The Difficulty of Choosing
I lined up all the usual suspects: Garmin, who seemed to have nailed GPS training; Polar, who are untouchable for heart rate training; Timex, who make the neatest watch and have a modular approach that looks like a good idea; and Suunto, who also seem to make good, nice looking training tools. The problem was they all had different strengths and weaknesses and I couldn’t work out what I really wanted. I changed my mind so often that at different times I decided each one was the one and almost placed an order.
Even the fundamental choice between GPS and footpod, was not clear once I had been convinced that the footpods were accurate. (At first I was a bit sceptical because I thought they would be affected by inconsistencies in my running style and variations in my gait. But all the reviews said they were accurate and I was further reassured when I read the whte paper from Dynastream, the company who developed the technology, which explains how they measure the acceleration through each stride, compute the foot angles and then calculate speed and distance.)
If I had no preference for GPS or footpod, what chance did I have in choosing between the different features? There are an awful lot of them and each model had a different mix. Anyway how would I know if something was really useful if I had never used it before? Aarggh thee was too much confusion. I needed to look toThe paradox of Choice to explain explains my pain. Its central thesis is:
“When people have no choice life is almost unbearable . As the number of available choices increases, as it has in our consumer culture, the autonomy,control, and liberation this variety brings are powerful and positive. But as the number of choices keeps growing, negative aspects of having a multitude of options begin to appear. As the number of choices grows further, the negatives escalate until we become overloaded. At this point choice no longer liberates but debilitates. It might even be said to tyrannize”I realised my error. I was trying to find the perfect speed/distance/ heart-rate monitor and that was silly. I was only looking for a tool and all I really needed was something that was good enough. Instead of looking at every possible feature and thinking ‘how neat is that!’ I needed to think only about what I really needed. As I am not a finely tuned athlete with an intricate training schedule these are fairly basic and every single model was more than good enough. So price becomes a factor and the cheapest by far was the Garmin 50 (i.e. the one with a footpod) and so that is what I bought. It cost £80, including the data transfer stick, which is quite remarkable. I bought it on Amazon and for some strange reason, at the time, it was cheaper to buy two units, one watch and hrm, the other watch and footpod, than the pack with watch, hrm and footpod. As a result I now have a spare watch. 21st century commerce can be really weird.
Was It A Good Choice?
The footpod is light, fixes easily into the laces and feels so unobtrusive that, when running, I completely forget it is there – a relief because I had been worried that I would always be aware of it and react like the princess to the pea. The advantage of the footpod is that if you leave it on the shoe, you only have to tie up your laces and you are ready to go. There is no waiting for a signal.
Its accuracy it is certainly good enough for my needs. I have checked a few runs against Gmap Pedometer and they are within 1% each other and when I have repeated routes they have recorded the same distance. I can thus be happy with the information it gives me.
There is not much to say about the heart rate monitor except that it seems to work. The readings are in line with those from my Polar so I assume they are accurate. The strap is a strap but comfortable enough. A major plus is that so far I have not noticed any phantom readings so the watch is very good at blocking interference.
The watch display is a weakness. You can only see two types of information at a time, which is a shame because 3 would be better. if I could see heart rate, speed and elapsed time I would be happy for most of the run. As it is to check the information you need you have to cycle through the displays by pushing a button. You get used to this but it is a bit fiddly
Downloading the information to the computer is easy as the wireless USB works well and the software presents the information well so that I can easily track my progress. However I find it a bit rigid. There seems no way of adding information from other (non Garmin)sessions and it doesn’t export in a csv format for use in a spreadsheet.
But these gripes are minor compared to the pleasure I having something that is easy to use gives me graphs to study.
Overall the Garmin 50 works as it is meant to. I can now forget about it and just get on with running - but of course with the fun of extra information. I am very pleased.