Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Where am I going?

I am going to continue the trend of reviewing health related products. Recently I officially claimed the self imposed title of "avid runner". It has been about 4.5 years in the making but I have finally crossed over into almost cult-like behavior when it comes down to my running. Recently my normal runs have been lasting 4-5 miles and I am stretching my long runs out to 9 or more. I wasn't always this into running, in fact not too long ago I despised it with every fiber of my overweight being. However I, much like Jamie, decided that being a fat dad was an overall bad thing. So about 5 years ago I took to running. I won't bore you with my lifestyle change &  running history now, I will save that for a different post. However I want to make sure you know that I am into running more than a sane person should be.

So this Christmas, my wife bought me a new iPod Nano because up until very recently I needed music to run, and my old iPod Nano is a disaster. So after fooling around with the new Nano, I decided that I didn't like it very much, my old iPod was still better, and I really don't need music for running anymore. So with that realization I decided to purchase a Garmin Forerunner 305 with heart rate monitor. This was great for me since I was satisfying my inner techy-nerd and my clinical addiction to running at the same time. I now possessed the ability to track my runs, watch my heart rate, and look really cool all at the same time. I became a triple treat. Kind of like the end of the 7th Harry Potter book.

I also went with a Garmin because its Garmin Connect site syncs with a site I belong to called Earndit. Quickly, I will let you know that Earndit is a fantastic site and a great way to be rewarded for your hard work. While they are relatively new, and they are picking up reward sponsors quickly. So jump on the bandwagon. Oh its free to join also.

Unfortunately not every product can be perfect, except bacon. There are 3 issues I have identified with the Garmin Forerunner 305 that I think you should be aware of if you are considering purchasing one.

1) It takes forever to find & lock on to a damn satellite. I would say that on the average it takes 5 minutes to lock on. I find this to be a big problem especially in the cold because you have to wait and wait on the Satellites. I am pleading with you Garmin to release a firmware upgrade or something, so you can fix this. Brutal.

2) The buttons on the watch aren't the easiest to use and it is very hard to tell if you have pushed one or not. I am glad I am not a biker because it would be dangerous to have to fiddle extra time with the watch while riding. Eyes on path.

3) The software that comes with the watch I believe was updated last in 2004. My 5 year old could produce better graphics and functionality with a marker and a blindfold. Again, Garmin please release some new software that doesn't look so terrible.

These may seem very trite complaints because honestly I am wearing a GPS receiver on my wrist that can communicate with outer space. Its pretty incredible.

Now that that's out of the way, I really do like this watch. I am racking up reward points like crazy, it has helped me run longer, and not be confined to any specific route that I had already mapped out. I am getting instant feedback on everything you can imagine, my pace, distance, heart rate, etc. I can actually race myself with the watch which is really cool if you are looking to set PRs without forking over serious scratch for organized races. I think overall this device has made me a better, happier, more attractive runner.

Here are some key Pros that I want to let you know about.

  1. Once a Satellite locks on, it stays on. I have not experienced any drops and that is with running through some thick woods. Also it is very accurate in terms of measuring distance.

  2. Garmin's online workout tracking site is really good.

  3. Garmin syncs up with a lot of other sites. Earndit as mentioned above and RunKeeper are the two I use. You can also convert your run data and plot it on Google Maps.

  4. The heart monitor is awesome and you can also purchase a Foot Pod for indoor running & Pedal sensor for your bike.

  5. The Garmin support staff was extremely quick  and helpful when my watch wouldn't power up. We solved the issue right over the phone at no cost.

  6. What else... Oh it cost less than that new iPod if you look online for it.

On our Sandwich Scale I would rate the Garmin Forerunner 305 a Muffaleta. Which if you look at their product lineup in this category is fairly accurate. And as any good review goes, if Garmin is willing to have me try out other devices or products I am more than happy to do this for them.

The iPod Nano however didn't fair so well on the scale. I am giving it an MLT (Mutton Lettuce & Tomato). If I were to use this in a workout or running setting it would last no more than 6 months. There is no real way to protect it or sheath it from my over-active sweat glands. Also it would be nearly impossible to easily skip songs while working out. Smaller isn't always better Apple.



  1. I absolutely LOVE my Garmin. I have the 405 and it seems to find the satellites in far less time than my husband's 310xt. I know that isn't super-helpful since you already bought the 305 ... but I just thought I'd share that for anyone else who reads this and is considering a purchase. I also must say the footpod is well worth it. I love it for tracking cadence, but I also get my points from Earndit when I am on the treadmill (as I must be when I can only get a run in while the kids are asleep!) which is a HUGE bonus as well.

  2. Thanks for the feedback Jesser. For the price I paid its worth what I have. I believe the newer models have a Satellite locking feature that saves your favorite satellites and locks on immediately. I just wish instead of paying $300+ for that feature they could release a patch or software release that would take care of that on what I already had.

  3. John - Good post and overall pretty accurate about the 305. The watch has been out for around 4 years, so your comment on the software is spot on. The newer watches have better GPS chips, so they lock onto the satellites quicker. I have owned the 50 (don't recommend), 205, 305 and now 405. (Hey, the employee discount makes it tempting to buy the latest and greatest.) My recommendation on the 205/305 is to turn it on and set on your front porch before you tie your shoes. For me, that was always enough time to get a sat lock. Hope that works.

    For the nerd in me, I'll post a little buyer beware on the 405. The watch's form factor is much better than the 205/305, but the touch bezel function can be difficult to use at times. It's better than pressing a button, but sometimes a sleeve can cause you to change screens. I still use it more than the 305, which is currently sitting in a drawer.

    I'm going to check out the Earndit site. I haven't heard of that and it sounds like I am missing out.

    Long comment from me, but probably not a surprise with my vested interest in the topic.

  4. Thanks Ryan. I appreciate the feedback. I was a little apprehensive about being so candid knowing you would probably be reading it. However, if it helps a buyer decide to spend some extra $$ for more piece of mind, then I think my job has been done. Thanks for leaving your remarks on here as, by looking at your purchase history, you are a subject matter expert.

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