Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Running w/ Garmin

Saturday was my first run with my new Garmin Forerunner 405 gps/hrm watch. Full disclosure: I spent a good two hours playing with the watch and trying out the functions detailed in the owner's manual earlier in the week. Since I started running in earnest back in March, I've worn a regular sports watch to track the time (You've seen how accurate that was in my estimated race times...) and used the map feature of MapMyRun.com to figure out distance. I had virtually no idea what my heart rate was. So, I was excited to know my stats for real and was hoping knowing what my pace was would inspire me to kick it up a notch!

Reviews I've read of Garmin watches said that sometimes it takes awhile to get GPS from the satellite. But, so far, I haven't had any problems. When I was first setting up the watch, the instructions said I'd have to go outside to get a satellite connection. Not so. I pressed the GPS button intending to look at the menu and go outside later. Seconds afterward, the GPS signal indicator showed up on the watch face. The two times I've been out with the watch, it's taken no more than a minute or so to get going. I haven't tried it out at the gym yet, but I'm hoping I can use the watch w/o having to order the foot pod.

The training mode features are amazing. Seriously, this watch does everything I've ever wanted to know during a workout. For my first run, I set up a Simple workout mode to run 6.5 miles. There's another mode, Interval, that you can use to set up your warm up and cool down walking portions as well as the run, but I couldn't remember exactly how to do that without breaking out the manual again. I was really excited to see that there was a setting for the watch to pause when I stop running. So, all those stop lights won't be screwing up my time anymore. That feature takes a few seconds to kick in and another few seconds to return to workout mode, but overall, it did a nice job.

I set the watch to scroll through my pace, time, and heart rate. The watch was already defaulted to include the "Virtual Running Partner". This screen shows two figures, you and your buddy, and shows how far ahead or behind you are depending on the pace set for the virtual partner. Apparently, my virtual partner was set to a much faster past, b/c he left me in the dust. In the future, I'll probably turn that feature off. But, overall, I loved knowing how many miles I'd gone and how fast I was moving. It really helped me keep a steady pace. That's something I'm having to work on: slowing down when I'm trying to run farther distances. I tend to start out too fast and get tired in the end.

I decided to try out the heart monitor on my first run as well. I've never worn one, and I was concerned that I wouldn't like the feeling of something strapped around my rib cage while I was running. But, it turned out to be pretty comfortable. Except for the time that it came unhooked when I yanked on my shirt, I didn't even know it was there. The read out seemed pretty accurate, based on heart rates I've taken myself at the gym. However, on Monday morning, I went for another run with the heart monitor on. I don't think I wetted the sensors good enough b/c the readouts during that run were really off. It said my average heart rate was 37...My resting is around 60, so I know those numbers were way off. I intend to try it again on my next run and see what happens.

Probably the most fun part of the watch is transferring the data to the Garmin Connect program. For each workout, I see a map of my path (and can even watch it as a video). I can see my overall calories burned, heart rate, speed, distance, etc. And I can also see the splits for each mile. I'm a nerd, and I love charting my progress, so this is a lot of fun.

Do you need a Garmin? It depends. I'm not sure I really "need" a Garmin. But, my goal is to be a "real runner" someday. And, I'm a perfectionist, so I want to be a good runner. The information I'm getting from this watch motivates me to improve, so in that way I'd recommend a Garmin for others with similar personalities. They're a little expensive, but if you look around (I got mine on Amazon), you can find some great deals. If you're a distance runner or competitive, a Garmin is the ultimate running accessory, second (in my opinion) only to an iPod.

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