Watch for a runner?
August 17, 2009 7:22 AM   Subscribe

Can you recommend a watch for a jogger?

My wife has taken up jogging, likes to go new places on her runs, and doesn't own a watch. I've told her about the Garmin Forerunners and how they can download routes to be viewed on Google Earth, and she got excited. While our birthday gift budget is usually around $25 I'm willing to spend up to $125 if I find something awesome for her, (I've secretly saved up some of my allowance). I've also read a little about the Garmin Forerunner 50, which has no GPS but comes with a foot pod to record distance.

I know there are quite a few runners on MeFi and I'd like to hear from those with personal experience. I'm also open to other brands. If a foot pod is just as good as GPS then I'm happy to save money. Also, she has a 5G harddrive-based ipod, so no Nike+iPod, but if I can get a refurbed Nano and Nike footpod for a good price that might be an option.
posted by monkeymadness to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (10 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I recently started training for a marathon, and I had both a Nike+ and a Garmin 405CX. I sold the Nike + setup.

The Garmin made such a HUGE difference in how well I train. The heart monitor is invaluable if you are going for any kind of goal, and the accuracy of the GPS versus a foot pod,...well, there's no comparison. Even after training the Nike + on a track (as per their recommendations for setting it up), it still would be +-10% off on distance.

Sell the iPod, save some cash for a bit, and get a Garmin with GPS and a heart rate monitor. Doesn't need to be the fancy 405CX, but those two features are a must for anyone remotely serious about running.
posted by chrisfromthelc at 7:27 AM on August 17, 2009

I actually had good luck with the Nike+ system, until I didn't. I used a little pouch on the laces in lieu or Nike shoes for the sensor, and after one "training" run to make it know my stride, it measured distance admirably.

However, I'm a sweathog when I run. Down to 30F, I'm sweating, period. After a while, I couldn't use the ipod unless I held it in my hand a particular way (on the arm, it jostled loose too easy), and as soon as I held it wrong, the receiver would come loose, and it would lose its place. I now mostly go ipodless.
posted by notsnot at 7:42 AM on August 17, 2009

The Garmin 305 has built in GPS and can be purchased through quite a few retailers for right around $150. The calories burned is bunk (based soley on distance and not at all on heart rate), but that is my only complaint about it. I love being able to just run until I reach a certain mileage then turn around, rather than mapping my run beforehand.
posted by peep at 9:24 AM on August 17, 2009

Forerunner 305 has been working great for me. And it's $170 from Amazon. A bit more than you're willing to spend, but it's great! I don't know how to use the heart rate monitor to train better (yet), but I really love all the info I can get from it.
posted by bDiddy at 9:28 AM on August 17, 2009


Look up "heart rate training" specific to whatever sport (running, walking, biking) that you're doing. Learning how to use that information in real time to alter my running made an enormous difference in my distance almost immediately.
posted by chrisfromthelc at 9:48 AM on August 17, 2009

Thanks. I can't really go that high, (she'll already be mad at me for spending over $100), but I can find a refurbished Forerunner 205 for about $100. Is there a big advantage of a 305 over a 205?
posted by monkeymadness at 10:38 AM on August 17, 2009

The heart rate monitor is the major difference between the 305 and 205, but I have the 205 and I do not lament the loss of the heart rate monitor at all. Other than that, I believe everything else is the same. I love my 205 to death; it comes with me on every run. $100 is a great deal for one of those, and is probably my favorite running accessory out of everything I have.
posted by DiamondGFX at 11:34 AM on August 17, 2009

I think the GPS-based devices are superior to the foot pod designs, except if you're going to be running indoors or surrounded by skyscrapers. I have a Forerunner 201, which is an older version of the 205. I think it's great and running - especially when starting out with no concept of speeds and distances - would be difficult without it. I also have a bunch of Polar HRMs, but I don't really see the point of HRM for many things - a person should know when they're getting tired, a HRM shouldn't be necessary. You can always buy an inexpensive HRM for $50 later, although you'll have two devices instead of one. This would only matter if you find uploading your data and analyzing it post-run to be interesting.

You can also use the GPS devices to return home if you get lost - they have electronic breadcrumbs. Good if you're running in a new place.
posted by meowzilla at 12:09 PM on August 17, 2009

As far as HRMs go, it really depends on the purpose of her running. Training for something? It's a must, but just leisurely jogging in the afternoons to get out of the house? Probably not important.

"Knowing when you're getting tired" and working out in your optimal heart rate zone are vastly different things. Having a good grasp on your heart rate is a must if you really want to do your best workouts. You'll wear out your lungs well before your legs (I know that I have on many occasions when I don't use one).
posted by chrisfromthelc at 2:38 PM on August 17, 2009

I've had a Garmin Forerunner 301 and 305. The GPS on the 305 is vastly superior. If you can find a used one within your price range, I'd highly recommend it.

And a note on the Garmin GPS for indoor use. They actually sell a Foot Pod add-on to use with the 305 series (and newer, I believe) when you can't get a GPS signal. And if you do any cycling, they also cell a magnetic speed/cadence add-on for indoor use.
posted by csimpkins at 8:49 PM on August 17, 2009

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