Thinking about fitness

I’ve been thinking hard about getting fit. One can’t just rush into these things. I could just throw on some shoes and start running, but where would all the data go? Speed, distance, heart rate: all this information being pumped out with every step, going to waste.

I tried and failed with a few approaches. Manual exercise recording with fatsecret.com isn’t granular enough. I did have some success with Runkeeper on the iPhone, but battled with GPS sensitivity, and ironically (if you’ve been following me on Twitter), lack of multitasking – not to mention the inability to track heart rate information. Carrying some bulky GPS device in addition to my iPhone isn’t an option.

Not a giant wrist computer

Forerunner 405Chris, quite the unreasonably fit geek, suggested a Garmin Forerunner. I remembered these as bulky wrist-computers that even the most unabashed geek would have trouble living down. Imagine my surprise when the Garmin Forerunner 405 arrived on my doorstep.

The 405 looks nothing like a GPS device. I’d be quite happy wearing it as a regular sports watch, if it weren’t for constant recharging required due to the 2-week standby time. Kick it into full GPS training mode, and the battery will be chewed up in 10 hours. It does seem quite power hungry, but I guess this is fine for all but the most advanced endurance athletes.

When you consider what Garmin have packed into the 405, you can understand why it needs so much power. At its heart the 405 is a 1000-lap stopwatch with a sensitive GPS receiver that will track your speed and distance. The watch supports the ANT+ protocol, so any compatible devices can be paired with the device to add their own data. It comes with a heart monitor as standard, and you can purchase add a cadence meter if you’re a cyclist.

Using the touch-sensitive bezel, you can pull up any information during training in the form of customisable screens. Pretty much any combination of speed, pace, distance and heart rate are available. There’s also a “virtual partner” mode that tells you if you are behind or ahead of a set pace or previous recording.

Online Magic

Garmin Connect ScreenshotWhen you get back to your PC, the real magic happens. After pairing (yes, Bluetooth users will find the process familiar) with the ANT+ USB stick, the Garmin 405 will send its information up to the Garmin Connect service.

This is more like it. There’s all that data I was talking about, laid out in gorgeous infographics. You can see a track of your run, along with speed, elevation, and heart rate. You can even play back your training event and see how these measurements correlate.

Regardless of your measure, I am not an athlete. I have heard that these bizarre humans do in fact use this information to improve their ability to inflict pain on themselves. You may have felt like you were going to die running up that hill, but if the stats show you that you had 10 more bpm in your heart muscle, then you’d better go out there again and punish yourself.

Get one

You can get the Garmin Forerunner 405 for around NZ$450 from a number of different places, including here and here.

10 Replies to “Thinking about fitness”

  1. Do these things track Glonass (Russian) satellites as well as GPS (American)? What are their tracking capabilities like in built-up areas where satellites can be tricky to see? Any idea?

  2. I’ve had a couple of Foreunners, a 201 and now a 305.

    I use it for running and windsurfing (in an Aquapac waterproof arm pouch) – nice to know how fast I’m going when I hit the water!

    I’ve found them pretty good in built up areas, I’ve run several Auckland 1/2 marathons and while the old 201 could be a bit lossy at times, the software and aerial seems greatly improved on the 305.

    Garmin connect is pretty nice, and teh free Garmin training center software that comes with it is pretty good too.

    Also check out mapmyrun.com. its free and a great route planner.

  3. That’s cool. Ben, have you tried the Nike+ sportkit? It’s a cheaper (under $100) alternative that doesn’t offer the GPS or heart rate functions but it’s pretty good as a geek-friendly pedometer. It only tracks distance and pace but you can tell it to automatically post the stats of your last run to Facebook when you sync it to the Nike website – great for motivation as long as you don’t mind people knowing how good/bad you are!

  4. Good Overall Review

    I have one of these and can concur on the battery life, The thing is that the overall useage time depletes gradually with age too.

  5. I love your review, thanks for sharing.
    You have to use Garmin watches only if you’re sure you need them. They are loaded with tons of features, and some people don’t even know how to use them. Why would you buy GPS watch just to keep an eye on the time and date?
    So far, I’ve had the 305, 405, 405cx and I believe each new model is getting better and better. I love the GPS in the 405cx, it has amazing accuracy and speed.
    Yes, battery could be always better, but all you need to do is to use it effectively.

  6. I must say, I enjoy reading your site. Maybe you could let me know how I can subscribing with it ? Also just thought I would tell you I found your website through Bing.

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