In regards to GPS & trail runs:
My clients around here don't have much for trails to choose from, its mostly open country up here in NW Minnesota. The closest I've used it for trail runs is on golf courses, back when I coached XC teams. Even then it worked just fine, as the courses were on mostly the fairways and had a good open line to the sky for the reciever to beam to.
From what I've read on the GPS watches, this is a downfall to it, as the signal may become interrupted or not read all the time while in the trails. Maybe down the road this technology will improve and it could work in wooded areas better.
Just my thoughts,
Rick Karboviak, CSCS
Thanks for the good review. Sounds like you haven't had any problems with the FR301 that are big nuisances for the money you paid. For instances the HR monitor spiking or the distance measurement not being very accurate. I'm getting real close to pulling the trigger and buying one myself. I got a small bonus last quarter that I'm thinking of siphoning off $250 for myself before the household checkbook sucks it away.
Concerning the GF 301 ( Computer Question )
I can't get past the initial dialog box in Garmin Training Center: "Since this is your first use of the program..." I connect the GF301 via USB (no hub, it's directly into the computer), the Device Manager recognizes it and says it's functioning normally, but dialog box keeps reappearing, as if it doesn't think the device is connected.
I'm using XP through Virtual PC on a iMac G4.
One of the main drawbacks to GPS monitors is the heavy cloudy day interference and its uses for trail running. Sometimes signals get lost. The advantage of the Polar 625X is that the signal's never lost as it reads from the foot pod to your watch. But, stride lengths can change throughout the course of hills and trails, so are you really getting a true estimate of your distance? I'm not so sure you are.
The biggest plus I see to GPS monitors is that in most outdoor workouts, done in open areas (like for me in the midwest, where everything's open), it works well on even partly cloudy days, and I've had it work in days where its so cloudy, its just about to rain. Its even worked in rainy day conditions for me as well. So, it essentially can work in not-so-prime conditions most of the time, and it tells you so much info on your pace & speed, information that is very valuable if you're serious about your training.
My clients who use them (I live in NW Minnesota) tell me they love their Garmin's because it plays such a key role in training at the right paces, and they can feel free to take on any new running route and get instant distance feedback from it. It really keeps running new and exciting every time you use it.
Rick Karboviak, CSCS
I purchased the 301 back in early June. I have used it on almost every run since buying it. Overall, I'm very satisfied with my purchase. Here are a few of my comments/observations.
1)I like knowing my training pace/heart rate and total distance as my workout proceeds. I hate running without it now. I need to return my unit because the backlight doesn't work and I told the customer service rep from Garmin I was really going to miss it for the few weeks that it was going to be gone.
2) I really think the distance calculation is accurate. I never question my run distances now.
3) The heart rate monitor is just okay. It does spike a lot so I can't use the "max" heart rate number that the 301 shows me. I do believe the average heart rate number for my run. After using the heart rate monitor for a month, I can pretty much tell what my heart is without using the monitor based on my physical condition and pace at the time. If you're wanting to save money, consider the Garmin 201. It's probably $100 less expensive than the 301 which incorporates the heart rate monitor. You can borrow a friends heart rate monitor for a month and get to know your heart rate based on physical excursion and pace. After you know that, you really don't need the heart rate monitor anymore. HOWEVER, I'm glad I bought the 301 with heart rate monitor.
4) I had to replace the heart rate monitor's battery that came with the unit after one month of use. I thought this was a little short lived. I'll see how long a brand new battery will last now. On the plus side, it was really easy to replace the battery, the battery was only a couple of dollars and I found the battery at the local grocery store.
5) Concerning GPS signal loss - 95% of the time I don't have a problem. Most of my runs are in subdivision type terrain. I have run in the rain with my 301 and had no problems. I did run a 1/2 marathon in the hills of KY and had some problems with signal strength and loss. Because of the hills and heavy tree cover, my GPS was giving me lap alerts inconsistent with the mileage markers on the course. However, when I crossed the finish line, which was also the starting line, my total miles was 13.1. Can't complain about that. On future races, I might not use the auto lap feature unless I know the course is fairly open and flat.
