The Vivoactive HR will never be the same to me as my other sports watches. I have a love-hate relationship with my Garmin Fenix 3, Forerunner 735XT and my old Forerunner 910XT. They remind me of sweat and pain, such as 17 Ironman events, two dozen XTerra’s and many other tough events I have participated in. In fairness, they also remind me of great results and the fun I had during these events. Indeed, these devices helped me with my training and kept me on form during races, they helped me gun for “personal bests” and to chase those podium positions.

But great coaches also advise their athletes to run without a watch, for the pure enjoyment of the sport and to scale down the intensity that the tech usually enforces. So when I want to scale things down a bit, without losing sight of my goals, the Garmin Vivoactive HR is the perfect fit… so to speak. As a scaled-down version of the other fitness devices I use, the Vivoactive HR offers this balance that allows me to better enjoy my training on days that I don’t want to go all-out. But does the Vivoactive HR suffice to the needs of data-driven athletes? Let’s explore some of these in detail.

Are three data fields per screen enough?

Vivoactive HR and me: till death us do part or just a short fling?

It’s all relative. I made a mind shift to be okay with only three data fields per screen. (Unless you download Connect IQ datafields that allow more fields. I tested multiple data field screens and they seem to work perfectly fine.). If you look at the default Garmin data fields on the Fenix 3 and Forerunner 735XT, my four favourite data fields are Time, Distance, Average Pace/Speed and current Pace/Speed. With the Vivoactive HR I ditched the current Pace/Speed on screen one. One swipe can take me to the next screen for that detail should I need it; including current pace, heart rate zones, and all the splits you can chase if you really want to. But like I said, I’m doing my best to keep the Vivoactive HR within a “relaxed” context.  Ironically, without my Fenix 3 or Forerunner 735XT, this fitness device could easily morph into that training watch that makes me bleed. The Vivoactive HR can be whatever you want to be.

And what if I want to do open water swimming?

Well, that is why it is costs less than my other devices and won’t break the bank. Open water swimming actually requires tricky algorithms to effectivly measure data and this is expensive technology. For these purposes I will use my dedicated triathlon watch. If I rock up unprepared without an open water swim watch at an impromptu sea or dam swim, I’ll set the Garmin Vivoactive HR on “Other” (sports activity), pop it in my swim cap and recalibrate it in Garmin Connect afterwards as an open water swim. It works quite well.

Vivoactive HR and me: till death us do part or just a short fling?


And having only one pool swim screen?

The pool swim screen has the most scaled down setup. I put the two data fields I can select on interval distance and interval time. The third one, which you can’t change, actually records two fields: total time and total distance. The rest screen stays on the splits of your last interval. It doesn’t have “rest time” and “repeat on” but I like rest time for serious days when I swim intervals. On the Vivoactive HR the total time counter ticks on and if you can count your rest period with that counter, you’re fine. I can’t. I’m usually too out of breath. I usually just guess a sensible rest time.


But can’t the Fenix 3 or Forerunner 735XT be just as fine for an everyday watch and 24/7 activity tracker?

Of course they can, if you are okay with the size (of the Fenix 3) and an overly sporty vibe (of the Forerunner 735XT). I really  like the neutral, minimalistic feel of the Vivoactive HR, it truly is unobtrusive. I find the touch screen easier for accessing the smart functions like messages, heart rate graphs and weather. And once again, the Vivoactive HR is not as pricey.

Vivoactive HR and me: till death us do part or just a short fling?Would the Vivofit or the Vivosmart not be a better 24/7 activity tracker that also tells the time? After all, if you have a dedicated multisport watch, why would you want to double those functions with a Vivoactive HR?

I like the “sports watch alter ego” that lies hidden in the Vivoactive HR. It means I can never be caught off guard and miss out on logging a training session. I previously rocked up at a few training sessions with only my Vivofit 2, having forgotten my sports watch. My iPhone and Strava saved the day, but it’s not ideal when water and sweaty stuff runs all over and you can’t check your pace etc. with your phone in your pocket. If constructed workouts and more detailed training do not rock your world, the Vivoactive HR will be king forever.  – (c) 2016 NavWorld

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Vivoactive HR and me: till death us do part or just a short fling?

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