Thanks for visiting our Blog. Find out more at or contact us at

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

What BodyBuilders can teach Endurance Athletes

On the face of things Body Builders and Endurance Athletes couldn't be further apart.  But at a fundamental level a number of their goals are identical.

1.  Increase muscular strength
2.  Increase power
3.  Reduce body fat

If your average Endurance Athlete explained some of their training principles to a Body Builder the BB would laugh at their 'logic'.  So what can a Body Builder teach an Endurance Athlete ?

1. Training to Failure
Endurance Athlete:  That was a great set.  I completed all reps and held pace on every one.

Body Builder 1:  That set was a bit of a waste.  I could lift the weight for all 10 reps.  I need to increase the weight next time.

Body Builder 2:  That was a great set.  I wanted to do 10 reps - got to 8 and was really struggling.  Had to get some help to finish

What a Body Builder can teach the Endurance Athlete
The goal of a set - whether it be a track set, a swim set or a strength set is not to comfortably complete the set.  It is to stress the body so that is adapts and grows.  A good set is one that challenges you.

2.  Recover to get stronger.
A typical Body Builder works a muscle once or twice a week.  If they want to get stronger they dont add more sessions for the muscle.  Imagine telling a Body Builder they had to do heavy squats 7 days a week.  Conversely an Endurance Athlete thinks that in order to improve their run they have to run more.

What a Body Builder can teach the Endurance Athlete
Quality trumps quantity.  A muscle gets stronger as it recovers therefore doing more can actually make the muscle weaker as it negates recovery.  Focus on the quality within the set.

3.  Fuel the Training.
Body Builders often walk around the gym with a protein shake in each hand and drink products with names like Mega Mass 2000 (yes - it was a real product and contained 2000 calories per serve)  but are typically quite lean.  Endurance Athletes are typically more focussed on 'energy' and consume lots of high sugar products making them 'skinny fat'

What a Body Builder can teach the Endurance Athlete
Fuel for the session and for recovery.  For sessions like wattage, swimming and functional strength ensure appropriate amounts of proteins and 'worker' carbs are consumed.

So if your training has hit a bit of a plateau maybe it is worth 'Training like a Body Builder" for a while.

Note:  The 'Body Builder' in the photo went 9:35 at Hawaiian Ironman last year..

Friday, 26 October 2012

Drug Testing for Dummies

With all the controversy surrounding drugs in sports like cycling it seems that everyone has become an expert.  But let's clarify a few misconceptions when it comes to drug testing.

1.  Drug testing is like alcohol testing.
Drink too much, drive, get breathalyzed and suddenly you are in a lot of trouble.  Performance drug testing doesn't work that way.  

Imagine going out and drinking a ton of white wine - being completely intoxicated.  You get pulled over and the police ask you if you have been drinking any RED wine.  You can honestly say No.  Drug tests test for specific drugs and if you dont have those drugs in your system or have a drug that isn't being tested for then you will not record a positive response.

2.  The drugs are in the system all the time.
Many drugs like EPO have a glow time (while it is in your system) and an efficacy time.  In the case of EPO it is in the athletes blood stream for about 3 days but the red blood cells take about 17 days to mature.  So by the time the benefit is realised the drug is out of the system and wont appear in any test.

3.  All drugs are tested for.
Virtually all drugs that are used in performance sports were never originally designed for that purpose.  EPO was created for patients with kidney failure, clenbuterol for horse asthma.  The lead time between athletes realising its advantages in their sport, WADA finding out about it, developing a test for it and getting the test approved, sanctioned and rolled out can be up to six years in which time the athletes have already moved onto another substance.

4.  Athletes can and are tested 24x7
This is technically true but is also a factor of mathematics (number of testers compared to athletes) and the nature of the tester.  These are typically public servant type people who work from 9-5, Monday to Friday which may coincidentally coincide with when the athlete just happens to be out training.

Athletes often joke that drug testing isn't a drug test - it is an intelligence test.  If you look at the most famous cases this is very much the case.