6) Training Software: I don't use the training software for anything more than just personal interest. The software was easy to install and start using. I do love showing my friends the elevation/pace trend of my 1/2 marathon I ran in the hills of KY. I lasted about 7 miles before the hills, temperature, humidity and lack of training took it's toll. I had to start walking up the hills which the GPS monitor picked up. It was actually a pretty funny trend graph.
7) 301 Size: It's big. However, it doesn't bother me while training. On the plus side, at races its easy to find other Garmin users and start up a conversation. Everyone I have talked to loves their unit, but then they are all "gear geek's" like me.
Well that's about it. Overall, I'm very satisfied with my purchase. I would much rather use the Garmin Forerunner over the Polar 625X. I like the fact that the forerunner is a two component system (watch and heart rate monitor) versus the three component Polar system (watch, foot pod and heart rate monitor).
I've been using the Polar 625X for a couple of months now. I'm very happy with it. The "running computer" can be used with or without the heart rate strap and footpod. I always use the footpod, but don't always train with the heart rate strap. The heart rate strap is very flexible and comfortable. The polar treadmill at the gym reads the signal from my HRM too.
I've found that the footpod is accurate. It won't be as accurate as GPS, but I was concerned about losing the GPS signal in the city or in the woods so opted for the 625x. I check my calibration at the local track frequently: last time I checked at one mile is was currently dead on target, at 3 miles it was .03 off. I've read that running style/gait have an impact, but my overall impression is that it works well. I haven't purchased the IR reader to upload to my computer yet, but there are plenty of statistics available without the connection.
I like the autolap feature, the target zones, fitness level test and the optimizer (which tells you if you've recovered sufficiently from a run). I bought the polar 625x from roadrunner sports using a 20% coupon. At the same time I purchased the VIP membership which gave me an additional 10% off, free upgraded shipping and a 60 day love it or return it guarantee. It's worth checking out.
I use a Garmin FR201 and have only one complaint. The strap is "permanently" attached and therefore not easy to clean. Maybe they updated this on the FR301...
On the FR301 you can remove the strap in the same way you would remove a watch band. Use a small flat head screw driver to compress the spring that goes through the loops of the strap and remove the spring and strap. Repeat this on the other side. I would think this is how the strap attaches to the FR201 also. I haven't had to look into this, but Garmin probably sells replacement straps.
I just received my Garmin Forerunner 201. I am a long distanct runner. I noticed today on my first outing with the 201 that it showed a "weak signal" under trees. Are you saying it compensates somehow to make up for not tracking during that time?
Also, on the mph pacing window, is that supposed to be "real time" or does it provide an average speed pace, starting from the beginning of the run? I would like to use it on long runs to see if I am keeping, for instance, an 8:45 pace.
I have used both (FR 301 & S625x) extensively.
Both have their little details that are good and bad. Overall, I would say that the real difference is this:
The Garmin uses GPS, which is very accurate in the open, but has some problems in towns, in the woods and also if you happen to move your shoulders very much while running.
The Polars footpod is very accurate once it is calibrated, however, calibration depends on surface and pace, so if you train different paces (I am talking 5k and marathon training here, not 7:00/mile vs. 7.30/mile) the footpod has to be recalibrated.
If you are already used to the polar, use their software and just want to upgrade your equipment, I would definitely go for the Polar!
Just my 2 cents,
I also have a few updates to give as well:
I just started coaching a junior high through varsity squad for cross-country this fall. After a 2 year lapse, I got the opportunity to get back into coaching this sport. I have been using the Timex GPS unit, the 50 lap normal Speed & Distance model. I don't have the heart rate capabilities with this watch. One other component I got was the Timex Data Recorder, and I find this so valuable in evaluating our training.
