Why The Garmin 220 GPS is Awesome
In the spirit of full disclosure, the Garmin 220 was my first “real” running watch. Before that, I used a few different running applications on my phone. Before that… whatever brand of stopwatch my coach used back in high school. I read a lot of information online, but I knew that I really didn’t want something huge, and I had a bit of an affinity to Garmin products (my brand of choice for the GPS in my truck and the handheld GPS which goes along on my ice fishing adventures are both Garmin branded) – so my choices quickly narrowed to some of the newer (at the time) Garmin watches.
The Garmin Forerunner 620 added a few more bells and whistles (VO2 max estimate, recovery advisor, race predictor) which didn’t quite justify the expenditure for me at the time, and I also opted to not purchase the add-on HRM (chest strap) when I brought my new Forerunner 220 home (as the extra cost – $50 – was identical to the cost to purchase it at a later date).
I downloaded the Garmin Connect app to my phone (an iPhone at the time, I now have an Android-based phone and the application seems identical from a user’s perspective), entered some basic setup information about myself, and away I went.
The watch itself has quite a few configurable items, including:
- beeps vs. vibration alerts vs. silence (I chose vibration, I already hear enough beeps on the race course)
- auto-pause when stopping (useful for things like not counting the time you spend at traffic lights, I turned this on)
- auto-lap (e.g., store splits at every mile, you can still manually create laps by using the lap button on the watch)
- pace alerts (this can be set in general, but can also be used in conjunction with specific workouts)
- back light duration (either temporarily for a set number of seconds after pressing the button, or can stay on continuously – I did the latter during my nighttime leg of Ragnar Great River last summer)
- GPS on or off (more about this in a bit)
- Bluetooth on or off (how your watch syncs to your phone wirelessly, alternately you can use the included USB charging cable to directly connect to your computer)
- HRM (optional, I didn’t use this)
- How many data pages to display (you can scroll through these mid-activity, but can only configure which are available from the settings menu before or after completing an activity)
Your watch stores previous activities as well as personal records (both are also accessible via the app and the Garmin Connect website). From the watch itself, you can review things like overall time, distance, and pace of a workout, as well as lap-based data (distance of lap and average pace for that lap).
One of the first things which drew me to the Garmin 220 (of the Forerunner line), was the size and weight. While the face of the watch itself is slightly bigger than a watch I would have picked for other purposes, I found myself wearing the watch pretty much non-stop for two important factors: the height of the watch face itself is quite minimal, and the watch as a whole is incredibly light Compared to the 210 which this watch replaces, Garmin put it on quite a diet!
Additionally, the Garmin 220 can be incredibly quick to pick up satellites. This feature comes by way of the device’s ability to “remember” satellite locations – so if you find yourself running in the same general area quite often (e.g., my weekday lunchtime runs are always within the same few square miles), the watch can literally have a signal and be ready to run within a few seconds of pushing the run button.
The FR220 also has its own way of internally measuring cadence, meaning that the watch can be used on indoor tracks or the treadmill without needing an external footpod (although you can pair it to one if you’d like). One caveat here – the watch needs to “learn” your stride over various paces to get good at measuring distance without GPS aids, so I would strongly recommend taking the watch on a few different outdoor runs before you start experimenting with it on the treadmill.
Pro tip: when running on an indoor track or a treadmill near a window, be sure to turn the GPS off within your watch (accessible via the settings menu), otherwise your watch will strive to find GPS signal during your run…often to hilarious (and not helpful) results.
I also planned on using my watch for cross-training (purely to keep all of my activities tracked in one place). Cross-training can mean various things to various people, but for me that means biking – and in my case, I wasn’t overly concerned with any data above and beyond pace, distance, and time. Other Garmin watches can better be used to pair with cycling-specific sensors, or provide map-based navigation (think anything in the Fenix/Tactix line), but for me that Forerunner line fit what I wanted out of tracking my rides.
Pro tip: by default, every activity tracked on your watch is a “run”, and you will need to use either the app or the website in order to change the activity type to “cycling”. If your activity happens to trigger a new PR (e.g., “longest run”), changing the activity type will revert your running PR back to the previous record during your next sync.
Overall Impressions of the Garmin 220
After 15 months and over a 1,000 miles, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the Garmin 220 to anyone (and have to a few friends and family, even buying one as a gift for someone else). I have sweated quite a bit in it, ran in the rain, ran in sleet and snow (just remember to not bury the watch under multiple layers, or GPS reception may be impacted)… and the watch keeps right on ticking.
Given my propensity to wear the watch all the time, I did make two additional purchases – an extra charging cable/cradle (one for home and one for my desk at work, for those days when I forget to recharge it and have a run over lunch coming up) and a screen protector (similar to the sheets of plastic available for phones, these are die-cut to the shape of the watch face). After a little washing of the band, the watch still looks just as good as the day I first took it out of the box.
Do you have a Garmin 220? How do you like it?