Garmin FR60 initial impressions

You want to monitor heart rate and pace, but can not afford (or do not want) a GPS enabled watch. The Garmin FR60 HRM and foot pod bundle is the answer.

Let’s face it, I know where I am running so do not need a GPS, but it is much more difficult to calculate distance and pace on the fly, so in my opinion, the FR60 bundle is ideal. I picked up my Garmin FR60 bundle from InTraining yesterday and went for my first run this morning. These are my initial impressions.

The FR60 was easy to set up from the quick start manual. But if you want to explore some of the more advanced settings, you will need to view the full owner’s manual online, or be a techno geek willing to explore the settings to see what they do.

I originally thought that foot pods were like pedometers – you measure your stride length, it works out the number of steps you have taken and multiplies it by your stride length to produce a wild guesstimate of distance travelled. How wrong could I be.

Foot pods contain accelerometers that measure the motion of your foot, and from that do a series of complicated calculations to work out distance (kilometres or miles)  travelled in real time. They can adjust to changes in cadence and pace on the fly. Very smart.

Straight out of the box on my initial (slow) run I achieved 96.8% accuracy over the first 2.5 kilometres as measured against and my car odometer. According to Garmin, uncalibrated the foot pod should be 95% accurate, but if I calibrate it – which I probably won’t bother to do – I should get within 98% accuracy.

Interestingly, when I ran backwards (I had to try!), the foot pod continued to calculate my speed regardless of the direction I was facing – much as a GPS watch would. Smart stuff.

The FR60 foot pod is small by comparison with Suunto and Polar foot pods, but slightly bigger than the Nike Sportsband pod. The FR60 foot pod weighs 10 grams and was not noticeable when clipped to my shoe laces. In fact, while I could detect a slight bulge on the top of my shoe when I really concentrated on it, the reality was that the heart rate monitor and watch were more intrusive – and how long have people been wearing watches for!?!

I also like the Garmin watch form factor. There are men’s and ladies’ styles in two different colours and they look like a normal sports digital watch. Just make sure you pick up the right one – the men’s and ladies’ boxes are almost identical and I originally walked out of the shop with the ladies version!

I know that if I can go easy at the beginning of a race, I can pick up the pace in the second half and run a negative split and a good time. But it is all too easy to get caught up in the race start enthusiasm and blow up by the second half; alternatively, it is easy to run too slow at the beginning and leave too much in the tank. I am sure the FR60 will help me keep the ideal pace.

I love being able to see in real time my heart rate and pace. I can see whether I am running too fast or too slow, and even run against a virtual partner. (I wish I could slip stream behind them as well, but that is expecting a bit too much!) The watch can keep me at the right pace for both my training and race efforts.

After setting up and syncing the watch with my computer, all I need do is bring the watch within range and my latest training runs are automatically uploaded to Garmin Connect where I can keep track of my running progress. It is a shame though that the web site has gaping holes where the map data would be for the Garmin GPS enabled products.

Having all this techno wizardry at my disposal, I just had to try for a PB resting heart rate. When I woke up this morning I put on the heart rate monitor. After dozing back off to sleep I managed a PB of 45 beats per minute – not too bad for an overweight, middle-age guy, but not as good as my high school days of around 35 bpm.

At $299, the Garmin FR60 bundle is about the price of a top shelf pair of running shoes, but it should last a lot longer and, in my opinion, is money well spent.

One thought on “Garmin FR60 initial impressions

  1. runpetra

    Nice post on the FR60. I got mine a while ago, and it worked better for me with a manual calibration I did on a known distance. I set a calibration factor of 110% based on my pace, since I’ve been running for a while I know when I run, for example, at a 5:00min/km, I noticed that the pace marked on the watch was very slow compared to the speed I was running. Did this happened to you or the pace of the watch was also accurate?

    Thank you and best wishes!


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