Saturday, June 29, 2019

High-tech Running

It's been a really long time since I've posted a blog! My running life hasn't been that exciting lately, given that it's summer and I'm not training seriously for anything yet. I've been doing mostly easy runs, with speed work once per week. We were blessed with an actual spring here in the DC Metro area, so it didn't get consistently warm and humid until around mid-June.

I wanted to share my adventures in getting a new GPS watch! Last year, I wrote a post about what I don't want in a GPS watch. Emphasis on the "don't". GPS running watches are trying to be everything to everyone nowadays, and I really only need the basics.

Garmin Forerunner 45
Last month, Garmin launched their new line of the Forerunner series. I was really excited because it
Garmin Forerunner 45s
seemed like the Forerunner 45 had all the basic features I wanted, plus the ability to customize workouts, without all the extra fancy stuff. And at only $200, the price was right. They even offered an "S" model for smaller wrists, like mine.

My touch screen Garmin 630 was okay, and got the job done. But it annoyed me constantly, wanting to sync my contacts playing the music that was on my phone whenever I accidentally hit the wrong button. It also would re-start when I put it on the charger, and then turn back on with the wrong time of day. Finally, on pre-programmed workouts, the beeps were not loud enough to hear. So I couldn't tell when the intervals started and stopped, which is kind of the whole point of pre-programming the workouts.

I purchased the Garmin Forerunner 45s thinking it would be a less annoying watch, and I also like that it had a heart rate sensor. I haven't worn a heart rate monitor in over 5 years, and I thought it would be cool to analyze that data post run, but not show it during the run.

What I loved:
  • The optical heart rate monitor seemed accurate
  • The fit was sleek and more streamlined than my 630
  • I could turn off all the features for notifications, etc. during my runs
  • It was not a touch screen

What I didn't love:
Garmin Forerunner 45s

  • There was no auto-scroll feature, so if I wanted to switch data screens while running, I would have to do so by pressing a button.
  • The battery life seemed shorter than that of my 630
  • The "lap pace" was rounded to the nearest 5 seconds, so I couldn't get as precise of a reading on my pace as I wanted.
I didn't even realize the lap pace was rounding until I went on a long run and the pace kept jumping from 8:25 to 8:30 and nothing in between. And then I saw some 8:20's and 8:15's. But it was always a multiple of 5. That was a deal breaker for me.

I returned the watch, and since it was a brand-new model, they let me exchange it for the Forerunner 245, which is the next level up. Of course that was a $300 watch, but now I was hooked on the heart rate data and the sleek fit, and didn't want to go back to my old touch screen.

Garmin Forerunner 245
This watch solved all of the problems I had with the 45. It has an auto-scroll feature for the data screens, a long battery life, and it does not round the lap pace! I also love that I can customize activity profiles. The 45 offered this, but you couldn't name the profile. I created a "track" profile on my 245 that shows lap time rather than lap pace so I can pace my track workouts by elapsed time. 

It also has a heart rate monitor, which allows it to provide all the cool stats for VO2 max, the race time predictor, and effort level. The heart rate monitor seems accurate, but I don't necessarily think the other stats are; they are just fun to look at.

While I liked the idea of getting a very basic Garmin, the Forerunner 45s was missing a few key items, which forced me into getting the 245. Overall, it does seem like the 245 is a superior device and I'm happy with it. 

Aftershokz Trekz Air
Onto another high-tech topic: running with music. I used to run with music all time when I was a treadmill runner. For long runs outside before I met my husband, I used an iPod shuffle. I even raced with music until around 2010. The reasons I stopped running and racing with music are:
  • I started running with Greg, and I couldn't hear him with music playing
  • I started running outside more, in neighborhood streets, so I needed to hear the cars
  • My iPod Shuffle died, and they don't make them anymore
  • Headphones are so bulky and I didn't like having that long wire
  • I learned to focus on my running and my thoughts instead of the music
A few years ago, I noticed that you could now get headphones that were wireless (connected to your
Aftershokz Trekz Air
device via bluetooth) and that didn't sit in your ears so you could hear your surroundings. This appealed to me, but by that point, I was so used to running without music that I didn't get them.

But last month, I figured it would be cool to try them. Especially since I have an Apple Watch that holds music, so I wouldn't need to carry a phone or other device. In case you're wondering why I have an Apple Watch, I use it mainly as a safety device. If I'm running alone, I can make a phone call or get an Uber if something were to happen. Also, if I wake up before Greg and I'm out the door running before him, he calls me on the watch to find out where I am so he can meet me for the rest of my run.

