Introducing the Garmin Forerunner 310xt
Firstly, you probably want to know why an average runner who only runs a couple of times a week, wants something as bulky and expensive as a Garmin Forerunner 310xt. If you have read any of my previous posts you will know that I’m a bit of a geek when it comes to analysing data, the more data the better! I recently spent about two months training to run a sub-25 minute 5k, my previous PB was 25:40. My Garmin was especially handy when it came to pacing those training runs, even though they were really short. If you are at all interested, my new PB is 24.40, a full minute quicker and under that magical 25 minute mark.
Most Garmins if not all Garmins are capable of churning out split times and of recording your pace and distance, including the new basic-model Garmin Forerunner 15. The benefit of having the Garmin Forerunner 310xt though, is the ability to analyse not only the basic data but more personalised fields as well such as comparing your run with the previous time you ran that ‘course’, you can train against a virtual person who will pace you to a set time, you can also customise the fields that you see on the watch when you run – there are so many different ways to make this watch your own. Whilst my review of the watch will definitely not be as detailed as DC Rainmaker’s review, I hope to give you an idea of what I use the watch for and how it might be useful for you.
Wearing the Watch
This is perhaps where the watch loses out slightly in comparison to other watches of the same brand, it is bulky and it does weigh a lot more than your average watch at 72g. Whilst you do notice this, you get used to it after a while and it ceases to be a problem. To give you a comparison, I have taken a photo of my everyday watch next to my Garmin:
So it’s bulky, but when it’s giving you access to so much data about your run then who cares! You might find the size to be more of an issue than me but it doesn’t put me off running with the watch. The large display is a benefit of having such a large watch body and means that you can see your display nice and easily when on the move. The square display sometimes makes the watch wobble about when you run, tighten it up a notch and away you go again.
Navigating the Watch
Accessing different screens and options on the watch is really easy, there are a number of buttons on either side of the watch as well as two on top. If you have a number of data screens set up then you can flick between them ‘on the fly’ by pressing the up and down arrows on the right hand side of the watch. A lap button can be used if you want to track your speed/time over a certain distance again and again, this is something I have never used but I imagine that it would come in handy if you wanted to do intervals. You can also switch between three sport modes: running, swimming and cycling. Whilst I do swim, I don’t use the watch as it isn’t very accurate, distorting your route each time your hand enters the water (see the review by DC Rainmaker for a more detailed analysis of the ‘swim’ function). I don’t cycle either so I haven’t used that part of the watch before but you just clip the watch to your handlebars, select the cycling option and off you go.
Finding a Signal
Sigh. For a watch that can analyse your every move, pace you, predict the number of calories you have burned and lots of other highly detailed things, it doesn’t impress when you first switch it on. I always, without fail, end up walking up and down my street a couple of times before my watch finally realises that it is in exactly the same position that I start nearly every run from. This is, undeniably, highly frustrating. To give credit to the Garmin though, when you do get a signal it doesn’t drop out unless you are under a long tunnel or other very enclosed area. The mapping ability of the Garmin when you use Garmin Connect shows you exactly where you have run and it is, the vast majority of times, very precise. Other bloggers have suggested leaving the watch by a window for a few minutes before you go out so that it can ‘find’ where it is and locate the satellites that it needs. This works, if you can remember to do it!
The watch is chock full of useful features for data crunching runners like me to explore and experiment with. The main ones that I use, though, are the basics which are easily accessible with a little customisation of the data screens. You are able to set four data fields for each screen that you create, you are also allowed four pre-set screens.
The available fields are: Cadence, Calories, Distance (Lap), Distance, Elevation, GPS Accuracy, Grade, Heading, Heart Rate, Laps, Pace, Power, Power Zone, Speed, Sunrise, Sunset, Time, Time of Day, Total Ascent, Total Descent.
There are a myriad of sub-fields included with the above categories, but you can see the range of data that you have access to.
All these fields give you a broad range of different fields to choose from, I have set up four pre-selected screens, my main one displays: Time, Pace, Speed + Distance. I find this more than adequate for the vast majority of my workouts. Even with four different fields on my display, it’s perfectly clear and the text is easily big enough to read everything.
In the dark you can even switch a backlight on to help you see the screen although I have never needed to use this feature it’s nice to know that it is there if ever I should need it.
A number of accessories are available to use in conjunction with the watch, these include a heart rate strap and a cadence monitor. You can set up your data fields to display your heart rate throughout your workout. You can also use a cadence monitor to analyse the number of strides you take per minute, useful if you are looking to hit that ‘magical’ 180 strides-per-minute which a number of runners and professionals advocate in order to reduce the number of injuries you get or simply to improve your running performance. You can also use the cadence monitor to track how far you run indoors as your Garmin won’t be able to find a signal in order to track your movement by satellite.
Transferring Your Data
To transfer data from your Garmin to Garmin Connect where you can analyse your workouts in microscopic detail, you have a USB ANT Stick.
The USB Ant Stick means that you can transfer your data from the Garmin to your computer wirelessly. I find the connection between the USB and the Garmin to be a bit hit and miss, sometimes it takes just a couple of minutes to access your workout data, at other times it can seem like forever. Make sure that you have your Garmin switched on and your Ant Agent (the computer programme for receiving data) enabled and all should be fine. Garmin have recently introduced Garmin Express which transfers your data instead of using the Ant Agent, it seems to be quicker than the Ant Agent was but I have only used it a handful of times so will have to reserve judgement until a later time.
The Garmin Forerunner 310xt is a really good watch, it retails at £209.99 which is over £50 more than the Forerunner 210 which comes with many of the same features. I favoured the 310xt for the sheer number of different ways that you can analyse your every move, the battery life is very good as is the watch’s durability. The large display was also a big draw for me as it means that you don’t have to squint to see your data on the move. I’m also a big fan of the buttons used on the 310xt as a number of new models produced by Garmin use bezels which are notorious with people accidentally catching them when they don’t mean to. Whilst there may be newer models out there, the way the 310xt has been built as well as the vast number of options to customise the watch mean that it is a winner for me!