• Garmin Forerunner 735XT Triathlon Watch Review

    Garmin Forerunner 735XT Triathlon Watch Review

    The Garmin Forerunner 735XT delivers everything you could want from a triathlon watch and more. It is designed for elite athletes and people who are serious about their training progress, but it is suitable for the more casual exerciser too. It provides wrist-based heart rate monitoring, all-day activity tracking, and will take you from one sport to another with just the touch of a button.

    Advanced Features

    The 735XT is more than just a running watch. It records your stride length, time balance, and more while running (although many of the running metrics features are only available when the watch is paired with a chest-based heart rate monitor), and will calculate your VO2 Max and predict race times based on your training history. It also offers lactate threshold estimates but, again, you will need an additional chest-based heart rate monitor for this which is not included in your £399 purchase of the watch.

    Technology

    The Forerunner 735XT is smart and will connect to your phone seamlessly through Bluetooth to provide notifications from your phone, automatic uploads to Garmin’s online community, and live tracking of your training. Syncing the watch with your phone is very easy and has worked every time without any issues for me. The GPS signal is very strong and the watch links up very quickly so that you can get on with your sport without having to wait around for your watch to be ready. 

    Garmin Forerunner 735XT Triathlon Watch Product Review Activity Tracker

    As a multisport watch, the 735XT is not as advanced as some of its siblings like the 935, but it still provides excellent support. It has a triathlon function so that you can time your transitions and switch between sports with just one press of a button. This feature also translates to duathlons and brick workouts for your training. If you only run, then this watch is perhaps too unnecessarily advanced for you, and you'd be better suited to a Forerunner 235.

    Practicality

    The all-day activity tracking is a fantastic bonus feature on this advanced watch. The wrist-based heart rate monitor works all day while you’re wearing it and will provide you with a resting heart rate, recovery heart rate, and a graph of activity over the last 4 hours. This is really useful for heart-rate zone training, especially as the stats provided after your workout will tell you how long you were in each heart rate zone while you were active. The watch also provides you with an estimated VO2 max which is great for serious athletes. Part of the all-day activity tracking also includes step count which can be a great incentive to move more, especially on rest days. The watch also syncs with apps like MyFitnessPal so that your daily calorie burn is automatically taken into account when you track your food for the day.

    Garmin Forerunner 735XT Triathlon Watch Product Review

    A Closer Look

    The watch itself is light at 41g and the watch face is not as big as some of the other Garmin watches like the 235 or 935, so it is better suited for all-day wear. It has a rubberised strap for comfort, although once you're super sweaty after a tough workout, you don’t really want to keep it on as it gets a bit uncomfortable. The various displays are user-friendly and although the watch has a lot of features, they’re easy to find so you don’t feel like you're missing out on useful training information.

    The battery life of this watch could be better, especially as it’s designed to be used for triathlons; I wonder whether it could last a full-length Ironman event.

    Verdict

    On the whole, I am so impressed by this watch. Garmin has found the perfect balance between the casual running watch and the advanced athlete's companion. It gives more than its cheaper counterpart the 235 and is more user-friendly than the more advanced 935. It is perfect for serious triathletes but can also comfortably be used by people who may just be getting into the sport or who just like to swim, bike, and run. It has the option of more advanced training stats if you really want to go into them while keeping the useful everyday information at the ready. 

    Comfort: 9

    Durability: 10

    Battery Life: 6

    Technical Information: 9

    Value for money: 10

    Overall Score: 44/50

    Posted by Alexandra Parren
  • Wahoo Tickr X Review

    Wahoo Tickr X Review

    Take almost any workout and any metric and this heart rate strap will find it. Wahoo!

    As a Personal trainer with a good few years of training under my belt, it’s safe to say I’ve used many a heart rate monitor, from chest straps to arm bands, wrist watches to pulse checks via your finger and your mobile phone. I’ve tried the lot.

    This is the best heart rate monitor, I have ever used.

    Is it perfect?

    Let me tell you, it comes pretty darn close.

    Wahoo Tickr X Features

    At a glance the Wahoo Tickr X features:

    Bluetooth Heart Rate Monitor

    Dual band Technology - Thanks to its Bluetooth hrm, the heart rate strap can signal to two devices at once, ie. your watch and your mobile phone.

