Thursday, July 12, 2012

Gear Review: GPS Watch/ Application

Running is an expensive sport. Sure, you start with a good pair of shoes and one running outfit. Not so bad, right? But next thing you know, you're signing up for races, buying new gear and supplements, which add up to become quite expensive. We're always looking for the next must-have running equipment to make us run and recover faster. I, unfortunately, get sucked into a good sales hype. I'm going to do a multi-part gear review to (hopefully) help you decide what/ what not to buy and save some money.

Let's get started! The one thing I absolutely can't run without is a GPS watch/ application to track my hard work and progress. I've had two Garmins and I've also used the RunKeeper application on my iPhone. I have a clear favorite, but what works for me may not work for you. It's all about your running preferences.

RunKeeper Pro:


I used the RunKeeper application before I got either of my Garmins. What makes it worth while is that it pretty much does everything the Garmin does, for free. (average pace, current pace, splits, etc) You can also view your route right on the screen instead of having to plug your phone into your laptop. However, I've found that the problem isn't with the app itself, but with carrying an iPhone. 

You have a few options when running with an iPhone. The first, is to hold it in your hands. However, if you have sweaty palms like me this isn't a great option as it makes it easy for you to drop your phone. Also, I've found that my form suffers severely when I'm holding something in my hands. If you don't mind running for a few hours at a time while holding onto your phone, the RunKeeper application is a great option because you also have your phone and music all in one device.

You can also hold your iPhone (or any other smart phone) in an armband. I use an incase iPhone sport armband case. I personally don't like using this because again, I tend to sweat a lot when I run. This makes it extremely difficult for me to use my phone's touch screen. Even when I'm not sweaty, I've found that you need to press quite hard through incase's plastic covering to navigate your iPhone.

When I run with my iPhone as a Garmin substitute (when it's out of battery) I tend to bring my iPod shuffle along so I don't need to navigate between applications. I simply leave my iPhone on the RunKeeper app and glance at it every so often to check my pace and distance, solving the sweaty hand problem.  To make things easy for yourself, if you tend to keep a passcode on your phone, disable it so you don't have to punch it in every time your screen turns off.

Garmin Forerunner 305:

I got this as a surprise gift from my lovely brother. He knew I really REALLY wanted one so he went ahead and shipped one to me at school. I only had this Garmin for about 6 months before it broke, but he had gotten it used so I don't know what the typical lifespan is for this version.

I loved the large screen and the button controls. I never had to worry about trying to navigate the screen with sweaty fingers. I had mine set up to show average pace, current pace, total time, and total distance. Since the screen was large enough to show all the stats I could ever need/want, I never even had to deal with tampering with the device on my runs. 

However, the 305 does have some downsides. It's quite large. I have very small wrists so sometimes the watch would bruise me. Additionally, I'm upset that the Garmin broke so easily. After a training run in hot, humid Taiwan, the 305 would start turning off mid run despite being fully charged. After reading forums online, I finally opened up the 305 to check the internal circuts. To my surprise, water had corroded the circuits, rendering no connection between the battery and the screen. In order to prevent corrosion from happening, I'd recommend doing a thorough wipe down of your Garmin post run. The water seemed to enter from the small speakers on the back of the watch.

Garmin Forerunner 210: I just bought this watch a few weeks ago after my 305 died on me. So far I have no complaints. It's smaller than the 305, which works for female wrists. Additionally, I like that it has button controls. I don't know if I've been lucky so far or if it's because the 210 is a newer model, but the 210 tends to locate satellites MUCH faster than the 305. I'm a pretty patient person, but the 305 would sometimes take 15 minutes to connect.

One downfall is that the 210 only displays three types of data at once due to its smaller screen. I have mine set up to show total distance, current pace, and total time. You can change it to your preferences but these three are what work best for me.

Sorry for this incredibly long post... I hope that this helps you decide what type of GPS watch/application works best for you!

*Note: I don't know about the distance accuracy of the Garmin vs. RunKeeper, but when I use them both at the same time, they tend to be about .1 miles within each other.

What type of GPS watch/application do you like to use?
Do you run with music? If so, what device do you use?

Right now I'm loving the 210/ iPod Shuffle combo.

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