This year I was spoiled with the Forerunner 620, the latest and most advanced GPS running watch from Garmin with a built in personal coach.
I love the style of the new forerunner, its the first GPS unit that I could imagine wearing as a regular watch and this one has already supplanted my Seiko. Its only marginally thicker than my old watch and so long as I can remember to charge it on a weekly basis I think I’ll be quite happy with it as a jazzy timepiece.
I had a short Christmas Day run with the FR620 on the treadmill where I was able to test out the in built accelerometer, which means that this version of the Forerunner can monitor treadmill running without the need for a foot pod. The Boxing Day run was an outdoor 10k around Richmond Park for true field testing.
The FR620 is pretty slick on the run but most of the new or improved features show themselves either before you start or as you complete a run. To start you have improved satellite connection as the forerunner caches the location of satellites from previous runs, which dramatically reduces the time to lock on to your location.
During the run, you have the typical selection of screens – all fully customisable, and you switch between them by means of the touch screen. I’m not too sure about touch screens for running gadgets, they tend to be a bit fussy and not very responsive to sweaty finger jabs but I had no complaints on this run. The screen feels a little bit smaller than the 910XT (and 305) so I found myself peering at the watch trying to fathom out what I was looking at. This will become less of a problem when I know what each field represents.
Another new feature, the Recovery Advisor, forms part of the personal coaching suite. I’m not sure how I feel about this one, my forerunner coach appears to have gone to the fluffy school of personal training, where they tell you to take it easy and listen to your body. After a 20 minute treadmill session the watch determined that I would need 36 hours to get over the ordeal. I prefer the more hardcore, military style of coaching, where I am encouraged to push harder and go for the burn.
About 15 mins into today’s run my watched beeped and left the message “recovery good”. It’s a little cryptic but I interpret it as saying:
ok wise guy, I told you it was going to take you 36 hours to get over yesterday’s little run but you chose to ignore my advice. You appear to have got away with it this time but don’t cross me again
It got its own back at the end of today’s run by upping the recovery period to 72hours. I don’t think it would take much for the watch to give me permission to sit on the sofa for a full week.
At the end of the run I’m alerted to any changes in stats eg. Fastest mile, longest distance so far etc. The watch also gives me an estimate of my VO2 max and based on that my predicted race times. The race times given are little challenging for me but possibly within the realms of possibility with a good wind. I’m not terribly impressed by the visual representation of my VO2 max on the Garmin Connect dashboard, but I suppose it is fairly factual – I am a pants runner.
A first for Garmin is the ability to sync with your phone via the Garmin Connect app. This is a brilliant feature and meant that I could sync my run while walking back to the car and see my route and multiple charts within seconds of finishing the run. I could get maps on my phone previously by using a GPS app such as runmeter but it drained the battery in the process. Now I have the best of both worlds – accurate data, full colour stats on a large screen and a phone with sufficient battery to call for a lift home.
There’s a whole host of new charts available with the 620. The run heart rate monitor includes some sort of gizmo that detects vertical oscillation and acts as a pedometer so I can now view stats such as oscillation, ground contact and running cadence. I haven’t a clue what to do with this information yet bit it’s certainly interesting or pretty at the very least.
The Forerunner 620 is a really impressive running companion and there are stacks of other features that I haven’t even mentioned. If you’d like a seriously detailed review of the Garmin Forerunner 620 you should check out DC Rainmaker’s blog.
I strongly recommend this for geeky runners but if you have multisport tendencies or like the routing functionality of the older models you might be better off with the Forerunner 910XT.