Most, if not all serious endurance athletes wear some type of heart rate monitor. Heart rate training improves fitness and racing performance. Endurance athletes who put up with harsh conditions such as extreme weather and blisters may balk at the discomfort and inconvenience of wearing a heart rate chest strap. For these athletes Mio performance wearables offer accurate heart rate monitoring without the hassle of chest straps.
To find out more about Mio performance wearables, byteclay.com recently spoke with veteran triathlon coach and Mio ambassador, Duane Franks.
Mark Davis: You wear the Mio in the same spot as a watch?
Duane Franks: Yes, it goes on the wrist but if you’re going to wear another watch that is compatible with it, then the Mio slides up and should be on the upper end of that.
MD: On the elbow side of the watch.
DF: Yes, exactly. The ALPHA 2 is wide because it has a big display face, you wouldn’t wear an ALPHA 2 and another watch. The Mio LINK and the FUSE and the VELO are all pretty slim so they fit fine, right next to your other device and being that close to the device makes the ANT+ signal very strong.
MD: What is the advantage of taking the heart rate from the wrist as opposed to a chest strap?
DF: A lot of people will not wear a chest strap because it’s not comfortable or it slips. Probably more than half the women I work with just don’t even want to wear the chest strap, it’s just uncomfortable because it rubs. Even the softer straps can cause discomfort.
MD: You have to wet a chest strap before you put it on. Do you need to do this with a Mio?
DF: No, because it’s not using that technology. It’s using optical technology so it’s actually flashing a light pulse that identifies blood flow. You have blood flowing through all of your arteries and it will identify the blood flow through a series of algorithms. It’s EKG accurate in its heart rate reading.
MD: Is there an improvement in heart rate accuracy with Mio’s optical technology?
DF: EKG is always the gold standard when you speak about heart rate so when you say “EKG accurate” you are comparing it to the gold standard. Heart rate is a reading of the de-polarization in the electrical system of the heart. When any muscle contracts, it’s creating electrical energy. When a doctor puts electrodes on you, they’re looking at the de-polarization of the heart muscle. That’s the standard. If you reach down to your wrist and you measure your pulse, you’re feeling the pulse of the blood being pumped out of your heart through the circulatory system. That’s a direct measurement of the blood flow.
MD: The one without the display is the LINK and the one you wear is the FUSE.
DF: I wear several (laughs). I like them all for different purposes. The LINK does not have any numerical display; it has five different colored LED lights. With the Mio phone app you can set different heart rate zones that correspond to the color of the lights. Blue is the lowest heart rate zone; red is the highest. I have athletes who just want to know if they are in the right zone, they want it as simple as possible. They don’t have to memorize any zones, they throw the LINK on, you set the zones that are appropriate to them through the phone app and then you tell them to run in the yellow zone or blue zone or green zone or violet or whatever. They are able to monitor their intensity just by looking at the color of the light that’s flashing.
MD: The zone colors would also be helpful to age 40 and over athletes with presbyopia or blurred near vision reading.
DF: Yeah, also at night. I’ve run at night many a time when I’m looking at a Garmin, I have to press the button to see the light. Even when the light’s on sometimes I can’t see it. What I like about the Mio is it’s flashing and you don’t even have to look at it because the light’s bright enough that you can see out of the corner of your eye what color is flashing.
MD: Does it do color on all the models or just the LINK?
DF: It does color on all the models. It’s less bright and significant on the ALPHA 2. That’s the one that actually has the display on it but there is a little bit of a flash.
MD: You can wear a LINK or a FUSE and use it with a Garmin 910XT. The LINK would be the chest strap and the Garmin 910XT would be the receiver.
DF: That’s correct. The LINK can interface with another device like a Garmin. There’s another product called the VELO and the VELO is designed to be more compatible with different cycling systems such as cadence sensors, speed sensors and power meters. But what’s interesting about the VELO and I haven’t seen any other product do this, it will bridge an ANT+ signal to a Bluetooth signal. Let’s say your bike has an ANT+ power meter and your phone is Bluetooth, the VELO will actually read the ANT+, turn it into a Bluetooth signal, and you can read the watts on your phone, even though your phone may not be ANT+.
MD: The VELO is the only Mio that displays bike cadence, power and speed.
DF: The FUSE and the ALPHA 2 have accelerometers and they can tell you what your pace is running and how fast you are going on a bike. It does everything. I can wear my FUSE and nothing else if I want. I prefer to interface it with my Garmin because I’m syncing things into my Training Peaks. Mio does not currently have the ability to sync with Training Peaks without using another device.
MD: Pricewise per Mio’s website the LINK is $79…
DF: Which is probably only $20 more than you would pay if you just purchased a Garmin chest strap.
MD: The Mio FUSE is $149.
DF: The Mio FUSE does a little bit of everything. It will track everything from steps to calories; it’s got an all-day mode. It also measures the amount and the quality of sleep. I’m a big proponent on the amount of sleep, especially for a hard-charging athlete who is trying to optimize their performance and is also busy with everything else. Sometimes it just comes down to whether or not the athlete got the proper amount of sleep in order for them to achieve the workout objective.