Now that the running season is well and truly underway as pleasant weather rolls in, it is time to take a closer look at one of the most exciting GPS-enabled endurance sport and fitness tracker in the market today. No, we aren’t talking about the Apple Watch Ultra. The limelight here is on the Garmin Forerunner 255S Music, which was launched in India in June.
This is an upgrade of Garmin’s bestselling mid-range Forerunner GPS trackers. The Forerunner 255S Music is uniquely positioned in the market due to its 41mm size and powerful features. This includes an impressive battery life of 14 days in smart watch mode, or 30 hours in GPS mode on a single charge. The ‘S’ here doesn’t stand for solar but for small. Alongside the Forerunner 255S Music, Garmin had also launched the bigger Forerunner 255 Music, with a bigger dial of 46mm. Both of these models are also available without the music option as Forerunner 255 and Forerunner 255S.
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I was attracted to the Forerunner 255S Music for its size, and it doesn’t disappoint. It is a good size for small wrists as it doesn’t stand out too much, is something that you can wear in your day-to-day life and even pair it with office wear. However, you don’t buy a Garmin to wear to office. You buy it to track your runs, cycle rides, hikes, swims and pretty much anything that has to do with sports, fitness and health. And this one comes with plenty of new features to track new metrics so that you have a better insight into your training.
Let’s look at the GPS first, and Garmin watches are arguably one of the best in business. On the 255S Music they have stuck to the tried and tested five button layout. The watch also manages to reduce the time it takes to catch the signal to track your movements. I used it on streets with plenty of tall buildings and trees, and most times it was just a matter of 10 seconds.
Now, for the upgrade. This one is a big step up from its predecessor, the Forerunner 245, and at a whole new level compared to the popular Forerunner 235. For starters, the entire Forerunner 255 range is triathlon ready. It has the battery life for the full Ironman distance and then some. Garmin has included the Triathlon mode in its activity list on this and has also introduced cycling power meter support. It can track your open water as well as pool swims.
It has the standard metrics, like VO2 Max, race time prediction, training status and heart rate monitor from the previous versions. To these, it adds heart rate variability, a metric that is gaining more traction in the fitness world of late. It also has a health snapshot option: You sit still for two minutes and the watch prepares a report with your heart rate, stress level, body battery, respiration rate, heart rate variability and blood oxygen level. You can access all this data through the Garmin Connect app. The 255S Music is also capable of measuring running power when paired with a chest heart rate monitor. Those who like to have some music for their workouts would love the freedom from phone this watch provides. It can store up to 500 songs which you can listen to on any bluetooth headphones or ear pods that you can pair with the watch.
The older models were able to tell you how long you ran for and for how long you were stationary. The 255 series watches can now also tell the time you spend standing still, walking and running. This feature is especially helpful for interval training where you alternate between a fast section and a slow section in running, cycling and swimming. It also gives you the cadence for running and cycling as well as strokes per length of the pool. These data are helpful when you are looking to train seriously for any event. Another new feature Garmin has included is its AI-powered training platform for 5km, 10km and half marathon called Garmin Coach, which could be very useful for new runners who do not want to sign up with a running club, group or coach.
The watch doesn’t send frequent prompts to move or breathe but from time to time it does warn you to relax. It does so by sensing if your stress levels are too high, or to take it easy with your training if you have had too many active days without letting your body recover. Garmin’s Body Battery feature is still around with this watch, but it has become more refined and accurate. The 255s Music also has the Training Status feature that lets you know whether you are in recovery, overreaching, maintaining or stressed based on the heart rate variability, workout tracking, activity tracking, sleep and stress that it measures.
While this watch is great, it is not perfect. The display is just practical at best, and it comes across as second best because we live in a world that is familiar with the crisp display of the Apple Watch. The smaller size of the screen means the fonts are small; and that means it could become difficult to read some instructions while using the watch in bright daylight.
It has no touchscreen, but I personally think that is a good thing in a sports GPS watch (Apple watch users know all about how difficult it is to stop it in a pool). The worst part is the textured rubber strap. Not only does it look cheap, but it also left my wrist itchy (this is something I’ve heard from other users as well). Thankfully, the straps have the quick release feature so changing them should be easy.
In all, this is a great watch that is of actual use to athletes, as well as for general fitness enthusiasts who want to take their training and performance to another level.
Shrenik Avlani is a writer and editor and the co-author of The Shivfit Way, a book on functional fitness.