After being inspired to start running after reading “Born to Run” by Christopher McDougall, I was very pleased to discover the many excellent technical devices you can use to track your run. I had only read about iPod and Nike+, but had to do a bit more research on the subject. A couple of coworkers already had exercise watches. One had a Polar watch, the other had the Forerunner 405. I had to test them both. I ended up getting the Garmin Forerunner 405CX. It has been reviewed extensively, but I wanted to write a bit about why I bought it.
Very good web training journal
No extra GPS unit
The Polar model I tested was PC only, and used a infrared/IRDA USB dongle to transfer the data. IrDA USB devices for Mac is very hard come by. So the only real option for a Mac user was to use a Boot Camp, or virtualization software. It also required PC software installed on a PC to view the exercise data. Since my research, polarpersonaltrainer.com was launched, and a few Polar models are now Mac compatible, so Polar’s heading in the right direction.But it was too little, too late.
I was first introduced to technical running, or whatever it’s called, with Runtracker for iPhone. Their web site is excellent and extremely user friendly. It also had a major facelift in the past week, and if they’d had a HR monitor device, I probably wouldn’t have bought the Forerunner. The exercise reports has a great GUI, and their service, support and transparency is probably the best of all.
Garmin’s web exercise journal is called connect.garmin.com, and also has a pretty and intuitive interface. Garmin offers software for Mac and PC if you really want it, but I don’t see any reason you’d want to. There might be features in the software that aren’t in the web application, but I don’t know what the could be. The activity report looks beautiful, and has tons of different features. If you click the green play arrow on the map, you get the entire run played out as a movie. You can also export the activity data to TCX, GPX, and KML (for Google Earth).
The Forerunner uses a system called ANT + to transfer the data from the device to the computer. You install the software and when the USB dongle is plugged in, it automatically detects when the paired device is nearby, determines if there are new workouts and uploads automatically to your web profile. You don’t have to click any buttons on the Forerunner. Very nice!
- The Forerunner 405 has a built-in GPS in the watch, so you don’t need the extra device on your arm, like Polar does. This is a good thing. Just this weekend, I saw a guy running with it. He had the GPS device on his right arm, the watch on his arm, an iPod on the left arm and four water bottles on a waist belt. I think that’s just too much equipment to carry for a simple run.
On a final note, as I discovered yesterday, the Forerunner 405 has to be charged with a clip-charger and if you don’t use it for a week or two, the battery drains.Yeah yeah, I know it’s too long between runs, but that’s just how it goes sometimes, in a hectic family situation.