If you follow me on instagram you will see that after a while of debating I took the plunge and bought a garmin forerunner 235 watch. I wanted to write a review but I have patiently waited over a week to write this to ensure that I have one tested it all out and also that the honeymoon phase is over before I started. Before beginning review I just want to mention I got staff discount as I work at a running shop called Run and Become but I haven’t been paid or asked to review this product at all, it was my choice to buy this product.
Unboxing and the look of the Garmin Forerunner 235:
So I was rather excited when I bought the watch, to the point where I opened it as soon as I got in the car to drive home. The box includes the watch, a cable to connect the computer and a range of guides in a ridiculous variety of language I’m not sure what language wasn’t included! The guide is slightly useful for the basics and setting up the watch however it doesn’t includes the full manual, for that you will have to go online and download it, which is a little disappointing.
As for the look and feel, I have to say I think it is very attractive I got it in the frost blue which I think it very pretty. I do love blue so I’m slightly biased but it looks sporty but not too girly for me, it’s a perfect mix. The watch head is large at 31.1mm in diameter, which is about the same size as my wrist so I wouldn’t want it any bigger. However I do understand why it is this size, as you want to be able to read the watch easily when you are running so I would say overall it is the perfect size. It’s comfortable to wear and the strap fits well, its rubber with lots of different holes for adjustment. I have a very small wrist but the watch fits perfectly without any fuss which makes a change. The loops works well and stops the strap from flapping another problem I sometimes find when you have small wrists. The watch is lightweight and definitely not too heavy at 42g.
The watch is in colour however the brightness of the watch is a lot darker than I would have liked and I do rely on the backlight more than I would have liked. I have been pleasantly surprised by life of the battery. I haven’t really had to charge it much at all. I haven’t been using many of the smart functions and therefore the blue tooth isn’t on very often. However I don’t think you would have any issues with it even if you were doing ultra distances even if you regularly used the Bluetooth. The specification does say the battery life is 9 days, which I have to say, is pretty accurate.
What sports can the forerunner 235 track?
So the forerunner 235 isn’t just a pretty face it has a lot of features and functions to boot. It has four different sports, running, running indoor, bike outdoor, bike indoor and other. I have only used the watch for outdoor running and indoor bike. For the indoor bike it doesn’t record the distance you travel however if you paired the watch with a foot pod then it will record the distance. I used it in a spin class mainly to record my heart rate throughout the session. After the session I added in the distance that I had done and manually which worked well.
To record a standard run its pretty straight forward, all you have to do is click the running man button on the top right hand side of the watch and it will trigger the activity profile screen. Then you can select what activity you are doing so for outside its simply running. You also have the option of changing the colour of the activity profile colour if you feel the need. Once you have picked the activity it will get the GPS set up if it hasn’t already and you just have the press the running man again to start recording. It’s really fast to pick it up the GPS and I haven’t had to stand around waiting for it to connect, it often does it faster than I can get ready. I have been very impressed with how accurate it has been which is something that I found a problem with my Nike + App. I seem to have the habit of getting back home and still having around 300 meters left of my desired distance and therefore I have to do mini loops round the block to make it up. However the watch didn’t seem to mind and picked it up accurately and it didn’t affect the timing at all. Previously on the Nike + app it got confused and my time for that km was like minute off and the tracking was very odd.
The look of the watch face while you run is completely personal and up to you. Garmin has given you the power to can change the data screens that are displayed to show different fields you can have up to 4 fields on view at a time. Alternatively you can download a data screens from the Connect IQ app if they are more suitable. I have downloaded a data field its easily to do all you have to do is download it through the store and plug in or sync you watch the to app and your ready to go.
The standard data fields you can pick from include:
- Heart Rate – (average and max for the session)
- Cadence – (Stride length)
- Other – calories, laps, sunrise, sunset and time of day.