I've also had the opportunity to use the Polar 625x that I use at work, and use this in our training as well. I've had one run where I had our top boy runner wear the GPS unit and told him how far to go, and when to turn around at, and then I tracked the distances needed for the other groups to turn around at with my Polar 625x guiding me along for that. It was already calibrated for my stride and found it to be pretty close on target with the GPS unit. So, all in all, both can be helpful in your training, although I want to say this about the GPS Data Recorder:
If you are anything serious about your training and want to track every single step you take, GET THIS THING. Here's the deal: I got the Timex GPS system back in 2002 when it first came out. Almost 2 years later, my watch battery conked out, and when I changed it, the GPS signal catcher in the watch malfunctioned. I was able to get a new watch for only $30 off a website, and it still picked up the signal from my initial GPS arm monitor. So, with the money I saved, I ended up purchasing the Data Recorder for $50 off a site to see what that would tell me. At first I thought I needed the whole Bodylink system for that, but that isn't the case: it can just pick up the GPS signals and store all that info for you with just the basic models of the Timex GPS systems.
I did one workout at a city park, trying to find a 500m loop for my XC athletes to run for speed days. What that data recorder told me was very key in finding the right kind of route for my runners. I took one loop going one way, and then went the opposite way. Time-wise, I was about the same over each distance, but going the first way, after seeing the data collected on the graph, I was able to get up to a faster speed on one of the downhill portions, versus going down the other way. The graph showed me in both speed and pace calculations what the effects of that route were, and what the effects on pace were with the other route.
What this data recorder also has shown me is the effects of a hilly running route we do for longer runs. This helps me figure out how much these hills affect my athletes. Now, I don't know if the Polar 625x can do all this without extra components, but with my Timex system, all I need is my watch, the monitor, and the small data recorder, and I get all sorts of information to dissect afterwards. As a coach & trainer, I am literally giddy with all this information at my fingertips.
I don't want to push my newsletter down anyone, but I wrote an article for my faith-based training newsletter, Total Trinity Training, on this data recorder and how I have used the Timex GPS system in my training programs. The newsletter can be found at http://trinitytraining.bravehost.com . There is a Yahoo Group you can sign up for on that page, just join the group and you should get the newsletter sent to you, or you can find it in the files section. In the article I put in the graphs I got from the Data Recorder, and you'll find them to be very interesting I think.
Just thought I'd add this to the many comments about these systems, we are truly in an information age that helps us train smarter, not just harder.
Rick Karboviak, CSCS
As mentioned before on this post, I use the Garmin FR301. To answer a previous question about average pace, yes, you can view your average pace for the run as you proceed. You have to setup a "custom page". I have my custom page showing my average pace, time of day, and total distance. I'm still very happy with my purchase.
I have had my Polar 625x for about 4 months, It works great it fairly accurate maybe 1/10 of a mile off on run 8 miles and longer and on most runs its only hundreths off measuring the same route with a car. I have used GPS but it does not work on the trail I run cause of lots of trees.
I have both toys and have had more success with the 625X. I have worn both in several races from 5k to Marathon and the 301 always seems to measure a faster pace and longer distance. The 625 is usually within .01 of a mile. Case in point in the Jersey Marathon in April, the 625 measured 26.17 miles. The Garmin measured 27.1. I have had similar experiences in other races and in training. Of course the ability to see the course you have run is great and to connect with Motion-based and see their charts is great too. Don't like the fact that in a year, I will have to send the Polar to Polar for battery replacement, but they say they will check it out also.
garmin makes running toys, polar makes training tools
if you want what most in this forum will recommend to you, get a garmin
if you want a device for HR training that will make it possible to improve your performance, get a polar
why you ask? because HR training takes time, and the most important element no one ever talks about in this or any running gadget forum, is software, and there's no comparison between the useless junk that comes with a garmin and the software that comes with the polar 625x
this is the most important element to properly implementing HR training, because if you can't graph out and see what's going on over weeks and months, you're just messing around capturing data for the fun of it instead of making adjustments in your training that cause improvement with data feedback to close the loop with
you did actually think about getting one of these as a way of getting faster right? that is the whole idea, is it not?