Ben Johnson - ignored the time that steroids are still in the system and kept taking Decadurabol right up to 4 weeks before the Olympics (Interestingly 7 out of the 8 finalists in the 100m sprint that Johnson was disqualified for have subsequently tested positive.

Tyler Hamilton - given someone else's blood to re-infuse into his body

Floyd Landis - Took testosterone the night after a stage and then finished in a position which meant mandatory testing.

Ironically if it wasn't for Tyler and Floyds brain fades the whole Armstrong investigation may never have occurred.

DISCLAIMER.  Under WADA it clearly states that it is the athletes sole responsibility to guarantee that the products they consume contain no banned substances.

Monday, 15 October 2012

A Fast Marathon Recovery

Let's face it Marathons (and most endurance events over 2 hours) are tough on the body. Markers of inflammation (C-Reactive Proteins), Cardiac and Muscular Stress (Creatine Kinase), Oxidation are all elevated for days or even weeks after a marathon.  The general rule of thumb for recovery is one day per mile run which means, for a marathon, 26 days.  Very few people who run marathons seem to have the patience for this type of break.

Let's digress for a moment.  One nutrition concept that is gaining a lot more popularity at the moment is the use of a fast day where no calories are consumed - only water, black tea/coffee.  The benefits of fasting have been well shown in studies.

  • Reduction in Inflammation (C-Reative Proteins)
  • Reduction in Cardiac Stress Marker (Creatine Kinase)
  • Reduction in Oxidation Markers.

If we go back and re-read the first paragraph you will note that what has been proven to be decreased through the use of a Fast Day are exactly the same markers that are raised after the marathon.

Which means a specifically timed fast day after a marathon or Ironman can rapidly accelerate the recovery process.

It is important immediately after such an event to take in sufficient good carbs/fats to reload glycogen stores and also complete proteins for the rebuilding of muscle (this can also be supplemented with Branch Chain Amino Acids).  A study from the Australian Institute of Sport showed that glycogen storage typically peaked after 24 hours which means immediately after the marathon and the following day load up with good quality carbohydrates, fats and proteins.  A higher level of fat will increase the production of leptin (which manages the 'fullness' feeling) negating the hunger feeling on the fast day.

Even if you are not recovery from a marathon a fast day can be of benefit.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Running Fast - Slowly.

One of my biggest dilemmas with this article was the title - should you run slowly fast or should you run fast slowly.  Either way the outcome is the same.

Do you ever wonder how marathon runners can run at 3min/km pace whilst you struggle to run faster than 5mins/km ?  For most people to speed up, their strategy is to speed up their stride - their run cadence.  This is a similar logic to going faster on the bike ie pedal faster..

But cadence when running is finite so what happens when you 'max' out your cadence (the typical maximum is 200 steps per minute) and you are still no where near a marathon runners pace ?

Here is a simple exercise.

Run on a treadmill at what could be described as tempo pace.  This may be your 10km pace or what is sometimes called 'comfortable, uncomfortable' pace - a pace that is uncomfortable but you can maintain.  For me, who runs at a marathon pace of around 4:20min/km I use 16kph.

Now, running at that pace, slow down.  Before you reach for the speed control I am not asking you to change the speed on the treadmill - I am asking you to run slower at the same speed.  This sounds counter intuitive but is actually quite easy to do when you try.

So what are you actually doing ?  If your speed is the same but your cadence has slowed then one other thing must have changed.  That factor is stride length.  If you were to place a mark on the treadmill mat where the foot leaves the mat and another mark where it lands these marks would be further apart - this is stride length.

Now, lets apply so geometry to this.

Our run stride, when done properly, is a circular motion.  When a foot leaves the ground, travels in a circle and then strikes the ground (aka stride length) this path is called the circumference of the circle.  For those of you that stayed awake at high school you will recall that circumference is equal to the size at the widest part (the Diameter) multiplied by a constant called Pi.

So if we want to increase the circumference (stride length) we simply need to increase diameter ie we need to make the circle bigger.  This is achieved by controlling how high we lift the knee - simple.