You can also set the watch up to give you alerts for the following: Heart rate, Run/Walk, Pace, Time, Distance, Calories, custom: Drink, Eat, Turn around, Go Home, or custom. Furthermore you have the standard settings such as setting up the auto lap it will alert you when you have done a set distance of your choice. There is of course an auto pause option for when or if you stop for a breather or at a traffic light ect.
Extra running features:
You can set the watch up for an interval session or you can set up your own workout on the Garmin connect website and download the session to the watch. I have tried setting up my own planned session it’s easy enough to set up unfortunately I messed up it up actually following through at the track.
However I have used the interval training session setting since and it worked very well, I was actually very impressed. The interval session was easy to set up you could do it on the watch itself and you don’t need to go onto the web or anything to plan it out. It honestly takes two minutes and then it is done. I just plugged in the rep and the recovery; you can set it either by distance or time. I found it easier to set up the set and then restart the training for the repeats. However plan the session then you can programme the recovery between the sets as well.
It was very accurate for distance; I did the session at the track so I know it was correct. Also it worked well for starting the timing and recording my recovery instantly without any fuss. This was really handy I could just focus on my recovery between intervals rather than having to start a stopwatch to time my recovery intervals. It ran smoothly throughout the session and made my session easy to do on my own as well as enabling to time the reps as well as record loads of other running stats that the watch does so well. After you have done the session you can select the history and you can look through at the times for all the reps you have done and the summary information.
The activity summary which includes:
- Heart Rate – Average + Max
- Training effect
Now for the extra interesting things, if you go into my stats you can get lots of cool information including: Recovery advisor, VO2 Max, Race Predictor, Records, User Profile as well as training effect. You can look at this on the computer on the Garmin Connect page in more detail and it will come up with lots of graphs and charts. The training effect is a number out of five, it uses your heart rate to measure how intense your workout was and how much it should improve your current fitness. You can’t access all this information while you are doing the activity itself this, is all available post activity on the watch or thorough Garmin Connect. I never found this a problem as apart from heart rate, which you can see, I really want or need to see all the information while I am on the run/session itself. However if there is something particular you can edit the data fields to include some of them.
Heart Rate Monitor:
The best element of the forerunner 235 and why I forked out for this particularly model was for the build in optical sensory monitor. I wanted the heart rate functions but I really didn’t like the idea of a heart rate strap. I didn’t think it would be very comfortable and therefore would have put me off using the watch completely. The watch seems accurate for heart rate on standard similar paced runs where there is not drastic fluctuation for your heart rate. It can be jagged and less smooth compared to watches with a heart rate strap. You can see from the graphs of my heart rate for standard runs that it is constantly adjusting the heart rate slightly. However overall I am content with its accuracy and the way it records the runs. It can take a few seconds to pick up the heart rate at the beginning of the session or if you stop and re-start but apart from that it generally nail it.
However, similar to other optical sensory I did notice in for high interval session when your intensity is changing quickly that there is a lag in the heart rate recordings. I have used the heart rate tracker for both interval sets as well as spin classes. I found my heart rate was often a lot higher after 5 seconds of recovery to just as I finished the set or part of the spin class. It does seem to start to struggle in changing intensity sessions. However as a guide I still find it very useful especially for monitoring the recovery periods to see how recovered I am for the next rep or after a break between sets.
It depends on how much you do interval or high interval session, or more accuracy you can pair the watch with a heart rate strap. Whether you deem the need for a heart rate strap depends how accurate you want the heart rate to be if you want to use it as guide but aren’t going to be too nit picky then it more than good enough.
- Heart rate
- Steps, floors climbed
So the forerunner 235 also acts as a daily tracker and similar to other smart watches out there. Due to the optical sensor it will monitor your heart rate 24/7 and you can see a constant graph of your heart rate for the last 4 hours at a time. It will also tell you your live heat rate your average, as well as the high and low rate for the last for the hours. It’s really simple to flick through all the different features it’s displayed in an attractive and clear manner.
