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Old Tech That Works: Four Running-Fitness Gadgets That Have Stood the Test of Time

Last week I thought that my Garmin Vivofit (original model) activity tracker was dead. I had replaced the batteries, but they died within a week, and another set did the same. It turns out it was the batteries that were bad – teaches me to buy cheap from Amazon – and a fresh set from a local Walgreens seems to have revived it (note: CVS and Rite-Aid do not carry the necessary CR1632 batteries for the Vivofit, but my dog got a nice car ride as we searched around town for them).

The experience led me to start looking at a replacement device, or perhaps a GPS watch upgrade that would allow me to combine several functions. To be honest, I have not kept up with the latest fitness/running gadget releases. And in the process of looking for something new, I came to the conclusion that I didn’t really want to spend a lot of money when the devices I own have worked just fine for several years.

Most of my blog posts in the past have focused on reviewing the latest and greatest running gear, but in this one I want to highlight a few devices that have stood the test of time for me, and that I continue to use almost every day.

Garmin Forerunner 6201. Garmin Forerunner 620 – My daily GPS watch (when I use GPS) is a Garmin Forerunner 620. It’s now several years old, and though it has the occasional tracking hiccup (less frequent these days it seems, maybe updates have helped), it records speed and distance more than adequately for my purposes, syncs with a heart rate monitor flawlessly (see below), and transfers workouts to Garmin Connect with ease (and from there instantly to Strava). I was having rapid battery drain issues for quite a long while with the 620, and this made me contemplate a new watch, but I resolved this problem a few months ago by turning off the WIFI auto-upload function (I just press the upload/connect button when I get home instead).

Why haven’t I upgraded? Well, I don’t need a watch to display my text messages or emails (don’t really want that level of intrusion while I run), I can manage with an off-watch heart rate monitor, and I can’t imagine that GPS tracking has improved so dramatically as to warrant the price of an upgrade (heck, my old Garmin 205 brick recorded just fine). About the only thing I’d like would be on-board music that trasmits via bluetooth, but probably not enough to make the jump on an upgrade at this point. To be honest, I think a Garmin FR15 would be sufficient for most of my needs these days as I don’t much use most of the advanced functions on the 620.

Garmin Vivofit2. Garmin Vivofit (original) – Like the Forerunner 620, I’ve had an original model Garmin Vivofit for several years (read my original Vivreview review here). All I really want from the device is a rough estimate of my activity each day (i.e., step count), and it handles this very well. I love the fact that it has incredible battery life (went almost a year before I had to replace the batteries it came with), and heart rate sync is a plus. As with the GPS watch, I can do without text/phone notifications, don’t need a fancier screen, and I actually kind of like having it as a device separate from my watch (stays on my wrist while the watch is charging…). The only issue I’ve had is that the original band would occasionally unclasp and fall off, and the band started to disintegrate a few weeks ago. A quick search on Amazon and I found this band from Cumilo that fits perfectly and has more of a traditional watch-band closure. The original Vivofit is still avaialable on Amazon, and at $49.99 it’s a bargain. I highly recommend this old piece of no-frills tech!

Scosche Rhythm+ Optical Heart Rate Monitor3. Scosche Rhythm+ – I haven’t used a chest strap heart rate monitor in over a year. I reviewed the Scosche Rhythm+ optical HRM in early 2015, and it’s pretty much the only HRM I use these days. Tracking is more than adequate for my purposes, it syncs with both the Garmin 620 and Vivofit, and it’s adaptable enough to be worn in a variety of places to ensure a good fit (and seal against the skin for tracking accuracy, a potential problem for some with wrist-only optical HRMs). Battery life has been great, and though there is the occasional dropout (particularly if it’s on the opposite arm from the GPS watch), momentary dropouts really don’t matter that much to me since my primary purpose with HR tracking is an estimate of current effort (particularly in the heat of summer). At $79.99 (Amazon), I would still recommend the Rhythm+, particularly if you have had issues with wrist-only optical HRMs.

Jaybird Freedom Bluetooth4. Jaybird Freedom Bluetooth Headphones – I’d lost my Jaybirds for several months, but after finding them and using them again for the past several weeks, I’m reminded of why I like them so much. They stay put in my ears far better than any other wireless headphone set that I’ve tried, sound is very good (though I’m no audiophile), the battery life remains strong even after several years of use, and the connection with my phone is solid (few sound drop-outs). At about $35 on Amazon, the price is tough to beat in this product segment (they were much more expensive back when they were new).

How about you – do you still use older model devices, and which do you recommend? And if anyone wants to try to sell me on one of the newer gadgets on the market, I’m all ears! I really haven’t kept up with the latest stuff, so I’d love to hear what’s working well.

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Recent Posts By Category: Running Shoe Reviews | Running Gear Reviews | Running Science
About Peter Larson

This post was authored by Peter Larson. Pete is a recovering academic who currently works as an exercise physiologist, running coach, and writer. He's also a father of three and a fanatical runner with a bit of a shoe obsession. In addition to writing and editing this site, he is co-author of the book Tread Lightly, and writes a personal blog called The Blogologist. Follow Pete on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and via email.

Comments

  1. I really love the Rhythm Armband as well – dod a review awhile back on my blog link to unconventionalfitness.net

    I will have to try those headphones now that Ultra season is here

  2. I have the same vivofit & my battery lasted 1.5 years
    I wouldn’t mind a smaller Gps watch (I have the 310xt right now) that has a step counter but like you said both work just fine right now

    • Agree, I bought a Forerunner 15 for my wife and does most everything I’d need at a fraction of the price of my 620. Small, step counter, speed and distance recorded well, and syncs with a HR monitor. But the Vivofit is pretty awesome with not having to deal with charging all the time.

  3. +1 for the Schosche, I will never wear a HR strap again.

    Pete: you should check the Garmin FR230, I’m very satisfied with it, has everything a runner needs and the Connect IQ capability is a huge plus now that apps will be capable of recording data.

  4. Sometimes the “old” stuff just works better. Still using a 2 year old Garmin Forerunner 10. Besides a broken, and DIY repaired strap, still works great. In all weather and conditions.
    Great write-up.

  5. You and I have very different definitions of “old tech.” I use the stopwatch function on my smartphone and consider it pretty techy.

  6. Steve Alleyne says:

    Ha! I’m still using my old Garmin 310XT! It takes forever to lock onto GPS in the city I live in but… I already own it!

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