• Garmin Forerunner 935 Review

    Garmin Forerunner 935 Triathlon Running Watch Review

    Garmin's new Forerunner 935 is a top-of-the-line triathlon watch designed for serious athletes and people who deeply care about using training statistics to improve their racing performance when it counts.

    Advanced Features

    The Forerunner 935 is designed for elite athletes who are at the top of their game, and this is reflected in the calibre of technology that this watch boasts. It features a built-in barometer and altimeter to provide elevation changes and monitors your performance so that you are alerted if you are undertraining or overdoing it. Very technical features such as ground contact time balance, stride length, vertical ratio, and even more truly set this watch apart from its competitors and show how it would make the perfect companion to a dedicated athlete.

    This watch, like other watches in the Forerunner series, features wrist-based heart rate monitoring and all-day activity tracking such as step count so that you can track your progress all day and even all night. It's waterproof so that you can wear it swimming, and offers both indoor and outdoor options for all three disciplines- swimming, cycling, and running. The multisport features mean you can switch sports at the touch of a button and use it for brick workouts as well as triathlon races.

    Johnny Riall British Triathlon Coach Athlete Garmin Forerunner 935 Sundried

    Specifics

    The battery life on other Garmin watches such as the Forerunner 735XT is a little questionable as it doesn't seem to last as long as you'd expect from a triathlon watch, however on the 935 that definitely isn't an issue. The Forerunner 935 boasts a 2-week battery life when used just as a watch, and up to 24 hours in GPS mode meaning you could complete a full ironman or ultra marathon while tracking and not have to worry about losing your progress. 

    Weighing in at 49g, this watch is a little heavier than some of its siblings like the 735XT, and the watch face is much larger meaning it is not quite as suitable as an everyday activity tracker or even just as a watch. It has an extra button too which means it's a little more complicated to use, however this just reflects the fact that this watch is not designed for your everyday gym goer and is meant to be used thoroughly and to its full potential by a competitive athlete or coach.

    Verdict

    The Garmin Forerunner 935 is an exquisite piece of technology and features advanced training information which is sure to boost the performance of its wearer if used correctly. Its attractive design means it can be worn all day, and the built-in heart rate monitor and step tracker means it even covers the all-day activity tracker market that is so popular at the moment. It's definitely not for the faint hearted and is better suited for serious athletes and prolific competitors in the sport of running, cycling, and triathlon. It loses a few marks from me as it's a little too big to be comfortable all day, and the rubber strap meant I got a sweat rash from continuing to wear it for long periods of time after training. However, the technical information remains unbeatable and very impressive.

    Comfort: 7

    Durability: 10

    Battery Life: 9

    Technical Information: 10

    Value for money: 10

    Overall Score: 46/50

    Garmin Forerunner 935 Triathlon Running Watch Sundried

    Posted by Alexandra Parren
  • NiceTri Grafman Middle Distance Triathlon Review

    Grafman Middle Distance Triathlon Review Sundried

    As a first timer to the 70.3 triathlon distance (half Ironman distance / middle distance) I wanted to find an event within a reasonable distance from home that was nice and flat (no point in adding any extra challenges into the mix) and with a swim in calm water as most of my open water swimming is in the sea, so a nice fresh water reservoir would be a welcome bonus. This left me with the Grafman Middle Distance triathlon in Grafham, Cambridgeshire. Although it is nowhere near Cambridge, it is a lovely little village.

    With a few sprint triathlons under the belt, the middle distance really is a new discipline to train for. My first ever half marathon was just 2 weeks before the event and went without too many problems but swimming this distance and staying calm is definitely a challenge. 

    The registration process the day before the event was very simple and quick;  the entire process only took around 4 minutes. It was nice to be able to walk into the transition area, find my number for the next day, and have a look at the swim start and course.

    The swim is a mass swim entry, which means running in and plunging into the water and racing off in a pack. I decided to hang out on the left of the pack and take a wide lap to avoid being pushed and shoved too much. The swim also includes an "Australian Exit" which means after one lap you leave the water, run past the crowds of people and the waiting photographers, only to jump back in and swim another lap. 

