‘Forerunner’ - noun - ‘One that precedes, as in time; a predecessor’.

Garmin introduces their new mentor, the Forerunner 235, the watch for runners that is constantly listening to your body and second guessing the next move. True to its name this watch can even predict your next race time. The Forerunner 235 is designed with a purpose, to bring out the best runner in you.

Unboxing and Appearance

In the box comes your device, quick start manual and USB charger. This is my first Garmin wearable, so I leapt straight into the quickstart guide, which is simple whilst still giving you enough information to get the ‘jist’ of the watch. In hindsight, the quickstart guide is incredibly humble to the multitude of features within the watches fully loaded capabilities, but it does what it says on the tin.

Garmin Forerunner 235

The watch itself looks more mainstream than most fitness watches though its plastic strap is a bit of a giveaway. The digital watch face is large and clear measuring 4 cm, with plenty of room for lots of readings to be detailed on the main watch face. The watches five buttons are streamlined to the watch face but easy to select when needed. Despite its large size the watch weighs in at just 42g, making it one of Garmin’s lightest watches yet. The watch strap features multiple holes to provide a close fit and despite its large screen, the watch sits comfortably on my small wrist, without looking as ‘bulky’ as some of its competitors.

Garmin Forerunnner 235

The USB charger features a small bulldog clip, which attaches to the side of the watch face, particularly useful to ensure the watch and charger remain attached even if they get knocked during charging.

Heart Rate Training

Before we explore any of the other functions, let us first give the watch a chance to show  what it claims it’s best at, being your training partner. Starting a training session is easy, you simply select the run button, and can then opt for run, run indoors, bike or other. The watch finds your heart rate almost immediately, which I was very pleasantly surprised by. It was the same with the GPS, in fact, I found that 9/10 times my watch had already vibrated an alert to tell me GPS was ready before I headed outside. Once in training, there were 5 data fields to scroll through, the main being your heart rate screen, which colour codes your reading to your level of intensity. Your heart rate is presented clearly throughout your workout and I found it to be (for the most part) very effective when worn above the wrist bone. Scroll through for distance, time, pace, heart rate zone and lap readings. These are the automatic fields which the watch sets users up with, however as with almost every feature of this watch, these are customisable so the user can view other data such as cadence or temperature. It’s worth experimenting with the features until you find the ones best suited to your training style, with so many there’s bound to be some you find useful.  For further testing of the heart rates accuracy against strap-based readings read our other review. 

Recovery Time

Once your workout's complete the watch works it’s magic to estimate the amount of recovery time needed for your body to recuperate from the activity. This is a really useful tool for anyone developing their training routine or even to test the effectiveness of their current habits. By knowing what recovery is required the user can manage their workload accordingly and plan the intensity of their next session to achieve the most benefits from their performance.

Advanced Training

The Forerunners training features run so far beyond basic heart rate recording, they lap it.

From the watch itself, users can opt for training intervals or finish time. Training interval workouts are based on distance or time. Wearer’s can then set their work to rest intervals and for how many repetitions or with an open-ending. This feature is great as it eliminates the need for using a separate app to count your intervals as well as preventing any human error or even dare I say it, cheating.

The other feature which can be utilised straight from the watch is 'finish time'. After you’ve tracked a few runs with the watch and you’ve got to know each other a little, I’m talking, at least, third date, the Forerunner will be able to predict your race times for different distances including 5 and 10k. It can also predict your VO2 max for both running and cycling, which can help make sure your fitness levels are improving.

By connecting with Garmin Connect, advanced users can enter a training programme into their workout calendar or even download and follow workouts from the Garmin Connect IQ (which has plenty of choices) via the ‘my workouts’ key on the watch itself.

Garmin Connect and Garmin Connect IQ

The Garmin Connect app is simple and easy to use, its dazzling dashboard greets you with your days ‘snapshots’, which allow users to scroll through their days overview quickly and efficiently, whilst they can also select for further analysis into each snapshot from workout data to calories consumed. As well as your watch and app feedback, Garmin users can also view even more stats on their training via Garmin connect.

