Going Strapless~ a review of The MIO Alpha

Even back in the 90s when heart rate monitors came on the scene I really hated wearing a chest strap. Though you might garner a certain amount of street cred as a serious athlete for having that black ban of dedication just below your nipples I had a hard time keeping it up, especially when swimming, and I secretly envied women’s fashion sense of sporting a shoulder harness. Lacking the courage to to wear a sports bra to keep the sensors in place I, like many amateur athletes, decided a heart rate monitor just wasn’t for me. But that all seemed to change with the advent of the wireless Alpha from MIO.

I suspected it was only a matter of time before someone managed to create a HR sensor that could attach to the wrist and not require a chest strap. And while other products have surfaced over the years the Alpha takes the technology one critical step further by allowing the wrist unit to communicated with a smartphone. Taking advantage of several mobile applications like STRAVA, Map My Fitness and RunKeeper (all available as a free download) watch transmits your HR data to be incorporated directly into the statistics for every mile or kilometer you run, walk, ride, paddle or swim. And there’s no chest strap.

As long as you know the optimal heart zone in which to train an HR monitor is a valuable tool. True fitness is a product of your ability to do more work with less effort. If you can increase your speed or distance traveled with fewer beats of your heart you’re really getting somewhere. An accurate HR monitor and a well organized data table to chart your progress can do a lot to help you achieve your fitness goals.

The Alpha has all the basic features necessary to help you stay within your target heart zone. Once you program in your minimum and maximum beats per minute the watch will sound an audible alarm that will prompt you to either pick up the pace or slow it down. A stopwatch function lets you time your workout. Powered by a USB docking station it can be plugged into a wall socket or your personal computer.

Unfortunately the Alpha doesn’t record data for future reference. And the stopwatch doesn’t post split times. This unit offers the bare minimum required to monitor your heart rate and little else. It doesn’t even have a date function. Perhaps most disappointing and a bit surprising is that with liquid crystal display the digits on the Alpha can’t be seen in the dark and there is no light function. And of course in order to get the maximum benefit from this watch it has to be in close proximity to your smartphone. That means you have to carry it with you. I’ve lately gotten into the habit of wearing a small waist pack with a waterproof pouch for my iPhone. It’s a hassle sometimes. But it’s kind of nice to have my camera ready for a cool picture.

If a true wireless HR monitor without a chest strap is what you’re looking the Alpha is the unit for you. There are better sport watches on the market with many of the futures this units lacks, but it’s the connectivity that makes it unique and very worthwhile.

MSRP $199

Have you had a chance to try out the Alpha? Are you thinking about purchasing one? Share your comments and questions in the comments below.

The Joy Trip Project is made possible thanks to the generous support of MAKO Surgical Corp. Ask your doctor if you’re a candidate for MAKOPlasty.MAKO_logo_TM

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I’m a freelance journalist that specializes in telling stories about outdoor recreation, environmental conservation, acts of charitable giving and practices of sustainable living.