    Grafman Middle Distance Triathlon Swim Start Sundried

    Leaving the water there is lots of support and people to help you out if needed.There are marshals pointing to the transition area and plenty of support in the bike area. It was a really nice atmosphere; very friendly and with a good buzz about it all.

    The cycle section is on roads open to traffic; despite the traffic being very light, the few motorists who attempt to drive the same way as the cyclists it causes a bit of bunching. Being a non-drafting ride it is pretty hard when you can not overtake and there are several people in front. There wasn’t too much of the course like this and after 30k the riders seemed to space out. 

    The drink/gel stations were pretty efficient; you do not need to stop to be passed water or energy gels. Towards the end of the ride, I was worried I had made a wrong turn because I couldn't see any cyclists, but the marshalls are fantastic and I was directed the correct way and eventually saw a few cyclists in the distance.

    Finally, the run. The toughest part of the run for me was the last 5 or 6km when you pass the finish line and run away from the sounds of the tannoy and music. It had been a tough race so far, but I was nearly there. Like the ride, the run is a few laps back and forth with water and gel stations at either end.

    Grafman Middle Distance Half Ironman Triathlon Sundried

    It was a really well-organised event with a brilliant atmosphere and welcoming athletes.  

    View the full collection of photos on their Facebook page linked below.

    Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Grafmantriathlon

    Further reading on triathlon training

    Posted by Daniel Puddick
  • Topo Women's Speed Trainer Review

    Topo Womens Speed Trainer Review

    Who Are Topo?

    Topo is an athletics brand that was founded in 2013 by Tony Post (hence Topo). Tony competed in cross country running at university in Oklahoma and spent many years developing and making shoes for a brand in the US. After years of trialling and testing shoes, he decided to start his own athletics brand, and thus Topo Athletics was born.

    Design and Comfort

    Aesthetically, these look very similar to my Vivo Barefoot trainers and they are equally lightweight, but there is a substantial difference in support. Although the Topo's padding is minimal, it felt far more cushioned than my other barefoot shoes. Topo’s designer Tony Post helped launch the Vibram Fivefinger Shoes, so it’s no surprise that elements of the five-fingered shoe are reflected in these trainers.

    Topo Womens Speed Trainer Review Top and Underneath

    The original design of these trainers actually separated the larger toe to encourage the wearer to make more agile use of all of their foot. However, after runners tested the style, they decided they preferred a more familiar closed front.

    The First Run

    The lack of heel-to-toe drop is designed to encourage a better running posture and it did feel like I was running with better technique while wearing the Topo Speed Trainers. My first impression of these trainers was good, although they don’t call them 'Speed Trainers' for nothing; sprinting is definitely going to be where these trainers earn their stripes.

    Topo Womens Speed Trainer On the Road

    The Sprint Test

    The Topo Women's Speed Trainers are so lightweight you feel like you're not wearing any trainers at all, apart from the cushioning. The foam padding around the ball of the foot and wide toe box is perfect for driving off as fast as possible and left me supported and yet totally in control of every stride. This made sprinting very fun and easy!

    Topo Athletic Out on a run

    Verdict

    I was really impressed with these trainers; you can tell that they are designed with purpose and they perform with ease. The style is well suited for both indoor and outdoor activity and encourage a barefoot running style which can be beneficial for some runners.

    Topo Womens Speed Trainer Jumping

    Topo Athletic Photo on the run

    Topo Closeup Photo

    Posted by Alexandra Parren
  • Garmin Vivosmart HR Review

    Garmin have brought us such a vast range of fitness products and continue to do so. The Vivosmart HR is a brilliant addition to the range.

    It has a range of features that make it stand up against other fitness trackers in this price range. You really get a lot of easy to use features for your money.

    Garmin Vivosmart HR review

    The tracker is designed to be worn 24/7, so it has to look good, as well as being wearable. On looking at it for the first time, it certainly does look quite big, and isn't as sleek as some others. However in saying that, it never felt uncomfortable and it never caught on anything.

