Stuff We Love: The Garmin Forerunner

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Back in September 2009, I reviewed the Nike Plus sport band. Back then, I wasn't a serious runner. Running was a casual thing I did because I thought it was a good workout—not something I actually liked doing or looked forward to. When I reviewed the Nike band, I spent a lot of time using it to see how well it worked, and it definitely helped me enjoy running more. It's still a great running gadget at an introductory price point that I would definitely recommend to others.

But it wasn't perfect: It didn't calibrate very well, and wasn't the most accurate tool. Plus, it lacked a heart rate monitor, which I really love to use when I train. I was ready for an upgrade, so I bought myself a Garmin Forerunner in January 2010 and WOW. I love my Forerunner so much that I can't imagine running without it. It has been instrumental in helping me become a better runner—and in transforming running from something I tolerated into something I actually enjoyed. So why has it taken me more than a year to tell you about it? Good question! (I have no excuse other than procrastination.)

If you're curious about how the Garmin Forerunner works, or interested in a new workout gadget that can making running (or walking) a little more fun, here's what three SparkPeople's coaches who all use the Forerunner have to say about it.

Coach Nancy
Model: Garmin Forerunner 405 with heart rate monitor (SRP $349.99)
"I purchased my Garmin Forerunner 405 in May 2008 and have not missed an outside run with it yet. It has totally revolutionized my running. I love the wireless capability to upload my runs to my computer (and online to Garmin Connect), and the transfer is quick. Once uploaded, it also lets me see changes in elevation levels and pace throughout my run. By permitting me to see my pace per mile immediately, it allows me to pace myself for any run that I have scheduled for a particular day: from a tempo run, to intervals, to the long, slow distance run. I no longer run according to heart rate alone, but pace per mile. I think it's cool that I can view elevation changes, too."

Coach Jen
Model: Garmin Forerunner 305 (SRP $199.99)
"I received my Garmin Forerunner 305 as a gift, but was excited to have something to track the pace of my runs. When my mind starts to wander, it's nice to be able to glance down at my watch and know it's time to pick up the pace again. The only downside is that I used to be very good at naturally pacing myself. I didn't need a watch to know about how fast I was going—I could tell just by how I was feeling. I'm not as good at that anymore because I've relied so much on my Garmin. But it's definitely been a helpful tool as I train for various races."

I have the same model as Nancy and sing the same praises for it. I can't imagine running without my Garmin these days. I love uploading my routes, seeing how my pace changes, watching the changes in elevation, and tracking all of my runs. I also use it for hikes and walks with the dog. It's really cool to see the map of my route on a hiking trail that I otherwise would not be able to map with traditional online tools alone.

Before the advent of Smartphone with location devices built in (and workout apps to go along with them), the Garmin was about the only tool you could use to accurately track the speed, distance and elevation of your runs. While some new Smartphone apps may do this for you now, I'm still loyal to my Garmin, especially since it also connects with my heart rate monitor.

I think certain gadgets can make workouts more fun and interesting—definitely more entertaining—but they're not without their downfalls. On a cloudy day and sometimes in a big city, the Garmin has trouble connecting to satellites. Still, that's rare for me, and I still credit the Garmin Forerunner for helping me "get into" running more and continue to stay interested in it over the long haul.

Have you tried a Garmin Forerunner? How about another running gadget like the Nike+ or a specific Smartphone app? Tell us about your experience below!

