The best part about my Garmin Forerunner GPS is downloading my workouts to my PC. There is so much data packed into that little device and it all explodes into a vast array of information that can be displayed on my screen in a myriad of ways.
I currently use SportTracks by Zone Five Software, which supports most Garmin GPS models. While it started out as a free program, it is well worth the $35 price for the current version. It is easy to use, has a good visual interface, and more than enough features for my needs. For each of my workouts, I can view all of the following and more:
- Summary statistics – time, distance, average pace, elevation changes
- Splits with distance, time, speed or pace, elevation
- Graphs of speed, pace, elevation by time or distance
- A map of my exact route, marked with splits. When looking at a specific split, it is highlighted on the map.
Click on any of the images to enlarge
There is a reporting module that enables me to look at my mileage or other statistics over time. I can filter the reports by activity, and group results by time period, location or other parameters. But more detailed filtering and analysis requires cutting and pasting the results into Excel, which may not suit everyone.
I like being able to look back on the maps of my routes to plan future workouts, or to look at alternative turns or add-ons to create a new route for the future.
One drawback is that the software is resident on my PC. When I’m away from home, I no longer have access to my data. An alternative is to use Garmin Connect. This is a free service for Garmin devices that provides the same tracking features online. It also allows you to share your data with other users, connect to Facebook, blogs and other social media. I like the idea of “access anywhere” so I just may have to give this a closer look.
What a difference technology makes. Where I was once content with recording my time and distance in a spreadsheet, I now have access to seemingly infinite amounts of data. It may not make me a better athlete, but I know a lot about where I’ve been!
A number of years ago, out of the blue my husband gave me a Garmin Forerunner 201. Knowing how compulsive I was about tracking my running miles, as well as my IT background, he knew it was the tool for me. Nirvana! Was he ever right!
No more spreadsheets. No more driving my running routes to estimate mileages. No more guessing. This gadget that I could wear on my wrist did it all. Not only could it track time and miles for my runs, it could tell me my pace, auto-pause when I stop, and calculate my splits. Even better, I could download the data to my PC and analyze it ad nauseum. I fell in love with GPS! Never mind that it was big and clunky on my petite wrist. Never mind that it regularly lost its satellite signal in the north woods. I could no longer go running without it.
Time marches on, and as always technology changes. I’m up to the Forerunner 205 now – not exactly the latest and greatest, but it has all the features I need. And with my aging eyes, I’m reluctant to move to one of the newer models with smaller displays. (sigh) It is still my favorite piece of gear, only now it’s also a necessity for cross-country skiing, cycling, hiking, snowshoeing – any activity that involves moving.
Here are some of my favorite uses:
- Tracking everyday workouts – it makes sure I don’t cheat on distances. And I can tell how far I’ve gone so far mid-workout.
- Tracking my pace – am I on target? Do I need to speed up?
- Running in unfamiliar places – I can tell by the distance when it’s time to turn around, or if I should have been back by now…
- Pacing for races – particularly marathons where they provide balloons at mile markers but not time clocks. Great for both splits and time per current distance.
- Training partner – it shows a graphic of me and another runner at a specified pace. At a glance I can tell if I’m ahead or behind.
These features are useful during my workouts. There is even greater value when paired up with software to store my workouts, track them over time, and provide infinite levels of detail. But that’s a topic for another post.