    It has a 5ATM waterproof rating, which basically means it is perfect for wearing in the shower or the pool. Giving you the opportunity to wear it, literally, all the time and for any activity.

    Garmin Vivosmart HR review

    The screen is an LCD touch screen which constantly remains “on”, but it dims to save the battery. It is lit by a backlight when you touch the screen. The screen is activated by swiping across with a finger to access the various screens, which each display different things. It is easy to see how many steps you have done, stairs you have climbed and your heart rate.

    The band will vibrate every so often if you have been inactive for too long, which is a nice little reminder to get up and go. It has a Move bar on the screen, which essentially fills up and makes you move when it gets full.

    The Vivosmart HR gives a clue in its name, in that it is quite smart. You can tell when you get a phone call or message, and you can also control music on it. It acts a little like a smart watch, giving it a good edge. Reading text messages on the screen is decent, with it being sharp and readable. It basically uses push notifications from your phone, so you can’t use it like a smart watch, but it is enough for you to keep an eye on your phone, without having your phone out.

    Garmin Vivosmart HR review

    The main aim of the tracker though, is of course, to track your fitness. And this it does very well. It keeps an accurate calorie count, as well as keeping a record of your weekly activity. You run it with the Garmin Connect app, which is easy to install and use across most platforms.

    The app displays a range of charts and graphs and it can look a bit daunting to start with. But once you become familiar with it, it is pretty simple. It will take a bit of time, but once you get it, it is one of the better apps out there when it comes to detail and tracking. Connecting the Vivosmart HR was easy as well, I just followed the instructions.

    The sleep tracking felt accurate too (along with steps, heart rate and calories). You can check this via the app, which gives you a weekly look at your sleep pattern. It is shown in graph form, making it really easy to read. Garmin have definitely made the Vivosmart HR better than some other sleep trackers on the market.

    When it comes to tracking a particular activity, running for example, the watch has a function for this. It has a separate tracking mode and I found it to be a good way to track distance with a fair amount of accuracy. The lack of GPS means it will never be 100% accurate, but it does keep distances pretty close to true.

    When it comes to battery life, Garmin say around 5 days, which is fairly true. It lasts a decent amount of time before charging. Keep an eye on it though because you don't want to lose charge half way through a workout! 

    Overall, the tracker is one of the most accurate I have tried. The wrist based heart monitor is probably the least accurate and I don't think it will replace a chest strap HR device anytime soon, but as a gauge, it works well. All of the other features work remarkably well, and whilst it isn't a smart watch, it is a step between those and other fitness trackers, making it a good go-between. 

    Posted by Steph Mann
  • Fitbit Charge HR Review

    Fitbit Charge HR Review

    Fitbit have made their mark on the UK fitness industry with their memorable ‘Find Your Fit’ marketing campaign.The motivating music, unusual activities, and new smart technologies that Fitbit teased us with in their TV advert left me eagerly wanting to join the Fitbit family with the Charge HR, and it was worth the wait.

    Getting Started

    Like most other fitness watches, the HR comes with very little instruction, although it really isn't needed. It was simply a matter of strap on and go (after downloading, profiling, and linking with the app of course).

    Once it’s up and running with a simple tap of its LED screen, users can view their steps, calories burnt, distance travelled, stairs climbed, heart rate, and the current time.

    Heart Rate

    This was the feature I was most excited about, as in my opinion there is no more effective method of training. Heart-rate training provides the user with personalised feedback throughout their training, revealing exactly how hard their body is working, as well as many other detailed insights into their training zones, recovery, and overall level of fitness.

    I have always trained with a chest strap to optimise my training, which can often be uncomfortable and frankly hassle to attach, so the continuous wrist-based monitoring was something I was particularly intrigued by.

