My Review of the Suunto T6C Heart Rate Monitor – A Coach On Your Wrist
You really won’t believe all of the data you can collect with the Suunto t6c heart rate monitor. Some of the things that it will analyze were previously only available in testing labs.
If you’re like me you plan all of your workouts on your own. There’s no personal track coach to help design the best workout to improve on your 10K time. It’s just you trying to guess at the best way to go about things. There are some good books out there, but I’ve found these are pretty generic and certainly not customized to my fitness level or style of running. Then there are a few friends that offer advice, but they’re either natural endurance athletes and sub-three hour marathoners or bringing up the rear. So who do you turn to? Well, the best option out there is a high-tech heart rate monitor computer watch.
If you haven’t looked at the latest watches then you’ll be surprised at the amazing things that some of the high end heart rate monitors can do. The Suunto t6c heart rate monitor is like having your own personal fitness lab on your wrist. It is one of the best heart rate monitors on the market right now. This little device collects an incredible amount of information about your health and fitness level. You can collect way more data than just your average heart rate in real time; seven different measures of your body’s performance.
Now all this data is great, but if you can’t use it in an efficient way that will improve your performance, then what good is it? Well the Suunto t6c will sync up to your computer, analyze your performance data and make recommendations on how to improve your training.
And that’s what it’s really all about; getting faster, stronger, and more fit. Here is what you can expect with the Suunto t6c.
Getting Started With The Suunto t6c
There is no training test with the Suunto so you need to input your starting or baseline fitness level. This includes your maximum heart rate and your MET level. You can follow some of the max heart rate tests on this site to input that figure. The Suunto has default MET levels but if you know your real max MET you should add that number as well. METs (metabolic equivalents) are a measure of how much energy your body is able to use when you’re working at your maximum effort as compared to how much energy you use when you’re at rest. There are different MET levels assigned to different physical activities. For example sleeping has a MET value of 0.9, walking at 3.4 mph has a MET of 3.6 and rope jumping has a MET value of 10.0.
The higher your fitness level, the higher your maximum MET value. Your max MET level is another way of measuring your VO2 Max which is a lab test used to determine how efficiently you use oxygen. The Cooper test is a quick formula we’ve found that works pretty good in calculating your VO2Max, and you can do it on the treadmill at your gym. Run as fast as you can for 12 minutes. Then take that distance in meters and subtract that number from 505. Divide the total by 45. This gives you your VO2 Max. So, if you can run 2 miles in 12 minutes, that gives you 3,218 meters, minus 505 = 2,713 divided by 45 which is 60.29. To get your Max MET you divide your VO2 Max by 3.5. In this case your Max MET score is 17.23.
The Suunto Training Effect
This is a unique measurement of the Suunto t6c. It’s different from the heart rate zone because it measures the total load of your workout instead of just temporary training intensity. When you’re doing heart rate zone training the goal is to keep your heart rate at a certain level throughout your entire workout. With Training Effect you only need to reach the set target rate once during your training session. The Suunto measures training effect in five zones on a scale from 1 to 5.
Training Effect Zones
- Minor Training effect (1.0-1.9) – This level does not improve your aerobic performance but is good for recovery and basic endurance.
- Maintaining Training Effect (2.0-2.9) – Helps to improve your cardio and respiratory function and preps your body to be able to train at a higher intensity level in the future. It also helps you to maintain your present fitness level.
- Improving Training Effect (3.0-3.9) – This level workout helps you improve your aerobic fitness level. It is recommended at least 2-4 times per week.
- Highly Improving Training Effect (4.0-4.9) – This workout is designed to significantly improve your aerobic performance. You should be at this level 1-2 times per week and have the 2-3 workouts following it at the Minor Training Effect (1.0-1.9) level for recovery.
- Over-reaching Training Effect (5.0) – This workout really boosts your aerobic fitness level but must be followed by a good rest or recovery period. This level requires a very high level of exertion and should not be done very often.
Suunto has more detailed information about Training Effect and some sample weekly training programs in their Training Guidebook which you can download from their website.
