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Troubleshooting your heart rate monitor/strap HR spikes

For those who train with heart rate monitors often, you probably know all too well know the tell-tale sign that your little device is lying to you about your heart rate.  It starts off fairly innocently with a gentle rise in heart rate (HR).  But before you know it your HR is blistering through the 150’s, 160’s, and right on through the 200bpm glass ceiling.  Sometimes you might even reach into the mid-200’s.

After you finish your activity and get back to your computer, you’ll probably see something like this – a major HR spike, followed by more normal HR activity:

Heart Rate Monitor Graph Spikes

Frustrated, you poke at your HR monitor some, perhaps browse the Internets a bit – but in general forget about it, until it happens again.

Well, let me help ya out and explain why and what it’s doing.  And…I can probably even help ya fix it too!

Proper Wearing Methodology:
Let’s first start with how to put the strap on.  As the most important thing to do is ensure you’re wearing it correctly.  On the Garmin ANT+ straps, you’ll want to ensure the Garmin logo is right-side up, and the electrode side of the strap is against your bare skin.  Which side is the electrode side?  Well, the side with the little bands, not the shiny side.  I’ve circled these in the pictures below:

Garmin Classic HR Strap:

Garmin Classic HR Strap Electrodes

Garmin Premium HR Strap (also called soft HR strap):

Garmin Premium HR Strap Electrodes

And for all you Polar folk, their coded HR strap:

Polar T31 Coded Strap

(Minor side note, as you may know, none of the Garmin ANT+ HR straps will read HR underwater more than an inch or two away from the watch, as I showed in my 310XT review while underwater.  However, the T31 coded straps from Polar will work underwater with their respective Polar units – just ensure it’s noted as T31 coded.  Also note that you cannot mix Polar HR straps/units with Garmin HR straps/units.)

Now, one last important item to note is that it goes UNDER your shirt against your skin.  It should not be worn over your clothing.  Also, the ANT+ folks note that from a placement standpoint “the strap is worn on the ribcage, below the pectoral muscles or breasts”.

All good and you’re still having issues?  Onto the next section we go…

The root of all issues:
So assuming that you’ve got it all correctly ‘installed’, let’s look at what typically causes the spike in HR (if it’s over 200bpm, it’s likely not legit unless you’re a seven year old).

1) No moisture, dry air: During the winter months the air is often fairly cold, and fairly dry.  This means that you’re less likely to have moist skin (due to even just skin perspiration), and even less likely to be generating any sweat right from the start of the workout.  This in turns lowers your conductivity ability from a readings perspective.  Which, means you often get incorrect readings.  Simply introducing any moisture at all will usually remedy the situation – at least until you begin sweating enough to let that do its job.  We’ll talk about moisture additives in the next section.

2) Synthetic shirts (quick dry/tech shirts): While all of us love not being suffocated in cotton shirts, an unfortunate side effect is that those synthetic shirts (normally called quick dry or ‘tech’ shirts) produce additional static electricity buildup that messes with the readings.  This is most common when your skin and air are both rather dry, and very little moisture is present.  In almost all cases, simply applying moisture will immediately resolve this issue.  You can try rubbing the strap or your shirt with an antistatic agent – the ANT+ folks recommend simply a bounce dryer sheet, as that can help in some cases.  As a side note, some of the Polar straps actually have an antistatic component built into them that helps to alleviate this problem to some degree.

3) Wind on the bike: One fairly common issue especially in the spring/fall when you’re wearing simple bike jerseys but the wind and lukewarm air temperature keeps you relatively dry, is that when you go down hills fast, or simply the wind hits the right way, you’ll get incorrect readings.  This is often caused when the wind funnels down the front of your bike jersey and either induces additional static buildup as noted before, or introduces false readings through vibrations.  I can’t count the number of times where it seemed my HR was directly correlated to how fast I was descending – despite the fact that I was working less.  In this case, your best bet is either getting more gel to increase conductivity, or simply twisting the HR strap around towards your side a bit – that usually resolves is for me.  I don’t recommend trying to lick the strap while descending at 40MPH…many things can go wrong there resulting in you licking the pavement instead.

4) Electrical Interference (powerlines, train lines, etc…): This isn’t typically reported on the Garmin’s, but more the case on the Polar’s.  The Polar’s use electromagnetic signals to send the data from the coded strap to the watch, which can be interfered with by high tension power lines.  The Garmin’s on the other hand use the 2.4Ghz frequency and don’t have the power line issues typically.

The fixes:
The good news here is that there are a ton of easy fixes that you can quickly try out to

1) Sweat: This first one is a bit obvious – but will explain why the problem often goes away after just a few minutes of activity.  Once you start sweating it introduces moisture which in turn improves conductivity.  This in turn makes the HR strap happy and you get better readings.  So basically…work harder. :)

2) Licking it: This is the simplest option – and quite honestly what I do 99% of the time.  I just give it a big lick.  By ‘it’, I mean the two sensor pads on the back of the strap.  This will usually ‘tide me over’ until I start sweating enough to keep everything all happy.  And don’t worry folks – a HUGE LONG thread on BT the other day confirms that everyone else does it too.  See, here’s my lick-job:

My awesome spit bubble on my Garmin HR Strap

3) Heart Rate Gel: If you suck at licking, then you can instead use electrode gel to improve conductivity.  This is what’s typically used in medical situations such as an EKG where you’re trying to get a better reading/conductivity.  I actually use the gel mostly during the winter because I’ve found that many times on easy runs I’ll never actually produce a sweat due to the cold, and thus after a short bit of time my lick-job (as noted above), will actually vaporize.  The HR gel is designed to last considerably longer on your skin/strap. This stuff is incredibly cheap, and the bottle will last you a long long time.  Here’s my bottle I bought two winters ago:

Electrode Gel for HR Monitors

You can pick it up usually as your local running store, or online for about $5-10.  P.S., one little tip for those cold winter days (I know, it’s getting warmer now though), is to stick it in a sunny window sill, that will make it nice and warm when you put it against your skin:

Making it nice and warm in the window

4) Changing the strap position: Depending on what may be causing your exact situation, one option is to simply change the position.  Try sliding the strap to the right, left, or up/down.  Some folks even wear it on their back with great success.  In fact, when I’m having a day with lots of issues descending on the bike and the HR being erratic – I’ll simply slide the strap around my side a bit, so the contact portions of the strap kinda straddle my chest and back.  Works perfectly!

5) Replacing the batteries: Finally, last but not least – sometimes it’s just the batteries getting old.  You can pickup the simple coin replacement battery at virtually any drugstore, and even most grocery stores these days.  It only takes a few seconds to open up the back door of the strap and swap out the battery.  I usually have at least one spare battery in my tri bag at all times, just in case.

Wrap Up
Hopefully this will help you get through those pesky heart rate reading errors and get on with your workout.  If you have any related tips to fixing strange HR readings, feel free to leave them below in the comments!

173 Comments

  1. What an amazing coincidence: yesterday I performed a workout that resulted in a graph that is absolutely identical to the HR-graph you used in this post! And herewith, that peak got an explanation, and I can cancel my cardiologist's appointment! Thanks for posting this on this exact date.

    Reply
    • dimitris replied

      My Polar Bluetooth heart rate strap was transmitting ubnormal heart rate data to my trusty Nokia E71 and Sony smartphone (using sports tracker app) and now it s fixed ( after reading a comment in this section)(i believe i have the newer version of the strap, which is made of soft fabric, there are no hard plastic segments).

      I haven t used the strap for a certain period of time and now, when resting it showed 100-150 bpm and during exercise 200-250, obviously wrong. I made sure the two sections on the strap were wet and I even changed batteries, but nothing happened.

      After reading a comment, I threw the strap in the washing machine ( I have to say that I religiously kept the strap clean and followed Polar's instructions when i was frequently using it- wash it with water and soap after every use and every 5 uses throw it in the washing machine).

      After the washing machine, the strap is working flawlessly! During the time that i was not using it, it was kept in a clean environment so i don't understand how this happened. Anyhow, now it is in perfect shape.

      Thanks guys and Rainmaker!

      Reply
  2. Nice one, I've had spiked graphs in the past, time to ge me some gel! Interestingly (or not!) my strap tends to slip down until I get warmed up as well?

    Reply
  3. Yuck - I could never fathom licking my HR strap (I don't love it THAT much). Despite periodic cleanings, I just can't bring myself to do it. I usually just run my hand under some water (either from the sink at home or a water bottle) and rub the sensors with my hand. In a worst case without water available, I'll lick my fingers and then touch the strap.

    Interesting note about turning the strap around your body - never tried that one, but I'll be sure to the next time it happens.

