I’ve run 50+ races (including two Boston Marathons) with a running watch. Today I’m sharing my Garmin Forerunner 235 review, what key features I use, and why I haven’t splurged for a newer model with more bells and whistles.
Whenever I post a photo of my running watch on Instagram, I inevitably get asked by other runners what watch I use and if I like it. The short answer is, I have the Garmin Forerunner 235 and yes, I LOVE it. But I often get asked what’s the best running watch so I’ll talk you through why I love Garmin. If you’re unsure if a running watch is even the right thing for you, be sure to read this post with Pros & Cons of running with a GPS watch!
I’ve worn a Garmin running watch for the past 12 years and I’ve LOVED every one I’ve own. Since I’ve never worn another running watch or activity tracker brand (e.g. FitBit, Polar, Apple Watch, etc), I can’t compare mine to another. But, considering I’ve never ventured from the Garmin brand, that says something. Coros and Suutno are other running watch brands that I see running friends wearing and loving lately!
Here are the main reasons I think it’s a must-have for running once you start to set some goals with your training!
These features are must-have for my running, especially when I’m training for a race and logging workouts where I need to hit a specific pace or specific interval distances. I change the view depending on the type of workout I’m doing so sometimes my overall pace is up, other times its my current lap pace. If you aren’t used to tracking runs, it’ll make you feel really official.
The Forerunner 235 uses GPS and Glonass satellites to find your location, no matter where you are. And it’s also able to track your runs on a treadmill or indoor track with it’s built in accelerometer.
I like that I can reference my past runs, graphs, maps, and charts that are easy-to-understand later on the online Garmin Connect network. This is also wear you can join running challenges or weekly step goals where you can compete with friends or family members with the LiveTrack feature. However, I prefer Strava for this, which you’ll read more about below.
So yesterday, for example, my workout was 600-400-300-200-100 meter repeats with 100-200m recovery between each. I programmed that into my watch and it beeped when I needed to start the next interval or recover. It also has a text on the screen telling me what distance and pace I need to run. I can also add custom notes to display.
This feature is super handy so I don’t have to constantly look at my watch to see if my repeat is done yet or hit the lap button after each repeat. You can download training plans and advanced workouts to your watch from Garmin Connect.
You can also download watch faces, data fields, widgets, and apps through the connect iq store. The other thing I love is that you’re able to get the weather forecasts on your watch as well using the app’s wireless connectivity links. I think that’s super nice for running alone.
I used this feature a LOT with marathon training when I had specific pace ranges I need to stay within for longer periods of time!
Strava lets me track all my miles, splits, see how I’m doing on a specific route vs. previous runs and more. I’m a data JUNKIE so I can’t live without Strava but that’s another post for another day! (You could view all of this in the Garmin connect app too, but I much prefer Strava. Plus, I love seeing my friends’ runs!)
The activity tracking features that I’m able to get with my Garmin and smartphone together, are super helpful.
I have a bad habit of barely moving after I get my run in for the day. It vibrates when I should get up and take a little walk break.
I didn’t think I would like this, since I was worried it would cause me to look at my phone more often (and I’m trying to break that habit!). But, it actually keeps me off my phone more since I don’t have to pick up my phone to see what the latest buzz is. I can just glance at my watch and decide if I need to grab my phone or not. (Usually not!)
The smart notifications are similar to an Apple Watch, but without the ability to reply back via my watch (which again, keeps me off my phone).
You know how some batteries seem to wear out over time? (Cough, iPhone) This hasn’t happened with my Garmin to any noticeable degree. I’ve had it for 3 years and use it almost daily, and I can go days without charging it. I typically plug it in every night before bed but if I forget for a night or two, it still has enough battery life. I’ve heard this about other Garmin devices too.
And as you likely guessed, Garmin is compatible with ios devices and Androids.
Garmin DOES have some new watches that can hold your playlist from Spotify and allow you to answer calls or text messages mid-run. While it would be nice to leave my phone at home and still be able to listen to music, it hasn’t been enough of a pain to me to upgrade. Yet. And like I mentioned, I’m trying to stay OFF my phone.
Plus, those versions cost a lot more. If I were going to upgrade, I’d probably go for the Forerunner 645 Music model.
There is an option with the wrist based elevate heart rate monitor and one without. You save a little money by going without a heart rate monitor but I think knowing your heart rate zone is an important aspect of your training to pay attention to. So, just get the one with the heart rate monitor. This will tell you your heart rate zone and beats per minute in real time. The Foreunner 225 was the first Garmin to have a heart rate monitor. It uses and you can still find it at Amazon. Garmin also makes chest strap optical heart rate sensors, but those are annoying in my opinion.
These optical sensors use lights that measure small changes in blood volume just below the outermost of the three layers that make up the skin as blood flows through the wrist area, (source). Pretty cool!
Yes. I mean, I personally take it off before I shower, but I’ve run with that watch in torrential downpours (um, like that 2018 Boston Marathon!). It’ll be fine in the shower if you want to keep it on though. It’s waterproof – you could swim and snorkle with it (but not scuba dive since it doesn’t have that water testing/rating level).
I just wipe it with a damp cloth. To be honest, I don’t really feel the need to clean it that often, but I wipe the screen and the band down a few times a month.
I’ve personally only used Garmin Forerunners – I’ve had four different models. They never die so I’ve only replaced them when I lost one or got a newer version as a gift. With that in mind, I can’t personally speak to other brands, but I’ve heard really good things about Suunto and Coros if I was going to branch out!
The Forerunner 235 does have a cycling profile as well, but make sure to grab the cadence sensor as well (sold separately) if you use this feature.
I often get asked if a Garmin is better than an Apple Watch. I don’t have an Apple watch to compare but lots of my running friends use Apple watches and it works just fine. They also sync to Strava but I have heard multiple people say that the data that loads to Strava is a bit different from the data that my Garmin loads. (I think it’s that the Garmin doesn’t incorporate walk breaks into average pace or distance but the Apple Watch does.) If you’re doing just regular, easy paced running, I think the Apple Watch is perfectly fine. But, if you start to train for a race where you are doing very specific intervals or specific pace changes, I think you’d want a Garmin in order to program your workouts into your watch and be prompted throughout your workout. I also like that with Apple watches, you have your music with you. Newer Garmins offer that, but minne doesn’t.
Bottom line: I’d buy it again
For the price point (under $250 and no on sale most places, $159 on Amazon), it does everything I need (and more). Yes, there are probably cheaper watches that do the same thing, but I like Garmins. They last forever, they’re easy to troubleshoot and I find them super easy to use. You can buy it from Amazon here or from Walmart here.
Join my running course here! The course will go into a LOT more detail on topics like fueling, recovery, motivation, injuries and more!
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