Polar RCX3 GPS and Heart Rate Watch Review

Polar RCX3 GPS and Heart Rate Watch Review

The RCX3 GPS watch is the latest model in the popular multi sport line by Polar. Designed to make heart rate training easy and intuitive, the RXC3 combines a variety of high spec features from the Polar range of training computer and GPS watches to offer a complete heart rate training solution for endurance runners, cyclists and multi sporters.

Polar RCX 3

 

There are a few key features that make the RCX3 an advanced heart rate training watch and these are the areas that I am going to detail in this review.

Because I aim to be completely transparent with my reviews it is worth mentioning at this point that like all of my reviews, the company (in this case, Polar) has arranged for a sample product for me to test for a period of a few weeks. I put the watch through its paces and write up my thoughts before sending the unit back to Polar. The company does not pay me for any of my reviews or have any influence over anything that I say.

That being said, if you have any questions or technical queries that you would like me to investigate then please either drop me an email or comment this post and I will get in touch with the people at Polar for an answer.

On with the Polar RCX3 Review!

In the box

First thing is first, you need to know what exactly you are getting for your money when you purchase the RCX3!

 

Included in the box is the following:

  • Polar RCX3 watch
  • GPS receiver + belt clip
  • Heart rate strap and sensor (WearLink transmitor W.I.N.D
  • Data-link transfer USB stick
  • Quick start guide + manual

 

After initially turning on the watch you are promoted to enter your basic information such as age, weight, height, gender and unit preferences.

 

Filling in these details is made easy with the four large buttons surrounding the bezel and one large red button located just under the face.

As soon as you have entered this info you are greeted by the time/date setting of the watch – this is the default setting whenever you turn the unit back on after it has been asleep.

 

Sensor Setup

After the initial setup it is time to connect the various sensors that you would like to use.

The best way to do this is to delve into the settings of the watch and change the sensor settings for each sport profile that you will be using in the course of your training.

The RCX3 allows you to customize four separate profiles – one running, two cycling and one additional sport. The idea is that you can change the features and sensors that you would like to use for each profile so that you have set the watch up exactly for what you need for your running, cycling or multi sport training.

The settings that you can change for each profile are as follows:

Running:

  • Training sounds (loud/soft)
  • Heart rate sensor (on/off)
  • GPS sensor (on/off)
  • Stride sensor (on/off)
  • Speed view (units)
  • Automatic lap (distance)
  • Shoe in pre training mode (yes/no)
  • Numbering of training screens (on/off)
  • Training view (one, two or three rows)

Cycling:

  • Training sounds (loud/soft)
  • Heart rate sensor (on/off)
  • GPS sensor (on/off)
  • Wheel size
  • Cadence sensor
  • Auto start
  • Speed sensor
  • Speed view (units)
  • Automatic lap (distance)
  • Shoe in pre training mode (yes/no)
  • Numbering of training screens (on/off)
  • Training view (one, two or three rows)

Other Sport:

  • Training sounds (loud/soft)
  • Heart rate sensor (on/off)
  • GPS sensor (on/off)
  • Speed view (units)
  • Automatic lap (distance)
  • Shoe in pre training mode (yes/no)
  • Numbering of training screens (on/off)
  • Training view (one, two or three rows)

When pairing a sensor, the make sure that the sensor is turned on and is transmitting before trying to pair. The heart rate sensor and GPS connect in a matter of seconds and the GPS unit flashes with a green light instead of a red light when it is paired just to add that little bit of reassurance.

Polar RCX 3 Review and GPS Sensor

 

The watch connects quickly to the GPS pod:

All of the above are pretty standard features of any GPS multi sports watch but it is the advanced Heart Rate training features of the RCX3 that set it apart from the crowd.

Key Features:

  • Sport Zones
  • ZoneOptimiser
  • Training benefit
  • Training load

Sport Zones

The sport zone feature allows you to set and change the heart rate zones that you want to train to. For anyone that has never heard of heart rate zones before, they consist of an upper and lower bound in which you should aim to keep your heart rate within when you are training. Usually people talk about five bands ranging from low intensity all the way up to high intensity workouts and constructing a workout around these bands is central to heart rate training.

There are five sport zones on the RCX3 that you can customize by setting the upper and lower bound.

When used in combination with the Lock Sport Zone feature an alarm will sound if you are above or below the target heart rate zone that you would like to train at. This is a great feature as most athletes tend to revert back to a certain pace or intensity that they are used to training at instead of sticking to the target heart rate dictated by the type of session they are undertaking. If your schedule prescribes that you need to undertake a recovery run at say 120-130 BPM then you can set the watch up to sound an alarm if you go outside of these limits.

The default sport zones are split up in the following way and Polar provide clear guidance on how long you should spend in each training zone in order to target specific aspects of your fitness as well as which zones are suitable for you depending on your current fitness

 

Zone Optimiser

The ZoneOptimiser is a feature that is completely unique to Polar and does not appear on any other GPS watches on the market.