    Reply
  4. I usually have the opposite problems, I have these huge dips, into my resting zone HR ,while busting my butt on the treadmill, swimming or biking. At first I thought it was a battery issue but that only fixed it temporarily.
    It seems to happen most while swimming which annoys me because I want an accurate calorie burn number, and I know that I burn more than 200 calories in 1hr of swimming at a moderate-fast pace!

    Reply
  5. Anonymous

    Coincidental.. Was having this problem with my garmin the other day!

    Is there any way to alter your stats after to get rid of those sectors, and maybe replace them with something more realistic? Kind of messes around with your stats for the whole session

    Reply
  6. Anonymous

    I have the reverse problem. After my shirt gets wet with sweat, I start getting very high and erratic readings with the Garmin soft strap. There's lots on this on the Garmin forums, but no solution!

    Reply
  7. i simply squirt a few shots from my water bottle before i go and it does the trick

    Reply
  8. Amy

    Thank you for very publicly admitting that you lick your HRM strap! I too am a licker. I think saliva is a better conductor than plain water. I don't know this for sure, but it's certainly easier and often more convenient.

    Reply
  9. i always thought wetting the sensors as referenced in the manual referred to increased connectivity between the garmin unit and the hrm. thanks for the post, excited about more accurate HR readings at the beginning of my workouts.

    Reply
  10. So, maybe you've got some insight into this part of the equation, which I have long wondered:

    How does the presence and amount of Chest Hair effect the HRM readings?

    I mean, I'll be honest, I'm a groomer, which means my legs are like those of a prepubescent girl, and I tend to keep the hair on the rest of my body fairly short. But if I don't whip out the Wahl for a bit, my chest hair becomes a luxurious forest, complete with it's own biology.

    Granted, I haven't thought to plot my Heart Rate results with my Chest Hair levels to come up with a solid theory.

    So, any thoughts?

    Reply
    • Phil replied

      In short (being a hairy bugger) I have to shave my chest for my (new) Zephyr HxM Smart to work - at all. I know this is an old thread but as I was unable to find any conclusive answer for myself I went ahead and shaved and hey presto! I do have a beating heart after all...

      Reply
  11. Great post Ray. I've been having this exact issue with my 310XT and wasn't sure what to do about it. With my Polar S725X, either I got HR readings or I did not. There wasn't a middle ground. Can't wait to try some of these ideas, although the germaphobe in me isn't too sure about the licking technique. :( Thanks again!

    Reply
  12. Hey Gary!

    Hmm, I'm not sure on the chest hair thing and how it might affect it. For better or worse, I don't end up like a fuzzy bear. Perhaps someone else might know.

    Sorry, but thanks for dropping by!

    Reply
  13. Great post. I go through that almost every workout even though I drown the contact areas in water before putting it on my chest. I think I'll get some of that gel & see if that helps.

    Reply
  14. I bought the gel you linked to in your post and tried it for the first time this morning. It worked awesome! My heart rate graph was beautiful. No bogus spikes whatsoever. I'm sure these guys have seen a "Buh-Bump" in sales since your post (sorry couldn't resist). Love your blog! Keep up the great work.

    Reply
  15. You wrote: I’ll simply slide the strap around my side a bit, so the contact portions of the strap kinda straddle my chest and back.

    Can you please make photo how exactly you wear it?

    I bought electrode gel (work great at start), i bought anti-stat spray, so fixed almost all spikes, except downhills against strong wind on my road bike! :) Tried to move strap to the side, but just a little. Tried also move strap on my back, but it worked only before ride with freshly electrode gel added .. then in training after downhill spike i stopped and moved strap on my back, but it did not work, i mean i get no HR data at all.

    Reply
  16. you said: I’ll simply slide the strap around my side a bit, so the contact portions of the strap kinda straddle my chest and back. Works perfectly!

    Can you make a photo how exactly you have strap fitted, on left side i guess?

    I use electrode gel, anti static spray and still have few spikes when descending againts strong wind on my road bike.

    By the way would not help to stick something to strap from outside between strap and jersey (shirt)? but im not electrician, but i guess some shield would help.

    Reply
  17. Hi Karel-

    I've uploaded a photo of wearing it slightly to the side, on the 310XT Product Review page I did, in the gallery at the bottom of the post (right before the comments section). Just click on that gallery and then check out the last picture in the series. Hope this helps!

    link to dcrainmaker.com

    Reply
  18. I've been having this problem with my Garmin 310XT HRM except it gets worse as the run (or bike ride) progresses. It behaves normally for the first 15mins or so and then heads up to 200-240bpm numbers. It seems to get worse as I get more sweaty and electrode gel makes no difference. Moving the strap can fix it for a couple of minutes and then it heads straight back up to the silly numbers. It's behaving the same for my husband and I know that my HR is not as high as the HRM is telling me.

    It's not even 6 months old and this started happening after 2-3 months and is at the point where I don't even bother using the thing. I've read others having a similar problem to me and they have connected the GArmin HR sensor to the Polar wearlink strap and that has fixed the issue.

    Do you have any insight into this problem?

    Reply
  19. Hi Os-

    Given it sounds like you've tried everything, I'd suggest contacting Garmin Support. I know that there were some early batches of 310XT units with HR straps that they are replacing the HR straps on, without any charge. A quick ring to Garmin support may help you out.

    Sorry!

    Reply
  20. I have a 310XT and used to get the same HR spikes, when the strap was dry or TOO wet. The solution for me is ECG contact gel (the same as licking the strap except it doesn't dry as easily), but the real solution was to buy a Polar Wearlink strap without the transmitter and use the Garmin transmitter instead, it fits neatly. Has worked perfectly so far.

    Reply
  21. Nicolai Bentsen

    I resolved the spike problem with a Garmin Classic Heart Rate Monitor today - which should be compatible with most Garmin devices.

    After 12 months of heart rate spikes with the Garmin Forerunner 310XT and it's soft strap I bought a Classic Heart Rate Monitor which is not as comfortable, but a lot more resistant to static electricity.

    When using the Garmin Premium/Soft strap that comes with the 310XT it generated so much static electricity against my clothes that I got a zap every 200 m when I discharge (when touching the HR monitor on the treadmill). But after I switched to the Classic Heart Rate Monitor I didn't get a zap even after 8000 m.

    So with the new HR monitor I was finally able to monitor my run accurately since I bought the very expensive 310XT..

    Garmin knew about the problem when I contacted their support and offered to switch, but that included being without my HR monitor for 1-2 weeks which is why I simply bought a new one from Amazon instead.

    Reply
  22. I too have had problem with the Garmin soft strap, far into a run when the shirt gets very wet. I tried all of the usual things including a different shirt, electrodgel, new battery and it didn't work. Contacted Garmin and got a replacement - same problem again. Now I will try a Polar Wearlink+ strap with the garmin transmitter and see if that helps. It seems lots of people are having problems with the soft strap, and since most problems come at the end of workouts it isn't the normal lack or contact or static electricity problem that is covered in this acticle. Would be nice if DC Rainmaker could push Garmin to comment on the problem that their product has.

    Reply
  23. Anonymous

    Great article. Thanks!

    Reply
  24. Anonymous

    Very helpful article. Thank you!

    This is the first time I've found documentation that precisely mirrors what I've experienced.

    At first I thought I needed to see a doctor. But when I started seeing readings in the 240s at times when I wasn't exerting myself and felt fine I realized there was an equipment problem.

    In my case, I'd only see this happen on relatively cool days, wearing a "keep you dry" bike shirt and when turning into a strong wind.

    Thanks again!

    Reply
  25. I recently contacted Garmin, and they suggested that I CLEAN the heart rate strap. They referred me to the instruction manual, and sure enough, it says to clean the strap after every use... and after every 5 uses, use dish soap.

    The strap looked clean, but here is what I did. I wore it sitting in front of my computer, and around the house. HR 175 - 250. Yeah Right. Then, I cleaned it as suggested, and did a workout. Even wore a technical shirt. I'll be damned. The thing gave perfect readings the whole time!! Two workouts under the belt now, with good readings. Let your users know!

    Reply
  26. Beau

    After many random heart rate spikes, odd performances and general issues with my heart rate graphs, it finally got to a point where every workout started in the 250 bpm range and within 2 mins it was fine. I decided it was time to replace the battery....

    So I TRIED to replace the battery which made it no longer work period.

    After some searching, someone recommended putting the battery in backwards to short-circuit the HRM. This did the trick! So if you are having weird graphs - as some do in the comments above...short circuit then replace your battery!