    Heart Rate Monitor App

    Real time heart rate and calorie tracking - I prop my phone up and have the Wahoo app on display throughout my training, where you can clearly see all your top metrics including speed, calories and heart beat meter. Plus, an added bonus for fellow four eyes...it’s clear enough that you can see your scores whilst training without glasses!

    Device Free Heart Rate Tracking

    Internal Memory - As soon as you snap the strap to the monitor and it finds a heart rate, the tracker will start recording, meaning you can leave you phone at home, head out for a run and then download your data to your phone later.

    Heart Rate Strap with Running Analytics

    This is so unique for a heart rate strap, usually you would need a foot pod but this strap does it all. Monitor your cadence, smoothness, left-right, up-down, forward-backward, ground contact and oscillation, along with classic speed, distance and pace.

    Cycling Data 

    Indoor cycling Wahoo cadence - With separate workout screens for indoor cycle and even spinning; RPM, speed and heart rate on one screen.

    Third Party App Compatibility

    Wahoo itself has multiple fitness apps (more details later) plus the strap is compatible with all the main fitness apps, from Strava to MyFitnessPal.

    Visible Heart Rate Connection and Alerts

    The moment you strap the Tickr X strap together, it flashes to show it has made a heart rate connection. The computer can then be set to alert you with small vibrations for milestones such as distance traveled or laps completed. The main computer can also be used as a remote to control your other devices with its tap feature, allowing you to skip tracks or other features such as begin a lap or pause a workout (the action this command creates is set up in the app and can be different for each workout setting). Alerts play via headphones or speaker as you hit milestones and will tell you your average heart rate, pace and distance.

    Heart Rate Tracking in Treadmill Mode

    The Wahoo Tickr heart rate monitor has a designated workout setting for training indoors on the treadmill - so your hard work still counts. You can track your speed and distance just as accurately as if you were outdoors.

    Running Smoothness

    This heart rate monitor takes in far more than just your heartbeat, using a combined measure of body motion and impact shock in 3 directions.

    GPS

    Take the heart rate monitor out for a run or ride and review your route on the app with GPS for precise location and distance feedback.

    Wahoo Tickr Heartrate Strap

    Wahoo Tickr X Setup

    Setting up the device is simple either partner the strap with your regular fitness watch for heart rate readings direct to your watch or for the full user experience download the Wahoo Fitness App. The Tickr X is also compatible with Wahoo apps Runfit and 7 minute workout, but the Fitness app is the Wahoo hub. Here after entering details such as age, weight and height your user is set up and you’re ready to go.

    Selecting and creating a workout

    Once you’re ready to go the Wahoo Fitness app already has pre-programmed workout modes:

    • Running
    • Treadmill
    • Cycling
    • Indoor Bike
    • Spin Class
    • Gym

    You can then add your own workouts - for example, I’ve added Metafit and Workout DVD.

    Starting a Workout with The Tickr X Heart Rate Strap

    Once you’re ready to start a workout with the accompanying app, you simply strap together the monitor across your chest and press go, a woman with a bizarre accent - let's call her Miss Wahoo, will count you in 3,2,1 (always embarrassing when you’re at the gym and this comes out on speaker making it look like you count yourself in) and then you’re away.

    Whilst training with the app you can scroll through numerous pages of statistics, I like to have the heart rate screen up throughout training (if I’m not running) to ensure I stay in the right zones throughout my workout. You can’t lie to your heart rate. You can also scroll through the app to skip through music, meaning you don't have to multitask through multiple apps. Simple.

    Heart Rate Monitoring during Running

    9 times out of 10, this heart rate strap was spot on, however setting up the strap correctly is essential. I’ve had two blips with the watch thus far: 1) Taking too deep a breath and pinging the strap off (which I clearly hadn’t fitted correctly anyway) and then flashing half the local neighbourhood mid run as I tried to lift my top up to do it back up - not wanting to miss tracking any valuable data of course! 2) Leaving the tap setting as skip track, meaning when I’m running and there’s a bit of bounce with the old bust, I’m skipping tracks every other footstep and my playlist sounds more like a stuck old record than my motivational playlist that gets me bouncing off the walls.

