An update to the popular Forerunner 225, the Garmin Forerunner 235 is a sports watch with smartwatch capabilities. This means that besides tracking your runs, the Forerunner 235 can also track your heart rate 24/7, sleep patterns and daily steps taken.
Main features are optical heart rate and 24/7 heart rate tracking
Said Ruth Croft, 27, a Garmin-sponsored trail runner who works in the company’s Asia-Pacific marketing department, “The main key features are the optical heart rate and its ability to track your heart rate 24/7.”
She added “Additionally there is the ‘finish time estimator’ which will estimate how much time you have remaining to reach your target distance going at the pace that you have been running. The VO2 max estimate and training effect can also be calculated through the optical heart rate sensor. Also there are the smart notifications and it is compatible with Connect IQ, which you can use to download various widgets, watch faces, data fields and apps.”
Runners of all abilities can use the watch
According to Croft, runners of all abilities are suited to use the Forerunner 235. She said, “The Forerunner 235 is suitable for runners of all abilities, whether you have just picked up running or are a seasoned marathoner. For example, for seasoned runners who are wanting to do more specific workouts, they can create more complex customised workouts.”
Added Croft, “Then on the other hand, for people just starting running, there is the run/walk function and also the ability of the watch itself to set an interval workout.”
Thanks to Garmin, I had the opportunity to try out the Forerunner 235 and here are my comments on how the GPS smartwatch stacks up.
The initial appearance of the watch face and the strap is pretty similar to other Garmin sports watches. However compared to the earlier model – the Forerunner 225 – the watch face has improved from a 1-inch screen, to a 1.23-inch colour LCD screen.
Also, the Forerunner 235 is one of the lightest watches out there on the market, with a weight of 42 grams. This is good for runners – as it means that the gadget will not weigh you down.
Using the watch
Before using the watch, you first need to download the Garmin Connect app, which is free on the Apple iTunes and Google Play stores. You then sync your watch to the app. This is a fairly simple process and took a few minutes for me.
So far, I have taken the watch out for a few runs, including the 10.5km Green Corridor Trail race last Sunday – and the first thing that I had noticed was that the detection of the GPS is very fast. In fact, within about 30 seconds each time, I am able to get a signal.Another thing that I had noticed about the Forerunner 235, is that it is even able to detect a GPS signal inside my house, which is rather interesting. So it means that the watch will still work well, in heavily built-up concrete areas without losing the signal.
However, besides the basic GPS system, the Forerunner 235 also has the ability to connect to GLONASS – which is a Russian satellite-based navigation system that functions alongside the regular GPS satellite signals. The pros of being able to use this system is that your location data will be 20 per cent faster and more accurate. But do be warned that using this system may not be very good for the battery life though.
Running with the Forerunner 235
During the running itself, the watch tracks a wide variety of statistics such as time, distance, pace, calories and heart rate. As the heart rate monitor is on the wrist, this means that you do not need to wear a cumbersome chest strap to track your heart rate.
But to check the accuracy of the heart rate readings though, I measured the Forerunner 235 against an actual chest strap, and found that the readings were on par. This means that you can successfully use the Forerunner 235 for heart rate training and exercising within your heart rate zones.
Regarding the distance tracked by the watch, I had noticed that for the Green Corridor Run, the Forerunner 235 had measured a distance of 9.86km. Two other watches that I had worn at the same time, had clocked 10.13km and 10.89km in distance, respectively. The advertised distance of the race had been 10.5km. However I think that the main reason for the discrepancy in the distance, had been because the ‘Auto Pause’ mode had been turned on in the Forerunner 235.
This ‘Auto Pause’ mode, as the name suggests, means that the watch will automatically pause when it detects that you are not moving during a run. I feel that it can be quite useful for example, at traffic light junctions or when you need to stop for a water or loo break. But the main issue with this feature, may be that the constant automatic starting and stopping of the watch could mean that a few milliseconds in time and metres in distance, may be invariably lost each time. This may have happened at the Green Corridor Run.
As well, the watch also has a ‘Finish Time’ function – which calculates your current pace and uses that to estimate the time required to hit the distance goal that you have set on your watch. This is quite useful, as it helps you to gauge whether you are on track to meeting your time goal during a race.
Completing a run
After completion of the run, saving your workout is quite simple – and it can be easily achieved with the push of a couple of buttons.
The watch also ‘congratulates’ you when you have achieved certain running milestones, like for example, telling you that you have clocked your ‘fastest mile’ or ‘fastest 5K run.’ I think that this feature is very motivating for runners to constantly strive to improve and get better.
Uploading to Garmin Connect
Uploading the runs to the Garmin Connect app is simple, and this can be achieved with the push of a few buttons. However when you are syncing the watch with the smartphone – you may have to switch the Bluetooth on and off a couple of times, in your smartphone as well as the Forerunner 235 before the phone will pick up the watch.