    Reply
  27. Anonymous

    Hi Rainmaker,

    Please could you advise me on the following matter: I would like to use a heart rate monitor watch with a chest strap in the winter however I have an old Polar watch and my strap is not working (the watch do not receives any signal) under a shirt and/or thin jacket (not even under a sigle very thin T-shirt). What do you think, is a Garmin working under a shirt and a thin jacket
    (is the technology different) or should I forget to count calories and zones in a cold winter outside? I am considering to buy a Garming Forerunner 305, it would be fun to see all (motivational) data. (Unfortunately I have a lot of overweight and I can only walk so I need to have a jacket on mee). Thanks a lot in advance for any advice! Peter

    Reply
  28. All of the above solutions worked for me when I was using a Polar S720i, but with my Garmin 310XT and soft strap, I am still having problems. I have been training indoors all winter, where it is neither cold nor dry, and I am pouring with sweat not long into my workout, and I still get erratic readings until well into the session. For the first 3 months of ownership it worked fine, but now I have these problems every time I use it.

    Reply
  29. Anonymous

    Bingo - my symptoms met your cure, in my case, cheap electrode gel stopped the dry contacts issue.

    Many thanks, --Pete

    Reply
  30. Ray, any word on when the new-new premium soft strap is going to be available for stand-alone purchase, if ever? I'm a 310xt user, and I'm now on my 2nd polar Wearlink+ strap, which seems to last a little longer than the original Garmin soft strap, but still has problems of its own.
    Do you think they will ever offer the new strap standalone without the transmitter? Based on their offering for the existing soft strap (strap+transmitter together as the only option) I'm guessing not.
    If not offered soon, I'm thinking about just going back to the old plastic strap, but if I'm going to buy a whole new strap/transmitter, I'd rather it be the newest one.

    Reply
  31. Hi Chris-

    Yes, they've been offering the standalone strap since back in January. Any 'premium strap' bought off of Garmin.com will ship the newest 2010 version. And the majority of straps bought off of Amazon will (just look for the product ID number to end in: -02).

    Enjoy!

    Reply
  32. Hi Ray, I have read your article, and I keep getting false data on my 310. My graph is just a bit different. The peaks above 100% max, is placed in the middle of the trainings session, instead of only the beginning.

    Example.
    1 km = 103 % max
    2 km = 111 % max
    3 km = 116 % max
    4 km = 91 % max
    5 km = 94 % max

    Im pouring water on the strap before I put it on my chest. And I place it as you describe.

    Do you have any ideas ?

    Best regards,

    Anders, Denmark, Europe

    Reply
  33. My wife and I have been experiencing similar problems to the ones described. We both have the Garmin premium strap and have been using them for a year or so. After buying gel, wetting the contacts and reading a lot of ideas, nothing seemed to be helping. I was about to give up and try a different strap when I stumbled upon a solution. I believe that the electrical connection that is made by BOTH snaps is important. Like most people, I always unsnap the HRM on the same side every time, and had never unsnapped the other side. So I unsnapped and resnapped the unused side 20 times or so, and have had zero problems since then. My wife has had the same results with her strap. No more gel, and I haven't even been wetting the contacts before I go. Hope this helps someone.

    Reply
    • Tania FitzGerald replied

      That really helped! My heart rate monitor kept currint out - fixed it with gel for a few days, but after reading your post, unsnapped and snapped the monitor and I am off again! Thank you!

      Reply
    • Edwin Knepshield replied

      Well your snap idea got me to thinking that "corrosion" might be building up in the snap on the strap (pardon the rhyme), I took a small paring knife and carefully scraped the surfaces in the strap snap. Eureka! It's been working now for 5 minutes straight. I may have to add this to my training regimen.

      Reply
  34. Try this: Link your wrists with a pair of anti-static straps used by electronic and computer repair techs antistatic strap . You can find them at electronics stores eg StarTech. Buy two, connect them end-to-end, put one on each wrist, and although my testing has not been exhaustive, I think you will see a disappearance of the high heart rate in the first minutes of your run and the elimination of heart rate bursts later in your sessions.

    Reply
  35. I can't get the screws out of the battery box on the premium heart strap. The other hear rate strap I ended up stripping with a coin. Why is this so hard to get the battery out?

    The screws are beyond small.

    Reply
  36. Gideon

    I actually seem to have the inverse problem. After 30 - 1 hour, my Suunto HRM starts to wander - either hiking slowly to the 220's, or stabilizing around some 150 - no matter the terrain or the effort. I ride in warm weather and sweat profusely - my synthetic shirt is soaked - so it is not a dryness problem - I even thought the shirt could be electrically shorting the sensors(?) - it seems to start often after some strenuous portion - where my breathing may get less cadenced - I thought the R-R measurement may be screwing up the values - but the log does not show that... Suunto replaced the strap (not including the transmitter) - no improvement..

    Reply
  37. Thanks a lot for posting this. I've had this happen numerous times, and it's been much more frequently as of late. After reading your article it makes perfect sense. It's getting colder, I've been doing more rides early, when it's REALLY cold, and I'm definitely not working up a sweat early on, cause the first couple of miles are flat or slightly downhill.
    I never experience this running, due to the fact(from your explanation) that I sweat like a pig, even during easy runs.

    I'm glad I read this, I was worried that my Garmin was starting to die on me. Glad to know of these solutions.

    Reply
  38. Anonymous

    can you wear the heart rate monitor on your thighs? Wearing it on the chest is very uncomfortable
    ?
    thanks

    Reply
  39. "can you wear the heart rate monitor on your thighs?"

    I think not. I believe the HR strap picks up the electrical impulses from the heart that trigger heart beats rather than the actual beat or pulse. To confirm, try it on your thigh and see if you get a reading.

    Reply
  40. As well as the spikes, I get a similar issue to gideons on longer rides. Usually after really pushing it my reading drops and stays at some really low value. Any ideas why this might happen ?

    Reply
  41. Great post, DC. Thank you. We get questions about high, wacko readings on occasion in our heart rate training group at RunningAhead. I think I'll make a permanent link to this. Keep going!

    Reply
  42. Anonymous

    To add to the comment #33 by Greg:
    I also own a Garmin PREMIUM HRM STRAP. My legacy Polar strap always works flawlessly. After three months of use, the newer Garmin PREMIUM started to give me erratic mid-workout readings. After having eliminated all the rest (wetting the electrodes with salty water, varying the position of the strap, wetting the t-shirt to remove statics, resetting the transmitter by removing the battery, all to no avail), the only thing that worked for me was:

    anti-scratch electrical contact cleaner.

    You can find it in any hardware store, it is a silicone grease spray that cleans, desoxidizes and protects all kind of electrical contacts. Usually applied to automotive contacts and hi-fi appliances.
    If all other solutions fail, try this one, and enjoy the run!
    Alex, France

    Reply
    • Andrew replied

      What kind of issues were you having. I'm having my drop to 1/2 of my actual HR after I'm well into a workout, similar to what you mentioned.

      Reply
  43. Anonymous

    Just to confirm: apply the electrical contact cleaner onto both snaps (white metal parts), not onto the black electrodes!

    Alex, France

    Reply
  44. I have this problem a lot when running in cold weather. Instead of heart rate gel, I tried aloe vera gel and it worked like a charm.

    Reply
  45. yano

    Ray!
    I was just ready to smash my Timex HR soft strap to the wall when I came across your post ...
    Thanks to your ECG gel hint you've made me save 50 bucks and a lot of angry! :)
    Long Live to Ray (and to his precious posts) ! :)

    Reply
  46. Anonymous

    Thanks my friend, very informative

    Reply
  47. jeffcaw

    thanks a ton for this informative post... downhill 36 mph and a 240 heart rate. your explanation was right on.

    Reply
  48. Kevin

    I was having problems with my Garmin Premium HR strap. I read this post and the comments and tried everything except buying the gel. I considered adding "one more thing" to my list of items I need on a ride/training to be a last resort.

    However, desperate, today I had a breakthrough. I took off the snapped-in sensor and completely wet the fabric strap. I wrung it out the best I could and then strapped it on and put he sensor in place. This worked for me like a champ. I don't know if the synthetic fabric the strap is made of was interfering with a charge of its own or it was the soaking that finally made the right contact, but this has solved my issues completely. Hopefully just one more success story for troubleshooting to share.

    Reply
  49. Today I found one of sources of mysterious HR spikes during running. I wear a Fixx Road ID (dog tag style)which would come into contact with my chest strap. Once I removed the tag, my HRM functioned normally.

    Reply
  50. Anonymous

    A bit off topic, but can one mix and match HRM straps w/monitors as long as they are of the same brand?