Note the word 'lift' in terms of the knee.  We are not pushing off the ground as any force that moves the body upwards is a wasted force when our goal is to move forward.  One of the things I noticed when watching Sally McClelland win the Gold Medal in the 110m Hurdles at the Olympics was that she didnt jump over the hurdles - she simple appeared to lift her legs up from under her without changing the height of her upper body.  So make sure you focus on lifting the knee to increase the circle.  Your calves will tell you then next day if you have got this wrong...

Stretching, drills, plyometrics all help with improving stride length but I find the practise of running fast, slowly as described on the treadmill helps create the proprioception for doing this the best.

Or is it running slowly, fast.......

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Watts the Best Cadence ?

Over the course of Lance Armstrong's Tour de France victories his chief rival was Jan Ulrich.  Lance and Jan were opposites in many ways - one of which was their cadence.

Ulrich typically pedalled at a cadence of 80 rpm whereas Armstrong pedalled at 95+ cadence - even when on long, steep climbs.

Surely 'pushing' a hard gear would generate more power than spinning in a lighter gear ?


Let's look at some physics.

The measure of power is a Watt and in simple terms is the rate at which work is done ie work over time

Power = Work/Time

Ok.  So what is work ?

Work is the effort (Force) to cover a particular Distance.  In other words

Work = Force x Distance

So now that we know what Work is we can plug this back into the original formula

Power = Force x Distance/Time

Now a third concept - Velocity.  This is more commonly called speed and is what all athletes are seeking but within a speeding bike there are two other speed variables - the cranks (cadence) and the wheels (Rotational Mass (which is a whole different discussion on why wheel weight isnt the most important factor in wheel speed))

So Velocity = Distance over time (as in kmh or metres per second)

Velocity = Distance/Time.

If we plug THIS back into our formula we get

Power = Force x Velocity

So in order to increase Power we can increase Force (a harder gear) OR we can increase Velocity (Cadence).

Force is limited by the fatigue factor of the fibres.  As we progress to using more Type 1 fibres our rate of fatigue increases.  But if we use the same force and increase our cadence then our wattage goes up.

Think about your car.  When you want to accelerate to over take a car do you drop down a gear and increase RPM or go to a harder gear ?

If you look at the Tour Riders you will note they actually run very easy gears with guys like Contador running a 27 tooth cog on the rear.  This allows him to maintain a higher cadence when climbing.

A second consideration is run cadence (not an issue for Ulrich..)  Typically good runners use a cadence for around 188 steps per minute which is equivalent of a 'cadence' of 94.  By using a higher cadence on the bike more closely matched to run cadence a triathlete is better able to maintain a natural body rhythm .

Who said physics was boring.....

Monday, 13 August 2012

A Championship Mindset

Champions do not become champions when they win the event but in the hours, weeks, months and years they spend preparing for it.  The victorious performance itself is merely the demonstration of their championship character.  Alan Armstrong

I have a number of people come to me with Championship goals - to compete in Age Group World Championships, to qualify for the Hawaiian Ironman, New York Marathon etc etc  But as Alan Armstrong says a championship mindset is not just something that you should have on race day.

Depending on the event there are between 1 and 5 slots available for each of the championships - in some races you may be competing against 150+ plus people for one of those places.  So a very simple question to ask is whether you are doing more or less than the other 150 people in your age group - or specifically the one to five people who could be taking your slot.

This is a Championship Mindset.

If you wake up in the morning and it is raining a question to ask is what are the other 5 people doing.  Are they getting out there and running - are they getting on the bike inside or at the gym - are they heading to the pool instead.  Or are they rolling over and going back to sleep…

Is your Championship Mindset reflected in your environment.  Is it reflected in your diet.  Are the other 3 people hitting the booze and sugars and inflammatory foods.

Is your Championship Mindset reflected in your attention to detail when it comes to equipment - is your bike maintained and clean.  As Aristotle said - "Excellence is not an act but a Habit"

It is far easier to find a reason not to do something - an excuse, than it is push yourself out the door.  A champion finds a way rather than a way out.

This is a Championship Mindset.

So when setting the goal of competing at a Championship the next question to ask yourself is whether you are one of the three that will live and train with a Championship Mindset or be a 'part time' champion.  If you are the later you may want to start preparing a list of excuses you can live with when you miss out...