At the beginning of your training session, ZoneOptimiser will record your heart rate as you warm up and will adjust the heart rate zones accordingly to suit your physiological profile at the time of your training.

Sometimes you may feel especially tired or may be suffering from the tail end of an illness and therefore will not be able to train at the upper bound of your target heart rate zones without severely increasing your exertion, possibly increasing your changes of injury or over training. The ZoneOptimiser identifies heart rate variability as you slowly build up to 130bpm and then will adjust your heart rate zones either up or down.

This is intelligent training at its peak as the Polar RCX3 adapts to your current state instead of prescribing rigid training zones.

Training Benefit

The Training Benefit feature has been designed to provide intelligent feedback about your last training session. Depending on the intensity of your run or cycle, the watch will identify what aspect of your fitness was improved.

The benefits are as follows:

 

Training Load

This is a feature that is accessed through the online PolarPersonalTrainer.com website where you upload all of your training session for record and analysis.

The training load feature tells you how much time you need for complete recovery so that you can see if you are fully recovered in time for your next training session.

A number of different factors are taken into account when it comes to working out training load including intensity and duration of your run or cycle as well as your age, height, gender and weight.

Training with the Polar RCX3

No watch would be worth its metal if it didn’t prove easy to read as well as accurate and specific training data to allow you to train at your target level.

Once you have paired the GPS and hear rate sensor as well as set your target zone and calibrated according to the ZoneOptimiser then it is time to train.

You can start your run or cycle by simply pressing the red button situated at the base of the watch screen. The RCX3 will then search for your heart rate monitor as well as the sensors that you have set up for the sport profile that you are prompted to chose.

 

Then you simply press the red button again to start your training session.

Training Views

The sensors that you have paired to the RCX3 dictate which combination of training screens you will be able to view when you arerunning, or cycling:

Current heart rate, Current pace, Cumulative Distance

 

Current pace, cumulative distance, lap time.

Heart rate zone, lap time

Lap time, current heart rate, lap distance.

Average pace, calories, time.

 

You use the up and down buttons to cycle through the various training screens and the number of each training screen briefly flashes up before the metrics are displayed so you can keep track of which screen you are looking at and in what order.

Training Summary

At the end of your run or cycle, the Polar RCX3 does more then just display simple training stats. Along with things like average pace, total time, total distance, calories and heart rate stats, the RCX3 also displays the type of training session that you just undertook. Using the lookup chart on the polar website or the user manual you can then check the session to see the corresponding fitness benefits.

 

You can also view weekly and monthly summaries for your training data in chart and grid format. You can chose which metrics you wish to overlay against each other on a a simple chart so you can easily keep track of your long term fitness.

PolarPersonalTrainer.com

The Polar Personal trainer website is where you can track your fitness progress as well as planning  running and cycling programs using the online personal trainer feature.

Before uploading your training data to the polar website, you need to install a small (50mb) program and register with the site.

Then, using the wireless USB stick to pair the watch to your computer or mac, the training data is transferred to the site in a matter of seconds.

 

Once logged into the site it is possible to view all past training sessions in either a calendar or collated format.

 

As well as keeping track of daily, weekly, monthly yearly or overall total training metrics such as distance, calories, time and heart rate data It is also possible to see your training load. This is the amount of time it takes you to recover from a session and therefore you can plan your next training move accordingly. You can see from the image below how the training load tails off after exercise but if I were to add another training session to my schedule today you would see the load jump straight back up to levels above the previous training peak as I would only be adding to the previous load.

 

The training load is where Polar sets itself apart from either the Garmin, Motorola or Suunto watch websites. Although competitors may focus on different things (Garmin – number of stats + accuracy, Motorola – fun + music, Suunto – social training + community) the Polar website focuses on providing clear and easy to understand training data including all the heart rate data that you would ever need.

The Garin Forerunner 910, 610 and 410 may allow you to customize an array of training views and about a hundred other things but what they don’t let you do is have an online personal trainer program crate a personal running or cycling schedule for easy tracking and downloading to your RCX3.

Once you have been prompted for a few choice questions such as current training commitments and intensity, the Polar website will create you a personal program that you can train to just as you would from a schedule from Runners World or BeginnerTriathlete.

 

The best way to explore all of the features of the PolarPersonalTrainer website is to register for a free account and check it out for yourself as no Polar RXC3 review can do this functional, easy to navigate and seamless portal justice.

Polar RCX3 Review Summary

The Polar RCX3 is an advanced running and cycling GPS watch that offers much more than just the usual time, distance and pace statistics that we are used to seeing from GPS watches. The RCX3 has been designed to make advanced heart rate training easy and accessible so that any endurance athlete can incorporate it into their training.Advanced features such as Zone Optimiser and Training load not only identify your current physiological state and adjust your heart rate training zones accordingly, but also tells you how long you need to recover from a session. Customizable alarms alert you if you are running too hard or too slow and optional pairing with an array of GPS, heart rate and bike sensors mean that this watch is more than able to cope with the rigors of the endurance multi sporter.

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