    I need to have the battery replaced and I was hoping to use another (both Polar) in the meantime...

    Reply
  51. Anonymous

    Does wearing a sports bra with an underwire cause problems with heart rate showing up or being incorrect?

    Reply
  52. Anonymous

    Are all chest band the same, not transmitter onley the soft strap. Looks like Wahoo, Polar and garmin uses the same type of alastic strap, but it it possibel to mix eg. Wahoo transmitter on polar strap ?

    Reply
  53. Most of the ANT+ ones are the same, but the Polar straps are different (different material, texture, etc...). But the Wahoo, Garmin, Timex, Cycleops, _____ (fill in the blank ANT+ vendor) all use the same OEM behind the scenes.

    Reply
  54. Dos that mean that Wahoo Blue HR also can use the Polar Wearlink strap ?
    I assume that the elastic strap onley contains a sensor and all the differens is in the transmitter ?

    Reply
  55. Yup, correct, no problem at all (I've tried it). They all mix and match. Enjoy!

    Reply
  56. Does anyone know if it's possible to wear a Garmin Ant+ HR strap at the same time as a Polar Wearlink Strap (5khz coded)? Wondering if either would interfere with the other. I like the polar for fitness features, but want to capture data to use with Sports Tracks software, which can't use Polar live.
    I believe Ant+ is 2.4Mhz, so I'm hoping there would be no interference.
    Thanks,
    Michael

    Reply
  57. Like several other posters, my problem starts mid run, usually around 20 minutes in. I will be at 170~ bpm, and then notice a gradual decline. Everytime I look down it will be slightly lower... 165... 160... 155... and it just continues to taper off until I finish the run. If I go long enough it will get down in to the 70's. I almost get the feeling that instead of actually tracking my hr, it's averaging my heartrate but registering 0 for the second half of the run, and constantly averaging the increasing amout of time at "0" with the earlier rate of 170. But I can't find anything that would explain this behavior...

    By the way, this is a new unit. I've only had it a few weeks.

    Reply
    • Llewis replied

      No Name
      I'm having the same issue. Everything starts out fine and about mid-run I get the gradual HR decline. Did you find anything that helped?

      Reply
  58. I just wanted to add my experience as one of those people who have a problem with the HR reading artificially low numbers. It starts out seemingly ok, but after 20 minutes or so the reading will drop down to 100 or below, even though I'm maintaining a similar effort as before. This happens with both the old stiff strap, and a new soft strap. I have tried it on my back (even worse), wrapped around my side (about as bad), and I have used the giant tube of electrode gel (no apparent effect). It seems I'm unmonitorable. Is there any common thread among us getting the low heart rate readings? I tend to be a heavy sweater, I'm not sure what else would be relevant.

    Reply
  59. Anonymous

    After trying all the tricks found here and other places, my solution to the heart rate strap problem is to return it for a new one. Each time I have done this, the new strap works for about 45-50 days before it starts some sort of shenanigans. I use the strap at least 14 hours per week. When the errors start I just return it again.
    Garmin needs to figure this one out and I do not need to be purchasing 7-8 straps a year.

    Reply
  60. I have tried every trick here plus trying the Polar Wearlink strap which will allow the Garmin monitor to snap on. I find that whilst the Garmin soft strap will spike irrespective of any fix you can think of, the Polar drops out and is totally unresponsive if I don't rinse and completely dry between uses. Additionally as others have mentioned, all the straps seem to behave reasonably ok for a month or so then become problematic.
    Dom

    Reply
  61. Anonymous

    Thanks! I'm new to the tracking life, and this article was so informative and consolidated what I needed. Hardly anything like it out there.

    Reply
  62. Oh my, I feel so silly... I thought the small black metal things right under the snaps (soft strap) were the electrodes, and I was looking for solutions because that part was not touching my skin (I have a slightly sunken chest)... Now I realize it is not such a bad design after all. Thanks for switching the lights on in my brain! Now if only I could find a good software to display my HR on the computer... I got Golden Cheetah and ANTHRM to work, but still looking for something "nicer".

    Reply
  63. Can a single heart rate strap pair with two different monitor units simultaneously, say an FR 70 and an Edge 500, for use in a triathlon or the like?

    Reply
  64. Yup, no problems at all - I do it all the time, especially for testing. Will probably actually do it in a little bit here for a few tests.

    Reply
  65. Anonymous

    This is a great post, thank you! I know this is a big delayed, but do you have any insights for the folks who experience the drastic dip in HR after about 30 minutes of activity? This is my current problem and driving me nuts. It consistently displays down to 35-40 bpm after 30 minutes, which is frustrating to see. Any thoughts? Could it be moisture getting into the battery? Or is there a way to clean the battery connections?? Any thoughts would be appreciated. Thanks!!

    Reply
  66. Anonymous

    Add me as one more that has had lots of problems with the Garmin premium HR strap. The last one lasted me only 3 months (I tried everything.) The old style lasted me longer so that's what I bought to replace the last premium garmin. The other thing I like about the classic is that all the electronics are in a plastic band which is easy to clean, whereas on the soft-strap you have contacts (decreased reliability) and wires/contacts on a soft-strap that you're not allowed to wash. With the classic strap I throw the elastic in the washer and it's cheap to replace when you need to (unlike the premium soft-strap)

    Reply
  67. Anonymous

    Hi Dc rainmaker, I saw your post about heart rate spike. How about gaps between the heart rate? here's a pic to clearly illustrate what i mean. link to fbcdn-sphotos-d-a.akamaihd.net

    Reply
  68. Had the same problem, on both mine and the girlfriends heart rate monitors. Solved by soaking the straps in water and some mild dishwashing soap over night.
    As you sweats, the salts in the sweat is fairly hard to wash out of the belt with regular water. The soap will do the job.
    Good luck :O)

    Reply
  69. Anonymous

    I solved my problem of low readings for the soft Garmin heart rate monitor by placing it above my nipples and not below.. worked perfectly for a 45 minutes run outside. I'll try this out again on a longer run this weekend.

    Reply
  70. I used to get this problem for almost every ride. I used three different chest straps and monitors, and several different jerseys. It seemed to be more related to the jerseys, though not totally predictable. But when I bought an Endomondo jersey I got it at the start of every ride, with any type of strap and monitor.

    Then about a year ago I started adding a Lenor tumble drier antistatic sheet to my stuff after every wash. Since then I've never had a single spike with any kit at all.

    But, not all tumble drier sheets work as well. I tried the Tesco brand, and the spikes came back. So I went back to Lenor and they disappeared again.

    Cheers, Alan.

    Reply
  71. Kuota Grant

    I'm writing is to offer up a hint as to getting better contact with your HR Strap. Here's what I've found to work pretty well. And, not judging, it's generally more pleasant than licking the strap. But I digress.

    After applying chamois cream to my junk I do a light rinse of my hand with water and schmear the chamois / water mixture on my chest, right where the HR contacts would be. Then I wet the HR strap contacts under the tap and finally "strap on".

    I've yet to have any idiosyncratic BPM irregularities using this technique. It seems to work with Assos and Chamois Butter. Let me know if it works for you.

    Reply
  72. Rainmaker,

    I've been having problems with the Garmin Premium Heart Rate Monitor Strap (Soft Strap) with my 910xt. It seems to drop the bpm reading every now and then, no matter how sweaty I am. I thought it was the strap, so I called Garmin and they sent me a new one. I used the new strap with my old monitor for several weeks and everything was back to normal. But now the new strap is having the same problem. So as a test, I tried using my PolarWearlink monitor with my Garmin soft strap, and it worked fine (you can tell it's consistently on, because it makes a ticking sound when it's connected). Has this problem happened before? Any guidance? I am really at my wit's end!

    Thanks for any help!
    -Andrew

    Reply
  73. Fido

    Initially my Garmin 305 HRM worked very well; it could, in fact, give hospital equipment a run for its money. However, over a period of time I started getting erratic readings and then it faded altogether. After some back and forth with Garmin, they agreed that they would look into the problem (it being in the warranty period).

    Just before sending it of, as an experiment I decided to put the strap on upside down - and it started working as of old! Yes, upside down - not back to front! Now the Garmin logo is the wrong way up when I wear it, but the readings are fine. Garmin has said that there should be no problem wearing it like that. Go figure!

    Reply
  74. My wife had major issues, which we tried everything to fix, including swapping straps (used two version of polar, and the garmin one), conductive gel (she's a physiotherapist, so we have gallons of the stuff). Nothing worked.

    Then we moved the strap to above the breast, and perfect now.

