Beyond triathlons: Using a GPS smartwatch for everyday fitness

June 13, 2016


Skin tight wetsuit, no spare tire. Powerful lungs to last all day. A confident figure strides out of the water toward an impatiently-waiting hyper light bike. A glance at the wrist; heart rate is fabulous. He’s all business, and he’s ahead of pace. Oh, the glory…

In this admittedly weird triathlete fantasy scene, there’s a good chance the hero’s side piece is a Garmin fēnix 3. Triathletes say it has all the right stuff for their demanding regimens.

But what if you’re not a hardcore athlete? What if you’re like me?

I don’t do competitive endurance races. When I think of swimming more than a kilometer without stopping, I think of drowning. I’m just an active guy who likes to be outside and stay reasonably fit.

So in my capacity as a Regular Active Guy, let me save you some time with a swift rundown of the ways a fēnix 3 might fit into an everyday healthy lifestyle. There are dozens of features, but these are what I consider the main things most people will do with the watch:

Track and analyze your activity.
Track basic bio data (steps, sleep patterns, heart rate, and estimated calorie burn) in addition to runs, bikes or swims. The accumulated data syncs to your computer or phone where you can analyze it.
Go exploring (without getting lost).
Super-accurate GPS (plus compass, altimeter and barometer) assists you on runs, climbs, rides, trails or hikes. Plan your routes with free Basecamp software (buy maps or upload your own tracks). Navigate and record your progress. Reverse your path to be guided back the way you came.

Get to know your running form.
With the fēnix 3 HR you can track a number of informative ‘running dynamics’ without a heart rate band, all the tracking is done at your wrist. See heart rate, steps per minute (cadence), ground contact time and left/right balance, stride length, and vertical oscillation (how high you bounce off the ground).

Do guided workouts and training.
Create custom workouts or download pre-programmed ones. Follow along through the steps as they appear on the watch. Set training targets based on distance, time and speed. Get real-time progress feedback.

Customize and expand.
Add different watch faces (essentially display themes) and data fields. Download widgets and apps. For example, there’s a golf rangefinder app, a speedometer, gym timer, atlas, etc. These add-ons make this a ‘smart’ watch in a way that will seem familiar in the era of customizable devices.

Leave it on (and still look good).
The term ‘Multisport GPS Smartwatch’ may evoke visions of a chunky watch with an antennae, but stylish good looks were clearly a priority here. It certainly doesn’t look like a fitness bracelet, and I think you could wear it confidently to work or on a date. Take a look and decide for yourself.




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