Thursday, July 30, 2009

Running Gadgets: GPS Running Watch

I bit the bullet, and ordered a Garmin Forerunner 305 GPS Running Watch yesterday. Yay, a new running toy!

Up until now, I had been using the Nike+ iPod sports kit with my 3rd Gen. iPod Nano, but while the Nike+ is a great motivational tool (thanks to the website that it automatically syncs with), it is wildly inaccurate (mine was off as much as 1.5 miles on one of my long runs a few weeks ago) and inconsistent (recording two 3.5 mile routes differently, one as 3 miles and the other as 4.1 miles). Finally, its on-the-fly pace measurement was sometimes way off (there were times I would be running a slow recovery pace, and it would measure my pace as sub-7:00 minutes per mile, and then while I was picking up the pace it would think I was going at a 10:00 min/mile clip).

In order to get around the mileage inaccuracy, I started using Gmap Pedometer (sometimes or the USATF website's similar services), but that gets really annoying, because unless you always run the exact same route (difficult when you need to do different distances for speed, tempo/threshold, easy, and long run workouts), or can find a nice 1 mile loop somewhere (hard to get an exact mile, and also boring to run over and over and over), you have to map out every single run, and if your first shot at planning a route doesn't get you to the right mileage, you sometimes have to start all over and plan a new route from scratch.

Enter the Forerunner, what I hope will be my personal savior. Not only does it use GPS satellites to track distance (not perfectly accurate, but still should be withing about 0.1 miles every time, rather than the Nike+'s 10-20% swings), but it will tell you your current pace, average pace for this run, "lap" times and paces, and a whole bunch of other stuff. I think some of the coolest features are the following:
  1. You can set it to automatically record laps at certain distances... i.e. you can set it up to auto-record your mile splits
  2. There's a heartrate monitor so you can use it to track heartrate in order to train in heartrate zones. The data from the heart rate monitor can also be used with some software programs to track your "Training Load," which helps you see the improvement in your fitness over time
  3. You can set up a "Virtual Partner" to run at your goal pace, and it will tell you if you are ahead or behind.
  4. You can set up customized workouts in advance. For example, I could have set up the 5x400m speed interval workout I did on Tuesday in advance, including the warmup jog ahead of time, the type of intervals (distance or time) and the recovery jogs between (which you can set as a time recovery or distance recovery).
The one big drawback of the model I got, the Forerunner 305, is that it is a few years old, and so it looks like a brick on your arm, but I'm told by several people on forums that have used it that it is actually quite light, and that you get used to it very quickly.

My Forerunner should arrive in the middle of next week. I'll write a review in a few weeks when I've had a chance to play around with it.

Here's a video on the 305:

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