    Reply
  75. Manuel K

    Had the same trouble with peaks. Followed your advice and swaped strap to Polar WearLink. It works perfectly!!! Thanks very much Ray for the post - you save me lots of time correcting wrong HR data.

    Manuel from Germany

    Reply
  76. I recently had some cramping around my heart rate monitor during a Half Ironman, so took it off mid run and put it into my Spi-Belt. When i uploaded the data, voila, i had a heart rate the whole time...after i took it off...the heart rate was very similar to my foot cadence....i think for those that are getting readings in the160- 200 range that don't think they should, it could be too loose and measuring your body's up/down motion instead of your heart beat. Here's my data...notice it went from 140ish to 160s steady(i tend to have a slow cadence in the 90 degree weather)
    link to connect.garmin.com

    In terms of cleaning it....i wear it into the shower every once in a while and it seems to do the trick for cleaning...

    Reply
  77. Steve Taylor

    I've been having a lot of problems recently, leading to a graph almost exactly like the one above, with ridiculous HR reading during the first 6-8 minutes of my warm-up on the treadmill. I've tried changing HRMs/straps/monitors, using spit/salt water/ECG gel. Nothing seems to make any difference.

    After reading this article it has suddenly clicked that the start of the problem coincides with my gym changing to new treadmills. I'm getting static shocks when I touch the control panel. It appears I'm running on a van de graaff generator.

    Reply
  78. Les R

    I just got my first "Garmin premium HRM" and so far it is working well. I see in the manual (yes I'm one of those crazy people that reads the manual) it says to unsnap the HRM from the strap when not in use. I'm not sure if this means after each run or if it's not going to be in use for an extended period. I'm concerned about damaging the snaps (on either the strap or the HRM unit) if they are are used so often (off and on each day).

    Any thoughts on this?

    Thanks,
    Les

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Yeah, I've never bothered to do so, I think you're fine.

      Reply
  79. JJ

    I replaced my Polar FT60 with a Timex Run Trainer about 2 weeks ago. HRM was working fine most of the time but on a walk recently I had spikes. I think it was due to dryness and the fact that the strap was not tight enough. Made sure to retighten strap after each use and that helps. Yesterday morning after an hour on my stationary bike, my rate started to spike into the 170 to 190 range (usually my HR maxes out at 160 tops). I sweat heavily and I am wondering if too much moisture causes problems. I had small spikes today after I got off the bike and was stretching. When I stood still, my HR went back to normal. Has any one used the timex transmitter with a strap from another manufacturer successfully? Should I wash my strap with soap?

    Reply
  80. Ron

    Question I have a Garmin edge 800. THere seems to be a lot of variation in calories burned between and my friends riding. I just purchase a Polar RS300X heart rate monitor watch with the wearlink 31+ chest strap. Could I wear the polar chest strap and my Garmin Edge 800 work with it? I want to compare my watch to edge 800 calories burned.

    Thanks

    Reply
  81. Max

    Could you use something like Vaseline as a gel for your heart rate strap?

    Reply
  82. NorthernVirginia

    Finally, an answer to a serious concern. I have an implanted defibrillator and have been shocked by it from running too hard. My heart rate went way up and BAM! So I started using a Sportsline monitor. It started giving me huge leaps in bpm, from about 120 to 180 and climbing. That really worried me and I contacted my doctor (no help there) and the manufacturer of the monitor and the defibrillator. They had not heard of the problem. The last thing I wanted is for it it be accurate, that my heart rate really was surging. This gives me some confidence.

    Reply
  83. Nottingham UK

    Really helpful advice. I have a Polar and whenever I go downhill on my bike at hit anything over 25mph my max heart rate leaps to 200+ only to settle back to the normal rate once I am on the flat. I am thinking of wrapping bubble wrap round the monitor to protect it from wind chill. No one has thought of THAT!!! Followed the advice and bought a bottle of gel through Amazon. Amazingly cheap and very effective.

    Reply
  84. Pop - Australia

    I have a Polar FT80. When I wear an acrylic shirt, the heart rate jumps to around 160 as soon as I start running. It stays like this for about 10 to 20 minutes. After reading this blog, I changed my shirt to a cotton polo shirt. Got a good result straight away with a proper reading. The resulting graph was smoother and there were no spikes. The shirt was the only thing I changed. Same wetting procedure and same wearing location. No gel.
    Thank you for helping me solve my problem.

    Reply
  85. Banjo Paterson

    Hi DC - I know this is an old thread, but got a super high readout at the beginning of my run today (200-220 Yikes!), adjusted strap, waited for sweat -- nothing. Then unclipped the HRM from the strap (whilst running, too) and put it back on and whoa-la, normal readings. Not sure what happened between the HRM and my 610, but whatever it was that seemed to fix it.

    Reply
  86. Lampros

    Hi DC,
    The erratic readings have mainly 3 reasons.
    1.Not wet enough sensor. Solution--apply gel.
    2.Static electricity (this is to blame for spikes during startup). Has to do with atmosphere condition, clothing ( mainly synthetic). Solutions--Try to discharge yourself, just before your workout, by touching ground, choose your clothing (try to find which of your cloths create the problem)
    3. End of battery life-- get a new one silly!!!
    just my 2c

    Reply
  87. my HRM problem was that I would get intermittent signal. it would work fine for 30 seconds, a minute, whatever, then nothing. Sometimes it would start up on its own or immediately if I touched my finger to the electrode area. I simply moved the contacts to the left so that one is over the base of the heart and the other one is on my side and have had no loss of signal now for 15 minutes. thanks a lot

    Reply
  88. Andre

    I got my soft strap with Garmin 500 and was having all those problems. Garmin screwed up the design, that's it. Bought the old Garmin strap and it has been working great for 18 months. Changed battery once when reading started to be irregular. Buy the old one for $37 at amazon and stop having problems.

    Reply
  89. John

    I just pee on mine. Then I don't have to lick, the salts and minerals conduct, and it is warm to boot!

    Reply
  90. BillM

    I have chest hair and been having problems with the Garmin Premium Heart Rate Monitor Strap (Soft Strap) with my 910xt. I also had problems with a Timex strap I used to use on another watch. Commion problem is that until I build up a sweat the readings are of little use and the strap can slide down a bit too so that I end up having to pull the damn thing back up a few times. I'm sure some of the public think I must be wearing some sort of a bra but with a beard they must be a bit puzzled. I will try the Gel as licking drys too quickly, however I think the manufacturers should consider adding some small pimples to their electrode contact surfaces. These pimples would nudge their way through hairs and get a skin contact in a faster time than the flat surface.

    Reply
  91. Steve Drew

    Hi, I happened to have a polar HRM strap, just swapped out the sensor w/ my Garmin, and my HR fluctuations were immediately resolved. Thanks so much for the very helpful article.

    Reply
  92. Hi, I ran a loop twice. Its hilly and makes you work hard. But, I got two very different heart rate readings. On the second (erroneous) run, I improved my time considerably, and expected to see a bit higher heart rate, but instead I have peaks at 240-250 and of 210 at various points in the run.

    See comparison pic at: link to plus.google.com

    On both runs I wore shirts that were made of Polartec Power Dry material. The only two differences I can think of are (1) it was windy while running the second time maybe gusts over 20-25 Mph, (2) The shirt on the second run was thinner material so it would contact the skin more.

    Given the comments on static, is that what I am seeing?

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Wind tends to dry out the fabric much quicker, thus decreasing the moisture available. It looks like in those sections, you didn't get good connectivity. Sometimes on cycling, you'll see issues at higher speeds (i.e. 30-40MPH) with wind and loose fitting jersey's causing super-high HR's like you noted.

      Reply
  93. Bill Coffelt

    Has anyone tried the Garmin HRM3 heart rate monitor and strap? I have 3 Garmin HRM2 heart rate monitors, two Polar monitors and several Garmin and Polar straps. Two of the Garmins haven't worked for quite some time and the last one stopped working today. Changing the battery and extra cleaning the strap didn't help at first, but I did get it going again. I have been looking at strapless monitors, but I feel I might be trading one problem for another. Also, I am not sure there would be any that are compatible with my Garmin 310XT. So, I came across the HRM3, which apparently was just released and I ordered just the strap on Amazon.

    Reply
  94. cat

    Can anyone adress the opposite? My Polar hrm seems to measure too low..

    Reply
  95. ave

    The quickest fix is to have a close fitting jersey. End of story. :)

    Reply
  96. My Garmin Edge will also pick up other HR monitor straps on some days, skewing my readings..

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Assuming you've paired it once to your strap, it will only ever connect to your own strap. It's possible however that you may have having spikes/drops and those are what you're thinking is other straps.

