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I hate duplicating posts, and there seem to be a lot about "what do you think of the Garmin/Timex/Nike/Polar (insert model number here)?", but I think my question is a little different.
Looking for opinions on GPS v. foot pods for getting a distance. Ideally, I would like to get a GPS unit, because I feel that it is the most accurate (and I'm a techno-weenie that loves gadgets). Unfortunately, I traditionally run in a very wooded area so that is scaring me away from the GPS, given the tendency I keep hearing about the signal getting lost in trees and buildings. I keep reading where the foot pods are pretty accurate (+/- 1-2%), but most of that research is on the website of the company. Not sure that the marketing departments would allow them to say "the foot pod helps tell distance, but isn't even close to the actual distance".
Looking for opinions/experiences on different models (GPS in the woods and foot pods). Any thoughts are greatly appreciated.
I have posted several times about my experience with the Gramin Forerunner 301 GPS monitor. From experience, if you're running under heavy tree cover for extended periods of time, the GPS monitor will loose it's signal. It regains the signal in the clear and then predicts your distance based on a straight line, but you will more than likely be disappointed. For me, I found that I wasn't running under tree cover as much as I thought I would be. So the GPS format works well for me. Since I don't use the pedometer type distance monitor, I can't speak to it's accuracy when you change stride length going up and down hills under the trees. I suggest find a store that will let you return the monitor within 30days if doesn't meet your expectation. That's what I did before I purchased the Garmin Forerunner 301. Good luck. I don't think either system is going to be perfect. I like not having to attach the foot pod to my shoe every run though.
I've had access to the Polar 625x model (foot pod & HR monitor), plus a Timex GPS Speed & Distance 50 lap model. (no heart rate monitor). Personally, I prefer the Timex because I like the fact that I just strap it on, link up, and go forth. The Polar one needs the heart rate strap hooked up before the pod will work and read for you. (At least from my trials with it, it only works this way) I'm not one to train by heart rates all the time, even though I'm a trainer, I tend to think that some heart rate based training is overrated and misinterpreted. I'm more of a speed-based trainer for correct paces & speeds to run at, and this has proved to be more beneficial for me, hence me leaning towards the speed/pace output readings given instantly by the GPS modes.
I really won't go out and say that one is superior to the other, because they both can tell you a lot of key info that will help you 'learn' paces better, versus the time trial method of track workouts and waiting for your time to judge your effort at the end of the run. I'd much rather judge my effort during my run and have an instant feedback monitor to tell me. I often tell people its like getting treadmill readouts outdoors, and you act as the treadmill speed control.
If you like heart rates, go ahead and get the Polar one, especially if you are going to be in wooded regions for a majority of your training. If you just want open air, real-time speed information, get just the regular GPS units. If you want the GPS info plus the heart rate stuff too, pony up and get the Bodylink system by Timex, as well as the Garmin Forerunner 301. I think both have options to hook up your training data collected to your computer.
In the future, I'd like to get the Bodylink system with the data recorder to read everything I ever wanted to know about my running or cycling adventure outdoors.
Rick Karboviak, CSCS
I too have owned both the Timex GPS and the Polar foot pod. I returned the Timex a week before my marathon because I was out for my last training run and it completely died on me (it was less than a year old). When I returned it, the man at RRS said that the Timex GPS has been very problematic. I like using the Polar, but I also liked using the GPS-- but I also found that if I was in a heavily wooded area or in the city surrounded by buildings (or even if it was just a really cloudy day), the GPS wouldn't work. The thing with the foot pod-- you need to "prime" it by running a predetermined distance so that it gets used to your cadence (so have a USATF officially measured track handy) The other thing about the GPS-- when I went out to the west coast for vacation (I live in NJ), I had to stand outside for 15 minutes waiting for the GPS to find a signal! I suppose they both have their positives and negatives, but for reliability's sake, I would probably go with the foot pod. And I think that Nike makes a foot pod that you don't have to have to wear the HRM.
I went thru 2 Timex GPS both quite after a couple months, they would just shut off and both did not work well on the wooded trail I usually run. I tried the fitsence but found I had to recalibrated every couple days and then it was usually by 1/2 mile. I finally bought the Polar s625x. Its accurate most of the time with in 100ths of a mile and when it is off usually within a 10th of a mile. IF you keep your stride pretty even its fairlry accurate, I can use it with or without the HRM. So I would recommned the Polar out of these 3.
I have been using the Fitsense FS-1 for 3 months. I am not pleased with its inaccuracy. The watch returns data that can be as far off as 1 mile for a short 4 mile run. It is dependent on how fast I run. The technology is not much better than if not the same as pedometer technology.
I calibrated the watch on a 400 m track. I ran at my long slow run pace. Fitsense mentions on the website a way to recalibrate the watch directly based on how much it is off by. But if you recalibrate the watch for a faster run, you will run into the same problems when you run a long run.
I am now looking at the green pastures on the other side and planning on buying either the Garmin 201/301 or the Timex Bodylink. I love running in the city, so I hope the buildings don't obstruct the signal too much. One nice thing about running in the city with loss of signal is most cities are set up in a grid-like fashion, so if you do loose the GPS signal for a minute the calculation won't be off by much because you most likely will have been running in a straight line.
I have not used my Forerunner in a city so I can't speak to its accuracy in the city. I love my Forerunner right now, but I have to admit, I do most of my running in a subdivision terrain.
Here's a COOL link that I just picked up from a message board to map my runs. If you zoom in on the roads you're running, it is very accurate on calculating your distance. If you're not interested in your pace while you're running, you could use this map and an old fashion stopwatch to calculate your workout pace.