    When the watch does work, it’s great, super effective and every mile or kilometre depending on your preference your overall time, pace and average heart rate are stated by Miss Wahoo, like your very own robotic PT. This is really useful as it means when running with a phone, you don’t need to keep unlocking the device to view your stats, just wait for Miss Wahoo to keep you updated.

    Wahoo Tickr X Heart Rate

    Stand Alone Heart Rate Monitoring

    Forgot your phone? Hate running with a device? No problem. This monitor works all by itself. Once the heart rate strap is clipped together, flashing lights signal it is recording and that’s all you need to do. When your workout is finished you can unclip the device and download the workout to the app the next time you have your phone and heart rate monitor strap together to view detailed feedback.

    Wahoo Tickr X Heart Rate Accuracy

    I’ve now worn this strap for multiple types of workout, from HIIT to kettlebells, battle ropes to running, spinning to boxing. Throughout all these workouts the strap has kept up well 95% of the time. When compared with the Mio Fuse, the heart rate picks up and drops far more in line with real-time, allowing more accurate data. It is also paired with my Wahoo Balance scales meaning that I can get the most precise data feedback, as my profile updates every time I weigh myself. The only difficulties I have with this strap and in fact, all heart rate straps, is when it comes to chest exercises, as the strap often inevitably loses connectivity, this is the nature of where you wear the device, so I don’t feel it’s a deal breaker.

    Wahoo Heart Rate App

    Wahoo Tickr X Speed

    The Wahoo X also has the ability to monitor your speed during indoor workouts such as spin, indoor cycle and on a treadmill. Whilst during spin, I found the strap and bike corresponded exactly on my speed, the treadmill would often think I wasn’t even moving - even i’m not that slow! It was an odd anomaly for the heart rate monitor, as with all other speed monitoring and outdoor running, it has been spot on.

    Additional Wahoo Tickr X Features:

    Double Tap Feature

    The double tap feature allows you to control multiple aspects of your workout, from starting a new lap, to adding a bolt into your workout, or my personal favourite - skipping a track. A simple double tap to the chest and the strap skips you to the next track on your playlist, meaning you can have all your best tunes, without having to stop training to skip through them.

    Resting Heart Rate

    For those who want the most accurate readings, the watch can do a test on your resting heart rate. From this it can then deliver your specific workout intensity targets for each heart rate zone - rather than using your age as a guideline. I found this feature useful - although the app does not explain that the best time of day to do this is when you wake up - prior to any caffeine, so you get the most fair and accurate reading.

    Wahoo Running Smoothness

    The Wahoo running smoothness feature is a revolution in heart rate straps, as normally you would need to wear a foot pod or additional device to monitor stride and technique. After a running session the smoothness graph details your minimum, maximum and average smoothness, your left-right, right-left and up-down smoothness, ground contact and oscillation. This wide array of feedback is great for those training towards running goals such as a marathon or even triathlon and ironman. Whilst this detail and level of feedback is fantastic, I do feel Wahoo has missed a trick in not detailing how you can fix area’s of issue to improve your score, rather than adjust your technique and see how you go, I’d like to be told what a poor left-right score means and how this can be developed.

    Wahoo History

    When you open the app you are presented with a four week summary of your training history, but the app also stores all your workouts in it’s history, so it is easy to review your progress as the weeks go by.

    Wahoo 7 minute Workout

    This little app sets you 7 minute challenges and tracks your reps as well. It’s a great tool for upping your daily burn without having to take a chunk out of your day, or even worry about counting reps!

    Wahoo Tickr Heart Rate Monitor Review

    Overall, this is so much more than a heart rate monitor, it’s a fitness monitor and delivers so much feedback which can be used to adjust and improve your workouts, whatever they may be. It’s simple, easy to get along with and provides accurate feedback.

    This brand is aptly named, because you’ll be shouting WAHOO I’m so happy I found this heart rate monitor …

    Brilliant.

    Posted by Victoria Gardner
  • Garmin Forerunner 235 Activity Tracking Review

    Garmin Forerunner 235 Review Activity Tracker Sundried

    The Garmin Forerunner 235 is designed with a purpose, to bring out the best runner in you.