      Reply
  97. I wish that were true. I didn't even have my heart rate strap on one day and some other cyclists pulled up beside me. My Edge showed "HR Monitor detected" and I had their heart rate information until we were nearly 20 feet apart.

    I thought you could only connect with a paired strap as well. The only explanation is Garmin recycles their unique identifiers. Being in Denver, you can't go 5 minutes without seeing another cyclist.

    Reply
  98. The ride in question is right here:

    link to connect.garmin.com

    See how I have heart rate at 39:42 right at a light as someone pulls beside me. I continue to record heart rate until 42:10 when we are far enough apart. Since i didn't have my strap even with me, I didn't have heart rate for the rest of the ride.

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      You know, thinking back, there's a bug I saw a number of firmware versions ago where the unit will go into a searching mode if it can't find it's normal HR strap friend - doing exactly what you describe. I'm pretty sure it was fixed though. Have you validated you're on the latest firmware?

      Also, any chance for a soft-reset?

      Reply
  99. Interesting, I was on firmware 3.0 at the time.

    I may soft reset, leaving for a self-supported trip in a week and don't want to mess with perfection too much at the moment. :)

    Reply
  100. Anna

    Great blog, excellent tips!! Thanks a bunch:) Anna from Hungary :)

    Reply
  101. Jarmo

    Is anyone tested single used (ECG) electrodes for heart rate monitor? Normally the snap connector is "male". For Garmin and Polar it must be "female"! Have you seen that kind of electrodes?

    Reply
  102. Casey

    Those are all interesting theories but the truth is that it's a shoddy product that is not durable. When my heart rate starts to spike as you describe I replace it with a new one and then it works again for about 30-60 workouts. I go through about 6 straps a year. There's no need to pass on excuses for garmin -- they ought to make a better strap. Each of the theories you describe would make it a product that is not fit for its intended use in normal operating environments. But it's primarily a lousy product that wears out faster than it should.

    Reply
    • Ray Maker replied

      It's not specific to Garmin HR straps you realize. It happens to users of every HR strap brand, and even brand new HR straps. Connectivity issues tend to be highly unique to a given issue or situation.

      The steps above seem to help a lot of people, so I don't think it's about excuses, it's really about just helping people.

      Reply
  103. Donny Semple

    I have a cardiac pacemaker and get no sensible readings from my Garmin Forerunner. I've tried electrode gel and get erratic readings ranging from from 0 to 200

    Reply
    • Ray Maker replied

      Hmm, if you've tried gel, that is a bit odd. I just don't have any experience or knowledge of how the pacemaker impacts the strap from a readings standpoint. Sorry!

      Reply
  104. Rich

    Well, always being the adventurous type, I tried your licking trick and it works! My 60beat had completely stopped working and I had tried cleaning it with dish soap, but this evening I tried licking it and it works now! Weird. Thanks. Maybe I need to clean it better, probably just has a bunch of body oils on it. Tasted kind of funny too.

    Reply
  105. Lindsey

    Great article - I am using a Polar transmitter with a Garmin wearlink+ strap which seems to give me very high (220bpm) readings to start with but then settles down.

    Just a dim memory from my Engineering past - water doesn't really conduct electricity. It is the salts in the water that conduct - so saliva / sweat should work better than tap water, although the latter will probably get some salts in it fairly fast from the hrm strap / skin.

    Reply
  106. Steve

    I've got a Garmin 310XT that recently started giving me consistently high readings. Like a constant 230 while it should have been down near 160. Tried everything - watch reset, battery change in the strap, wetting the contacts, changing position. Nothing fixed it.

    Finally on my run tonight, I unsnapped both sides of the strap from the transmitter (I had always been unhooking it from one side only). Reconnected it and the heart rate is back to normal. I assume the snap also acts as the contact and it had corroded enough from sweat that it wasn't making good contact.

    Reply
  107. Peter

    As ever a great article followed by a lot of insightful comments.

    The main conclusion to be drawn is that these things have been around for over 25 years but some users are still getting an unacceptable experience despite taking incredible precautions. Hopefully someone can solve this one day. Watches are progressing so fast but one component, heart rate monitoring, can be unreliable. Query whether the new Garmin 620 or PowerCal have taken this forward at all as they are bringing the focus back to the heart rate strap with extra functionality.

    The other issue touched on above but only briefly is athletes with cardiac history. Monitoring heart rate is pretty critical for them and erratic nuisance for an average user may be a false negative tachycardia or general arrhythmia for someone with cardiac issues. A false negative does not make it any less worrying.

    Without wishing to worry anyone at all, while I am sure that most of the errors are down to the kit, some athletes will have cardiac issues, perhaps intermittent, perhaps without symptoms and many will not know, thinking that exercise confers immunity. One cannot guarantee that the kit is always at fault for all users. If you think you have had an incident, go to your doctor even if you think it was not important or was quite subtle. Even if you have not had a known incident then seriously consider cardiac testing as a wise investment for an endurance athlete - it is your engine. I say this because I have had many of the experiences that others describe above. However, I have also had a competitive running friend die of cardiomyopathy and a cardiac incident that initially I thought was just a poor run but caused me to require every test going - all cleared (thankfully) after 6 stressful months. I think I can now spot the difference between tachycardia and artefactorial error in the HR graphs as well as knowing what a cardiac incident feels like. That is why I measure heart rate and am keen to get accurate numbers. Accurate numbers may matter more than some commentators above realise.

    Reply
    • Andrew replied

      What type of tachyarrythmia have you experienced ? What were the symptoms and triggers ?

      Reply
  108. Garmin 910XT. I was a little worried today after I uploaded the data from my run. Not having a good run and not feeling strong on the run, when combined with a totally out of kilter heart rate spike, just as you depicted, was a little unsettling. Fortunately, I had my wits about me, and typed a query to the net to see if anyone else had a similar experience with the Garmin 910XT. Sure enough, I found this post. To the point, good info. Today was one of our drier days, I was in a tech shirt, and had not put any water on the HR sensors. I am most grateful for your post. Thanks.

    Reply
  109. Paulo

    Hi! I ‘had a lot of problems with the HR values (very unstable and high values!) of my 310 xt and nothing I tried to solve the problem seems to result!! I contacted the technical support from Garmin and they can´t help me, just entertained me!!! I´m a biomedical scientist and a remembered that when we had problems of bad connection in our analyzers we clean it with alcohol 70%, and I tried this method! I cleaned (Washed!!!!) the contact points of the strap with a lot of alcohol 70% and miraculously it seems to RESULT!!!! After that I used the HRM for 2 times and the values are more stable!!!
    Hope that post can help!!!

    Reply
  110. Alejandro Lemmo

    Hi, I having issues with my hr monitor, but I can't figure out what is wrong with it. It was working fine for about 20 rides, I followed the instructions given by Garmin, on how to set it up, and wear it. I also dis what you suggest in this post but it is not working. The hr monitor apparently starts fine, I wet it before wearing but after a few seconds the 310xt stops reading as if I removed it from my chest, and then all the reading it shows are as if I were at rest even thoug it ahould be at least at 150 or 160 bpm. I have no idea what's wrong. I even replaced the battery with a fresh one and the issue persists. Any suggestions?

    Reply
    • Tara beach replied

      I have the exact same problem.

      Reply
  111. A.Lettriste

    I have used 1 Polar and 2 generations of HR bands. All of them fail, sooner or later. All of them have had build quality issues. After reading the recommendations by Garimn, it was pretty obvious that the source of nosie in HR readings was static electricity. Dry air, tecnical garment, vs. moist, cotton, etc. all indicates that building static electricity between some part of the band and the body (and then releasing it suddenly), may create the spikes.

    In October I bought my 3rd generation Garmin HR band (010-10997-07). I cannot comment on aging since I lost it a week ago at the gym, but readings seemed to be quite correct and stable (I am using a 910xt). The most noticeable aspect of this band is what looks like a static shielding, on the OUTSIDE of the band, that somehow is connected to tthe inside. In the instructions, you can read that you have to apply moist on both sensor pads AND the connector with the static shield. It seems that you "ground" the outside of the band, with your body. I used it for a month without any problem. Does anybody has used this new band for a longer span? It is stable with time? In addition, It may suggest some fixes to old bands...

    Cheers!

    Reply
  112. Ken Parrington

    I have had my Garmin Edge 510 & soft Strap HRM for a few months. The HRM ha never worked correctly. I ran out and purchased a Polar Strap and still had similar issues. I then changed the position of the HRM by having one sensor on my left side and on on front of chest. This was the first time I had taken reliable HR readings. This was using the polar strap. I am yet to test in the new position with the Garmin strap. The other thing I have wondered is whether this issue mostly plagues those of us with a lot of chest hair? Anyways.... Now happy I can get HR info. The suggestions from this site have been very helpful.

