Reviewing Garmin 225: First Impressions

If I was DC Rainmaker, this is where I would wow you. I’d give you specs. I’d have tested it out, compared it to similar products, and given you in-depth information.

I am not DC Rainmaker. I read DC Rainmaker so that I don’t have to be DC Rainmaker. I’m just Q. That’s still pretty awesome, though.

Tracking Down a Tracker

The further I go on this stupid running journey, the more I start to integrate technology. There are two reasons to implement technology. First and foremost, I love data. This is how you make the best decisions. Want to know if you’re overeating? Count calories. Want to make your runs better? Track them. My phone was doing an adequate job of tracking, but I wanted to up the ante and start doing HR tracking without a strap. The second reason is it turns out I like new toys, even if those toys would pay half a month’s grocery bill.

But let’s focus on data. Part of the reason this was a difficult purchase to make is that the only thing my phone can’t do that I wanted was track heart rate. That’s it. That’s all I really wanted. I could track distance and time with Zombies, Run! But I wanted HR. I contemplated it as I was replacing my Fitbit (both times). Unfortunately, the fitness trackers are actually pretty bad at tracking while running, though they’re ok for every other time. But I didn’t worry as much about all the other times. I was more concerned about when I was making my heart race at its max.

So I sat, and I stewed, and then I started upping my mileage for the 10K. At this point, things are starting to get more serious. Previously, me and running had been in a casual relationship. Sure, we were each other’s primary boos, but we each had our own Becky with the good hair on the side. Now, we were getting serious. And I was tired of getting hurt (I was also a touch afraid of dying on the side of the road from exhaustion, you know, normal runner fears).

Choosing my watch wasn’t as complicated as finding a new fitness tracker. I’d been mentally gravitating toward the Garmin Forerunner series for months and knew folks who used them. I did consider other options, but the only one that was a serious contender was the Mio Alpha 2. The main reason was Mio’s HR tracker is supposed to be the best optical HR tracker on the market. In fact, Garmin used it in their 225 before developing their own for the 235. This is how I kind of landed on the 225. It used what was supposed to be better technology and was much less expensive. It’s also uglier than the 235, but $100 is worth a little ugly. Plus, ugly’s battery life was supposed to be better.

Reviewing So Far

Someone got a new toy to try.

A post shared by Quisto Settle (@applications_of_randomness) on

I’ve only had it on 3 runs, so I can’t give a good yes/no answer just yet, only first impressions. That and I’ve been messing around with the app and the website.

So, how’d she do? I’d say alright. The watch is not the least bit intuitive for a first-time running watch user. There are four buttons that have to do a lot of work, so the starting is not an easy process, especially for something that does as much as the 225 does.

The first thing I notice is how big and bulky the watch is. I don’t have big wrists, which is partly why the Activité has worked out, but it make putting on the 225 a stark contrast. That said, you don’t notice the weight. It’s light, to me.

Now, if all you want to do is run and it track, it actually does a good job of that out of the box. You just start the watch and stop it when you’re done. Easy peasy. The problem stems from wanting to personalize it and dive into its functionality more. That’s when actually playing with the watch becomes a bit obnoxious. It’ll be interesting to see what happens when running watches go fully into touch screens (I know Garmin has at least one that uses touch screen, but that’s not common yet). As of now, I’m still trying to figure out what I want the screen to show. You have the option to toggle multiple screens, but that’s no real use for me. I need to figure out what data I want on screen, which isn’t a quick change.

Those extra features? They’re bonkers in the best way. As a low-tech runner up until a year and a half ago, the thought that my watch will not only tell me what I should be doing but will also let me know when I’m not doing it is crazy. Because I’ve gone HR monitor, I’ve set up a trio of workouts using that as a base. One ends the workout once I hit 170 beats. Another keeps me in the supposed aerobic zone (about 130-150) until I decide I’m done and then forces me to cool down below 120 beats. This also means it’s alerting me when I’m out of the zone. The third is a series of repeats where I run until I hit 165 and recover until I’m under 145 for 5 cycles. I have no idea if these are actually good workouts, but I have mental plans for them.

Syncing the device is easy as pie. What is not easy as pie is setting up the workouts. You can’t do it through the app, just the full website. The app itself also isn’t the most user-friendly thing in the world. It’s not intuitive, especially when I’ve had experience with Fitbit. The other app/watch issue is changes on the app can override the watch where I had already set things the way I wanted. The app had defaults that I didn’t go back and change, so the watch adjusted to the app, which is the opposite of what I wanted. This actually made the adjustment to the screen display a pain because I put something I wanted and it disappeared the next time out.

That said, so far so good. It’s doing what I need it to do. It spits out a lot of data, including distance, cadence (not quite the same as pace), heart rate, and elevation. It also does something that seems blatantly logical but none of my other apps did that I knew of: It tracks gear use. This means I can track mileage for my shoes. I’ve always had to guess how many miles they had on them, but now those days are over. This is important as I try to figure out wear and tear on not only my shoes but my feet and legs. I run almost exclusively on pavement and mostly cement at that. With both of my shoes relatively new, I’m not worried about the miles I put on before I bought this pair. It would be less than 30 for either pair.

Future Plans

Tracking in general is nice, but I’ve got plans for the watch now. First and foremost, I need to figure out the HR business. Averaging 175 beats for a 5K seemed like a bit much, and I was completely spent at the end. Even my training runs go up too fast too easily. I want to up my mileage safely, so I think tracking HR will allow me to do this. This leads us to

Setting up workouts. I’ve already mentioned the three workouts I have plugged in right now. I’ve done two of them. I did the HR test first, where it ends the workout when I hit 170. This forces me to stay in a manageable position or the workout gets called. Then I did the HR zone workout that kept me in the aerobic zone. Staying in one zone was rough, especially when it wasn’t a high zone. This one ends when I say it ends, so it lets me stay in an easyish workout as long as I’d like.

I’ve actually used these first two in tandem with my Zombies, Run! workouts. I set my time/distance goal running from zombies, but then I use the watch to keep me in line. So far, it’s worked, but it’s also cut down on the amount of running I’m doing. I’m going to have to mix walking heavily into the 10K anyway, so it’s best to get used to it.

Speaking of which, right now I’m planning a run 3 min, walk 1 rotation for the 10K. The watch will alert me, so hopefully this will be ok. It will be obnoxious, especially early on, but if I’m looking ok, I can either cut the program off early to run more or I can just run faster. We’ll see. The real plan was to use the watch to help me slowly up my mileage, but sickness and getting the watch late in the game trumped that.

After the race, I’m going to use the watch to help me slowly up my mileage and get me more used to running longer comfortably. By this, I mean running and my HR not skyrocketing; I don’t mean getting used to hanging out in the super-high range, though that’s a possibility for the next plan.

I want to chase a 25-minute 5K. My thinking is to mix in runs that have my run the pace needed for that (about 8-minute miles) until I hit a certain HR limit (170-175 probably) before I walk to recover (down to say 150-140) before resuming the 8-minute pace. I have no idea if that’s a good way to go about it, but I want to give it a try. I also want to stop running 10-minute miles. They’re driving me insane. But that’s a tomorrow problem.

For now, I’m just trying to recover enough to not die in the 10K. I’ll keep you posted.

-Q

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