    Initially, the HR’s heart rate seemed to be accurate as it was producing readings I was familiar with at rest so I decided to put it through a spin class. I left the class a sweaty mess, expecting my HR to congratulate me on spending the majority of my workout in its ‘peak’ zone (166 bpm +) however this is what greeted me:

    Fitbit Workout Summary

     As you can see, the HR has counted 0 minutes of peak performance and the majority of my workout is split between the cardio and fat burning zones with a peak of just 157 bpm. I don't believe this to be accurate, as when I usually track my heart-rate during a tough spin session, it peaks at around 170bpm and I tend to stay in the 'peak' performance range most of the time. 

    The Other Features

    The steps, calories burnt, and distance travelled were pretty generic, similar to almost every other fitness activity tracker out there; however the HR does boast two extra features which are a rarer find within this market: stairs climbed and sleep monitoring.

    Stairs climbed I found an interesting feature, particularly for those working in an office, or perhaps commuting into work. I was pleasantly surprised on a trip to London by how many stairs I climbed simply travelling up and down from the tube.

    Monitoring my sleep proved more of a challenge, as according to my HR, I barely slept at all!

    Fitbit Sleep Tracking

    I thought maybe the lack of sleep had affected my vision when I awoke to this, so I decided to research a little further into how to ensure the Fitbit was performing accurately. Fitbit suggested I update the app and swapped the watch to my less dominant hand.

    Fitbit Sleeping Tracked

    To my relief, the change in results was drastic and the sleep monitoring has remained consistent from this moment on. So I would say to anyone else experiencing issues like this, swap your watch to your less-dominant hand.

    The Fitbit App

    The app consists of a dashboard of your watch’s feedback, each detail can then be selected to unlock further analysis of your performance. The set up is simple and effective; it was easy to navigate my way around the app and automatic syncing made it easy to see how my daily activity was going at the touch of a button. Other features include setting up daily goals and adding friends to compare results with, both of which gave me a little extra motivation.

    Battery, Appearance and Comfort

    If you’re committing to wearing an activity tracker it needs to be comfortable as you will be wearing it 24/7. The Fitbit HR comes in small and large sizes and fits comfortably just above the wrist bone. Aesthetically, I opted for a classic black watch, which could easily match every gym outfit while remaining smart enough to keep on in the office. For the more adventurous among you, the watch also comes in plum, blue, and tangerine.

    Once it’s strapped on, the Fitbit HR is so comfortable it can be forgotten about until it’s battery dies in around two days time. This is with constant monitoring and a daily gym session. To maximise its battery life further Fitbit suggest turning off constant syncing and automatic heart rate.

    Verdict

    The Fitbit HR is a good all-round activity tracker and is ideal for most fitness users. The volume of feedback from the device is good and with prices ranging from £85 - £140 it's good value for money. The Fitbit HR’s simplicity makes it an ideal first activity tracker, the only drawback being that the heart rate reading is not always entirely accurate.

    10 Fitbit Statistics

    If you’re planning on buying a Fitbit, here’s the lowdown on the company you’re buying into:

    1. Fitbit have a whopping 19 million users, beating Nike+ at 18 million. That’s equivalent to 35% of England's entire population!
    2. Fitbit own a 34% share of the wearable technology market.
    3. Fitbits are sold in more than 50 countries.
    4. Fitbit ended 2014 with a revenue of $745 million!
    5. In 2015, Fitbit sales were up to 30 million, which is sure to rise in 2016!
    6. The Fitbit app is available on over 200 different types of smartphone.
    7. Thermos partnered with Fitbit in their sales of water bottles which track your water consumption through their lids and fire it back to the mobile app.
    8. In 2015, Fitbit had 579 members of staff. They’re also currently hiring!
    9. Over 45,000 shops sell Fitbit products
    10. Fitbit currently have 11 different trackers: 1. Fitbit Tracker, 2.Fitbit Ultra, 3.Fitbit One, 4.Fitbit Zip, 5.Fitbit Flex, 6.Fitbit Force, 7.Fitbit Charge HR, 8. Fitbit Charge, 9. Fitbit Surge, 10. Fitbit Aria and 11. Fitbit Blaze.
    Posted by Alexandra Parren