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Training Zones for not quite Dummies.

There are lots of attempts to explain Heart Rate Zones.  Most try and come up with a simple explanation of what your body uses for fuel but by over-simplifying the explanation this tend to create confusion and assumptions (and marketing tools for nutrition companies).

When looking at fuel systems it is best to look at 3 basic questions and then equate those to your training goals.

1.  How much of the fuel source exists

2.  How quickly is it converted to energy by the body

3.  How long does it take to reload or refill this source.

But first lets start with a basic explanation of energy production. A muscle contraction is created using 3 types of fuel - Adenosine-5'-triphosphate (ATP), Creatine Phosphate (CP) and adenosine diphosphoribose (ADP) so at any final point in energy production these need to be produced.

These can be sourced from 4 different sources

1. ATP itself.
2. Glycogen
3. Glucose
4. Body Fat.

So going back and applying our original three questions.


1. How much of the fuel source exists.

Not much - about 10 to 12 seconds worth

2. How quickly is it converted to energy by the body

Incredibly quickly - it's already present in the muscle

3.  How long does it take to reload or refill this source.

Around 120 seconds although it is mostly (81%) refueled within 60 seconds.

So ATP is primarily used for very short explosive outputs such as lifting weights.


Glycogen is converted to ATP through a process called Glycolysis. It is stored within the body in the liver and muscles.

1.  How much of the fuel source exists

If your glycogen levels are 100% topped up you may have as much as two hours worth of Glycogen stored in the liver and muscles.  This level is rarely the case though so it is more like 1:40:00 - 1:50:00

2.  How quickly is it converted to energy by the body

Very quickly - it is already in the muscles and gets in the blood stream quickly via the liver

3.  How long does it take to reload or refill this source.

Glycogen is created from Glucose through a process called gluconeogenesis.  This can take from several hours to days.  The obvious down size if that if you run out of glycogen (commonly called bonking) it will take sometime to reload these stores.  Reloading of Glycogen is commonly what is referred to as Carbo Loading.  The levels of muscle glycogen measured after 24 hours of Carb Loading do not significantly increase if this load time is increased so extended Carb loading sessions arent really necessary and can cause a feeling of bloating.


Blood glucose is controlled through Insulin (lowering blood sugar) and Glucagon (raising blood sugar).  Glucose is converted to ATP through glycogenesis.  It should be noted that there are only 3 different 'natural' sugars - glucose, fructose and galactose.  Any other sugar that you ingest - eg maltodextrin, requires conversion by the body.  The maximum amount of any of these 3 sugar types that your body can convert is about 15g per 15 minute period

1.  How much of the fuel source exists

Not a lot.  In a 75kg person with normal blood sugar levels there is only about 5g of glucose in the blood.

2.  How quickly is it converted to energy by the body

Very quickly - the issue is actually how quickly your body can convert ingested carbs into blood sugar

3.  How long does it take to reload or refill this source.

See comment above - you can reload about 60g an hour which is only about 270 calories worth..

Body Fat

Body Fat is converted to ATP through a process called Lipogenesis.  Body fat is also by far the most abundant fuel supply in the body.

1.  How much of the fuel source exists

A LOT.  1g of fat realises 9 calories.  And incredibly lean Tour De France still has 60(kg) x 0.06(BF) x 9000 (calories per gram) = 32,400 calories. which is enough for 32 hours of hard riding.

2.  How quickly is it converted to energy by the body

Not very quickly

3.  How long does it take to reload or refill this source.

Given the volume in even a lean athlete this isnt really an issue.

For those that like pictures..

So your body burns fuel based on most to least abundant (fat to stored ATP) balanced by the rate at which it can be converted.  This is governed by exertion levels which are measured, as a correlation, by heart rate. Your body, at low levels of exertion, uses Body Fat. As energy requirements (exertion) increases your body switches to blood sugar and then, as requirements increase, glycogen.

Most diagrams show this as a  stacked bar with clear lines between the zones but it doesnt quite work that way.  It is more like

There are two very important take aways from this graph

1.  Your body, even when burning fat, needs a small amount of carbohydrates.  Think of an internal combustion engine - it primarily runs on petrol but still needs a spark for consumption.

