Garmin

Garmin VivoFit Heart Rate Monitor Review

For Mother’s Day Logan (Michael 😉 ) got me a new heart rate monitor as a gift. I’ve been talking about getting a Garmin for a few years now.

I’ve been a faithful Polar HR monitor wearer for years but I feel like the Polar watch has gone downhill the last few years. I’ve had nothing but problems with them. The battery life is not great and even replacing the batteries when it dies, I was having issues with the watch just not working anymore. The price point for the Polar is “cheap” enough that whenever the battery replacement crapped out on me, I could just buy a new watch. But that was a pain and felt like a waste of money. It also irked me that I was basically having to buy a new heart rate monitor every year. I don’t know why the battery replacements wouldn’t work (at least 50% of the time). It was very frustrating.

So I started to look into some of the entry-level Garmin watches and I got really overwhelmed with reading reviews and trying to figure out which one would be best for me that I gave up.

I was really excited when Michael got this watch for me because he’s in IT and a tech guy and he reads ALL the reviews about this kind of stuff and is very knowledgeable about what is good, what is crappy, what features to look for, etc.

What I need in a watch or app is pretty basic. I want:

  • Calories burned
  • Heart rate
  • Miles ran/biked

That’s pretty much all I’m looking for. But this watch has so much more! It has dozens of activities to choose from. You can personalize it a bit, too. It also tracks steps and sleep.

I use the Garmin Connect App on my iPhone. I synced it with the watch and a few times a day it syncs automatically with the app and updates everything. ALSO, a cool feature, you can connect it to your MyFitnessPal app and it will record your steps/calories/activities in the app for your day. I like that feature. One less place I have to LOG everything! It just does it for me.

If you want to read a step by step instruction of the watch, with photos, check out this link. It was very helpful for me when I was first learning my watch. My review today is more about the functionality of it.

I didn’t think the sleep tracking would be all that interesting to me, but after using it for a few weeks I actually kind of liked that feature. It was interesting to see how well  I slept — it tracks light sleep, deep sleep, and when you are awake. It’s funny seeing the graph for the nights I get up with Logan!

It also tracks steps, which is interesting to see how active I am but I don’t really track the steps in any other way so I rarely look at that info. I will say that at work I have a standing desk and I walk around a lot to the printer, mail room, around the office, etc, so I move a lot during the day. The only time I really sit at work is in meetings!

Fitness

I’ve used the Garmin watch for a few different activities now. Hiking, walking, running, cardio in the gym and strength training.

When I used it hiking in Bend, I feel like the calorie count was WAY off. But I didn’t wear my Polar heart rate monitor to compare (I had planned on using both for the first few weeks to compare the stats and see how accurate the Garmin is).

I’ve worn it going for walks–long and short–and I also feel like the calorie burn is a little on the high side. Again, I need to wear my Polar on my next walk to compare the calories and see. Maybe I’m wrong.

Running — It’s accurate and it works great! I’ve worn it running outside three times now and I compared it to my Polar heart rate monitor and the Cyclemeter iPhone app for mileage and it’s accurate in the mileage and it’s accurate in the calories burned within about 10 calories.

I’ve worn it running on the treadmill once and the mileage was NOT accurate. It was off by about half a mile. Which is no big deal to me because I have the mileage on the treadmill I can look at. I am more concerned about it being accurate when I run outside.

Running on the treadmill gave me a fairly accurate calorie burn, when I compare it to the Polar HRM. It was about 20 calories more than the Polar. Not a big deal. Anything more than that and I’d be concerned, but 10-20 calories isn’t a huge deal to me.

The above photos were from my treadmill run. I started the Garmin 1 minute late and stopped it 1 minute earlier than the Polar, but despite that, the calories were pretty close. This particular run was 3 miles on the treadmill but the Garmin thought I did 3.58.

I like the screens that show heart rate and distance. It’s easy to scroll through and see quickly while you are doing the activity.