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I'm starting year 5 with my Forerunner 405. I loved it from day 1, so much that my hubby bought one too. I no longer run however use it for flying. Love the go to feature which works well in the air or in a park/on a trail. Report
I received one for Christmas but am having a lot of trouble learning to use it and the "touch" technology. Report
BTW, the watch does not go for $350, just check Amazon, less than $200 Report
I love this watch!! I cannot imagine running without it. It is perfect to help me train. Report
I don't run much... I play some tennis and do gym workouts on the elliptical and a few classes. But I love technology and gadgets. I have a FitBit and have looked at BodyBugg, etc. I have a cheap heart rate monitor and love it. Not sure if there are better apps or gadgets for folks like me to help log your calorie burn automatically... But I would love to hear about them. I expect Forerunner is geared to folks who run outdoors? Report
I would LOVE to have one of these to keep track of my pace, mileage and everything else but there's just no way I can afford it. Guess I'll keep dreaming! Report
I refuse to pay for the name, expensive toy and not even necessary to get healthy.. The people whom make these devices are laughing all the way to the bank.. Sober thought I never used a device to monitor my progress I lost half my body weight without ever having anything strapped to my wrist..
When nutrition is 80% of the journey I use my money in the kitchen.. Can't even exercise away from bad nutrition.. A digital food scales is worth more money to me.. Report
Uh oh. . .ipad or forerunner. now I'm in trouble! Report
I recieved a Garmin 305 as a gift in 2006 or 2007. I love it for all the reasons stated by other reviewers. I usually do run/walk intervals and use the interval function on the watch to time the intervals. The 305 is rather bulky on the wrist, but Garmin has remedied that with its new models, and I found the heart rate monitor strap caused chafing after 10 miles or so, so I rarely use it on long runs. I would love to upgrade, but my 305 just keeps on going, run after run, mile after mile, year after year. While it was expensive, they are often on sale, and it has probably only cost about .50 cents a run after 4 years of use! Report
Okay. Now I have to request this for my birthday. Report
I use my partner's iPhone app, Run Keeper. It's so good, tracking your milage, distance per minute, pace, speed and route. You can also set it up to interval train giving you verbal notification of when to run and walk, as well as pace training, giving you verbal notification of whether you are in front or behind of your target pace. Love it. Doesn't give elevation though - that is about the only thing it's missing. Report
I'm looking at the Garmin Forerunner 305
I was training for both 5K and 5 mile runs, but now my trainer says I should be doing the half marathon, so i would love one of these gadgets! Report
I'm to frugal to spend money on something like that. Report
That's what my M2 does it motivates me all along the way, no matter if I'm running,biking or swimming plus the price was right the garmin sounds cool but a bit steep in price.Whatever gets you moving is cool : ) Report
I love my Garmin 305. I don't know what it is about having gadgets, but they definitely help me reach my goals. I like that I can just head out the door and be spontaneous in my route and know how far I've run. Before having the Garmin I'd use MapMyRun or drive a route to figure out how to reach my mileage goal for the run. Now I can just explore without any pre-planning. Report
I had a Garmin 405 and most of the time I liked it, but I had come from a Polar that did pretty much all but the distance tracking, and for my area, tracked the elevation gains much more accurately than the 405. I gave my Garmin to my sister, who loves it, but doesn't care about the accuracy of the elevation stats. I now have a Polar RS800CX that has the altimiter in the watch (not connected to the GPS) that both Polar and Garmin tech say is more accurate than the GPS elevation/altitude measurement. Since this in more important to me at times than distance I'm happier with my Polar. Just another alternative to the Garmin if anyone is interested. Report
I've been thinking about getting one of the Garmin models since I started running again, but not sure just how much i'll use it. have been using an interval timer but I have to change the battery every 2nd time I run, which is a pain. I like the idea of using it as a reward - am going to have to figure out that goal! Report
My daughter gave me the 405 last Christmas and I LOVE it! I use it every time I run. I also load the history onto the computer, which is great, and have been able to load customized workouts onto it. It makes it so easy, though, that there is no excuse not to run! Report
I love my Garmin 405CX! I use it on every run. I had a 205 before and it was starting to lose pixels, so I got the 405 for me Bday this year :)

For those of you that use the Garmins for walks/runs and other activities, you should really check out You can upload your information and they will donate money to a charity of your choice (that is available on their site). I use is all of the time and you get to sign up for challenges and win prizes. Report
I LOVE my Garmin Forerunner 405 - one of the best gifts I ever got - so motivational and a great learning tool for running and walking. I also use my nike+ - what great running partners !! Report
I LOVE my Garmin 305. I work on an Army Base with many trails. I have given each trail a name. In addition, I like to ride a bike. The Garmin 305 can be switched from runner to bike and now all my BIKE trails can also be strored to monitor progress and track miles. I bought from Amazon for $125. Report
I'm not a runner, I walk. Have done 2 half marathons with another one planned in May. But I love my Garmin. I would never have spent so much on it myself so it was great to get it for Christmas 09. It really helps me training and keeps me motivated. Report
I have the 305 and LOVE it. While there may be apps out there for my iPhone to track with, I don't like how they can drain my phone battery when I'm out for really long runs (like 8 miles or more) since the app would be running for 2+ hours using the GPS. I don't have to worry about that with my 305. Report
ok I've been resisting - but I think you all have talked me into one Report
I got the Forerunner 110 for Christmas and love it. So simple to use - just press start and go. If I've run someplace unfamiliar such as on vacation I like to go to Garmin Connect and see exactly where I ran on a map. For someone who isn't into racing but really enjoys running the 110 will do more than you need. Report
Another major advantage to gadgets that track your distance is that over time you can keep track of how many miles you put on your shoes. Rather than have to guess or just swap them out every X months, using a Nike+ or Garmin or other device helps you know for sure when you're in that 300-400 mile range. AND by combining that knowledge with how your knees feel and how the tread looks, you can determine whether you're going to need to stick closer to the 300 mark or if your running/walking conditions allow you to eek out some more trail time.
I'd love a Garmin. My walking partner has one and I always joke that I'm faster than her because my Nike+ sensor I use with my Ipod Nano always thinks we're finished about a half mile too soon. :-) When you're training for a race, its great to know for sure exactly what your pace is. Maybe someday I'll make saving for this a reward... Report
I LOVE my Garmin 405 because I enjoy seeing the output on my computer when I'm done running and I can run reports to see how much/little I've been doing. I also like that I can watch my pace as I'm on my run and program in the intervals so I don't need to keep looking at my watch. Only thing I would gripe about is the touch bezel is SOOOO sensitive in rainy conditions. Make sure you lock the bezel if you're planning on running the rain! Report
Just want to point out that there are many other devices beside Garmin. Garmin certainly makes great products, but budget and individual requirements may suggest another manufacturer.
The highest rated HRM on Amazon is the trusty, simple Omron. This can be had for as little as $35 but no bells and whistles.
Again, there are MANY others to consider. Many of those have user replaceable batteries, have similar functions, and cost much less than Garmin. Suunto, Timex Ironman, ...... Report
I love my Garmin Forerunner 405 - It's like an addiction, I love to be able to see my progress and when I'm running it helps to push me that little but harder. I have a target of being able to run at 10 min / mile pace, and while I can do that for short bursts, this really helps me to see and feel when I'm not doing that and identify the reasons why.
I'm now training in earnest to do a 5k run in 6 weeks - I've done one before and run it all, but this time I want to do it quicker - maybe 11 min mile pace. the Garmin is helping me to judge the speed I'm doing