Here are some other cool features of the Suunto t6c.
EPOC (Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption also called Afterburn)
This is a measure of the amount of extra oxygen that your body needs to recover after you exercise. The higher the EPOC number, the more strenuous the workout. The Suunto t6c will accurately predict your EPOC while you workout.
The Suunto tc6 will record your altitude including your ascent and decent numbers and look at how your body responds at different altitudes. You will need to set this up yourself which means you need to have an accurate reference altitude. You can access topographical maps online for your location and set the reference altitude from that. The Suunto t6c estimates the altitude based on absolute air pressure. Changes in local weather can affect the altitude readings so you will need to adjust the reference altitude frequently. If you record altitude information during your workout you can use the Suunto Training Manager software to analyze the effect of altitude changes on your heart rate.
PODS (Peripheral Observation Devices)
There are a bunch of sports specific PODs that you can purchase if you want even more information that is specific for your particular sport. These are not included with the standard Suunto t6c and must be purchased separately. The available PODs are the Bike POD, Foot POD, GPS POD, Cadence POD, and generic Speed POD. You can easily pair any of these up to record data using the wrist computer.
Here is a list of some of the things that you can record using the Suunto Motion Activated Foot POD, which I highly recommend purchasing. These features are not available without the Foot POD.
- Autolap – You can use this feature to define your laps based on distance instead of time. Then you can look at your total distance, lap speed and time for each lap.
- Distance intervals – You can set distance intervals and record lap times and other data for every completed interval when you start the stopwatch.
- Speed limits – You can set upper and lower speed limits for your workout.
- Autopause – This feature automatically stops the log recorder during your training session when you slow down or stop. The session starts recording again when you speed back up. This is really cool because you can run sprints, rest and start again, and your rest period won’t be recorded.
- Detailed Lap Measurement – The Suunto t6c records your current lap number, the elapsed time of the current lap, the distance of the lap, and the average speed at which you ran the lap.
Here are a few other features that you may find helpful to your training.
- You get two time zone settings, one for your location and one for another time zone. This is useful if you’re traveling overseas and want to quickly know what time it is at home.
- You can lock the buttons on the wrist computer so that you don’t accidently bump them during training and stop your stop watch for example. This has happened to me before with other wrist stopwatches and it can really screw up your workout, especially if you are doing a fast run and trying to beat your previous time.
- Protective plastic shield – can be placed over the screen to prevent scratches. This is useful if you’re using the monitor in rough conditions like mountain climbing.
- The Suunto t6c comes in Fusion, Black, and Red Arrow colors.
- The Suunto even measures the temperature – not yours (write your own joke here), but the air temperature outside.
If all this data sounds confusing, don’t worry. I thought the same when I first looked at the Suunto. What am I going to do with the information about my heart rate and MET value and how I performed at 500ft above sea level? Well don’t worry because the Suunto t6c comes with software that you can load on your computer to make sense of all this information.
The Suunto software will analyze your data and make recommendations on ways to improve your performance based on your goals. It will tell you what to do for your next five workouts and how hard to train based on the data it takes directly from your body.
You can program this information into your watch and the next time you go out running or biking your watch will beep and you to let you know if you are going too hard or need to pick up the pace. It will also tell you how long you need to work out. Talk about having your own personal coach!
- A bunch of really great features – As you just read above, this heart rate monitor has a ton of features and benefits. You really can’t help but improve your fitness and performance in races if you use the Suunto t6c as recommended. It really is like a having a training coach on your wrist.
- Optional POD’s – These are great ad-ons to an already fantastic monitor. You can get very sports specific as well and really customize your Suunto. You can also auto-switch between PODs which is fantastic for triathletes. So you can bounce from the Bike to the Foot POD with ease.
- Movescount.com website – This Suunto website is like a Facebook page for your training. Not only do you get a comprehensive physiological analysis on this website, but you can also look at your average heart rate, calories burned, training effect, and your location and the route that you ran or biked. Everything is categorized by type of activity. You can look at what type of activity you did, like running, swimming, cycling, or weight training, and how long you did it over the last 30 days. You can also follow other members, track your upcoming sporting events, and join groups. It’s really cool and a great community. You can check out the Movescount.com Tour here.