    Appearance

    The watch itself looks more mainstream than most fitness watches, although 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 watch's five buttons are streamlined to the watch face but easy to select when needed. Despite its fairly 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 does not look 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

    Starting a training session is easy: you simply select the start button and can then opt for which type of training you will be doing, from running outdoors or running indoors to cycling. The watch finds your heart rate almost immediately without the need to set up so this is a great feature. 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.  

    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

    When running, users can opt for training intervals or finish time. Training interval workouts are based on distance or time. Wearers 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.

    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 with lots of features to play with. You can check your personal best times, check your health stats, and see how many steps you've done. You can choose which widgets you want displayed on the page and it is fully customisable.

    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

    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. 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

    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.

    Posted by Alexandra Parren
  • Epson Runsense SF-810 Running Watch Review

    Epson Runsense Running Watch Sundried

    Epson is an electronics company who are one of the world's largest manufacturers of printers, but they're now branching out into the world of wearable technology. The watch reminds me of an early Garmin running watch with its monochrome display and primitive beeping noises like an old school Casio. The watch doesn’t scream 'premium' considering its £179.99 price tag.

    Before trying to connect with any software and apps I thought I would give it a quick charge and take it for some runs. Finding satellites on my old Garmin 910XT was painful; I used to leave it in the garden searching for the GPS before leaving the house. Now with watches like the Garmin Fenix 3 the satellites are typically found within seconds, but on 6 occasions the Epson located the satellites before the Garmin Fenix 3. 

    Epson Runsense SF-810 On Charger Profile Photo

    Epson Runsense SF-810 on charging station

    Battery Life

    When you leave the watch off for any length of time the screen switches off completely which means after 1 week and 7 runs the battery is still at 50%. However, as the watch is not an activity tracker or step counter I found that there is not much point in wearing it throughout the entire day. It has a longer battery life than other watches on the market, but only because it is doing a lot less: no activity tracking, sleep tracking, or step counting.

    Specifics

    With some wrist-based heart rate monitors, it can take 20+ seconds to start displaying your pulse. With the Runsense SF-810, it takes (for me) about 5 seconds on average before heart rate data is displayed. 

    The 4 buttons double up their usage and kicking off a run is very easy. You can skip the searching for GPS info if you just want to get started. And at the end of the run, a press and hold to save the run. All very straight forward.

    At 51g this watch is 10 grams heavier than the Garmin Forerunner 235 which also has wrist-based heart rate capabilities and GPS tracking. The watch face seems quite a bit thicker than the Garmin although when side by side there is not much in it.  

    Watch Weigh In Epson Runsense SF-810

     

    Epson Runsense SF-810 Vs Garmin Forerunner 235

    Epson Runsense (right) SF-810 side by side with Garmin Forerunner 235 (left)

    Profile Photos of Garmin Forerunnner 235 and Epson Runsense SF-810

    Epson Runsense SF-810 profile photo with Garmin Forerunner 235

    The App and Software

    There is lots of data and information available once you sign up to the software and upload your activities online.

    Heart Rate Data from the Epson Runsense SF-810

    Heart Rate Data from Epson Runsense SF-810 App

    Pitch Data from Epson Runsense SF-810

    Pitch (or cadence) from the Epson Runsense SF-810

    Stride data from Epson Runsense SF-810

    Stride data from Epson Runsense SF-810

    Speed Information from Epson Runsense SF-810

    Speed Information from Epson Runsense SF-810

    Heart Rate Data

    Heart Rate Comparison Epson Runsense SF-810

    The graph above shows an overlay of heart rate data from a tried and tested heart rate monitor and the Epson Runsense SF-810. To get them to match up completely is tricky as the scales are different, but overall they track against each other quite nicely. A few spikes here and there, but this was a run with some intervals chucked in.

    Garmin Forerunner 235 Vs Epson Runsense SF-810

    The Epson is typically cheaper online but there are a few comparable things to consider when buying a running watch. 

    Weight

    The Forerunner is around 10g lighter

    Activity tracking

    The Garmin Forerunner 235 tracks sleep and heart throughout the day. It also has cycle and workout modes whereas the Epson is just a run tracker. 

    Smart notifications

    The Garmin connects via Bluetooth and delivers text messages via a colour display. The Epson sadly does not offer any of this and has a very basic watch display.

     

    Battery

    The Epson wins hands down here but that's because it is not an all-day activity tracker. The Garmin counts your steps and tracks your heart rate all day long, whereas the Epson is only really good when you're actually running.

