Thursday, March 28, 2013

Garmin FR60 Running Watch w/ Heart Rate Monitor

That's 2 Indian Ruppees for scale, because I couldn't find a quarter.  They're roughly the same size.
This is a review that I should have probably written over a year ago.  I've logged a ton of miles with this watch, and I love it!  Before I get anyone's hopes up of purchasing the Garmin FR60 I need to warn you that it's been discontinued and replaced by the nearly identical Garmin FR70.  As far as I know, the only real difference is that they replaced the band because there were complaints about the FR60 band breaking.  Fortunately, I have yet to encounter this problem after close to 1,000 miles with the watch.

After a lot of thinking, I opted to not purchase one of the popular Garmin GPS watches (Garmin Forerunner 310XTGarmin Forerunner 910XTGarmin Forerunner 610Garmin Forerunner 110-U) about which many runners rave.  Instead, I went with the Garmin FR60  which wirelessly links to a foot pod accelerometer, heart rate monitor, and/or speed/cadence sensor (for cyclists and triathletes) to give you real-time data on your wrist.  The watch also connects wirelessly to the USB ANT+ to seamlessly upload data to your personalized profile on the Garmin website, Garmin Connect.

Close up view of the watch and foot pod.
The major difference between the GPS watches and the FR60 or FR70 is, well...GPS.  The other watches connect to satellites to track your position, then use that data to give you pertinent information like pace, distance traveled, speed, and in some models elevation.  The FR60 and FR70 models use information gathered from the foot pod, which weighs about 1 oz and laces into one of your shoes.  Don't confuse the foot pod accelerometer with your standard pedometer.  A pedometer only counts your steps.  The accelerometer actually measures the distance, direction, and time your foot is in motion with each step.  If calibrated correctly, this will tend to be more accurate than the GPS watches.

Ultimately, the major decision factor for me was that I don't ever want to deal with waiting for my watch to connect to satellites.  Although the general feedback for the Garmin GPS watches is very positive, I've also heard many frustrating stories about losing GPS signal during a run in the woods/mountains/remote areas, or spending anywhere from 5 mins to 30 mins waiting to start a run because your watch won't track the satellites.  Given the fact that I knew I was moving to India soon after purchasing a watch, I didn't want to arrive at our new house only to find out my watch couldn't find any satellites.  A few minor decision factors were:
     1) The Garmin FR60 and FR70 use a standard watch battery so there is no charging.  (GPS watches are charged via USB cable and the charges last anywhere from 4hrs-8hrs)
     2) The FR60 and FR70 models are quite a bit cheaper than the GPS models.  (I purchased the watch, foot pod, heart rate monitor, and ANT+ stick for around $150 at my local running store)

My watch and foot pod on my current running shoes
Here is a list of some of the capabilities of the Garmin FR60 and Garmin FR70 watches:

  • Tracks time, pace, heart rate, distance, mile splits (programmable to different distance splits), and calories burned
  • You can program a virtual partner
  • You can program interval workouts
  • Stores up to 16 previous workouts (I believe, maybe a few more or less) in the watch, and you can store an endless number of workouts on Garmin Connect
  • Tracks time stopped during a run, to give you total pace, distance, time, or give you moving pace, distance, time
  • Easily switch between miles and kilometers
Here are some of the things that people may be upset if they bought this watch only to find out it can't do what they want:
  • You can't display 'current pace' or 'instantaneous pace', but you can view your overall pace and/or your split pace (programmable from 1/4 mile to a mile, or in km splits)
  • You can't upload maps or routes to the watch
  • You can't compete with or track other runners who have Garmins

Overall, I am very happy with the Garmin FR60, and if I need to purchase another running watch in the future it will likely be the FR70, or whatever the current GPS-less model that has replaced the FR70.  I love not having to worry about my watch tracking satellites, not having to worry about charging my watch, and this watch tells me everything I care to know about running.  Ultimately, I enjoy the simplicity, and I would definitely recommend this watch to runners of all skill levels.

Happy Running!