It records the amount of steps you do in the day and how much of the goal steps you have done so far that day; it also calculates the distance you have walked as well as the amount of calories you have burnt. You can also set the watch to tell you to move so if you have been sedentary for a period of time it will vibrate and remind you, that you should get up and move around.
The sleep function has actually been more useful than I had thought. I didn’t realise how little sleep I had been getting. It records the sleep levels so how much deep or light sleep you get as well as tracks your sleep movement. I have found it interesting more than anything and gives me an idea of whether I have had enough sleep or recovery after my training session or a hard day as I should. I have concluded that I don’t and as a result I am trying to go to bed earlier than usual.
Garmin Connect is the website and app that is the hub for all the data that the watch records as well as lots more features. Honestly I have only had the watch about a week and I don’t know how many hours I have wasted playing around with all the different functions and features that you can have a play around with and set up. Here is a list of all the different things it does:
- Activity centre + Intensity Minutes
- Badges + Challenges
- Calendar + Training Plans + Workouts
- Calories In/Out + Weight
- Personal records + Reports + goals
- Connections + Groups
- Courses + Segments
- Devices + Gear
- Steps + Floors Climbed
- Heart Rate
I could honestly write another very long review and blog post just about Garmin connect in detail as there is so much that it is able to do. The most important and useful thing I have found is the calendar, training plan + planning a session and then being able to look in detail at all the information that you have gathered throughout your workouts.
The biggest issue I have with Garmin Connect is that it doesn’t make it easy for you to have your own training plan. You can set it up individually by inputting/ organising all your sessions onto the calendar. You can plan each session individually but it doesn’t give you the option to create your own training plan in one go. If you go to the training plan section of the website its only gives you the option to browse the pre-set training plans. The pre set plans can be selected by sports so for the gamin forerunner 235 it’s for running, cycling and triathlon. Then you can pick the level from 1-3 or you can pick to train by your heart rate. The options for each sport are the following
Running: 5km, 10km, half marathon, marathon, getting started, improve your fitness.
Triathlon: Sprint, Olympic
I am sure the training schedules are useful and there set using by full potential, Robby Ketnchell and triathlon performance solutions.
In my case my training is set by my coach and I would love to see in future the option to be able to upload/ sync a training plan from for example excel rather than having to manually do it all. However you could just look at the training plan and use it as a template if you liked the look.
Planning a session:
You can plan out your own session including the warm up time or distance, workout time, distance, intensity, reps or repeats as well as the warm down time or distance. Its easy to build on garmin connect and it neatly laded out and clear to follow. It even has a function to press repeat so if you are doing intervals or speed workouts you don’t have to keep plugging it all in. Once you have set it up all you have to do is plug in your watch sync and download it and its stored on the watch ready to you.
Smart phone settings + Connect IQ App + Store:
In the extras you can also sync the watch to your timetable as well as see the weather forecast. I find the weather particularly useful it will say the current, highs and low temperature, give little figure like rain and the percentage for precipitation. It will then work as a smart watch and show your notifications from applications such as text, calls as well as from apps such as instagram and twitter. You only receive the first part of the email, or text though it does include the subject line. For apps it will say X liked your photo or started following you ect. I have to say I find this annoying its not a function I really use as its not why purchased it in the first place however I can see how it might be useful. You can simply turn off the function by not connecting the watch to Bluetooth alternatively you can put on do not disturb and its no issue.
The connect app will five you snapshots and reviews of your day in general, steps, sleep, running, cycling and your weight. Its slightly different to the web and you can’t do as much editing or building of workouts on the app. However it is still more in depth that you could ever really need on your phone. It goes into lots of detail into the activity data including graphs and charts. The general snapshot of the day includes, your total steps, sleep time, active calories, activities, calories remaining and if you sync it with MyfitnessPal it will say how many calories you have consumed as well. You can also look at the leader board standings, calendar, news feed and as well as going into further detail into everything from your courses, gear, insights, connections, IQ store and more. Honestly you could spend hours just on the app with the amount of data you have access to even if it is limited compared to the web version.
