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On the spare of the moment last year, I decided to enter the 2009 London Marathon, never in my wildest dreams expecting to actually get a place in the ballot. However, the months rolled by and in October 2008 I received a letter to say that I was in! I was in a panic; I hadn't run for years and even with the race approaching, I still had a lack of motivation to get out there and train. I knew I had to do something about it and therefore started looking at GPS watches in the Garmin series. At first the price startled me, but I hoped that if I spent £200 on a watch, I would be determined to get out there and not waste it.
Well, 8 months and hundreds of miles of running later, I am ready to review the equipment that led me to a healthier lifestyle.
Garmin watches have been around for a number of years now and are a common sight on any runners wrist. The earlier models, such as the 201, 205 and 305 were very popular, although were very large in size. The 405 however has been designed with size in mind. It is a lot smaller and a lot more modern and stylish.
The thing that makes it so appealing is the built in GPS receiver. You just simply put the watch on your wrist, turn it on and press start when you begin running. It records how far you went (accurate up to a reported 10 feet), how fast, ascent and descent, split times per mile etc, calories burned and more. Plus when you get home you can upload it to the supplied software on your PC, which displays the data in numerical and graphical form, along with a map of where you ran. Unless you really want to play around with all of the modes, this is really as simple as it is. You can use it straight out of the box once it has been charged.
If you buy the watch with the Heart Rate Monitor (HRM) included, which you strap across your chest, you can also monitor your heart rate in real time whilst running, or see a chart of it once you have uploaded your run data to your PC.
The Garmin 405 is available in black/grey or a light green colour, which is mostly aimed towards women. It is slightly bigger than a normal watch, but it is designed to be worn all day as it displays the time and date when you are not running; something that the earlier versions did not. The strap of the watch is black and flexible, with many holes helping to accommodate any wrist size. The parts of the straps closest to the watch are rigid, as it houses the GPS receiver. This means that it cannot be bent round your wrist, but this is hardly noticeable and the placement of the receiver in the strap means that it is always facing towards the sky, making the readings more accurate.
The 405 has less buttons than you would expect, with just a start/stop and a lap/reset button on the right. The reason that there are not many buttons is because the watch features a silver touch bezel. This surrounds the face of the watch and is very simple to use (although others may disagree). There are 4 areas which you touch to open up menus for training, menu, GPS and date/time. Tapping one of these will bring up a new menu on screen, which you can scroll through by simply running your finger around the bezel. Selecting an option is as simple as tapping anywhere on the bezel. The back light can also be activated by pinching either side or touching the bezel in two places at the same time. This sounds complicated, but if you buy one you will see how easy it is and how well it works.
Personally, I much prefer the current design than the earlier models with a lot of buttons. However, there is one fault that many users have noticed; this being the lack of response once the bezel is wet. It does not react to the touch of your finger and the weight of the water on the watch makes it flick through the menu uncontrollably. This does not really bother me as I simply lock the bezel when I start running by pressing the start/stop button and the lap/reset button at the same time.
There are so many useful functions on the Garmin 405, some which I always use and others which I use very rarely. As well as simply being able to record how far you went, how fast, where, ascent and descent, heart rate, current pace, average pace and splits, you can use the Virtual Partner function. Simply go to the option on the watch, put in your distance and time and start running. On the screen you will find two stick men showing how far ahead/behind your scheduled time you are. This is very helpful in races when you are looking to beat a PB, or in training when you need to run at a certain speed.
You can also put in heart rate zones or speed zones and the watch will beep if you go out of them, letting you know that you either taking it to easy or pushing too hard. It is a very useful function, especially if you are currently training for a specific time in an event. As well as this, you are able to program what you would like the watch to display whilst running. This is done in the watch itself and allows you to have either a few or many displays on your watch at one time. If there is too much information on one screen, it expands onto another and alternates between them at a speed determined by you.
Another function allows you to set up a training routine on your watch, so when you turn it on it will automatically have what workout you should do for that day loaded and all you have to do is press start when you begin running. These schedules may seem a hassle to set up. However, if this is how you feel, you just need to visit runnersworld.co.uk, where you can download specific distance training schedules directly to your watch.
The watch itself stores all the data from one hundred of your runs and is available to view both on the watch or the supplied software once it has been uploaded.
As I said above, I have run hundreds of miles since buying this watch and absolutely love it. You just need to simply stand around for a minute before you start your run for it to pick up your location. Once it has picked up the signal, I have had no problems with it cutting out at any point of a run. I have used it whilst running around my local streets, in the countryside and through thick woodlands. It has always mapped out my run perfectly with the correct distance and times; something that I still find incredible from such a small piece of equipment.
Once you have finished your run, thanks to the Ant+Sport technology, you do not have to do anything but plug the supplied USB stick into your PC and turn it on. The watch wirelessly communicates with your PC through the USB stick and uploads all of your run data to your PC. It is so easy to do and allows you to go through all of your run data as soon as you are through the door!
The battery seems to last about 2 weeks if you are not using it for running. It apparently lasts up to 8 hours if you are using the GPS, although I always charge it before it is dead and therefore cannot guarantee this. It is charged by the mains using a charger that clips onto the top and bottom of the watch. The build quality is also very good. It can be submerged in water for up to 30 minutes and I have fallen over on it twice, scratching it up a bit, but it still works perfectly. Something you should expect from a £200 piece of equipment.
The Garmin 405 is obviously not just for running. It can be used for any sport in which you need to determine how far and fast you went, such as cycling or just walking. You can also use it in a gym if needed. All you need to do is buy a foot pod which attaches to your shoe. This will measure how many steps you take and depending on how it is calibrated, will tell you how far and how fast you went. This is not as accurate as GPS, but is better than having no data at all. The foot pods have to be bought separately and retail for approximately £60.
A tip that I picked up from other users was to not use the supplied software and download a free program called Sport Tracks. This is much easier and quicker to use and allows you to analyse your data much more thoroughly. It is well worth downloading.
To conclude, I don't know where I would be without this watch. It is so small, yet does so much; something that I find incredible. I got mine from Amazon for £180, which may seem a lot of money, but if it gets you out there running, isn't it worth it? It is excellent for beginners and will keep even the most serious runner entertained.
If you are one for numbers and love running, get one of these, you will not be let down!
For the cheapest place to buy one, go to www.running-watches.co.uk