- You can use the Suunto t6c for swimming if you purchase the Suunto Memory Belt and Docking Station. If you’re going to be in the water and want to record your heart rate data while swimming then you really need to get the Memory Belt. Underwater the wrist monitor and the chest strap can’t communicate due to signal interference from the water. The Memory belt will collect and store your heart rate data without a wrist unit. It is the only heart rate monitor that I could find that offers this feature, which makes it ideal for triathletes and swimmers.
- It can be hard to use and program. There are a lot of menus and features on this device so programming can be a bit confusing at first. I think it’s good to focus on a few essential measures that you’ll find useful first, then you can move up to some of the more advanced features. As you get more familiar with the Suunto you can incorporate some of the other training measures into your routine.
- The training manager software is not as good as others on the market. You can draw graphs and plan your workouts but the software is not a great as some others on the market, like Polar. The Suunto t6c is compatible with Training Peaks though, which is a fantastic training software package.
- Heart Rate Belts – Suunto Comfort Belt (ANT Coded) Included – fabric, Suunto Heart Rate Belt (ANT Coded) Compatible, Suunto Memory Belt (ANT Coded) Compatible
- PC software
- USB cable
- Wrist computer
We added the Suunto t6c User Guide to our website if you want to download it and take at look.
You can read more about heart rate monitor features in my article titled, “Features To Consider Before You Buy A Heart Rate Monitor”.
What Top Athletes and Trainers Are Saying
“I really value the Training Effect analysis. It gives me great info about my condition and real-time levels of exertion. This is what technology should be about.” – Jonathan Wyatt, Mountain Runner Legend, 7-time Mountain Running World Champion
In November 2008 Runner’s World Magazine German edition tested six different distance tracking heart rate monitors and awarded the Suunto t6c along with the Foot POD the title of “Runner’s World Test Winners.”
HeartRateMonitorAdvisor.com Consumer Reviews Summary
I found over 50 customer reviews of the Suunto t6c on retailer store websites and consumer review type sites. The average rating is 4.0 out of 5 stars.
Summary of the most helpful positive reviews:
Many owners talk about how much their fitness level has improved after incorporating the Sunnto t6c into their workouts. They followed the monitor’s training recommendations and saw some real improvements. That’s what it’s all about. Also everyone seemed to love the sports specific PODs that you could couple with the basic package. Many found all the different features really useful and easy to access through the display screen. There were many comments about the chest strap being very comfortable. Owners really feel that the Suunto helps to motivate them and excites them to do better.
Summary of the most helpful negative reviews:
There were some complaints about the backlight not working properly. Several owners feel that the basic software that comes with the Suunto is a bit subpar. Many upgraded to Training Peaks software which they felt provided a better interface.
Where Can I Buy the Suunto T6C Heart Rate Monitor?
Really the best place I’ve found to buy the Suunto t6c is on Amazon. They offer free shipping too for items in this price range, which is a great bonus and they frequently run sales. You can check for the best price on Amazon here.
Where Can I Read More Reviews About the Suunto T6C?
Here are a bunch more reviews of the Suunto from owners giving their honest opinion. Just click here to read more Suunto t6c heart rate monitor reviews.
More About Suunto
Suunto was founded in 1936 and is a world leading designer and manufacturer of sports equipment for golf, sailing, skiing, mountaineering, hiking, training, and diving. They are headquartered in Vantaa, Finland and sell products in nearly 60 countries. Suunto is a subsidiary of Amer Sports Corporation.
Other Helpful Resources
In a Runner’s World article from 2009, Bill Dixon an elite runner in the 60+ age group tried out the Suunto t6c. He liked the monitor overall but found the software that came with it too complicated. He had to put his training data into his own Excel spread sheet. However, he was able to take the data and adjust his cadence (strides per minute) to a more optimal level. He ended up moving into the number one spot for runners over 60 with the help of the Suunto.
What has been your experience with the Suunto t6c? Let us all know in the comments below.