Swimming – I wore it in the pool to check it out. The first big issue I have with it? It doesn’t track heart rate while swimming. I found that odd and I’m not sure why it doesn’t do that. It gave me a calorie count at the end of my swim session but I doubt it’s reliability because it didn’t link in my heart rate. At this point in my life, swimming is very very easy and I’m very efficient when I swim–meaning, I don’t burn the same amount of calories in a session as I used to.

I highly doubt I burned 440 calories swimming. I wear my Polar HRM once or twice a year in the pool just to check in and see where I am at calorie-wise and it rarely changes–one session according to Polar is between 300-350 calories burned. So that is a little disappointing.

I do like that it gave me the break down of the strokes, etc. It also synced to the app and gave me info:

I kind of love the charts and break down of pace and when I rested and stroke info. One other glitch? When I tried to swim some laps with the paddle board, it stopped counting my yards. I guess it’s calculating everything by arm movement. That was kind of frustrating.

So in that particular session I did 2000 yards, even though it didn’t quite calculate it correctly.

PROS

  • No chest strap!!! It’s just the watch
  • Long battery life in between charging
  • It finds GPS quickly and doesn’t seem to lose the GPS signal
  • Accurate mileage and calorie burn
  • Easy to use
  • Syncs with Garmin Connect app for full data
  • Touch Screen on watch
  • LOTS of features
  • The watch is light and fairly comfortable
  • It notifies you to move if you’ve been inactive for too long

CONS

  • A lot of features that I’m not sure how to use yet, if you’re not really “techy” it can feel overwhelming
  • Sometimes it takes too much time to scroll through all the screens on the touch screen watch
  • It doesn’t show your calories being burned DURING the activity, only once you are done
  • Exercise limitations–You can add more activities to personalize it but it would be nice to have other options instead of just “other”
  • The limitations in the pool are a big con for me

I haven’t had a chance yet to test it out biking. I’m hoping to bike to work sometime in the next few weeks and write a review on it then.

QUESTION: What kind of heart rate monitor/activity tracker to you use? Thoughts?

Doing It All + Then Some

Yay for long weekends!! I got off work a little early on Friday (not by much) but it was enough to beat some of the traffic getting out of downtown. Michael and I chilled outside on the deck in the sunshine after Logan went to sleep and it was so lovely!

Saturday I went to the gym and did some weights. Then that even some friends came over for dinner. Michael made homemade pizzas and we ate outside on the deck.

They brought some salads from Pizzicato (they make amazing salads) — I had the pear and bleu cheese salad with candied walnuts–and we all had some beers. It was my “cheat day” so I happily ate REAL pizza and had beer! Carbs!! YAY! 😉

It was a really nice night–a little on the hot side but I’m not complaining. Memorial Day Weekend is notoriously rotten in Portland. It’s usually cool and rainy. But we lucked out this weekend and it was sunny, hot and clear.

Sunday I went for a swim and then we went to a friend’s 1st Birthday party. It was in a park over by SE Hawthorne.

Ice cream face!

Sunday night we had another dinner party! Two couples came over, one was visiting from Seattle with their kids. We BBQ’ed outside. I made two baked beans, a srichacha one (very spicy!) and regular.

We did chicken drumstricks–half spicy, half not spicy. I love the srichacha BBQ sauce from Trader Joe’s. It’s one of my favorite sauces.

The corn and the baked beans put me WAY over my carbs for the day! Ooops. 🙁 But it was all very tasty. And it felt like summer! We had gelato for dessert.

On Monday I got to sleep in a little bit and then we packed everything up and went for a hike. We drove to Estacada to do the Clackamas River Trail. Michael and I attempted to do it a million years ago, when we were first dating, in January of all months. It was horrifically freezing with an icy headwind so we didn’t make it very far.

This time the conditions were much better! It was kind of overcast and misty on the drive there but once we arrived the sun was coming out.

The trail starts pretty easily. It’s across the street from the parking lot and it’s flat and wide through the forest. Then it starts to get narrow and it goes along the river. 

