Looking at the spec for the Polar Pacer Pro, I can immediately see that it is aimed at the serious runner or athlete. This is good news. In the price category of ‘Under £300’ it promises to be a great entry level watch for helping me to seriously track consistent road and trail running sessions across varying distances, which should be extremely helpful when training for an upcoming ultramarathon in July.
About the watch…
It’s 1.2 inches in diameter, has an MIP (memory-in-pixel) display with a resolution of 240×240 pixels and is protected by a Gorilla Glass 3.0 lens. A 1.1mm glass screen that’s extra durable. Plus the display is now 3mm closer to the surface so it’s very easy to read and the 5 buttons are large and grooved. The bezel is made of aerospace-grade aluminium, making the Polar Pacer Pro a light watch weighing in at only 41 grams. The strap is flexible and comfortable. Overall I don’t even notice I’m wearing it.
Using the watch…
First off it’s easy to charge, with a simple charging cable (Polar Charge 2.0) that magnetically snaps onto the back plate. I’ve found that the battery lasts several days, on quieter weeks it lasts around 5-7 days to around 4-5 days on busier weeks when I utilise GPS and training tests.
Through the side buttons, there are different widget pages that displays real-time information about daily steps, heart rate, sleep, training update, workout target, and more such as the weather forecast (handy!).
When I turn over the watch you’ll notice the LEDs and light detectors. It’s clever skin proximity sensors knows when it’s in the correct position to read my heart rate. From a wellness perspective I have a fast resting heart rate so this gives me peace of mind as I can monitor it.
Polar Pro App…
Training and recovery is of key importance when using the app. It easy to view my daily/weekly/monthly activity and contains all of my sleep metrics on a main dashboard. The app shows me a pie chart detailing how much I’ve spent sleeping, resting, moving and training.
The app is also where I can set up activity profiles for my watch. It automatically has running as the first option, alongside around 20 other sport profiles which is perfect if you mix up your training sessions with different exercise like me. I frequently combine running with high intensity sessions, rowing as well as yoga.
I can click onto each training session and quickly drill down for more information such as the duration, distance, calories burned, average heart rate, average pace, ascent/descent, steps per min, average power, etc during the session. So it’s super detailed! And I like the fact that I can see how far and fast I go in each session, I’m not too bothered about beating my last running time, more that it provides me with the data to see how well my progress is going week by week.
The only thing that is slightly inconvenient is that in order to connect to the app you have to press and hold down the bottom left button and make sure you have the app open so you can sync and upload your data. I’d love it to do it automatically when I open the app.
Polar Pro functionality…
It’s easy to start a running session, I can either hold down the red button, or press the bottom-left button. There’s different sport profiles and I can select one to start. It will assess heart rate and GPS (if it’s an outdoor activity). It gives a customised calorie burn for running and I found the GPS picks up pretty fast.
I can easily pause your session anytime by pressing the bottom-left button. When I’ve finished, long-hold down the button again to end the session. I’m able to see a summary of my data on the watch itself, perfect as I’m cooling down.
When I sync the data back to the app it also updates 3rd party sites like Strava and Kamoot which is great. (Btw you can get a free trial of both of these apps with your purchase of the Polar Pacer Pro). Over a specific time period I can see all of my running and workout sessions on the Training dashboard.
In addition, each day it gives me a suggested cardio exercise to improve my fitness and muscular endurance. These aren’t tied to a specific training plan like building towards an ultra marathon but they’re handy to keep up my overall fitness level. The Cardio Load function is good for ultra runners as it shows you whether or not your training is productive. On the main dashboard page I can see a quick overview, click on it and I can get the exact details of my sessions.
There are also breathing exercises and core type workouts too. On the watch display it gives me the specific moves to do, along with animations and text for each one. These are handy to go along with a training plan.
Plus more interesting functionality…
There’s the ‘Training Load Pro’ which measures how my current training regime affects my overall fitness (how much of an effect it had on my cardiovascular system and muscles. ‘Energy Source’ to estimate how much carbs and fat I burn in a running session, ‘FitSpark’ recommends training based on my workout history and ‘FuelWise’ so I can set up reminders to take food and drink at certain intervals.
Then there’s the usual Timers (alarm, stopwatch, or countdown timer), Tests (walking, cycling, running, or fitness). For every run longer than 12 minutes, the Pacer Pro calculates your Running Index, an estimation of your maximal oxygen uptake (VO2Max), a score that helped me to gauge the efficiency of my training. This did help me to track my progress over a few months. Crucially it showed improvement every time I did it.
I also tried the walking and running tests suggested on the watch. The running test takes around 30/40 minutes, including a 10-minute warm-up and a 10-minute cool down. I needed to go all the way to max exertion to get the right results. The walking test is easier but a bit hard to get the right walking/running equilibrium – it’s all pretty interesting though and shows off the Pacer Pro’s extra functionality
I really like the Hill Splitter™ option, graphs showed me all the uphill and downhill work on my runs, which was really useful on trail running days. It also gave me elevation data – very useful for training for those hilly ultra races, as well as the usual GPS data – distance, time and speed.
This is a great area of functionality. I’m always curious as to the quality of my sleep and there’s lots of sleep information available. From easy info like the time you went to bed and when you woke-up, to my estimated sleep phases. I wasn’t sure about the accuracy of some of data as even though I wasn’t moving in bed I was most definitely awake at times in the night! But how would the watch know this…
The Nightly Recharge looks at how ‘recovered’ I was that night but it takes 5 days’ worth of data before it starts showing the sleep data, so the more I wore the watch at night the better my sleep info became.
Viewing the sleep data in the app is very good and breaks it down very clearly. I can monitor my rest and recovery information quickly and easily.
The Polar Pacer Pro is very comfortable, I can wear it all the time with little sensitivity. It provided me with a lot of great training data and I could see where I could push myself more, along with the useful cardio suggestions it gives on a daily basis. I could see where I achieved more in particular sessions, so along with my sleep data I could combine all the stats to show how I was doing and feeling overall.
As with any good running watch it was easy to see my running times and therefore gave me the feedback I needed to try and improve them. The Training Load Pro, Hill Splitter™ and running tests were all great extras to give me a little push here and there when I needed it… plus it was so interesting. I spent a good few hours over several months pouring over the data in the Polar Flow app! Plus the GPS accuracy seemed to be really good, as well as the battery time.
So yes it aided my goal to track and analyse my running (and other workout sessions) so it’s a great lower-priced GPS watch for dedicated runners, particularly if you like the data!