But once uploaded though, you can see the full details of your workout, such as the route you just ran, your splits, an analysis of your heart rate as well as your average pace, time and speed. Though most GPS watches are able to offer such details, knowing such details are good to gauge your improvements in running, over time.
Other Workout Modes
However, the Forerunner 235 isn’t purely for running though. In fact there are four different types of workout modes. These are Run, Run Indoors, Bike and Other. This is quite good as it means that the watch can be used for a variety of different workouts.
I also tried out the ‘Run indoors’ feature for testing purposes. For this feature, the watch measures distance and pace using an accelerometer instead of the outdoor GPS. However, on a treadmill, I noted that the Forerunner 235 gave a higher reading, as compared to the treadmill one.
However, the heart rate measurements had still been comparable to the readings from a chest strap, though.
As well, the Forerunner 235, has smartwatch capabilities and can measure heart rate and sleep patterns as well as counting your daily steps and sending notifications and alerts from your smartphone.
Heart Rate Tracking
I tested out the heart rate feature, which is one of the highly touted features of the watch that sets it apart – and it is impressive that your heart rate is charted in the form of a colourful graph with different colours representing the various heart rate zones. Not only is this visually eye-catching, but it is also helps you to decide quickly, whether for example, you should go for a hard workout or have an easy session.
Added Croft, “The Forerunner 235’s ability to track your heart rate 24/7 is what sets it apart. Furthermore, it can then provide you with your resting heart rate average over the past seven days in graph form. I find this is a great function to use for your reference especially when training.”
She continued, “For example, my resting heart rate normally sits at 42, but if it jumps too high, I know I have yet to recover from the previous workout or I am coming down with the flu, and instead of going ahead and doing a hard workout as per planned, I would benefit from having an easy day running.”
The steps tracking feature works similar to a typical pedometer, in that it calculates how many steps you have moved per day. I tried this out, and the figures seem pretty realistic to my perceived number of steps taken – so they can thus be used as a decent gauge. I also tested some rapid arm swinging movements and the good thing is that the Forerunner 235 does not count these as ‘steps.’
Said Croft, “The steps activity tracker will tell you your number of steps for the day, distance and calories and it will set a daily goal for you to work towards. Additionally the steps activity tracking features the ‘move’ bar; this will fill with red after an hour of inactivity and then alert you to get up and move. And after walking for approximately 100 metres, it will clear.”
She continued, “The pedometer and activity tracker function motivates me to be active during the day, when and where possible, which is important especially in today’s society where many people have office jobs and are sedentary for the majority of the day.”
The only issue I had with this feature though, was that during a treadmill run, it had counted several hundred extra steps more than I had actually taken.
The Forerunner 235 is automatically set to alert you to any phone calls, messages, calendar alerts, WhatsApps, or any other notifications that you may have. I feel that the notifications feature is very ‘on the ball’ and the notifications come to your wrist almost at the same time they are sent to the phone itself.
However I feel though, that it would be good if we could select what notifications we would like to receive, for example, just phone calls – at the moment, notifications can either only be turned on or off, but there is nothing in between.
The Forerunner 235 also has a very comprehensive measurement of sleep – it tracks the number of hours that you were asleep during the night, as well as the quality of sleep and the time that you were awake during the course of your sleeping hours. This is a good gauge to determine the quality of your sleep.
For example you may have had eight hours of sleep but are feeling lethargic the next morning. The Forerunner 235 may tell you that it was because you were in a ‘light sleep’ for most of the time, and did not get much ‘deep sleep.’
Other Smart Features
Some other smart features of the Forerunner 235 also include the ability to show you the local weather – when it is connected to your smartphone via Bluetooth, as well as the ‘Do not disturb’ mode – which is whereby all notifications cease and this can be useful during moments where you are particularly busy with work or errands.
I am able to use the watch daily as a steps tracker, as well as take it out on a couple of runs of roughly about 10km or shorter – before the battery dies in about a week.
The advertised battery life is between nine to eleven days.
As a whole, I feel that the Forerunner 235 is a very comprehensive watch that can give you plenty of information about the state of your health and activity levels. It is also a light and comfortable watch to wear when you are running, and you are able to easily see the progress of your runs on the go.
Due to the interchangeable strap, it is also a watch that can be used for other non-running functions, such as when you are meeting friends for dinner, attending formal business and office events.
However due to the relatively large clock face, coupled together with the fact that I have a relatively small wrist, I personally found the Forerunner 235 a little bit on the uncomfortable side to wear 24/7, especially when sleeping.
But others may disagree though. Said Croft, “With how lightweight and slim it is, the Forerunner 235 is suited for both men and women.”
Where to get the watch
The Forerunner 235 has a recommended retail price of SGD 499 and it can be purchased online here.
It is also available at Garmin retailers, dealers and distributors in Singapore. To find one near you, click here.
Thank you Garmin for the opportunity to try the Forerunner 235 watch.