There were a few spots you had to cross on rocks over a creek.

There were some beautiful views of the Clackamas River:

Then the trail started to climb and it went up and up and got narrower and narrower and there was a sheer drop off on the side. It was very freaky! I hate these kinds of hikes. I have a fear of heights and I can do ok as long as I’m not right on the edge of a cliff and the trail was too edge-of-the-cliff for me.

I didn’t get any good pictures of the narrow, scary, edge-of-cliff trail because I was too freaked out to stop and I was trying not to look down!

The trail did some switchbacks and then switchbacks down and we stopped for lunch at a little picnic/camping area right by the water.

We were about a mile from the waterfall but we decided to turn around after lunch and head back. And good thing we did! We climbed back up the trail and got just passed the cliff area and some hikers told us a tree had fallen across the path–they hadn’t seen it happen but they heard it fall! We were like “ok thanks” and continued on. We honestly didn’t think anything about it. Like–it’s just a tree we have to climb over, or go around or something, no big deal.

Another couple told us about the tree and we started to wonder how bad it was. Well, we turned a corner and there it was. No more trail. I did not get any good photos of the fallen tree or what we had to do to get over it because–it was freaking HARROWING!

That picture doesn’t do it justice at all. So I gave Bella to Michael and scouted it out. I went down and tried to break some branches and stomp on things to get through. Then I got to the actual tree and it was HUGE. And it covered the entire path. There was no going down to get around it. Another couple was climbing up and over the top of where it fell and it was precarious-looking on the side of a huge, steep hill.

FUCK.

There was really no good, easy or safe way to get across. But we had to. There was no other way to get out of the canyon and back to our car. I decided to go first. One of the other hikers helped me up and then I grabbed hold of a tree branch that wasn’t going to snap off (after falling several times, scraping up my arms and getting thorns and splinters in my hands). There was no where great to put your feet, either. You couldn’t tell what was solid ground, rock, or just moss and leaves. UGH!

So I JUMPED to get momentum, flung my body on top of the tree (it was huge), held on to a branch, scooted up a bit to get some more traction, flung my leg over the side and straddled the huge tree. Then I looked down to try and figure out where to put my foot. Again, it was impossible to tell what was solid and what wasn’t. So I figured it out and got to the other side, hanging on to the fallen tree and the side of the steep hill, trying not to fall down.

We tried to get Bella to go underneath the tree but she was freaked out and too scared. So Michael had to pick her up and kind of fling her up onto the tree, I caught her and then she jumped down and scrambled up the side of the mountain. Then Michael took the backpack off and lifted Logan onto the tree and I lifted him over and rested him on the branches and rocks next to me. PHEW. I stopped freaking out a little bit once he was safely with me on the other side of the tree.

Then Michael had to climb over the tree. He got over and got Logan back on his pack and then we had to scramble up, over and then down the side of the mountain–nothing really to hang on to, footing unsure, I basically just kind of crawled and butt scooted from rock to tree and tried to get down.

The photos don’t really show how big the tree was, how deep the gully was around the tree or how steep the hillside was to get down!!! It was quite the adventure. We were safe, we got over and down to the trail with minor scrapes, bruises, cuts and splinters but Logan and Bella were safe so that’s important. It was FREAKY!

We hauled ass back to the car. I had splinters all in my hands, Logan started getting fussy, the strap on the baby backpack broke, and we were all just done with the day!

4.6 miles hiked, 706 calories burned, I think part of my calorie burn was the panic attacks I had on the cliffs and then having to traverse the fallen tree!!

I’m not exaggerating when I say the tree part was pretty freaky. I think we were both rattled. And I was particularly rattled about the idea of being IN the forest, on a hike, at the exact time a tree falls on the trail. Scary! There was no cell service for at least 5 miles and once I had service I tried calling the local ranger station to let them know but they were closed for the holiday, so I called the Estacada Fire Department and they said they’d let the rangers know. I really hope no one got hurt or stranded on the trail!

Anyways, that was our weekend!