Of all my running gadgets, my Garmin Forerunner 405 GPS sports watch is an indispensable partner. Having run with it for two years, it is hard to imagine running without a GPS watch. There are so many benefits to owning a GPS watch and I would highly recommend investing in one if you are at all serious about running. When I bought the 405 two years ago, it was the one of the higher end models Garmin offered. There is now a 410, but other than a better designed bezel, I don’t believe there is too much difference between the two models. Below are the benefits of the 405 as well as the cautions of owning a GPS watch.
Keeps You Honest – With a GPS watch, it keeps you honest. No fudge factor here, the watch is very accurate in measuring your time, pace, distance, heart rate and elevation. However, because it keeps you honest, you can more confidently predict your level of fitness when going into any race or workout.
Abundant Data – The watch collects a lot of data that you can review not only after you finish your run, but also months and years back. I download all my runs into the Garmin Connect database and this provides me a tool to determine what worked or didn’t work, provides a history of my training leading up to a race to see what kinds of lessons I can apply to my next training cycle. I can also go back in time to see my level of fitness compared to today, which can be a confidence builder when you see how much you have improved over a long period of time.
Virtual Partner – The watch has a nice function where you can program your own pacer and it visually shows if you are ahead of pace or behind pace. It is a great running tool for training runs as well as racing.
Program Training Workouts – I didn’t realize how to use this function until a year after I had the watch, but it is a great function to customize training workouts. For example, if I want to do 3 X 800s, followed by 8 X 400s, with a 2 minute rest between intervals, with a 10 minute warm-up and a 10 minute cool-down, I can program it into the watch. Also, I can set the pace of how fast I want to do the intervals and the watch will notify me if I’m on pace or not (Note: this can be irritating at times, especially when you are having a lousy workout).
Heart Rate Monitor – If you are into zone workouts, where you exercise at certain heart rate ranges, the watch also has this function. I used the heart rate monitor for about a year, but only use it sparingly today. I just kind of got tired of wearing the monitor and decided that since there was little difference in my heart rate form day-to-day running, that I would use it once in a while instead. However, if you are into heart rate zone training, this watch meets the bill.
Caution: Don’t Be a Slave to the Watch – You have to be careful not to be too dependent on the watch and let it dictate your runs. Although it is a great tool to remind you if you are not meeting pace, don’t push your body if you are not feeling it. I strongly believe that you need to know your body and when it is appropriate to push the pace and when to back off. Otherwise, you risk over training and compromising your recovery, which is the source of future improvements. Remember, the watch is a tool, but you need to instinctively know during your runs if the planned workout just isn’t going to happen that day.
GPS watches range in a wide variety of prices. The 405 retails for about $250 for just the watch, or $300 with the heart rate monitor. I’ve had my watch for two years now and have had very few issues with it, other than the bezel sometimes goes a little haywire and I have to restart the watch. I believe the 410 may have improved upon this bezel flaw, so it may no longer have that problem, but will cost you about $75 more.