Aloe Vera Gel: Your Heart Rate Monitor’s Best Cold Weather Friend

Heart rate monitors like the HeartQ are every bit as important to fitness training in the winter as they are in warmer months. These wonderful little devices work better in the cold, however, if you add some conductive gel to the sensors on your strap, and here, aloe vera gel can get you through a whole season of workouts.

winter-workout1

A Little Dry Air Equals a Big Heart Rate Monitor Problem

As air temperature drops, so too, does the level of moisture in the air around you. Your perspiration evaporates quickly as a result, and dehydration becomes more of a risk. Looking at your heart rate monitor, the dryness is a big pain because your heart rate monitor sensors depend on a conductive substance—for instance, your sweat—to detect and transmit electrical signals from your heart accurately. Take the moisture away and your monitor likely will show you all kinds of weirdness, with readings up in the 200+ arena finding their way onto the display.

Now, you have two routes to solving your moisture problem. The first is to just lick the strap. (Admittedly a bit gross, yes. Works, yes.) But of course, this isn’t too practical if you’re trying to fly down some slopes or have your strap buried under a lot of layers to keep warm. For this reason, most people put heart rate monitor gel on the sensors, as it doesn’t evaporate nearly as fast as saliva does. This product is very similar to the gel professional ultrasound technicians use in medical settings, and it performs great. But what if you’re in a pinch? Is there anything else that’s a good substitute?

3d Snowman works out with weights

Aloe Vera: A Cheap HRM Gel for Every Day

Even though commercial heart rate monitor gels work well and have their place at home and in gyms, aloe vera gel—yep, that same stuff your mom probably slathered on your sunburns or dry skin when you were a kid—easily can take their place. In fact, it has two major advantages that make it superior to many of the commercial gels out there.

Some commercial heart rate monitor gels are formulated with ingredients that can irritate the skin or cause allergic reactions in some individuals. For instance, many contain chemicals such as surfactants (soaps), preservatives, cetyl alcohol and fragrances. These chemicals not only influence the conductivity of the gel, but also other elements such as the gel’s texture. By contrast, aloe vera gel is mainly water (99 percent). The remaining 1 percent is a mix of 75 naturally occurring substances, including polysaccharides and vitamins/minerals like calcium, magnesium, potassium and sodium. These ingredients work together not only to moisten your skin, but also to deter bacteria/fungi growth and promote healing. When you’ve got a strap rubbing against you day after day, workout after workout, using a substance that’s so skin friendly is a definite plus.

Then there’s the cost factor. Commercial gels vary significantly in price. Most 4- to 10-ounce tubes run between $0.50 and $1.50 per ounce, but some get into the $2 and above range. Compare that to regular aloe vera gel, which you can find at places like Walmart for about $0.13 an ounce!

Aloe-Vera

How to Use Aloe Vera Gel with Your Monitor

You can use aloe vera gel on your HeartQ or other HRM strap pretty much the same way you do your regular HRM gel.

  • Squeeze a line of aloe vera gel along the center of your HRM sensors. Smooth it out with your fingers. If you’re using the right amount, you shouldn’t have a ton of gel squish out from the sides of the strap once you put the strap on.
  • Put on your strap, taking care to get the placement as close to the final wear position as possible. Doing this ensures that you don’t wipe off the majority of the gel trying to get the strap into place. If you have a bit of aloe on your skin after positioning, it’s not a huge deal. Instead of wiping it off with a towel, just rub it in, as the aloe is good for you.
    Wash your strap according to the manufacturer’s directions after your workout, as aloe (like any HRM gel) can leave a sticky residue that attracts dirt.
  • Extra Tip: If you find that the conductivity of your aloe needs a boost, try mixing a pinch of salt into it before you put it on the sensors.

Conclusion

HRM gels do their job and can be preferable in some cases, but aloe vera is a great alternative. It’s cheap and works fabulously to keep skin moist and healthy, exactly what you need in cold-weather training.

References:

Aloe1.com (n.d.) Chemical Properties of Aloe Vera

Bioshare.info (n.d.). How to Make DIY Conductive Solution and Electrode Gel? 

WebMD (n.d.) Aloe.

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