    Check out the video below for an even more in-depth review:

    Posted by Daniel Puddick
  • Mio Alpha 2 Heart Rate Activity Tracker Review

    Mio Alpha 2 Heart Rate Activity Tracker Review Sundried

    The Mio Alpha 2 is designed to give you all the benefits of heart rate training at your wrist without having to connect to an external heart rate monitor. Commit, connect, monitor and improve your training intensity with this heart rate sports watch.

    In the Box

    The watch comes in a small white box like all the rest of the Mio family and is equipped with the watch itself, your quickstart guide and foldable USB charger. You need to charge the battery before you can use your new watch, but this is very easy to do. The battery can last up to 24 hours in training mode or up to three months of life in regular mode. 

    Mio Alpha 2 Unboxing

    Mio Alpha 2 Boxed

    Appearance

    The Alpha 2 look is quite clearly a sports watch, with its digital face and silicone strap. Its chunky design can be a bit unsightly on your wrist, but the strap features breathing holes which double up as fasteners so you can adjust it as much as you want. The large LED screen is clear and easy to read at a glance during activity.

    Mio Alpha 2 Watch

    Getting Started

    Once it’s charged, you press and hold any button to activate your Mio Alpha 2.  Whilst this may seem simple enough, I feel it is important to mention that the buttons are so well integrated into the side of the watches design that I found them hard to find at first. I also had difficulty with the screen and button sensitivity. The buttons are quite hard to select, for example, the screen says it takes just two firm taps to activate its backlight, but it seemed to take multiple taps when I tried.

    Once your watch is activated, the user enters basic details such as age, weight, and gender in order for the watch to calculate your training zones. Once I got used to the watch's sensitivity, the integration of the buttons actually became one of the watch's strengths as there was no opportunity for me to accidentally start workouts or hit buttons while in the middle of training, which I have experienced with other trackers.

    Strapless Heart Rate Monitoring

    To enter into heart rate mode with the Alpha 2, Mio recommends you wear the watch slightly higher up your wrist than you usually would for regular wear. When you are ready to work out, you simply press and hold the timer button until the watch beeps and flashes ‘find’ and the watch then begins its heart rate hunt. In my experience, this hunt can last anywhere from 20 seconds up to a few minutes, so it's worth starting the find a few minutes before your warm up to ensure your watch is ready to track when you get started.

    Once you begin training, the watch automatically picks up your heart rate and shows you which training zone you are working in throughout your session. BPM is displayed throughout the workout in this setting and a small LED light flashes colour coded responses as you enter each of your different training zones. During training, users can read their heart rate with a simple glance, or select the mode button to scroll through their time, calories, pace, distance, heart rate and timer.

    Set-Up Screens of Mio Alpha 2

    Alpha 2 Set-Up Screens

    I was impressed by the accuracy of the heart rate for a wrist-based watch. The heart rate seemed to keep up with me and match my level of exertion throughout training. The second way the Alpha 2 can be used for heart rate recognition is in single zone mode. Here the user sets up their desired heart rate target zone using the app and then begins training. If their heart rate goes above or below the desired zone, the watch gives a vibration alert, so the user can move back on target.

    Mio Alpha 2 Heart Rate Zones

    Mio 2 Heart Rate Zones

    Lap Timer, Pace, and Distance

    Despite its lack of a GPS tracker, the Mio Alpha 2 does have a distance tracking feature.The watch also has a lap timer and pace monitor, great for tracking the average speed of your run or challenging yourself to beat the last lap. A single press of the heart rate button during training marks ‘go’ and commences your first lap, pushing it again will start lap 2 and so on. The watch is also waterproof to 30m, so you can take your laps to the pool, or run without a worry in the rain.

    Mio Alpha 2 Searching for Heart Rate

    Mio Alpha 2 Searching for Heart Rate

    Verdict

    With 24 hours' worth of workout data stored on the watch itself and your week's training easily accessible on the app, this watch is sure to enhance your training. I would recommend this watch as a first heart rate tracker for runners, or for those who don’t want to sift through lots of data as the watch's feedback is simple and precise. Though the watch may not do as much as what other fitness watches, that's what makes it perfect as a beginner's training watch. 

    Posted by Alexandra Parren