Is a Garmin Vivoactive the right fitness tracker/GPS watch for you?

Garmin Vivoactive
Garmin Vivoactive

It’s Tuesdays on the Run and today we’re talking fitness trackers. Which is right up my alley, because I adore my #GarminVivoactive — warts and all. Because like any piece of technology, it’s got its pros and cons.

I resisted a fitness tracker for a long, long time — obviously, as the Vivoactive is my first fitness tracker (unless you count a pedometer). I came close a few times, but I could just never pull the trigger.

My Garmin 110 kept having trouble finding satellites. Not always, but often. It was almost 4 years old. It was time.

This isn’t a super in-depth review. All you have to do is google for those, and of course DCRainmaker is a good source.

calendar notifications from my phone
calendar notifications from my phone

What does the Vivoactive do?
A better question might be what doesn’t it do?

Seriously, though, it has a lot of bells and whistles:

  • GPS Watch
  • Can track: running, swimming, bicycling, golf, indoor running & biking
  • Tracks your daily steps
  • Tracks your sleep
  • Tracks cadence
  • You can set alarms
  • You can set notifications (eat, drink, whatever)
  • You can set intervals (run/walk, speedwork, whatever you want intervals for)
  • You can play music (I still haven’t tried that as I have no music on my phone)
  • It’s a smartwatch, so you can get email, text, calendar, and phone call notifications
  • Sets a daily step goal that is adjusted up or down automatically by how close you get to the goal (and you can also set your own goal)

Today’s Workout

So today I had a 1 mile warmup, 3 x 800m repeats with 3 minutes rest between each interval, and 1 mile cooldown. So here’s what I did:

Lap Key Toggle
Lap Key Toggle

Turned Lap Key on. That meant that I could push the little squiggle icon on the left after each lap to record that lap — which is how I could get 1 mile & 1/2 mile laps in one run, and not have to calculate 2 1/2 mile laps for the warmup & cooldown.

Auto Lap Toggle
Auto Lap Toggle

Then I had to toggle Auto Lap off. Auto Lap will alert you and record each lap at whatever distance you put in: 1/4 mile, 1/2 mile, etc. Only it’s only for that distance. And I don’t like doing math. For this particular workout, it was easier for me to just mark each lap as it ended.

Half Mile Alert
Half Mile Alert

And finally I set up an alert for each half mile. That way I could manually mark one mile (2 1/2 miles), the 3 x 800, and 1 mile (2 1/2 miles). And then I have my splits for the first mile, each 800m repeat, and the last mile without having to do math!

Whew! And now I have to remember to undo all of that or my easy run on Thursday is going to be a little annoying (and since it’s an easy run & I”m just interested in each mile, I need to turn off Lap Key and turn Auto Lap back on).

Are you with me? Yeah, it’s been 2 months and I’m still wrapping my head around all of this! But I love that it can do it. And it did work beautifully!

Not to mention I also have a 4/30 (4 minute run, 30 second walk) interval alert going too.

The Good

  • Finds a satellite quickly — this varies, but it’s often almost instantaneous and if it’s not, it will find it while you’re moving which my Garmin 110 couldn’t seem to do
  • It’s very light and slim
  • I’m not a big phone user, but even so, those text notification have already come in handy a few times
  • It vibrates when you haven’t moved in a while — this definitely motivates me to get more activity into my day
  • I love that I can swim with it!
  • I still don’t quite grasp how it knows how far you swam, but it’s been very accurate for me
  • I only have to charge it 2-3 times a week, and I wear it 24/7
  • It charges pretty quickly

The Bad

  • No audible alarm. Seriously?
  • You can’t set the alarm to a day of the week, just a time — and unless you turn it off, yup, you’ll be woken up at the same time the next day
  • It drops connection with my phone a LOT (could it be because I have a relatively cheap phone?)
  • I don’t know how accurate it is yet; I haven’t raced with it — both times I tried it inside with my treadmill were total fails because of stuff not due to the watch (like my treadmill dying!)
  • The screen is somewhat difficult to read
  • The manual is not terribly helpful
  • Many of the functions are not intuitive to me — in order to set lap lengths, for instance, I have to start it as if I was running, so it’s trying to find a GPS signal, which seems a real waste of battery. There’s a big learning curve — at least for me!
  • I don’t get anywhere near the claimed 3 weeks between battery charges! But as I said, I still only charge it a few times a week.
  • There’s a whole lot of vibrating going on! Like today: vibrate every 4 minutes to walk, then after 30 seconds to run, each half mile, the pace for each mile, and when I hit my goal steps for the day.

The Ugly
Sometimes, totally randomly, the watch reboots itself. I thought it was when the battery got low (like only 30%, which doesn’t seem that low to me), but I had it happen one day when the battery was still 50% full.

When it reboots itself, you usually lose some of your steps. Normally it’s about 1000 steps, but one day it was about 7000! Which was more than half my steps for the day. Not cool.

Is the Garmin Vivoactive for you?
The other watch I was considering was the Garmin 225 — I really wanted that optical heart rate monitor! I didn’t get a heart rate monitor with my Vivoactive, although you can. I’m just not going to wear a strap, thank you very much.

What sold me on the Vivoactive was the fact that I can swim with it and the fact that it’s a GPS watch and fitness tracker all rolled into one — I’m just not going to wear 2 things on my wrist!

There are third party apps, free, through Connect IQ; I haven’t tried any of them yet. Although I must say the “find my car” app looks awesome. I still remember my first day at my first job out of college — a huge parking lot & I totally lost my car!

Bottom line? Warts and all, I love my Vivoactive and am very happy with my choice. I’ll let you know how I feel after my first actual race with it!


Do you use a fitness tracker? What do you think of it?

9 thoughts on “Is a Garmin Vivoactive the right fitness tracker/GPS watch for you?

  1. Random reboot is pretty annoying, but I do like that you can swim with it! I have the Garmin 620 and like it quite a bit. My only negative comment is that it takes a while to connect to GPS (sometimes over 5 minutes!) but that could be because I’m in a big city.

    Liked by 1 person

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