Sunday, November 17, 2019

Polar ProTrainer 5 Software Review (Polar RS800CX PTE Review Part II)

December 22, 2009 by · 17 Comments 

tn_MainDesktopIn my recent review of the Polar RS800CX PTE, I covered the capabilities of the PTE as a supplement to a coach-created cycle training program. What allows you to create the programs that a coach gives you (if you use heart rate zones) is the Polar ProTrainer 5 software that comes with the RS800CX PTE (the software comes with the RS400 and above as well, but you may need to buy the infra-red USB stick to interface with the monitor+computer).

The Polar ProTrainer 5 software (PPT5) CD comes with the RS800cx packaging, but you can download it from Polar’s website if you need to. The software keeps itself updated, which is nice, and it also hasn’t crashed on me since I’ve been using it; it’s great to see that the software is not an afterthought for Polar.

So what would you use the PPT5 software for, and is this all to much for the casual user?

As I stated before, I’m a cyclist… because of this, I have to deal with lots of numbers as part of a training program. If I had power, I would deal with watts, but without watts, I use a combination of cadence, speed, heart rate zones, and gear ratios to create exertion scenarios that try to mimic power. As I mentioned in part 1 of the review a heart rate monitor from Polar’s RS series can plan, guide, and capture all the data necessary for following a structured plan. To that extent, the Polar + the PPT5 software makes for an extremely powerful device, but you need to know how to wield it. Part of the challenge to get the most out of your Polar device and the PPT5 software is to fully comprehend what all the settings are within the software (read the manual and help files) and that you have the right figures for your heart rate zones (lab or field tested). If you don’t have that, all of this would be overkill. You can use the Polar RS800CX as a standalone heart rate monitor, but if you are not using the key features that the PPT5 enables, you wasted your money; you could have gone for a simpler device in the Polar range.

To give you an example of what my coach will typically assign me,  and to start to see how an athlete on a structured plan would use the device in conjunction with the software, here is a slice of typical cycling turbo trainer session:

Intervals

The effort levels are effectively heart rate zones tailored to me and derived from my lab tests on lactate thresholds.

The gear ratio mixed with cadence will almost force you to generate a certain amount of power, and of course, the time intervals are what allow you not to burn out when you are pushing yourself. The Polar via that PPT5 software can guide you through this entire workout.

The PPT5 software allows you to transcript the above session into an exercise file which will be in your calendar as a to-do item for the day. When you synchronize the Polar device via the USB stick, the session will show up as what you need to do for the day (it’ll even remind you at the time you’ve scheduled the session). Below is an example of the transcription part of the software (not the interval session of the picture above). It allows you to copy and paste intervals so you don’t have to redo them, and also allows you to loop segments which is handy if you have a pyramid type of interval.

tn_Polar ProTrainer5

One drawback of the transcription part of the software is that there is a limit to the number of entries. I found that limit to be 12 entries. For some of the more complex turbo sessions, even though I included repeats so that I would reduce the number of entries, I was unable to include the last cool-down period, because it exceeded the 12 entry limit. For the most part, though, this is not a problem.

The parameters you can use to set intervals are:

  • Free – Do whatever
  • Sport Zones – Heart Rate Zones you’ve defined (or your coach)
  • HR – Heart rate beats per minute
  • Pace – in mph, I’m assuming this is for running, but.. this reminds me of a bug I’ve seen within the software within the exercise analysis (see picture below) where it only uses mph in spite of the fact that I explicitly set the software to give me speed in kph. Annoying, but not vital.
  • Speed – in kph, this is for cycling.
  • Cadence – what rpm you need to be using

Using these parameters, I can effectively replicate what my coach assigns me. I usually have to pick one only parameter per interval though.. meaning, you can switch from one interval being cadence and the next heart rate, but you can’t have an interval that monitors and guides you on both speed & cadence, for example. The way I get around this is by naming the interval with the other parameter I need to follow. For example, if my coach tells me to hit a specific cadence, I will title the interval C95 and set the right heart rate zone for the interval. This allows me to keep within the heart rate zone, and it reminds me at the beginning of the interval (via the title of the interval) that I need to keep my cadence at 95 rpm. A bit roundabout, yes, but good enough.

So what does session data look like after you’re finished? The following two screens illustrate the summary of an exercise and then the detailed analysis of the session (I don’t think they’re the same one either, sorry.. just took screen shots of sessions I liked and found interesting). Note the mph on the second one for speed.. it should be kph, but software doesn’t acknowledge the global settings request.

tn_AnExercise tn_AnalysisofSession

As you can see, there is quite a bit of data that is generated. You can delve deeper into this data to see how much time you spent in zones, distributions, averages, etc… Not only that, each session is aggregated on a weekly basis (see image at top of post) giving you how much time you’ve spent in zones, distance covered, etc. The sheer amount of data generated by the PPT5 software is any analyst’s dream. The R-R data that the Polar RS800cx PTE can also be reviewed, but unlike the FirstBeat Athlete software, the PPT5 software does not give you any kind of suggested intensity for training or training effect. You can, however, export the data from the RS800CX PTE into FirstBeat Athlete and use the software in tandem (although a bit redundant if you have a coach).

The PPT5 software allows you to manage various people at a time as well as is the key part of the Polar devices in that it allows you to customize everything on the watches. For example, the logo on the watch display on standby, can be customized within PPT5. Other things like team number, displays to show when exercising, saved sessions, user settings (age, weight, etc) can all be input via PPT5 saving you quite a bit of button mashing on the RS800CX PTE. Lastly there are reports on aggregated performance metrics you can generate as well as tests you can take to determine fitness levels.

All in all, the combo of a Polar device plus the PPT5 software included is quite the powerful training tool if you know what you’re doing. If you have no idea of half the things I was talking about during this post, then this device may be overkill for you. The Polar RS800CX is good to grow into if you ever consider planning your training more carefully or according to some perioditized method such as that from Joe Friel.

Click here for Part 1 of the Polar RS800CX PTE review.

Click here for the Chromewalker series on heart rate monitors.

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