Garmin Connect Screen

When exploring the many features of the website, you'll notice your options mimic those in the app, but just with more detail, more widgets and more things to customise. The Connect IQ is one of those pages you think you’ll just have a quick look at and could end up losing yourself for hours on end.

Garmin Connect Screen

24/7 Activity Tracking: The Watch Ready To Mend Your Mistakes

The Garmin is listening to your body all the time, constantly collecting data on your day’s performance including steps, calories, activities and food consumption (when entered or synced with Myfitnesspal).

In fact, the watch even responds well to human error. Let me paint the scene, I decided to take the watch through a spin class, as we start the warmup, I think I’ve pushed start on the watch. I watch my heart rate jump up to 130-140 BPM during the warm up and then the work begins, by track two I glance down to see my heart rate way up in the anaerobic threshold at 180 BPM. As the workout continues I can see my heart rate is high each time I glance down so by the time we reached the cool down track I couldn’t wait to see what feedback the watch would give me.  This was the moment it then dawned on me, I’d pressed the heart rate button once and not twice. All that beautiful data at my anaerobic threshold lost, and let me tell you that’s no easy zone to be working at for 45 minutes! You can imagine my frustration, but, all's not lost, the Forerunner is prepared once again. Although I committed quite possibly the biggest (and clumsiest) sin of all heart rate monitoring, the watch still logged my heart rate throughout the session. Whilst due to my rather frustrating human error my daily snapshot won’t feature cycling as a separate activity, the 235 features a four-hour heart rate snapshot on the watch face itself and a daily view of your heart rate on Connect IQ, so no workout is ever untraceable.

All day heart rate tracking

As you can see, all was not lost! What's more, the watch also calculates your days ‘active calories’ which can give a good indication of how many calories you spent working out, even if you do fail to press go. Never again.

Move Alerts

The average adult in the UK spends 7-10 hours of their day seated and research has shown it can lead us to an early grave, with official guidelines concluding it's crucial to supplement long durations of sitting with a short burst of activity. See the full statistics here: http://www.sundried.com/blogs/training/75576453-workout-at-work-top-exercises-at-your-desk-to-prevent-health-issues. Garmin’s move alerts prompt you with a gentle vibration after long periods of inactivity to get up and get moving. A red bar appears and you must move until the bar disappears, a simple concept that could improve your lifespan. I certainly found the vibrations useful as it’s easy to get engrossed in work and forget to add these bursts of short activity, which ultimately improve your wellbeing.

Sleep Monitoring

During the initial profiling of the Garmin your regular sleeping patterns are entered and from then on the watch is able to monitor your sleep and also stop move notifications continuing whilst you’re not awake. The watch automatically detects between light and deep sleep, as well as the total amount of time spent asleep. This is a great feature to help monitor and perhaps improve performance, with sleep being vital to aid mental and physical fatigue and recovery.

Sleep Tracking with the Forerunner 235

More Features

This watch has so many features, even the features have features. From customisable stride length to watch faces and downloadable widgets.

Garmin Watch Faces and Widgets

Lose your phone? Not to worry your Forerunner will find it for you. Want to go for a run before the next downpour? Check the Forerunners hourly weather updates for your location.

Smart notifications allow the wearer to scroll through emails, texts, WhatsApp messages and even answer or reject phone calls via the watch itself. The extra features of the watch I’ve explored in this review are just a snapshot of what this watch is capable of, the watch is equipped with so much data it is sure to suit any training personality.

Overall verdict

If you’ve got the time to master its vast array of data, this watch is almost faultless, providing precise heart rate and so much more. Whilst it is towards the higher price margin for fitness watches retailing at £269.99 on Garmin's website, with this device you get what you pay for. The Forerunner has the quantity of accurate data and the quality of Garmin, global leaders in their field.

Garmin Forerunner 235: The watch with enough features to write your next thesis...if only it had been around whilst I was at University.