Let’s say, one afternoon you get the urge for some back-country hiking. You just go — gather your pack, your hiking poles, some food, and a map — and go. You stumble home later that night tired and refreshed. You “got lost,” figuratively and all-too literally. Sitting at home, reflecting on the hike I often wish I had more information about the hike (or run, or ride… or even swim): Where exactly did I go? How steep was that off-trail ridge? What average pace did I maintain? Have I sped up since the last time I did that hike?
Today’s technology can actually answer those questions[/title]. However, my attitude towards new technology is that we only call a thing “technology” until it works. (I.e. Calculators aren’t “technology” anymore. They’re just calculators. But GPS watches? The verdict is still out.) So, when I bought a Garmin 910xt watch my feelings were at best mixed.
Garmin makes bold promises: “Analyze every stroke, pedal and step.” Do I really want that from a watch? I wanted to hike and escape, not to statistically analyze my virtual footsteps. At first glance, Garmin’s technology feeds right into our media-based culture — one of the watch’s main selling points is that you can easily post your workouts directly onto Facebook. That’s a nifty bonus, but what I really sought from a Garmin was something simple and meaningful. It certainly meets the basic criteria: it took a mere 5 minutes to set up and begin using, it’s comfortable and snug, it holds a charge well, and the data transfers directly onto your Garmin profile (and can be Facebook shared from there).
And the Garmin has other little features that start to add up: a simple key lock, lap and split times that work in water, and of course the GPS mapping tool that, so to speak, put Garmin on the map.
My favorite feature, though, is the comparison tool which enables you to compare performances and even compete with yourself or other Garmin users. In two weeks, I can repeat that same back-country hike and compare my time, effort (Heart Rate), and pace.
The catch, of course, is that this watch is not cheap: For the watch and the necessary accessories, you’ll pay upwards of $600 USD. It would be nice if Garmin packaged all the accessories for multi-sport and triathletes, but in a pure cost benefit analysis, Garmin provides an excellent product that will help keep you motivated and improve your athletic performance.
What about the purists — those who prefer not to let technology interfere with their enjoyment of nature? On the one hand, yes, Garmin feeds directly into the information-age mania for data and virtual realities (and it does that well). But, on the other hand, I argue that the Garmin 910xt isn’t doing anything essentially new: it simply combines pre-existing tools (maps, compasses, clocks, altimeters, etc.) and embeds them into a simple wristwatch.
Garmin doesn’t supersede nature. It helps you navigate through it.