Gear Review: Garmin Forerunner 110 GPS

As a long time fan of the Garmin 405CX I reviewed here, I was fascinated to see that Garmin had launched an entry level GPS running watch in the Forerunner 110.

Coming in at around the £160 mark online, compared to £250 for the 405CX, it’s considerably more affordable than its big brother. But the question is, how many of the 405CX’s fantastic features have Garmin dispensed with in order to shave so much off the price?

And the answer, unsurprisingly, is most of them. But having lived with the 110 for a few weeks now, I’m beginning to think that that’s no bad thing. So rather than focusing on what’s been taken away, it’s probably more worthwhile discussing what the Forerunner 110 does well.

Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity

Advanced runners who want to analyse every nuance of their performance might as well look away now, because this thing really isn’t for you. It’s clearly aimed at the new and only moderately serious runner, and does a very good job of providing just the information you need and nothing that you don’t.

Answering the setup questions took me all of two minutes, after which I put on the not especially comfortable chest strap that contains the heart rate monitor and waited a further minute or so for the GPS to establish my position.

Once that was done, it took just the push of a button to start everything off, and then a further push of the red page/menu button to flip between the three main screens , which are time and pace, heartbeat and actual time. Though in fairness, I don’t generally need to know the time of day when I’m running, so it’s a pity that this last screen isn’t disabled when you’re in running mode.

The most useful of the three screens (left)  displays distance, elapsed time and current pace from top to bottom, though it’s worth noting these facts from the user guide before you set out, as the red wording at the top and bottom of the bezel that tell you what the numbers indicate is totally unreadable.

The heart rate screen, however, uses all the available space to display your current heartrate, making it ideal for those of us who like to train in different zones from time to time.

Tracking your runs

Like every Garmin GPS, the Forerunner 110 uses a clever, clip-on charger which allows it to stay waterproof to IPX7 standards (shallow water for up to 30 minutes). In the case of the 110 also enables it to hook up to a Mac or PC with a USB slot, which then takes you to your own page on the Garmin website, where you can view a map and stats for your run, including heart rate, distance, average pace, pace per mile and elevation.

Crucially, this is all better laid out and more thought through than anything I’ve seen from Polar, RunKeeper, or many of the other proprietary GPS websites on the market.

The predictable summing up

Despite the fact that I love the ‘virtual partner’ feature of the Garmin 405CX, not to mention its incredibly cool ‘strokable bezel’ control, I totally get the point of the Forerunner 110.

It’s a no-frills way to track your pace, route and heartrate, and then analyse them on the Garmin site. The controls and set-up are idiot-proof and it even sets the time of day automatically using the satellite signal.

So if you’re just a casual runner, or simply don’t have £250 to blow on its big brother, the Forerunner 110 is a great training tool, and entirely worthy of its 5 Jelly Baby Rating.

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Gear Review: Garmin Forerunner 405CX (Part Two)

fig 1.

fig 1.

Having given the new Garmin 405CX rave reviews a couple of weeks ago when it arrived, I thought it would be a good idea to write a follow-up review now that I’ve got a bunch of training runs under my belt with it.

I’m pleased to say that my opinion hasn’t changed: this is an incredibly clever piece of kit. But more important than the clever design and ease of use,  it really has made my training more effective.

Training smarter with the 405CX

Now, as the Garmin website itself give comprehensive details of all the many, many clever things that this thing can do, I won’t waste your time trying to regurgitate them here. Instead, I’m going to focus on just three screens that I’ve been using on the Garmin 405CX, by way of illustrating how even I, of all people, can finally make the claim that I’m ‘training smarter.’

Figure 1, shown at top left is the screen that I now use most on training runs. As previously noted, the little chap at the top is your ‘virtual training partner’, the little chap at the bottom is you, and the ‘you are ahead by’ numbers relate to exactly how you’re doing in relation to the pace you’ve set for yourself, which is shown in figure 2.

fig 2.

fig 2.

Here, I’ve set it for 8 minute mile pace, but you can easily adjust that by simply stroking the bezel either up or down. Then, once you press the start button, the screen changes to show your virtual partner.

Should you wish to change to a simple stopwatch mode, you simply tap the bezel once. And if you want to see what your heart rate is doing, just tap it again, to go to the screen shown in figure 3.

(Could I also point out at this juncture that as a finely honed athlete in my mid 40s, my resting heart rate is a healthy 60 beats per minute. The somewhat higher reading on this shot seems to be due to the cafetiére of Columbian Roast I had imbibed just before taking these pictures.)

(And while we’re talking in brackets for a moment, I might also add that if, like me, you always struggle to run in the heat, the heart rate function on this thing has proven to me how big an effect the heat has on you, as my heart rate is a staggering 15% higher when running in 24 degrees than it is in 18 degrees of heat when moving at exactly the same pace.)

Training smarter by running slower

As you may know, training at full pelt all the time isn’t the cleverest way to go about it. So for some years now, I have attempted to mix ‘slow’ runs with tempo runs, and fartlek sessions. Yet running slowly all the way through a run (as opposed to just in the last mile or so when I’m knackered) is a skill that has always eluded me.

But with the Garmin, you can tell it just how fast or slow you want to go, and even a total incompetent can run at exactly the right pace to get the most from their training runs.

fig 3.

fig 3.

Listen to your heart…

Another fancy training technique that has always seemed like far too much trouble is ‘running at 75% of maximum heart rate’ which is, by all accounts, the optimum fat burning zone. Yes, I know. Seems like an incredibly nerdy thing to aim for, doesn’t it? But not if you’ve got a Garmin 405CX.

I used it to establish my maximum heart rate by the simple expedient of running up and down sand dunes until I felt sick, before dividing the resulting heart rate by 75%. So now when I go for a slow run, I simply use the heart rate screen shown in figure 3 to make sure that I’m burning fat rather than rubber.

The upshot of all this is that in just three weeks of using the Garmin in this way, I’ve dropped two pounds in weight, I feel fitter than I have in a long time, and I’m performing dramatically better on my tempo runs.

So while I’d love to return to the ‘jumpers for goalposts’ simplicity of my youth, I have to say that if you’re at all serious about improving your fitness through running, you really do need to have a Garmin 405CX.