    Reply
    • Thomas replied

      Ken, I am wondering the same issue regarding chest hair. Thanks!

      Reply
  113. muhumm

    "Also note that you cannot mix Polar HR straps/units with Garmin HR straps/units"

    you meant that you can't mix polar HR transmitter with garmin transmitter, right? because the strap itself can be mixed around just fine. e.g. I've used garmin 910xt watch with polar RS200's HR strap, locking the 910xt's transmitter onto the polar strap (after removing the RS200's HR transmitter).

    another correction:

    "if it’s over 200bpm, it’s likely not legit unless you’re a seven year old"

    I'm sure you didn't mean that HR can't ever go over 200bpm for people older than seven. maybe clarify what you exactly meant? like, 7 year olds can have 200bpm even during warmup?

    anyway, what I do:

    1. put HR strap on for exercise
    2. wet my hands with tap water
    3. push my hands under the HR strap on my chest, this will wet both the strap and my skin in one go
    4. I make sure I wet the strap right on the electrodes on both sides. full length of electrodes.

    that's it, job done, works fine.

    if there's still a problem, HR strap needs to be tightened.

    I use the hard strap, no soft strap for me, thank-you (I used the polar one when I didn't have access to anything else)

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      I was simplifying on the first one. Yes, you can swap the strap portion, but not the transmitter pod. I write a full post up on swapping the straps: link to dcrainmaker.com

      As for the 200bpm, no, that's what I meant. In general, unless you have some sort of specific condition, you're heart rate won't be above 200bpm. Thus, if you see a spike at 236bpm, it's an issue with the strap.

      The reason I specified 7yo, is that most people start with the simple equation of 220-your age, thus, I'm joking when I say 7 year old. But sorta serious.

      Reply
  114. Biastee

    "The Polar’s use electromagnetic signals to send the data from the coded strap to the watch, which can be interfered with by high tension power lines. The Garmin’s on the other hand use the 2.4Ghz frequency and don’t have the power line issues typically."

    Both Polar's 5kHz and Garmin's 2.4 GHz signals are electromagnetic - just vastly different frequencies. Garmin's ANT+ is a version of Bluetooth. By using 2.4 GHz, Garmin may be just swapping power line interference with Bluetooths & WiFi interference.

    "Replacing the batteries: Finally, last but not least – sometimes it’s just the batteries getting old."

    I have mistakenly replaced batteries when the problem lies elsewhere. To avoid wasting usable batteries, I now measure the battery voltage before deciding whether it needs to be replaced. I have found that the 3.0V nominal battery begin to exhibit erratic readings when the voltage drops to ~ 2.0V.

    One problem that I have encountered with the Polar soft strap is a change in electrical continuity between the electrode and the snap-on button. When it is good, the resistance measures between 3 - 12 kOhm. When the connection goes bad, it measures >100 kOhm.

    I hope the above info can aid the faultfinding process.

    Reply
  115. rojo

    I´ve just bought an HRM and it only takes readings when i inhale.

    I´m also kinda fat, could that interfere?

    Cheers.

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Hmm, very odd - never heard of that. And never heard of weight being an issue with any HR strap. Have you tried HR gel to improve the connection (failing having gel handy, just add a bunch of spit first).

      Reply
    • rojo replied

      Thanks for the prompt reply!

      I´ve tried new batteries, spit, and HR gel. Tried more and less tension on the strap, wearing on my back, and nothing worked out.

      Maybe the thing´s broken.

      Reply
    • Biastee replied

      @Rainmaker. Maybe fat is a poorer electrical conductor than muscle.

      @rojo. The transmitter electronics can go bad. If you have a soft strap, the connection between the electrode and the button can also fail. In the latter case, you will only need to replace the strap.

      Reply
    • rojo replied

      I just went to the store, and it worked just fine on the skinny little fellow that sold it to me.

      So fat can interfere with the functioning of the thing.

      Good news is that i finally made it work, I pulled the strap way up my back so it presses against the pec/b*tch-t*t.

      Cheers!

      Reply
  116. A.Lettriste

    I have been using the hew HR strap from Garmin (010-10997-07), without any problem since october (well, I lost it and replced, but that's another stuff!).

    Yesterday, when going to a HR guided bike workout I found I forgot my strap. A colleague lend me his older (premium) Garmin band. And spikes were back again!!! I am currently using HRV measurement (R-R) in my 910XT, so I ran the .FIT data into Firstbeat Athlete and... voilá... Firstbeat seems able to recognize spikes and to remove them very well. In addition, the smoothing is much more precise. I had done the same workout 3 weeks ago, and the smoothed profiles are quite in agreement. Another interesting thing to note is that running firstbeat, spikes do not show an "exponentially smooth" decrease, they are just spikes, so easier to spot. If needed, I can upload the pics qhich are quite impressive. On a side note I am using Firstbeat Athlete edition (80 u$s/lifetime license), and... this version does not export the results other than in Firstbeat propietary format, so I am correcting BY HAND the .tcx file.... :-/

    Cheers!

    Reply
  117. Andrew

    Guys, cheapest solution I have found to work and eliminated any dropouts was what i did here. link to forum.slowtwitch.com

    Reply
    • A.Lettriste replied

      @Andrew, Interesting. You are using the "new" (shielded) HR strap and it failed also. How long did you use it before noticing spikes?

      Reply
    • Andrew replied

      Yes, it is the HRM3 version that has the shield all the way across the backside. I had it for about 6-8 months before problems started popping up. and it was more of having HR going to 1/2 of the actual reading than it was seeing HR spikes. I think Ray has the market cornered on the solution for that problem pretty well already.

      Reply
    • A.Lettriste replied

      Blast! Thanks for the solution!!!!

      Reply
  118. Amy

    Hi - in the last month my HRM has started giving me the 180+ average/over 200 readings (the problems you've described). I've tried all your key suggestions: more water on the band, electro gel, and new battery. Still not working properly. any other ideas what else to investigate?? Love your blog, thanks for all the good advice.

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      If it's still doing that, I'd look at calling Garmin and seeing if you can get the strap swapped out - it sounds like it may be defective. :-/

      Reply
  119. Andy Cavanagh

    Hello, excellent blog, you've made put my mind to rest with a lot of the above. I've been using cycling to get fitter and lose some of the middle age spread I've accumulated between 40 & 50 Years old. I was/am doing great lost 10kg over the last 5-6 months. Then the scary happened, took a phone call while out the other day, work never leaves me alone, glanced down at my displayed HR on my auto stopped Garmin 510 it had peaked at 248 BPM, I had absolutely no other symptoms or indications of any cardio issues, still worried me to death though. caused me to 'find' your blog and wanna say a huge thanks for allaying any fears. Went out again today and hey ho, having repositioned the chest strap, apart from the odd 'glitch' all seems well. Yahoooooo!

    Reply
  120. Eirik Degerud

    Thank you for posting this and for saving me 90$.

    Guess I am one of those with freaky anatomy as rotating the HR soft band 90 degrees solved everything.

    Reply
  121. Hi everybody,
    I am noting (my last few runs) some problems with my hr band. Actually it gives very wrong results... not just at the beginning (as was getting used at that) but also during the run... so that suddenly it looses contact with my watch or it says I have 75bpm .... which is unreal if I am running up a hill.

    Are these normal signs of the battery needing to be changed? I was thinking of this... also if it is not that long I am using it... but I got it from a friend of mine, who was not using it, but maybe had it in the drawer for a long time.

    hope someone can give me an hint

    Reply
  122. NewGarmin

    Hello everyone,

    I bought my Garmin Forerunner 220 about a month ago which came with Garmin's Premium HR monitor. It has worked just fine until recently. Unlike most of you, I am getting zero reading. My watch is not connecting to the HR monitor at all. I've reset the watch, cleaned the monitor, gotten it wet, etc. could the batteries be dead already?? It's only been about 3-4 weeks and I usually run a few miles 4-5 times a week. Please help.

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      It could be. Every once in a while I hear of a strap might get in a strange spot where the battery doesn't go into standby and basically just burns until the candle is dead (battery).

      It's a quick and easy $2 fix. But, if it happens again, ring up Garmin support and have them swap out the strap, as it's probably a short in the strap somewhere.

      Reply
  123. Robertb

    My experience is that the HRM works fine for months, then gradually starts to fail. I'm on my second now, which is starting to play up. Having read the comments above, I wonder if the problem is not between the contact patches and skin, but with the studs to which the HRM fastens; these are regularly snapped in and out, so maybe this causes a loose connection on the studs. Or possibly, the stress of the flex of being snapped in and off again causes the unit itself to develop an internal fault and fail. I'm going to try cleaning the studs and holes with electrical switch cleaner and see if that works.