2.  At the highest level of exertion your body is using Glycogen which is limited (around 1-2 hours) and takes an extended time to refuel so any form of exercise that extends greater than 1:45:00 (Marathon, Olympic - Ironman Triathlon) CANNOT use glycogen as the primary fuel source.  Of course the flip side is that for shorter events like a Half Marathon or Sprint Distance Triathlon you CAN use glycogen as your fuel source

BTW - The issue with heart rate is that it is an approximation of what fuel source is being used.  The actual percentages can be determined using an exercise metabolic test which involves a mask over the face to measure the amount of oxygen being consumed but also what the 'exhaust' products are.  Each fuel source creates different bi-products so measuring these can determine

a) what fuel source is being used - Fat, Glucose, Glycogen.

b) what amount in calories is being burnt.  In other words - fuel consumption..

Monday, 18 June 2012

Autovation and Discipline

This morning the alarm went off at 5am.  I listened and heard the sound of steady rain outside.  I also had a REALLY busy day ahead with lots to do.  A perfect combination of excuses.

So I put on my cycling gear and went out riding with four other people who got up at the same time and who had the same busy days.

Some would say this is a sign of motivation.  I would say it is a sign of AUTOVATION.  The term 'auto' comes from the greek meaning 'self' or 'ones own'.  By the way - you probably wont find Autovation in the dictionary, I made it up but it makes a lot more sense to me..

The point is that motivation is not something that others provide you.  Motivation (or autovation) is something that needs to come from within - a desire to meet or achieves ones goals.

It is not the coaches job to provide motivation.  The coach brings the skills, science and experiences to combine with the athletes Autovation to help them rapidly achieve their goals - to give the person options and alternatives when things such as injuries or 'life' gets in the way. The coach provides accountability but if the person doesnt want to do it there isnt much the coach can do.

An athlete with no motivation finds excuses.  An athlete with autovation finds a way.

It's Raining and Dangerous        -      Get on the trainer
The pool is closed                      -      Get in the gym
I have a bad ankle/achilles         -      Get in the pool or do some core.

I often hear the term Discipline but what does that mean ?  Is a person that gets home at 7:30 every night to watch (insert favorite reality show here) any more disciplined than someone that leaves work to get to the pool at 7:30 ?  Not really.  The difference is in the choices they make and the autovation they have.

If you dont have autovation to train or achieve a physical goal that is OK - not everyone does.  How many people join gyms in the first week of the year and then stop going ?

Being fit and healthy and comfortable in your clothes is over rated anyway ;)

Tomorrow - set the alarm for 5 minutes earlier. Then when it goes off ask yourself WHY are your doing this, what is your goal and why you want to achieve it.

Monday, 14 May 2012

I'd rather eat bull fat than bull shit.

Everyone knows that saturated fats and cholesterol cause heart disease.

Four hundred years ago everyone knew that the world was flat too.  In fact you would be burnt as a heretic for suggesting anything else.

The basis for the belief regarding saturated fats was primarily due to a study published by  Ancel Keys in 1953.  In this study he correlated the fact that out of a whole seven countries in the study (in fact the study was originally called the seven country study) those that had higher levels of saturated fats also had a higher incidence of heart disease.  The study only included 12,000 men in the age range 40-59

Therefore saturated fat causes heart disease.

This is an example of a correlation study (as opposed to a causation study) and is like saying "A cat has four legs.  My dog has four legs so therefore my dog is really a cat...."

Add to this a couple of other simple facts

1.  It was heavily supported by the manufacturers of vegetable oils who might have some vested interest in people moving away from butter, animal fats and consuming their manufactured oils...

2.  Specifically excluded countries that disproved the outcome such as France (high fat/ low heart disease) and India (low saturated fat / high heart disease).  The study originally had 16 countries so in essence less than half of the small subset of the worlds countries actually showed the correlation.

3.  Studies since then which 'proved' this hypothesis fed subjects large amounts of manufactured and trans fats as well as large amount of inflammatory processed sugars

Maybe the world isn't actually flat after all ?

