The MyZone MZ-3 is a heart rate monitoring chest strap that offers a whole lot more than simple bpm recording.
MyZone has been in the bpm business a long time, mainly dealing with gyms and health clubs. The company's first consumer device aims to add a level of competition to regular heart rate training.
We've had an MZ-3 strapped on for the last couple of months. Read on for our verdict…
MyZone MZ-3: Handicapping heart rate
The idea behind the MZ-3 is a simple one: you exercise with the strap on – whether that be running, rowing, swimming, cycling, a session in the gym or whatever other activity gets the ticker going – and earn points based on your bpm.
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However, rather than simply scoring highly based on a big heart rate reading, the MyZone platform studies your effort over time and handicaps your levels - of which there are five, all colour coded - depending on your statistics. For example, you'll get 1 MyZone Effort Point (MEP) for every minute in the lowest zone (grey), 3 MEPs for the mid-range yellow zone and 4 for the upper red and yellow zones. The zones evolve over time, in line with your performance.
We found that after a couple of weeks of usage, and around six running sessions, the zones levelled out to what we'd consider realistic for our abilities. A breezy 5km run saw predominantly yellow minutes, while a strenuous interval-training session saw us regularly hitting the red zone.
This system means that a casual 5k runner can take on an ultra-marathon champion for a set period - and earn points based on their own individual performance levels – making it a fair comparison. It's a system that has served MyZone well in gyms and health clubs, for spin classes and the like, and we're happy to report that it works well for individual use as well.
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This reviewer has a couple of chest straps in the cupboard, which get only occasional outings; mainly to test the accuracy of wrist based optical heart rate monitors. I'm a casual runner at best, I do the occasional half marathon but my exercise mainly consists of a couple of 5-10km runs a week. Heart rate training isn't high on my list of priorities.
However, the opportunity to earn points made the prospect of strapping on a belt a lot more attractive. Not just because it's another way of gamifiying a workout, and another way of measuring and quantifying an activity, but because the social elements of the app – which well come to later in more detail – add a real level of competitiveness.
MyZone MZ-3: Design and fit
The MZ-3 consists of a red elasticated strap and the module itself. Behind the module, which isn't big or intrusive enough to be a bother during workouts, is the conductive panel that measures your heart rate. We found it picked up the pace of our ticker almost instantaneously the moment it was strapped on.
The strap, which comes in three sizes, has an adjustable clasp on the side so you can get the perfect fit. You want it tight, but not so much that it's cutting off your circulation.
The MZ-3 is about as comfortable as a chest strap can be. What I mean is you'd rather not wear it if you didn't have to – hence the mad rush by the industry to make wrist based trackers more accurate.
However, it doesn't pinch, it doesn't cause stitches and you can, sometimes, almost forget you've got it on.
MyZone MZ-3: Training sessions
Like the Wahoo Tickr X, the MZ-3 has an internal memory - capable of storing 16 hours of data - so you don't always have to exercise while carrying your smartphone. However, should you want to workout with your mobile - you are treated to live stats on the app.
The MZ-3 is also ANT+ compatible, so you can pair it up with an array of fitness apps and devices such as the Apple Watch, Strava, Garmin running watches and MapMyRun. This means you can bring in extra info such as GPS routes, cadence and the like – and combine that with the bpm-based metrics that the MZ-3 records.
There's also a MyZone MZ-50 Watch that can be paired with the strap to provide live stats during workouts, although we've not yet tested this, so we can't comment on its accuracy.
In terms of accuracy, MyZone claims 99.4% compared to a medical grade EKG machine. We compared it to a few heart rate monitors, including a rival chest strap, and found it to be well and truly on the money.
MyZone MZ-3: App and features
The partner app gamifies things a step further by offering league tables, personal goals and challenges, and there's a huge social side to it too - with users able to see their contacts' recent workouts and points scored. You can send comments to your contacts and, of course, post details of your latest workouts to Facebook and Twitter.
Unlike Strava and mammoth fitness platforms, MyZone does limit you to personal connections (friends and friends of friends). At the moment there's no way of tapping into the global user base.
The Wahoo Tickr device and app is a lot more comprehensive and has a number of cool extra features such as music controls and audio feedback. MyZone's effort is definitely a work in progress in comparison and the app is a touch buggy as well.
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As mentioned, the MZ-3 does have memory to store workout metrics, but if you do exercise with a paired smartphone the Effort Stream section of the app lets you see live bpm readings, effort zones, and calorie burn. There's also a stopwatch and a timer module as well.
The MZ-3 has a 7-month battery life from a single charge and is waterproof down to 10m - so it's suitable to swimming too. Once it does run of out juice, charging is done via a proprietary Micro USB cable.
- Accurate bpm recording
- Unique point-based scoring
- Social incentives in the app
- App needs more features
- No media controls
- More expensive than main rival