First of all, I don’t really see myself as a ‘techy’ runner. For me, sport isn’t really about target minutes-per-mile; heart rate calculations; miles per week - it’s about going at a pace that feels right for as long as my fitness levels and time commitments allow me to carry on. But once you get home, it can still be nice to know how far and how fast you’ve gone …
I’ve been running with Strava for a year or so now. Before that I used Map My Run, but it felt clunky; after that I tried Endomundo, but it kept crashing and bothering me with adverts that got in the way. Strava crashes too, but not so often, and I’ve enjoyed the social aspect of it as well as the straight forward tracking. The big flaw with Strava for me is that it runs the battery of my HTC One flat in no time, so for anything over a couple of hours it’s a bit touch and go. So for a while now, I’ve been toying with the idea of investing in a Garmin, and I was over the moon when Keswick Mountain Festival gave me the opportunity to try out the Forerunner 920XT.
The Garmin has been an absolute revelation. I won’t pretend to have got to the bottom of its full range of functionality - I’m sure it has a lot more to offer! - but here are the four features that have meant most to me so far:
- It works for running, cycling AND swimming. That might seem very obvious to you, but I was absolutely delighted to find that such a fancy bit of kit could survive a swim in the loch and come out none the worse for wear. Brilliant. Not only does it work for open water swimming, but it’s great for tracking pool swims too. (At first I thought it was miscalculating my pool swimming distances and cutting them all in half … but then I realised that I’d misread the instructions and had been manually setting it to ‘pause’ for every second length. Don’t ask. It’s what comes of reading an instruction manual with ‘help’ from a toddler …)
- The battery just keeps on going! On Saturday, I completed my first ultramarathon since 2010 (woop woop!) in just under 8 hours, and the Garmin battery was still fresh and strong at the end of the day - no danger of lost data there.
- It links seamlessly to Strava - so all my segments are still captured and all the social functionality is maintained. Better yet, it even syncs my swims to Strava, so my complete training record is there on my phone, exactly where it always was.
- And then there are the stats. Oh. My. Word. The Garmin itself is superb, but Garmin Connect is statistician’s heaven. Screens and screens of detailed data and dashboards, allowing you to analyse every possible aspect of your training; set up training plans; track your activity levels; benchmark yourself against Garmin’s Big Data and much, much more. I’ve barely scratched the surface of what Garmin Connect can tell me, but I can’t wait to get my sleeves rolled up and find out.
As well as tracking exercise activity, the Garmin has a step counter that measures your general activity throughout the time you wear it. It took me a while to get to grips with what was going on there (same problem as the swimming: toddlers and instruction manuals really don’t mix!) but now I’ve grown to rather like it. I’ll admit, I’m not too keen on the reminders to ‘MOVE’ when Garmin thinks I’m being sedentary (does it not know I’m in a meeting??), but it has been eye-opening to see how much more active some days are than others, and I’ve found myself making an effort to do more on my inactive days.
In short, then, I’m a Garmin convert. I absolutely can’t wait to use the ‘Triathlon’ functionality for the first time on Saturday - though I’d better just dig out that instruction manual again and double-check which buttons to press ...