There have been many independent, peer reviewed studies showing there is no discernible link between natural saturated fats, cholesterol and heart disease but for some unknown reason the vegetable oil manufacturers have been less inclined to promote these studies.

The simple fact is that saturated fats and cholesterol is vital to the normal healthy function of our bodies.

1.  The two most vital organs for survival - the heart and the brain use saturated fats as a fuel source.

2.  Cholesterol is the precursor to a number of vital hormones
                  Bile Salts
3.  Saturated fats are used for the production of arachidonic acid
        In one study, 18 month old infants who were given arachidonic acid supplements for 17 weeks showed significant improvements in intelligence, and in adults impaired arachidonic acid metabolism or insufficient arachidonic acid intake is linked to brain issues such as Alzheimer’s and bipolar disorder.

4. Cholesterol is used in seratonin production (feel good hormone) that is the target of most anti depressant. SRI's (seratonin re-uptake inhibitors) are the main anti depressant which try and block seratonin being reabsorbed (which isn't required when we are producing sufficient amounts!) and these have a number of dangerous side effects including weight gain, increases in blood pressure and heart rate.

Looking at 2,3 & 4 it should be noted that since the push to lower fats in the diet the incidence of depression, ADHD and alzheimers has increased significantly.

5. About 50% of cell membrane is saturated fats - it gives cells its strength and integrity.

6. Saturated fats are vital for the transportation of calcium around the body - both into the bones for bone strength and to prevent calcium pooling as in arthritis.  A test subject of mine actually discontinued use of her arthritis medication by increasing the fats in her diet and removing inflammatory foods.

7. Saturated fats protect your liver when you are taking substances like alcohol, aspirin etc.

8. Saturated fats protect/enhance your immune system.  For example coconut oil contains microbiobical properties to protect and enhance your digestive tract protecting against disease.

9. For babies - it is the primary component in brain and nervous system development.  Mothers milk contains high levels of cholesterol and low fat diets can inhibit natural neurological development.

But I think the most telling fact is that since the socialisation and adoption of this studies Heart Disease, Obesity, Diabetes (and associated conditions), depression, Alzheimers and ADHD have all INCREASED.

So enjoy that steak (grass fed preferred please) know that you are doing yourself good...

Monday, 2 April 2012

Review of Garmin Watches for Running

Review of Garmin Watches for Running

One of the biggest one off costs for runners usually involves the purchase of a watch. The use of watches with GPS features is now more used than not. The ability to track your distance, pace and heart rate during a run is a big plus for runners following formal training programs and there is a myriad of applications to go with the devices to allow the user to check feedback. The market is also flooded with different brands of GPS devices and add ons to make it easier to get into using the GPS tracking devices and even includes iPhone and android applications for your phone. However, all of these other options like the Timex models, Polar editions, Nike and Adidas sport watches and the applications available for your smart phone fail in comparison to all the Garmin forerunner options...yes every single Garmin option hands down beats every other option. So if you’re ready to start tracking your pace, you’re ready for a Garmin Forerunner GPS watch. So the only question left is which one?

Summary of Editions

Gamin produce a wide range of products for the Car, Bike, Hiking and Running. The range entitled Forerunner is the range we are interested in as GPS wrist devices. This list is in order of model numbers only. Features increase as model numbers go up (more or less) and so with the increase in features, so does the price. But is it money well spent if you’re a runner. The watches target the big spending tri-athletes as well and many of the features of the watches include features that make tri-athletes drool. But your swim stroke count may be wasted on land unless you hit a massive puddle...or is it?

