What's my gadget solution?
April 13, 2010 9:55 AM   Subscribe

Can you recommend a device that measures pace, distance and (I guess) GPS for use while running? I'm most interested in tracking my pace and distance. And, if affordable, saving whatever routes I've run and uploading them to my computer.

I am a recreational runner but when I do 10k's and 15k's I follow training programs in which pace, time and distance are important both for during the actual workout (I don't want only an average pace, I want to be able to tell how my pace is changing as it changes) and for record keeping afterward. I also am away from my home environs enough in places that are not easily trackable using MapMyRun or Gmaps Pedometer. My solution is to get something I can wear on my wrist (with either a footpod or chest strap, I guess?) that will tell me (and keep/save) my pace and distance. Heart rate and route would be useful, too. Nike+ is out because I found it to be inaccurate if I ran at any pace other than what I calibrated it at. I don't need HUGE amounts of functionality nor do I need to track every little thing--I'm not an elite competitor here, just a runner who wants to improve. Plus I'm a little gadgety and into data logging. What can you all recommend?

I have looked at relevant threads but they seemed old enough that it seemed useful and worthwhile to ask again.
posted by Rudy Gerner to Health & Fitness (22 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Garmin 305! Very reliable and easier to use than the 405 (and cheaper).
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 10:00 AM on April 13, 2010

Garmin Forerunner 305 is the standard I think. There are newer models but this does a lot for the price.

I like mine a lot.
posted by ghharr at 10:01 AM on April 13, 2010

My wife recently purchased a Garmin Forerunner 305, which does all of this and more. If you have the right iPod model, the Nike+ application is pretty painless to use and I think their website does a good job of managing the logs and whatnot. She used that for awhile but needed some things that the Nike app just didn't provide.

(on preview, what everyone else has said)
posted by jquinby at 10:02 AM on April 13, 2010

The various flavours of the Garmin Forerunner are the standard for this. the 305 is great but even the 100-series devices are fine.

Most smartphones, like an Android phone or an iPhone can do this as well. MyTracks on Android does probably 70% of what a Garmin device does in terms of tracking route, pace, etc. Ergonomics are the major downfall vs the Garmins.
posted by GuyZero at 10:04 AM on April 13, 2010

I want to add that the 305 is not as huge as it looks in the pictures on its Amazon.com page, they must have found a bunch of tiny-armed people to model it
posted by ghharr at 10:06 AM on April 13, 2010

Runkeeper for the iPhone 3G/3GS tracks more metrics than you can shake a stick at, including elevation.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:07 AM on April 13, 2010

The Garmin Forerunner is really awesome. My husband has a 305 that we got as a refurbished model, I think it was in the $100-$150 price range. It does a great job; our only quibble with it is that it isn't very accurate when we run downtown (but that's only to be expected, what with all the interference/reflection/whatever-the-technical-term-is from all the tall metallic buildings).
posted by kataclysm at 10:14 AM on April 13, 2010

Response by poster: As far as the Garmin 305 goes, not to be indelicate, but, folks with boobs/a rack, does the chest strap fit comfortably given the presence of aforementioned jugs as well as a sports bra?

Can this be used without the chest strap and still measure pace and distance?
posted by Rudy Gerner at 10:25 AM on April 13, 2010

Chest straps are almost universally for heart rate only.
posted by GuyZero at 10:27 AM on April 13, 2010

I find the heart rate strap kind of uncomfortable even as a guy but the other functions work just fine without it.
posted by ghharr at 10:45 AM on April 13, 2010

Forerunner 205 is the 305 without heart rate monitor. So that's an option.

I use and love the 305 but I'd probably be fine with the 205.

(If you get it, download sporttracks.)
posted by bDiddy at 11:14 AM on April 13, 2010

I've been using a 205 since 2007. My wife recently picked up the Garmin FR60 and she loves it. Not nearly as bulky as the 205/305/405 series, which for her is a big deal. ANT synchronization means no USB cable to plug in. Still does the heart rate monitoring, like the 305/405. However it doesn't have GPS, and instead uses a footpod to track pace. She used the Nike+ thing before this, and says there is absolutely no comparison between the Nike+ and the Garmin in terms of accuracy in measurement.

There's advantages to the GPS models - they can map things out for you, for example - the Garmin software will even open your files in Google Earth. But there are drawbacks as well. It takes a little while for the GPS to lock on, so I usually have to remember to turn on the device a few minutes prior to beginning my run or risk having to wait around while it tries to lock on while my wife stands there getting annoyed that we aren't moving yet. Even with improvements in the technology, the GPS still has difficulty in areas with heavy cover - it works sporadically while trail riding in the woods, for example, but does very well on most runs.

