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Measure for measure

August 5, 2015
GPS watches - full of buttons, features and functions

GPS watches - full of buttons, features and functions

For the past year or so, I’ve been running without my trusty Garmin. In fact, my last fully-measured run was pretty much the 2014 London Marathon. Almost immediately after making it through the race, my battered old Garmin refused to charge.

I’d been battling with an ongoing injury, so it made sense to take a break and then start reintroducing runs gently. Running by feeling rather than target pace was the aim of the day, and having had my fill of distance for a while, I was happy to get back to shorter runs. In fact, running without metrics helped me rediscover the joy of running. Heading out with no aim other than enjoying a bit of fresh air, maybe seeing some new sights along a new route, all makes for a very pleasant hour.

However, I’ve been starting to feel the absence of measurements and logs now that I’m getting back into a rhythm. I feel like I’m finding some pace again, but have no idea of how this actually looks. I have a regular weekday route that’s something like 6.5 miles, but I don’t really have anything close to an accurate sense of how long this is taking me. We have large, inaccurate wall clocks at work, and I know it’s taking less than 45 minutes, but beyond that it’s anyone’s guess what a good run and a bad run look like.

The world of wearables has moved on since I bought my old 405. Apple, amongst others, has produced smart watches that could render a sport-specific watch pointless. My feeling is that mainstream smart watches do indeed render the ubiquitous Garmin irrelevant for casual runners, but their performance doesn’t match the needs of people wanting to take sport a bit more seriously.

If a smartphone has done you until now, a smart watch will probably enhance your experience and add in a few extra metrics. But a category watch will record data for longer, and give you a greater range of analytics to pore over post-performance. And that might mean wearing a heart monitor rather than optical monitoring, but when you’re interested in detailed performance metrics you’re also more interested in accuracy.

I’m eying up the Fenix 3. It’s a beast of a watch – with a price tag to match – but it’s versatile, and now I’m dallying a bit more in cycling, the increased battery performance will be extra useful. It’s also good for multi-sports, so will cater for that point when I finally take the plunge and go for a tri. And it uploads data to Garmin Connect via wifi or your mobile’s Bluetooth, which should make the old Ant stick a relic of the past.

It does, however, feature Garmin’s usual insistence on a bespoke charging cradle. Never the same for any two watch models. Reviews seem to think it’s more stable than the 405’s crocodile clip (few things more frustrating than thinking you’ve balanced your watch in a charging position, only to find out that it’s semi-connected and actually drained itself in charging/not charging), which is key.

Everyone has their preferences, so any thoughts from you on which are the best gadgets for logging activity at the moment?

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. cheerfulken permalink
    September 2, 2015 9:59 am

    I’ve got a Garmin Epix, and while it’s good (after four or five critical bugs have now been fixed!), I think it’s overpriced. I like the zero effort syncing, the course function, getting text messages on my wrist when I’m running and the versatility of the apps (especially the “find my phone” app!). The reason I bought it was the maps, and I’ve had a mixed result with them. When I’m in a town/city I don’t know, then they’re great – I can see where roads connect and easily navigate round, but the vast majority of time I’m out in the countryside, and they didn’t use Open Street Map, so they don’t have many paths on. The upshot of that is that they rarely give me much help unless I’m navigating over to a river or similar. Still pretty cool though 🙂

    In the end, it’s really just a toy. All I really need is a timer, distance measurer and a current pace. The rest is just to play with!

    • September 2, 2015 8:42 pm

      Got to love a toy! I think my old 405 had some really limited way-fairing functionality, but I never ended up using it. Like most runners, there were certain features that I used massively, and the rest just sat in the background.
      I like the idea of having lots of flexibility, and various multi-sport stats on hand. But whether I actually use them all, that’s another question…

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