I've had Polar's before, the entry level and an better one - F1 and F4 - but I LOVE my Garmin Report
I don't have a Garmin but generally don't like wearing anything on my arms or wrists when I'm out running anyway. I recently got a smartphone and downloaded the Runkeeper app for free - while it doesn't do heart rate, it does everything else i could possibly want, like mapping out my running route, elevation, pace, time, etc. It's almost more information than I know what to do with! I like it and don't feel the need/want to buy a Garmin at this time. Report
I have a Garmin 405 and it's great! I had a Polar before that and I like it fine, but the GPS feature is worth the switch over. I highly recommend the 405. Report
I use the garmin Edge - triathlon training with bicycle candence and computer uploads all available. Report
I bought the Forerunner 201 first, then upgraded to the 305. I love everything about it, but it doesn't track calories very well. It works best outdoors. Report
I also have the Runkeeper app on my iPhone -- excellent app that has pacing as well. I wear the most inexpensive Polar HR monitor. Between these two tools I've got what I need for the time being. Report
I thoroughly enjoy my Garmin! I chose not to buy one until I proved to myself that I really needed it. Anyone checked out the Garmin 610? I hear it will be previewed at Boston and Country Music Marathons. Report
I love my Garmin too! I have the 405CX. Best thing I ever did for myself. It's awesome to look back and see how I've improved from the winter to now. It's great to be able to compare the same routes, see the elevation and so great to see what my splits are. I would never run outside again without it! Report
I LOVE my Garmin! And after reading this post, I had to blog about myself. Such a great gadget to have! Report
I have the 405. I'd love to upgrade but mine works so well. I just can't justify it... Report
I started running with a Nike+ sensor and my iPod, and that was fine to start. When I started getting more serious about running, though, it didn't cut it--the accuracy is less than great.I asked for (and received) a Garmin for my birthday, and the 305 with heart rate monitor is my favorite running gadget! It has been a huge help as I've been training for a half marathon. Not having to worry about knowing the distance I've run, my pace, or my heart rate because it's all right there at a glance helps me focus on the run itself. Report
I LOVE my Garmin 305. I use it when I run and also use the HM feature during spin class. Report
I have the Garmin 305 and it never counts my calories accurately. I would do high intensity run/jog for 30min- 1 hour and it would say I only burned 200 cal. I could burn 200 cal in 30 min walk/jog. Yes the maps are cool but not good on the calorie thing Report
I purchased a Garmin 405 and eventually returned it to the store. Setting it up and going through the various applications were cumbersome. I am sticking with my The Sharper Image that gives me the information I need...HRM and Calories burned, and Zone. All for $49. Report
Amazon is selling the Garmin 405 (with heart monitor) for about $210. Report
I started with a Polar F6 and recently upgraded to a Garmin 110 w heart rate monitor. I'm training for my 4th half (walking) and am looking forward to having this tool make that much easier. Report
Would love one but can't afford it! Can't afford a smartphone either... Report
I have had two fifferent Garmin forerunners. Loved them both! Wouldn't think of going for a run or race without one. Report
I got a Garmin 305 a few weeks ago, and I LOVE it. It helped me set a new 5k PR with the pace setting. And the HRM confirmed that I was working to my max. Report
I'd have one of these if I could ever spend more than $15 a month on non-necessary stuff. Maybe one day it will be in my budget. Until then, I'll dream. :P Report
I use a free app called RunKeeper on my Android phone, I know you can get it for iPhone too. I like that my mp3 player and running apps are in one device, so I got a thing called an ArmPocket for it so I don't have to hold it in my hand.

I also cannot afford an extra $200 or $300. Report
I have the 405 and I absolutely love it! It has really helped me with improving on my running and, I like the fact that I can switch it from the running mode to bicycling and I can wear it when I bike ride! Report