Saturday, 14 May 2011

Garmin Forerunner 110: review

When I started running in January I didn't know much about tracking runs, I was more concerned about getting to the end without dying. I soon became aware of running apps for the iPhone (eg, Runkeeper, MapMyTracks) that would measure distance and show a map, calculate calories burnt, and provide a breakdown of pace every mile; when I received an arm case for my husband's iPhone 3GS for Mother's Day, my obsession with tracking all my runs and assessing my pace began.

The iPhone, sadly, was not up to the job, crashing on every run; and of course, it wasn't my iPhone (hint). The arm holder was also fairly annoying, so I put in a request for a GPS watch for my birthday. A friend recommended I get a Garmin. I wanted something small and "watch-like", so I wasn't keen on the Forerunner 305 that I'd seen already.

The Garmin Forerunner 110 is perfect: small AND watch-like. I received the unisex version and a heart rate monitor (sold separately). (You can also buy women's and men's versions that come with a heart monitor.)

Image taken from
Once fully charged (it comes with an AC adapter, usb lead, and charger that clips to the side of the watch) the unit asks a few questions for setting up reasons (eg, your age, date and time, preferred unit of measurement). Strap the heart monitor band around your chest and the watch will automatically pick it up (a little heart symbol appears on the left). Stand outside, and the unit will search for satellites for a GPS signal (a satellite symbol appears on the right).

The unit has four buttons around the edge. The 'light' button doubles as the power on/off button when held on. The 'page/menu' button when pressed once will scroll through time, current timed run, and heart rate) and when held on will bring up the menu. Here, you can changes settings and view previous activities. The 'lap/reset' button will set a lap marker if pressed once and, if held on, will save your current run and reset for a new one. 'Start/stop' does what it says.

The watch does everything I want. It accurately maps my runs and shows distance at the top in miles or kilometres, current pace at the bottom, and either current heart rate or run time in the centre. I've set the watch to beep every 0.5 miles and show my current split time and pace. Split time can be set to 1 mile, 2 miles, etc. depending on your preference.

At the end of a run, holding reset saves the run data for download to Garmin Connect at a later time. Holding down 'page/menu' and selecting 'Activity' will show a summary of the run: total distance, average pace and heart rate, and calories burnt.

By connecting the unit to a computer via the usb cable and clip charger, you can download run data for geeky analysis. Garmin Connect is very good because it allows you to share runs or keep them private. For every run it shows a detailed map, distance, pace (average and best), split times, elevation, and heart rate (average and max). You can also set up your heart rate zones if you know your max and resting heart rates. More on heart rate monitoring another time!

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