Running with a Garmin vs. an App on my Phone (or the Treadmill)

Since I started running, I've used an app on my phone to track miles during workouts.  I always, always, always carry my phone with me for safety (and, uh, music).  So, I figured, why add a bulky watch to carry around?  I can just use an app!  Well, over the last year or so I've begun to have Garmin envy.  I'm one of the very few runners hitting buttons on my phone after races, rather than a watch.  Thankfully, run-folk are a nice bunch and I've never felt peer pressure or any Garmin-shaming (fyi, not at all like slut shaming).  I had some Amazon gift cards and finally took the plunge.

fastest lap o' the day

I looked at the Garmin 10 and 110 (aka the cheaper options) and decided on bumping it up to the Garmin 210.  I really wanted to have the interval feature, since I don't want to do the math in my head (like on the dreadmill) with the lap button.  

Now that I've played with the watch for a little over a week, here are some observations.  A few of which might seem like total 'Captain Obvious' ones, but might be helpful to other relatively newbie runners like myself.


Watches have hardware - hardware that can break, die, etc.  You can't just download another app and move on.  I would be a millionaire if I had a nickel for every time I read a tweet about a dead Garmin, broken watch strap, etc.  The first time I hooked mine up to the computer it freaked out and died!  I tried the reboot instructions and they didn't work.  So, I left it alone for a day, let it charge and tried it again.  Success!  However, I still had issues connecting the thing to my computer.  It took two plugins from GarminConnect.com to get things up and running and it takes awhile for the computer to find my device after I hook it up.  What is with this whole lining up the little metal dots that are dependent on the strength of a few springs??

this does not feel reliable...

I mean, what's so wrong with a USB hookup?  Maybe one with a little plastic cover, like most cameras?  I suppose I have a year warranty...  Anyway!

The only other con I can think of is that when doing intervals, I don't know exactly what the time was for the lap until I'm completely done with my entire workout.  I only have my current pace to see while running.  Say I'm doing a tempo run, I just like to know how fast I did my first mile so that I can try to beat it in the next one.  Not a huge problem and maybe this is something that can be done, I just have to do more button pushing and I'd rather not.


DETAIL  Once I did get everything hooked up, the level of analysis is pretty fun.  It even tells me what the weather was like on my run!

weather! and some happy little hill repeats...

LESS MATH  Even with the numbers right in front of me on the dreadmill, things still get tricky trying to remember oh, .5 mile intervals with .25 rest periods.  As I'm taking that .25 break I'll think, "Wait, do I start again at an even number?  .5? .75? - aaargh!"  The interval feature on the 210 is pretty nice, just enter the way you want to measure your interval (time or distance), how many intervals you want to do, the length of the recovery period and whether you want a warmup - then go!  The watch tells you exactly what to do and when to do it.  1. Warmup for however long/far you want. 2. Hit the lap button when you're done with that warmup (which is nice because I did a hilly-ish one before some 800s and hit 'lap' when I got to an area with more even terrain).  3. Once your intervals start, it counts down the distance left to go and automatically switches to recovery laps and counts those down as well - and so on until you've completed the number of intervals you've chosen.  4. Once the intervals are done, it goes into cooldown mode for however long you want to run.  LOVE.

EASY ACCESS  Captain Obvious reason!  This was the main reason to just cave and buy the damn watch.  It's slightly easier to look down at your watch to see how far you've gone, your pace, to hit the stop button at lights (not to mention the start and finish of a race) than to crane your neck to look at your armband.

**MORE ACCURATE MEASURE OF ABILITY**  OK, here's the kicker, the real 'aha moment' I had while using this shiny new toy.  Increasing the speed on the treadmill is an exercise in what I think I am capable of - using the Garmin shows me more accurately what I am capable of.  These things don't exactly line up.  Some of the paces I was hitting for those 800s were in the 7:50min/mile range.  I haven't jacked the pace up past 7.5mph or so on the 'mill in awhile (certainly not for 800s) because I've been (in my mind) either sidelined by injury, or just life, and not ready to kick it up.  Clearly I'm ready.  Plus, you get way better lung-burn outdoors than in the stuffy gym. 

Now that I know what I know (ya know?), if you are a phone app user and don't have the smackers for a brand new toy, I'd highly suggest borrowing a GPS watch from a friend, or just go to a track at least once (WHY didn't I ever do this?? Total Captain Obvious moment), and measure your ability before hitting the 'mill and then crank that sucker up, and then up some more!

I think it's now time that I changed that bit in my Oiselle profile regarding gear I can't live without and update it with the ol' Garmin.  Although, that training quote (You're stronger than you think) is staying firmly at the top.


  1. I love my Nike watch. I've had it almost a year and just finally started exploring the interval options. Not sure what I did without this little gem!

  2. Ah, Garmin geekery! I think I put down that my Garmin was one of the things that I couldn't live without when I was filling out my athlete profile. Like you mentioned, it just makes things easier! I can program my workout for time or distance intervals and it tells me what to do. It even beeps at me if I'm going too slow!! Well, only if I set a pace goal for the interval. It is definitely fun to have the data.

    Glad you are enjoying your new toy!