GPS Watch or Phone?

A discussion on our running club Facebook page, and the coincidental timing of getting ready to run today and discovering that my Garmin 405CX watch battery had completely died, has led me to write this post. Before Christmas I had been thinking about this too to some extent – at least to the point that I had put a running phone armband on my list of ideas for Christmas presents.

So, today I had a perfect reason to use the armband I received for Christmas.

I have run with my phone before, but it was mainly restricted to very long runs, or runs away from home (one particular time I recall particularly when I got to my destination and realized that I had left my watch at home), but only used it to record my run a couple of times when I had forgotten my watch after driving somewhere to run. On those occasions I had the phone stashed in a Spibelt.

When you use a phone you have to use an app. I used to use MapMyRun (and still do sometimes), but I make more use of Strava now. On the previous runs where I used a phone I had used the MapMyRun app, which called out times at every mile (there was probably a setting to turn it off, but I never bothered to look – either way, I like knowing how far I have been most of the time). Today I decided to use the Strava app, and I was expecting it to do the same, but it didn’t (again, maybe there’s a setting?).

I was happy with an easy run today, so it didn’t matter too much. I had an idea of what distance I wanted to do, but was also aware that I hadn’t been well over the weekend. I actually ended up with 12.5 miles despite thinking I had done about 10.

Do I prefer wearing a GPS watch, or using a phone?

On using a phone…


  • No need for a separate device
  • It can be good to have a phone available (although I’ve never needed one on any run – actually, that’s not entirely true now that I think about it, there was a time when I got a little lost in some woods in Michigan and I used Google Maps to point me back in the direction I wanted to go, but at least the Garmin Fenix 3 will be able to help with that situation)
  • No need to upload data anywhere – it happens directly from the app
  • I was a bit worried about battery, but on a 1 hour 40 minute run it only used about 10% of my battery (Samsung Galaxy S5)


  • It’s bulky
  • Where/how to carry it can be a problem – the armband felt heavy on my arm, particularly over distance; perhaps that’s not such a bad thing as it was on my weaker left arm and maybe it can strengthen that muscle while I run
  • Visibility – I had no idea how far or fast I was going (again, sometimes it may not be a bad thing, but after being sick over the weekend, if I had realized how fast I was going I probably would have slowed down – I really felt it in the last mile)
  • Accessibility – I had no way to easily pause the workout
  • I recall one time when I carried my phone on a very cold day (single digit wind chill), the phone (I had an iPhone at the time) crashed during my run (my GPS watch was fine), so reliability could be an issue
  • Not waterproof – it was unexpectedly cloudy today, and there were a few flakes of snow at a couple of times, so it wasn’t much of a worry, but you would have to put it in a ziploc bag or something if it were raining (which is actually what I have done before when using it in a Spibelt or in the back pocket of a cycling jersey)
  • Limited functions – in particular when compared to something like the Garmin Fenix 3 (which REI have said they expect to get to me around February 3) – I’m interested in the things that will give me access to such as heart rate, VO2 max, cadence, etc. I’m not sure what part they will play in my training yet, perhaps they will just provide an interesting perspective on why some days runs are harder than others, but I am interested. If you can do without them, then this really wouldn’t factor into the decision
  • The idea of still being “connected” – I like running without a phone. It’s one of the few times I’m not near an internet connection, and there’s just some sense of calm and positive feeling about that

I think my list gives a pretty good idea which side of the argument I am on. Which side are you on?

This is the Strava recording of my run.

Garmin Fenix 3 – very tempting

I’ve had my Garmin Forerunner 405CX for about 3 years now and it’s still going strong. It’s a decent enough tool for recording and uploading my miles, but when Garmin introduced the Forerunner 620, I was almost tempted to buy it (but I couldn’t justify the cost). Now Garmin has announced the Fenix 3 which is a seriously tempting watch.

Garmin Fenix 3

My interest in this watch is also a product of my recent thoughts on tracking more about my running than just the miles. I never bothered to put on my heart rate monitor for a run, but had thought about doing so. I’m not sure how I would incorporate it with my training, but having the information available to look back on might show some interesting results. This is the first time I’ve looked at detailed specifications of a running watch in a while, so learning about the HRM-RUN monitor and what it can do was a bit of an eye-opener. All this information I’d been interested in such as tracking my cadence (several times last year I was counting during parts of my run, but I was always suspicious that the act of counting actually changed how I was running – just because I was so focused on it). From the Garmin Fenix 3 page – runner section: “When used with the HRM-Run monitor¹, the fēnix 3 can give you feedback on your running form by showing your cadence, ground contact time, and vertical oscillation. It even gives you fitness metrics like VO2 max and recovery timer when used with either a standard Garmin heart rate monitor or the HRM-Run monitor.”

Add to all of that the fact that this watch just looks good (I started wearing a watch again about a year ago and have a few that I wear on a regular basis), and it’s a smart watch (although I’ve not really been interested in having one, so that wouldn’t be relevant to my own decision).

As I was a cyclist before I was a runner, I also have a Garmin Edge 705 cycle GPS computer. It seems like this watch would be more than capable of matching what that does for me while out cycling.

So, I think I may have a Garmin 405CX and a Garmin Edge 705 up for sale soon… If I do get it, I’ll be sure to post a review. Reports are suggesting that the release could be as early as February; REI has it listed, and their pre-order information suggests pre-orders ship within 30 days.

UPDATE: I did order, and got it on February 12th – my initial review can be found by clicking here.

Finding time to run

Over the last few months I’ve made many excuses for not running more often, but I am getting back on track, sort of.

My aim for the new year is to run more miles (more than 2014 at least). Even though I haven’t been at work since before Christmas, it’s been harder than I expected to get out running. Now that’s partly due to the many festivities, but it’s also because the kids are not at school.

Yesterday and today, I found ways around taking care of the kids and running at the same time. Yesterday I put on my cross country running shoes – Inov-8 BareGrip 200 (I really have to write a review of these shoes – I bought them on a recommendation of a friend who had one of the other versions that it not zero drop to get ready for a cross country race that I had tried to avoid – turns out with the right shoes, cross country may not be that bad after all), and took the kids (plus an extra one – one of my kids friends) and headed to the local park with a selection of balls and frisbees. I set them up in the field and ran loops around where they were playing (which included a hill so that must count as a hill work out), pausing briefly each time round to kick a ball, or chase them. I managed 6 loops (3 in each direction) before one of the kids ignored my instructions (closely followed by a second kid) and strayed into a really boggy section of the field and tried to jump over the water. As it was only a little above freezing and it soaked through their shoes and socks, that was pretty much game over.


Today, not wanting to miss a run because I know I won’t be running tomorrow, I got the kids on their bikes (just my two this time), and headed to the local track. This location would allow them to ride their bikes, play on the playground, or just run around while I worked out.

It worked perfectly, and I managed 5 x 800m repeats while they played happily (only bothering me occasionally for a snack or to find out when I would come and play with them).