Making the Most out of Your Run

By: Rockforce

Running can be a painful task as it is, and with today’s assortment of apps and activity trackers, it can seem overwhelming to try and find the appropriate product to keep track of your stats.  While there are plenty of free options available, I found myself trying out different activity trackers and apps to see what I liked best. Then I began looking into Garmin running watches on the recommendation of a buddy, who loves his Garmin Forerunner 230.  Being a mediocre but consistent runner, I saw the potential benefit a GPS watch could bring to my game.  

So, after reading a ton of reviews of different products, I decided to purchase the Garmin Forerunner 235.

While all of the Garmin Forerunner 235 bells and whistles add a cool factor to it, the primary function of the watch is for GPS run tracking. 

I have been using the Garmin Forerunner 235 to track my runs for a several months now and overall, I like it.  No more fumbling through my phone to start and stop an app, its all on my wrist.  The watch acquires satellites very quickly, often times even indoors, with the press of one button.  The watch also has the capability to control music by skipping songs, eliminating the hassle of accessing your phone and distracting you from your run. 

You can set laps and alarms that will alert you to your pace or let you know when to turn around.  Pre loaded workouts can even be added to the watch from the Garmin connect dashboard.  

I have found that feature very useful for interval training.  It seems the possibilities are endless here, and sometimes that can add too much complexity for someone like me, who just wanted the run tracking.  Fortunately, its easy to maneuver around the added features and not get lost in them.  They’re available if you want to use them, but they don’t get in the way of the basic functions.

Running is simple, just push one button to start the GPS, wait for satellite connection (<30 seconds) and then push that button again to start the run.  When you end the run, you can sync to the app to see all your stats at a glance and just forget everything else.  There are many data fields and settings which manage what to display while in an activity, such as pace, speed, time, distance, cadence, heart rate, etc…   Almost too much information.  Fortunately, you can customize it to show as much, or little, as you want.

The battery life is pretty decent.  In my experience, receiving smartphone notifications is the largest battery hog, even more so than GPS run tracking.  Running 3-4 days a week, I typically go at least 3-4 days in between charges.  That doesn’t seem too bad to me.  The charger is a proprietary cable (but not a flimsy one) which connects to a USB port on your computer or a wall charger.  Charge time from dead to 100% is roughly two hours. 

The Garmin connect app and website are very useful tools in diving deeper into the stats tracking.  The app gives some info and allows you to see split times, pace, route, etc… You can also see stats for sleep, daily steps, activity history and records.  The website has loads more information, including graphs and charts and customizable pages based off the data the watch collects.  You can set up pages and move around widgets to view the info you want at a glance.  

EXTRA FEATURES:

Looking at all of the features and capabilities this watch has can seem a little overwhelming at first.  There are a lot of buttons and menus, but it only took a few times navigating them to get a grip on it. 

The Forerunner also works as an activity tracker, (similar to the Fitbit) counting daily steps and such.  The sleep tracking function records your sleep levels and time.  When compared to a separate app I use, it seems similar, but I haven’t cared enough to investigate its accuracy too far.  Again, I count these things as bonus features, the run tracking is my main concern.

When paired with your smartphone, you can receive alerts and text messages right on the watch, which is nice if you’re in a situation where you can’t have your phone out in front of your face, like while driving, or that important meeting you should be paying attention in.  In addition to notifications, you can also see your calendar events for the day and the weather (with the app open in the background).  Necessary?  Not really, but its there. 

Another interesting feature is the ability to download apps and faces for the watch.  Many of the downloadable apps deal with data fields you can add to your displays during activity.  There’s a vast amount to explore here, and many nice watch faces to choose from.  I personally chose the Punisher skull with the American flag backdrop.  It’s outrageously badass. 

CONS:

The only con I have is kind of a big one, but narrowed to the 235s heart rate function.

The specific model I have (the 235) has the sensors for heart rate monitoring from the wrist.  This feature adds a significant cost to the watch ($80 more compared to the Forerunner 230), but I thought it might be a neat feature so I tried it out.  Unfortunately, I have had nothing but problems with it.  I have found that it records inaccurate heart rates at least 70% of the time. 

My resting heart rate is around 60, but the watch almost always records it at 72 (and after a software update, in the 40s).  Additionally, throughout the day while at rest, the heart rate will spike into the 130-150s for no reason.  After extensive contact with their customer service, Garmin has no answer or solution for it, other than future updates that will hopefully solve the problem.  

That is very unfortunate, especially considering the additional price of the watch.  The heart rate monitoring may be more accurate during exercise, but that is something I have not investigated in depth using a chest strap heart rate monitor.  If you read the reviews on Amazon, this is a common problem, but not one everyone experiences.  There are plenty of reviews praising the capabilities of the heart rate function.  So the gamble is yours to take or not take – my recommendation would be to save your money and go with the Forerunner 230.  The 230 is the same watch, minus the wrist based heart rate monitor.

FINAL WORD:

All in all, for anyone looking for a running watch, I think this Garmin Forerunner 235/230 fits the bill.  While it does have a lot of extra fancy features, it doesn’t take away from what it does at its core – run tracking.  The watch is centered around that function, which makes it nice if you don’t care about all the other features.  I’ve been happy with mine, minus the heart rate issues, and will continue using it for my run tracking. 

It may seem like an expensive option for run tracking, especially with all the free phone apps out there, and to be honest it is.  However, if you’re a serious runner, want better accuracy than an app can provide, or just hate lugging your phone that’s the size of a computer monitor out on your runs, Garmin Forerunner 235/230 running watch could be a solution for you. 

Where to get it:

Garmin.com

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