    Reply
    • Biastee replied

      I have experienced contact issues due to rusty studs - I didn't follow the instruction to wash the soft strap after each use (I was accustomed to the hard 'classic' strap which didn't need washing). But the studs have large contact areas and so they won't fail until they are almost completely covered in rust. Another soft strap failed because of a bad connection between the stud and the fabric electrode. You can diagnose connection issues with an ohmmeter - see reply #128.

      Reply
  124. gv

    Hi - Im wondering if you might have an answer to this. I recently bought the suunto ambit2 s. The hr works well till about 10 - 15 min into the workout then it starts to stay static at lets say 115bpm when im sweating bullets doing heavy interval training at the half hour mark..by then its still hovering around 115. Whats wrong here? Ive place the strap correctly and in the same senerio (other time)near the end of my interval workout ive peaked at 160. Any thought s? Thanks

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      I suspect you may have sweat pooling under the strap, which sometimes can cause issues. One option is change the location of the strap (move it higher or lower on your chest), sometimes that helps. Another is to rotate it to the sides of your chest, sometimes that also helps.

      And finally, you can do what I do when that happens - just wipe the sweat away from under the strap. Usually does the trick.

      Reply
  125. actually, after I washed the band with no results, and finally lost the sensor in a trip (did not do it in purpose...)

    I am here trying to choose if to buy a third part sensor by decathlon, which I read should work fine , or the official garmin for twice the price.

    what do you suggest? I thought a lot about it and I am more into the bargain from decathlon. link to decathlon.fr

    nevertheless I ll let you know when I use it if I buy it.

    Reply
  126. I have the Garmin HRM strap that came with my 620. I've had the strap since November and it still has the same battery. I ramped up to 35-40 miles per week in the last few months (to give you an idea of my usage) and have never had issues with the strap until this week. Tuesday I did an 80 minute run (9.5 miles) I saw my HR go from 170 down to 140 between mile 6.5 and 7.5. The HR went back up between 7.5 and 8.5 and came back down to 140ish for the remainder of the run. This morning I did a 6 mile trail run and the last 1.5 miles saw me go from 170bpm down to 127-140bpm. This morning the rain was pouring and I was constantly pulling my HRM back up. Could this be a placement issue or could my heart rate really be dropping even though my effort isn't? Could the battery be low? BTW, Wednesday I had no issues. The HR remained constant on my 5 mile run.

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      No, it sounds like just some of the normal issues that you can use gel for, or some of the other solutions to try and alleviate.

      That said, the FR620 comes with the HRM-RUN strap, so most of those don't tend to happen with that strap, it's usually pretty good. You could swap out the battery, in case for some reason it's on its last legs. Typically they last a year or so, but sometimes they can get in an odd state and burn through battery while you think it's off.

      Reply
  127. Hey Ray! Hope you are well.

    My heart rate data on tonight's data was consistently very high (220-250). On recent rides it has also been spiking. However, nothing like tonight--training peaks even emailed me to suggest to increase my threshold HR to 180 BPM on a night I wasn't really pushing!

    Do you think this could mean a new battery is needed (trainer road tells me it is almost 500 hrs since a new battery)?

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      If it's random spikes, it might be a new battery. But, if it's constant highs (like the 220-250), then it's something else - perhaps jersey flap or the like from the wind.

      Reply
  128. CiCi

    I am going to try all the suggestions above and hope it will save me a trip to the cardiologist. I am a very senior runner worried about the spikes in my HRM. I show spikes over 200 even when I am at conversational pace and breathing easily with no perceived exertion.
    I have not seen this mentioned, but would a well endowed woman have issue with HRM picking up bouncing breasts? Please this is serious no jokes.
    I have the 310 xt.

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Hi CiCi-

      I'd definitely try all the suggestions first. I haven't heard of any women finding correlations between those two. In theory, yes, repetitive movement is often picked up by heart rate straps as heart rate. However, typically that's running cadence reverberating through the body (many will find that when a HR strap goes wayward it actually matches your running cadence - or double your cadence). But, I don't think there would be enough of a sharp signal from breasts bouncing to cause that pickup.

      Reply
  129. Fish

    Just got a new FR610 and HRM. The HRM seems to only read - - - (0) or 103+, any ideas?

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      I'd try swapping out the battery on the HRM first (I know, sounds silly, but sometimes on units that have sat on a shelf a long time the battery is basically 99% dead). If that doesn't work, ring Garmin, something is definitely wrong on the HRM strap.

      Reply
  130. ComPH

    Thank you for this web site. I would like to add a little to the point of the strap positioning. I have been fighting reliable HRM output for couple of months. Tried everything, new straps, couple of different sensors, gels, metal inserts over the electrodes, nothing worked reliably for long. In the past few days I discovered (and tested) position that works for me reliably, long term, with ALL the straps. I positioned the sensor electronics right under my left nipple. This is working dependably in four different systems. It makes sense, the heart is slightly towards the left of the center of the chest in most cases. I thought I would share this information to save people the same agony and frustration I went through.

    Reply
  131. Willem Smeenk

    I solved the problem with the HRM output the same way as ComPH. I found that before I haver read this post ( sorry for my English, I am Dutch )
    Last sunday i desperate change the possition of the sensor on the strap to the left. The SIDE of the sensor is now on the middle of the chest. This doet the trick! No problems anymore. Ive looked for more than a year for this solution and tried everything.

    Reply
  132. Paulo

    I solve my PROBLEM!!! I I by a HR strap from Dechatlon
    for half the price!!!!!! and perform great!!!!!! I recomend!

    Reply
  133. Dave

    The wearlink belt works great with Bryton ANT + HRM too. My original HRM was reading upto 250bpm and when resting nothing lower than 150bpm. I swapped out the bryton strap for a Wear link strap and straight away, resting heart reat 56bpm and holding. Thanks for the great advice.

    Reply
  134. Mickey

    Here's I riddle I'd like to figure out: Got a Forerunner 310XT w/HRM paired it up no problem, put it on (with all the appropriate wetting, etc.) No heart rate - rode 25mi lots of hills - No heart rate. Put it on my wife works great - put it on a friend works great - put it back on me, No heart rate. I went so far as to shave my chest. I'm fairly certain I have a pulse . . .
    Has anyone ever run into something like that?

    Reply
  135. Craig Baird

    Hi Ray - Thanks for the info on the HR monitor & troubleshooting tips. I've had a few questions about my Suunto monitor recently, one of which you might be able to shed some insight. Looking at your HR graph I see where you have two dips in it after about 1 hour. I've gotten back into running and have noticed that after about an hour my HR has episodes of dropping, and in some cases will race back up when I stop running. I'm in my mid 50's with a current max. HR about 188, and I'm trying to keep my rate around 150 on my long runs. When it does drop it goes down around 120, and on a few occasions when I stop it will race up to 160 & then drift back down. I've never had any adverse symptoms other than what one would expect from running for an hour. I've heard of a few people mention this type of episode but they haven't been concerned. Have you ever experienced a HR pattern like this or do you think it could be the monitor? Thanks -

    Reply
  136. Sebastien Garcia

    Hi

    I'm experiencing something slightly different with my new Ambit2 and suunto ant strap.
    After 40-45 minutes, no more communication anymore between the 2. flat HR graph ( link to movescount.com ).

    Stopping the move and starting a new one and HR is displayed again (but movescount cannot merge moves)

    and of course there is plenty of sweat involved...

    Reply
  137. Chad

    Does rain affect it. I have been using my FR620 strap about 4-6 times a week for about 6 months and today in the rain the reading were all over the place. I use the electrode gel so that is not an issue. Could the battery be dead already?

    Reply
    • DC Rainmaker replied

      No, it shouldn't have any impact unless it's really pooling (the water). Sometimes batteries do go a bit early if the unit got into a weird state where it somehow was left on for say 24-48 hours (the strap) and didn't kick into standby. No worries, batteries are cheap.

      I see that once every few months from people from a variety of vendors. Nothing widespread, but does occasionally happen.

      Reply
  138. Paul Bridges

    In endeavouring to resolve my Garmin Edge 705/HR Strap I came across your posts which were really interesting. However, my HR does not register on my unit. I have changed the battery but without success. I have emailed Garmin support but no response. At considerable expense I have purchased a new Garmin Chest Strap but still no response! Any ideas so that an old boy can get on his bike and monitor his heart rate?

    Reply

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