Garmin Forerunner 305 & MotionBased Training

GPS + heart rate data for runners

As an age-group triathlete, I wouldn’t want to train without my Garmin Forerunner 305, a GPS “wristwatch” with an accompanying heart rate monitor (HRM). It’s my training partner: holds me to the line, makes me get out and work out, and gives me the information I need to advance. Of particular interest to me are: mile splits on the run; average HR (heart rate) and maximum HR. Here’s how it works: I strap the HRM around my chest and turn on the wrist unit. The GPS locks on to satellite positions. I press “start” and go! While I am moving during the workout, I am being tracked. If I stop, the tracking program “pauses;” thus, my actual results are only for while I am moving. It’s a pretty significant piece of hardware, but of the research I did, and GPS/HRM units I’ve owned (Timex, Nike, Polar), at this time the Garmin 305 is the most appropriate to my needs. Both the HRM strap as well as the “watch” are comfortable. The unit is bulky, sure, but anyone who wears a watch to work out will grow accustomed to it. Best of all, the wireless communication is spot-on — the watch picks up the transmitted heart rate much better than the Polar unit I previously used, for instance. And the ability to sync my GPS/HR data not only to my computer (Garmin has proprietary software) but also Garmin’s is crucial. After any workout, I upload the data to my MotionBased account, which charts all the data and allows me to review statistics. I simply plug a cord in to my computer’s USB port, launch Safari (for Mac, you must use Safari) and upload the data to my MB Inbox. Then, I can add any notes/details/names of the training session. The kind of information Garmin and MotionBased training provides is much more comprehensive than the more subjective tracking I’ve done by creating my own workout logs on Google spreadsheets.

I can train the same exact route and know to the moment (time and heart rate) how I did in comparison to the last time; I can see the average and max temperatures and windspeed to see if climate may have affected my performance; I can record and share my workouts with friends, coaches, or other athletes, export routes to GoogleEarth or GoogleMaps and use the data to practice, rehearse mentally and visualize my upcoming events and races. I can also show my mom how cool she is for running with me! (At 57, she still keeps up a good 4 mile pace!). I started with the free MotionBased account. After I used it a few times, I knew I would want the extra features for a year to truly test the functionality and see if it was something I could use (so far it’s been well worth the $48 annual fee). The differences between free and standard accounts include access to MotionBased’s Analyzer, which allows you to pinpoint distance splits.

In 2001, after being 40 pounds overweight with no physical fitness program in place, I started triathalon training with an HRM and began tracking my run, swim, bike, and weight lifting workouts, and calibrating and tracking my outdoor activities (hiking, biking, running) with a Garmin Gecko 101 GPS that I bought from Target for $79.00. This gave me week-to-week comparisons for speed, time and distance, which I used to assess my training and interval workouts through the quarter. However, now I can get ALL of these training metrics together with one simple device. I initially bought the Forerunner 205, but returned it because I wanted the extra data: heart rate. My goal for next year is to race at a lower HR than in years past. After the last triathlon I raced in, I learned my HR was too high (race average: 173). I would like to get that down to the low 160s/mid 160s for the 5.5 hour race I am planning for next May. Using the Garmin Forerunner 305 and MotionBased really enhances all the training I do. It makes me look forward to capturing the results and pushes me for the next time, especially when I revisit a specific route.

-- Jason Womack 10/29/07

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