1 running computer in Europe in 2015 and 2016. I thought that was really impressive, I have to admit I did not know that. This new model takes things a couple of steps further, building on the success of the M400 – it comes with a wrist-based heart rate monitor, activity tracker, sleep monitor, VO2Max fitness test, advanced GPS features, training support features, indoor training features, calorie counter and many more, just to mention a few! At that point, it began to dawn on me that the M430 is the most sophisticated tech gadget I had ever owned, and I could barely wait to put the watch through its paces for the first time after the presentation.
Learning more about the watch
Next, we were taken outside for a quick warmup and running drills before doing our test run. This session was led by the coaches of Running with Us who specialise in training both elite and recreational runners, cyclists and triathletes. We must have been quite a spectacle – about 50 of us lined up on the verge of the grass, wearing the same black T-shirt, firing up our running engines by dynamic stretching, hopping, skipping, and sprinting. Given how good the run felt afterwards, this made me think that perhaps I should add some drills to my own warm-up routine…
…and more drills!
Then the main session followed. Huge kudos for the watch locking onto the GPS signal relatively quickly – nothing frustrates me more than when I have to stand around waiting for aaages for the watch to find the satellite signals. I know we are going to be good friends.
We were instructed to run 8 minutes at easy effort, 8 minutes at medium effort and 8 minutes at a challenging effort, around a 700 metre lap, using the heart rate monitor function on our watches to help guide us with the intensity. I have to admit that heart rate based training is quite new to me as I have always used pace as an indicator for intensity in my training. Polar has 5 distinct heart rate zones that tell you how hard you are working. These zones are based on percentages of your maximum heart rate, using the (220 – age) formula to determine your MHR.
I have to admit, I got overexcited and then ended up chatting to other runners, so I did not strictly follow the prescribed 8/8/8 split of efforts during the run, but managed to dip into at least 3 different heart rate zones.
First run with our new watches
One feature I really liked during the test run is the ability to mark each lap by pressing the lap button on the watch each time I passed the corner we started at. This is a great function if you are running on a track or park circuit, for example. It probably comes as no surprise that this made me slightly competitive with myself, trying to beat my previous lap times, spicing things up a bit more. Fortunately, the watch also allows you to lock the heart rate or speed zone you are currently in so that if your heart rate or speed goes outside the locked zone, you will be notified with audio feedback – great for those of us who have a tendency to get carried away during structured training sessions!
The watch has different data screens that you can switch between easily during your run, depending on what kind of information you want to see, such as distance covered, current pace, average pace, current heart rate, heart rate zone, time lapsed – you name it. As you would expect, you get all the summary stats at the end, including cadence (for one foot), calories burnt, total time, distance completed, average heart rate, elevation, total time spent in different heart rate zones, breakdown of fat burn and all the other jazz.
The exciting part comes when you synch the watch with the Polar Flow app, which you can download onto your smart phone for free. After finishing the run, we returned to the HUB for some light snacks and refreshments (water, fresh fruit, sushi rolls, biscuits, Meridian bars – yumm!) and to look at how our workout data is displayed on Polar Flow after synching. You will find an abundance of data on Polar Flow about your runs and workouts, however, there are three things that immediately stood out for me on Polar Flow and which are different from other apps I have tried in the past.
Analysing our training data on Polar Flow
Firstly, you have the option to ‘relive’ your workout where you can play a video showing your route, your passing through different heart rate zones, as well as some photos if they are available from the street camera feed. Secondly, Polar Flow also tells you how you benefitted from your training session – for example, if you have just done a tempo training session, you will learn that ‘this training increased your anaerobic tolerance, and improved your maximal oxygen uptake (VO2max) and efficiency. It also raised the speed you can maintain without building up lactic acid. Carbohydrates are the main energy source that your body uses at this training intensity’ and so on. And thirdly, you get the ‘training load’ data as well which is essentially feedback on the strenuousness of your training session, and how many hours it is likely to take you to fully recover from the session to be ready for your next one. I can already see this feature is going to be a great help as I often go overboard with my training and neglect the importance of proper recovery time – an open invitation to injuries.
A very happy running group
This watch and the app are incredibly versatile with so many different features, and I have to say I’m seriously impressed. It definitely deserves a separate blog post, and I will make sure to report back on how I am getting on – on this occasion I merely wanted to give you a little foretaste of what you can expect if tracking your runs and workouts is your thing.
You can cheer me on and follow my running journey here on the blog and on Instagram as I’m working towards completing 12 half marathons in 12 months this year. I am very excited to see how this watch might bring a fresh boost my training both inside and outside the gym, so watch this space!
In the meantime, if you would like to learn more about the watch, I recommend that you check out the following high quality, professional reviews on Arstechnica and DC Rainmaker. (Warning: these are for serious techno geeks!) If you feel tempted to get your own M430, you can buy it from here.
What is your favourite fitness gadget you can’t live without?
Photo credits: Leigh Quinnell
Thank you Polar, PromotePR and The Running Bug for making my day awesome.