Garmin Forerunner 110

The cheapest model of the ranges starting from just under $200 without a heart rate monitor strap making this a very affordable entry point. It’s targeted as easy to use but this limits the screen options and displays and with it the features. I didn’t find it easier to use but my wife and her running group friends say it is and I don’t want to argue. I think its because their husbands can’t change the screens on them so that its always the same every time they head out to use it. It comes with a charging cable that also allows synchronising with the PC and it all seems pretty easy but the uploading to Garmin connect (web site that allows you to review your runs and data collected) is very manual which I find a little confusing seeing as they manage to get the other watches to automatically synchronise. It is ANT compatible with the heart rate monitor but not the foot pod which is confusing especially considering the data transfer for most other watches is via a wireless ANT transfer as well. In saying that, the whole process is easy enough. The watch is also small and very similar to a normal wrist watch in size and weight. The battery lasts about 8 hours in continuous use. The main concern I have is the lap pace feature and how it works. Every time the lap clocks over (either automatically or by you pressing lap) the lap pace goes into a spin showing the current lap pace either way too fast or slow depending on its mood. After about a minute or so its back on track but I hate the way it does this and even more, I hate the way people running with me wearing this watch declare that I’m not running at the right pace and I’m either too fast or slow.
I see this watch targeted at those runners wanting a cheap and easy to use GPS watch. It has just enough to track distance and long distance pace. It’s just not useful for those wanting run fartlek style runs with intervals of 2 minutes or less. But it has a definite market and it works well.

Garmin Forerunner 210

This edition of watch looks and feels just like the 110, but with a few slight additions such as some limited ability to change the screens from Lap Pace to Average Lap Pace and remove the heart rate screen if you don’t need it. But that’s about it. Its almost $100 more expensive and comes with a heart rate monitor strap and is compatible with the footpod but is it worth it? Nope. Put simply its one to avoid. If you want a cheap watch buy the 110, if you want more features buy anything else. This watch suffers from the same lap pace issue that the 110 suffers from and its almost like Garmin realised how bad this was and decided to allow you to change to Average Pace instead of Lap Pace. I just don’t see the point of this watch so look elsewhere.

Garmin Forerunner 305

This is an oldie but worth mentioning as they still sell on eBay and people that have it still love it. This was really the first of the GPS watches from Garmin and was out at a time when no one else had anything close. The size of it will be too much for many especially on the smaller wrists of female runners. It has customised screens and every feature you could hope for from a runner’s watch but the display isn’t great (it was in its day but is dated now) and the wrist band is uncomfortable. The fast clip options to move it from the bike to a run makes it attractive even to runners as most runners also ride for fitness and want to track that as well. But there are better options now days.

Garmin Forerunner 310

For me, this was the first watch that really hit the mark. A natural extension from the 305 but with a better display, better button layout and a smaller form albeit only just. Its not as long and cumbersome as the 305 but still sits high on your wrist. The fast clip options are numerous but the best I have seen for runners simply involves a rubber mount that you loop the normal watch band through as if its going on your wrist. It’s not fast transfer so maybe triathletes will find this method an issue in a race but for runners who just want to cross train its ideal as it doesn’t change the wrist band into something that is bigger and less ideal. The watch has every feature you could want as a runner and doesn’t suffer from the Lap Pace issues that plague the 110 and 210. It’s fully customisable and includes swim and several bike modes that allow you to have even more screens available as well as multisport mode for Traithlete and Duathletes. The only feature I would like to see is having several run modes so that I could use a track mode and race mode so I have everything I need and nothing I don’t. I still found the wrist band a bit of a pain in the longer distance races and came up with a normal “Nike” sweat band and looped the wrist band pins from the watch through the sweat band. This watch is still available with and without the heart rate monitor strap at just under $300 (without strap) it’s an excellent option for most runners. It really has been the best choice for runners since its release even though the size and shape aren’t very watch like. The battery run time whilst in use moves from 8 hours to 20 hours. This could be an advantage for all you ultra-runners. All in all it was the best until recently...

