It’s my birthday tomorrow and, as Cécile is jetting off to Canada for a week or so, we celebrated yesterday with Chinese food and my present: a new running watch.

I had been looking at a replacement for my Garmin Vivoactive for the last couple of months. It’s not that I was unhappy with the watch; I wasn’t. It did everything that it promised to do, held a charge well, and served as a great day-in, day-out watch. The only thing missing really was the heart rate monitor. Though it would work with a chest strap, it’s always a pain to put on, to connect, and it’s one more thing to remember for every run I do. The new version of the watch, however, the Garmin Vivoactive HR, comes with a wrist-based heart rate monitor which, by all accounts, is pretty good. The only thing holding me back was that the one I had worked fine and so upgrading to the new version would be a choice rather than a need.

Lucky for me, Cécile knew I was interested in the watch and picked it up.

I gave it a try yesterday evening and I’ve been wearing it since. It tracks fitness and sleep as well as heart rate 24/7, so there’s really no need to take it off. It holds a charge just as well as the previous watch, and the battery life using GPS is meant to be a couple of hours longer. I will find out for sure on the weekend on the Thames Path, of course.

Coming into work this morning I turned it on for the bike commute. It worked as designed – there’s a little lag to make sure the GPS and heart rate monitor come on, the latter taking a few seconds longer than the former, but this was all of 15 seconds total – and with the additional heart rate data uploaded to Strava, I got some funky new graphs, too.

Here’s the bike ride to work as a plot on the map:


So far, so much like what the old watch tracked.

However, now with the heart rate data, I can get an analysis of how hard I was working:


Summary: not very hard.

I spent all my time in the easiest heart rate zone, only slightly lifting my heart rate for a couple of minutes where, I assume, I was either passing someone or going up one of the very small risers.

Also note the Strava ‘Suffer Score’ of 4. This is calculated by how much time is spent in the higher high rate zones on the notion that the more time you spend working hard, the more time you are ‘suffering’ on your run or ride. Today, the low score essentially means I was doing not much more than staying alive. I’ve run a half marathon distance before with +150 meters of climbing and a kick-ass time of 1:37:06 for a Suffer Score in excess of 250 points so, frankly, 4 is nothing much in the way of suffering.

I also get some nice visualization of the elevation, the speed, estimated power, and the heart rate:


Of course, if I rode up a hill or ran a few stair repeats this would look something different, but it is interesting to be able to track how the heart rate aligns fairly nicely with the speed. See how the ‘hump’ in the speed data at about the 1km point is preceeded by a ‘hump’ in the heart rate? This is the part of the commute to work where I am crossing a bridge, then turning onto a ramp to descend onto the bike path. The slightly elevated heart rate reflects crossing the bridge (a very slight rise) and negotiating the traffic, and the high speed that follows is from rolling down the ramp to the bike path. Nice, right?

I’m really happy with the watch and I’m going to test it out once this week with the Lyon Running Club, and perhaps on Thursday morning, too, to see if I can charge it while using it. I won’t be running on the Thursday morning, just walking with a charger and the cable, but I really want to make use of the watch in the ultras I have planned and being able to continue recording while charging the watch will give me the confidence to do exactly that.

Image by Garmin.

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