Anyway, I reached out to Aftershokz to see if they would give me a pair of the Trekz Air in exchange for a review on Instagram, and they agreed.

I have small ears and earbuds always fall out, even when I am not moving. These headphones fit really well, though, because they didn't go inside the ear. They didn't move around a lot while I was running, and the sound quality was great. I was able to hear the music AND my surroundings which was a huge bonus. And no extra wires!

I have to admit I do really love running with music. I've decided to limit it to easy runs only so that I am not "addicted" to them for hard runs or long runs. And at that, I don't wear them on all easy runs. I view running with music as a treat, which I get 2-3 times per week.

The Garmin Forerunner 245 has a "music" version which stores music. This would eliminate the need for the Apple Watch. However, I did not get that version because I don't want to control my music from my Garmin. My Garmin is for tracking my run displaying run stats. I don't want to look down and see the name of the song or even have that as an option. My Apple Watch works just great, and I don't mind "double wristing" it, with the Garmin on one wrist and the Apple Watch on the other.

So, now I am all set with my new Garmin, my Aftershokz headphones, and my Apple Watch! It's important to me that all this high-tech stuff doesn't weigh me down and I refuse to run with my phone. I'm excited to have heart rate data again and I am interested to see how that data changes over time as I build fitness in the fall.

What headphones and GPS watch do you use? Comment below!


  1. Thank you so much for the article. I have been planning to buy a Garmin watch for quite some time now and after reading this post it's pretty clear what are the problems which a runner might face with a watch. Once again thank you. Please keep writing such articles

  2. Good to see you blog again!! As I think you know, I use zero tech. just my basic $50 Timex watch that tells me my mile splits that I've been doing for the past 12 yrs and logging for myself to compare myself to the past.Been a decent year race wise thus far but I give credit to the Vaporfly's as it's made me feel I'm in my young 30s again. I HIGHLY recommend people spen the $250 (or $275 if you can get your hands on the newest version ZoomX Vaporfly Next%. I don't have it yet but at some point I plan on getting it because these are my new race shoes (excluding Mount Washington as I don't like the Vaporfly's on steep hill running) You will PR in those shoes!!

    But it's interesting to hear about some of the technology out there in case I someday wish to splurge and spend the money on something that gives me more info (although I hate that idea of rounding to 5 seconds. That would never fly with me and I'll refer back to this post to know what to never get!!

  3. I love my AfterShokz--and their customer service is the best. One of the speakers stopped working and I contacted them--since my headphones were less than 2 years old, they replaced them! Gotta love that! I run with a Garmin 235--I really like that model because it does everything I need. It sounds like the 245 is the updated model of that. Glad to hear you like it.

  4. Back at Expo in Boston past April Garmin had some pretty awesome deals so I bought the Garmin Forerunner 235 which is the lessor to your 245. I didn't even use it at Boston or after until this past Saturday! Prior to that still using that big old Garmin 310XT which was designed for multi-sports like Iron Man doing long duration events swimming, biking and running. That 310 worked well as it had an extensive use time before requiring recharging.

    But the new generation Forerunner 235 very fine and gets you all the basic functions and data recording stats a runner needs. Still learning its nuances but fairly simple to operate on the run. Best thing is the optical wrist read sensors for HR as no longer requires wearing a chest strap like the 310XT required.

    Music not so sophisticated, but recently bought a Pyle digital player and it probably too bulky for most, but I love how much storage capacity it has and I just stick it in my running shorts pocket. Nothing sophisticated and just use simple ear buds, and like you they fall out, but I wear a headband and pull that down across the ears and it keeps the buds in. when running the streets where traffic involved requires keeping the volume down and can hear when cars coming from behind, but also requires vigilance in checking visually before you make opposing turns that require crossing lanes of traffic. Don't always use music, or 50% of run without it and put it in for harder 2nd half running. Much of the bike path trails can get by without compromising safety.

    Good post as runners always got to keep up on the technology!

  5. I'm interested in the "activity profiles" option. On my 620, I have each data screen set up basically as an activity profile. One screen is for track, and it shows distance, lap time, lap pace, and lap distance (the last two are useful if I'm doing reps on the road for some reason). Then another screen for racing, which shows overall time, distance, lap pace, average pace. Is that kind of what the activity profile does? Changes what data fields show?

    1. Yes, that's exactly right. An activity profile allows you to customize the screens for a particular activity. If I am on the track, I care about lap time. If I am outside not on the track, I care about lap pace. If I am on a treadmill, I want to see my heart rate. Some people like to customize their screens for racing too. You can also make each a different color and name them in the 245. In the 45, you cannot name them or color code them.