Comparing my results to my wife's confirms that her FR60 is pretty accurate. Our GPS vs. footpod results are usually not more than one or two tenths of a mile different even after long runs. Her Nike+ thing, even after repeated calibration runs, was often way, way off the actual distance she was covering. The FR60 requires no calibration - just set it up, put it on and go.

If you want a web-based tracking system similar to the Nike+ site, Garmin data can be uploaded to the Runner+ website after converting it to the Nike+ format. It's a bit of a pain to do this, but after a few times it gets easier, and the people involved are working on a better one-step solution to uploading Garmin data.
posted by caution live frogs at 11:36 AM on April 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

I use the garmin 305 in combination with the site RunSaturday. It's a really great site with more features and stat collecting then the mainstream GPS tracking websites and downloaded applications. Run by a guy that is constantly updating the site with requested features.
posted by ShootTheMoon at 11:38 AM on April 13, 2010

I have the 205, Mr. 26.2 has the the 305. Both are awesome. (Don't even get me started on all the bike Garmin's we own. It's ricockulous.)

Honestly, the chest strap is a problem. My sports bra is the 36F. When you get into that type of bra, the band goes lower on the body to build support for the girls. The heart rate strap gets a lot of interference from the bra band. Go with the 205.

Do not buy the 405. I also own that one and it sucks hard! At any race you'll see ten people trying to get the stupid bezel thing to work. The bezel thing won't work if you're hands are the least bit wet, you know with sweat or something. It also stops working correctly if it get near anyone wearing the iPod/Nike thing or another brand of heart rate monitor. The 405 is shame of the Garmin company. I loan mine to teammates who are thinking of buying one. In the last year, not one person who's borrowed it went on to buy a 405.

TL;DR. 205 good. 405 tool of evil.
posted by 26.2 at 11:39 AM on April 13, 2010

I'm a man. The chest strap for the 305 is worn below the chest at the bottom of the sternum, so, for what it's worth, I don't think it would compound the discomfort of wearing a sports bra. I don't find it terribly uncomfortable.
posted by chrchr at 11:58 AM on April 13, 2010

I guess I'm in the minority, but I actually like my 405. The bezel can be a pain, but I barely use it all it during a run.
posted by highfidelity at 12:07 PM on April 13, 2010

There is also the Nike+iPod which I just learned of yesterday and got all excited about until I learned it won't work with my shuffle and I use my shuffle to avoid jogging with my phone. Sigh. Good luck!
posted by cestmoi15 at 12:32 PM on April 13, 2010

My 305 popped off the quick-release strap when I fell on a trail run, and I didn't notice it for a while and then couldn't find it.


So I got the 405. I don't hate it; it is more watch-like and I think its GPS receptivity seems improved. But the bezel can be a pain and it doesn't have the (admittedly tiny) little route-map display that the 305 does, which I got a lot of use out of when running in strange places.
posted by Mngo at 1:58 PM on April 13, 2010

iphone + mapmyrun is my fave.
posted by hipersons at 2:06 PM on April 13, 2010

If you have a Nokia smartphone, SportsTracker is just the ticket. I've been using it for over a year now.

posted by Aztekker at 3:26 PM on April 13, 2010

caution live frogs: "It takes a little while for the GPS to lock on, so I usually have to remember to turn on the device a few minutes prior to beginning my run or risk having to wait around while it tries to lock on while my wife stands there getting annoyed that we aren't moving yet. "

This, so many times. My 305 seems to *hate* Pittsburgh; it barely works Downtown, as kataclysm noted, and it also takes forever to get a satellite lock. In other areas where I've taken it---upstate NY (near Troy) and Cape May, NJ---it locks almost immediately, but I've had it take up to five minutes here. Generally, when we're going running in the morning, I put it on a windowsill and turn it on while I go finish getting dressed; that way, it's ready to go by the time we are.

Like ghharr, I am a male who finds the chest strap mildly uncomfortable; I occasionally leave it behind (either intentionally or accidentally), and everything else works just fine without it---it's for heart-rate only.
posted by FlyingMonkey at 12:24 PM on April 14, 2010

Response by poster: Hey gang,
Thanks for all of this awesome info. I think I am going to go with the 205. It looks like it will do everything I want. Part of me wants to spring for the heart rate monitor just in case I ever want the functionality, but my guess is that I won't, so I'll go the spend-less-money route and just buy what I need/want.

I'll update in the thread and let y'all know how it goes!

Thanks again.
posted by Rudy Gerner at 6:15 AM on April 19, 2010

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