A little mention about the connect IQ store, similarly to other parts its simple and laid out in an easy fashion. You can select the garmin watch you have and then it will give you categories of apps including:
- New and updated
- Popular applications
- Popular data fields
- Popular watch faces
- Popular widgets
The popular applications include maps, stopwatch, gym timers and the majority of the popular data fields are centred around heart rate zones. The watch faces have a selection of other digital and analogue faces I have downloaded Wowtch as having always worn a watch I wanted a analogue face. The widgets you can download range from weather apps, stocks, and compasses to football fixtures. You can really customise your garmin watch as much or as little as you want.
Overall thoughts on the Garmin forerunner 235:
Overall I am very pleased that I purchased the watch, I honestly don’t know how I lived without it now. It is expensive at 270 pounds however I do think you get your moneys worth, if you are a keen runner or cyclist. If you just run recreationally then maybe you don’t really need all the information that it records. You can probably use the free apps that are now widely available and be perfectly content. The Nike + app is definitely not as accurate for the timing or the distance but if your not too nit picky then it will do perfectly fine.
However if you are very interesting and passionate about your sport then it is defiantly worth the money you will get a lot of use out of it. I definitely have appreciated the information in terms of seeing the progression in my fitness as well as my technique. Personally I know I need to work on my stride pattern and fitness and the recordings for cadence are really useful. For example I know my stride generally shortens as I fatigue in track session however my forerunner 235 was able to tell me it shorten by 20 cm by the end of the session!! This is really useful for me. Also running my heart rate has made sure that my easy recovery runs are actually easy runs and that I don’t push it too much. Furthermore it has made doing interval sessions on my own very easy and no hassle at all. I have been able to record the times for each reps effortlessly without having to write down the time form a stopwatch or remember them till I can write them down. It also will start the recovery timer straight away without you having to stop write down the time then start the recovery then stop and reset to then start recording the first time again. I would thoroughly recommend it to anyone that is on the line about whether it is worth forking out for a GPS smart watch or sticking to the free apps.
Physical & Performance
|Physical dimensions||45 mm x 45 mm x 11.7 mm|
|Display size, WxH||1.23″ (31.1 mm) diameter|
|Display resolution, WxH||215 x 180 pixels|
|Battery life||Up to 9 days in watch mode; up to 11 hours in GPS mode with HRM|
|Water rating||5 ATM|
|Smart notifications (displays email, text and other alerts when paired with your compatible phone)|
|Find my phone|
|Watch functions||Includes date and alarm|
|Maps & Memory|
|History||200 hours of activity data|
|V02 max estimate|
|Accelerometer (calculates distance for indoor workouts, without a foot pod)|
|Bike speed/cadence sensor||Yes (optional)|
|Heart rate monitor||Yes (wrist-based)|
|Foot pod||Yes (optional)|
|Auto Pause® (pauses and resumes timer based on speed)|
|Auto Lap® (automatically starts a new lap)|
|Auto Scroll (cycles through data pages during workout)|
|Advanced workouts (create custom, goal-oriented workouts)|
|Pace alert (triggers alarm if you vary from preset pace)|
|Time/distance alert (triggers alarm when you reach goal)|
|Interval training (set up exercise and rest intervals)|
|Heart rate-based calorie computation|
|Calculates calories burned|
|Training Effect (measures impact of an activity on your aerobic fitness)|
|Activity Tracking Features|
|Auto goal (learns your activity level and assigns a daily step goal)|
|Move bar (displays on device after a period of inactivity; walk for a couple of minutes to reset it)|
|Sleep monitoring (monitors total sleep and periods of movement or restful sleep)|
|Garmin Connect™ compatible (online community where you analyze, categorize and share data)|
|Automatic sync (automatically transfers data to your computer)|
|Additional|| Wrist-based heart rate: yes
Activity tracking: yes