Garmin Forerunner 405

This was the first of the Garmin watch range that decided to leave the triathlete market and move into what was a runner’s only watch. No bike or swim modes and rain proof only (its classed to 1m of depth but this simply means it’s safe to leave on when you’re washing your hands). The watch is more like a watch and is a nice small form (only slightly bigger than the 110 and 210) and reasonably comfortable but very light. The buttons on the watch to start/stop and lap buttons work well and are positioned great. But the watch is very much let down by an attempt at a touch style user interface or more specifically a touch bevel. The bevel works by scrolling your finger around the rim of the watch to scroll through the menus and then pressing and holding to select a menu option or using the enter button. It sounds intuitive but it’s not. It’s the opposite and trying to adjust whilst on the run or in a rush is just not happening with this watch. The screen size is good but not as good as the 310 and limits the number of screens to 3. This may sound like enough but most people train with time, distance, heart rate and pace so it doesn’t take long to wish for that extra display. You can always use the multiple screens but again it’s a compromise. The watch works once up and running but you have to ensure you lock the screen after you start as sweat will cause the bevel menu to start reacting randomly. So a nice attempt but at the end of the day it is a bit of a fail with a poor UI design. At the same price as the 310 you would only down grade to this watch if you were worried about the look, something runners shouldn’t be concerned with over function. 

Garmin Forerunner 405cx

This watch is hardly worth mentioning but if I leave it out then everyone will complain. It’s a 405 and not much more. The CX branded simply adds a calorie counter based on heart rate. It really doesn’t do anything else and I can only think that what the people at Garmin thought with this one was to target those worried about their calorie output more than their running. It has a few more colour options but it’s nothing that they couldn’t have done with a simple software update.  And the calorie consumption is only really a guestimate further decreasing the supposed added value.

Garmin Forerunner 410

The 410 is the only one I haven’t owned and it’s easy to say why. It’s nothing more than the 405cx with “improved bezel” and updated “calorie consumption formula” and neither of these Garmin is willing to tell you about. I’m not sure what is improved about the bezel but once stung by the 405 I can’t go back to it and as for the new formula on a calculation I don’t use and Garmin won’t say how they work it out - well the less said the better. Its $50 more expensive and I’m not sure what you get but if you want to take a chance then maybe the bezel menu works, although I doubt it as the whole idea is not intuitive, just ask my wife!

Garmin Forerunner 610

This is another watch that I haven’t owned but at least I got to use this one both at a stall at an event and running once at a training session where a mate let me borrow it for a few laps. The touch screen is intuitive and the hardware buttons on the side make sense for start and stop functions. It worked well and the touch screen is responsive and feels OK. It’s not easy to select menus whilst on the move as the touch screen makes it hard to accurately press the right buttons but this aside it seems OK. It’s a very similar size to the 4xx series but a little shapelier on the wrist so it feels very nice to wear. It’s a nice looking watch as well so all in all it was promising. However, I’m not sure the touch screen is the way to go on a watch. I like the feel of hardware buttons whilst running and the advantage of a touch screen when standing still isn’t that much of an advantage. You also have to lock the watch after heading off as the touch screen re-acts as sweat falls on it. I’m not convinced that this is the watch to buy and I always worry about the longevity of touch screens on sports equipment. It’s not like a wrap the watch in cotton wool as I throw it around my running bag. At close to $400 its better than the 4xx series but still not my choice.

Garmin Forerunner 910

Last but least we see the introduction of the 910. A new series but a familiar style. This could be seen as more of a 3xx series upgrade. It seemed more like a natural progression of the 305 to the 310 to the 910. The size is about the same, the screen is similar and the buttons are almost identical to the 310. The menu is almost identical as well. But it is an upgrade and worth while. It adds stroke count for swimming and barometric altimeter for accurate altitude changes (yes on mappings the Garmin Connect data shows altitude but it’s a guess and very inaccurate). It also adds virtual race which also exists on the 4xx series as well but I have never used this feature and don’t rate it as something that runners need. The screen is interesting as according to the specifications its identical to the 310 buts its much clearer and easier to read and I’m not sure why, maybe because its new and exciting? The watch band is different as well and a little more shaped around the wrist which adds to the comfort and ease of use. At $460 it’s a fair price increase on the 310 but it’s worth it for me plus others might like the fact that it’s not “look at me orange”.


All in all it’s an easy choice for me. The 910 has everything I need and in a nice package. If I’m spending money I want the best and the 910 is the best of this range. It works on the track as well as long road runs and races. If you don’t want a watch to use on the track (or at least with limited display options) then the 110 is the best alternative. It’s cheap and easy to use but the issue with the lap pace means I don’t like it but I recognise that many people just want distance and time and this watch does that.