I started using the Garmin Forerunner 620 in November 2013, and did a brief review around that time. I’ve been meaning to talk about it again now that I am more familiar with it, but never got around to it. Today I thought I would discuss three of the features of the Garmin 620 that stand out to me: VO2 max, vertical oscillation, and recovery advisor. All of these features require the use of the HRM-Run strap. If you wear if consistently while you run, it can provide some interesting data that may help your training!
VO2 Max is a measure of the amount of oxygen that your body can use while exercising. While a higher VO2 max is generally better, it seems to be a rather individual measure. Therefore, if two runners have the same VO2 max it doesn’t necessarily mean they will run the same race times. When thinking about your own VO2 max, as your body is better able to use oxygen, you will be able to run faster at the same effort. That is why it is important to do workouts that improve VO2 max and train in a way that will allow your running to become more efficient.
When the Garmin HRM-Run strap is worn consistently, the data provided from your heart rate is used to calculate an approximate VO2 max. I have noticed that mine will go up and down slightly from day to day or week to week, but when I am training consistently I notice an overall increase in that number. My highest ever VO2 max was last fall when I was training for the Philadelphia Marathon.
As you can see from the chart above, I stopped wearing my HRM after the race so there is no data, and once I started running again in the spring it took some time to build up my VO2 max again. Ever few weeks I will get a notification that my number has gone up, and that is always a good feeling!
Vertical oscillation is the amount of bounce, or up and down motion, that happens while running. Less vertical oscillation is better, because this means you are running more efficiently. The Garmin HRM-Run tracks this by measuring how much the actual heart rate monitor moves up and down while you run. It is measured in centimeters, and I have found that my vertical oscillation is generally around 10-11 cm. When its closer to 10, the graph has more “green” in it versus orange, so that means I am closer to an ideal amount of movement.
Lately I have noticed that as I am working on my strength and stability, I am seeing lower numbers in this area. Changes of less than a centimeter might not seem like much, but the more we are moving up and down the more energy we are wasting that could be reserved and put into our forward running motion. The following graph is from earlier this spring:
I definitely notice that my vertical oscillation is higher on days when I am tired, or at the end of a tough run. Surprisingly, it looks the best when I run up hills! I think that may be because hill running encourages good form.
The recovery advisor includes recovery time and recovery check. At the end of a run, the Garmin 620 will display a recommend amount of recovery time based on my heart rate. So after a short, easy run, it may say 12-18 hours. After a long or more challenging workout it may be a few days. Recovery check is a way to gauge recovery status a few minutes into a new run. Usually about 5-10 minutes after beginning my run, the 620 will display if my recovery is “good” or “fair”. (I haven’t seen any other ratings besides those two.)
This feature was helpful when I did a 10 miler on a Thursday and had a 5k the following Sunday. The 10 miler was harder than expected due to heat and hills, and it really wore me out. After the run my recovery time was 3 days. This would give me just enough time to recover before the 5k, but I was still nervous that I wouldn’t be fully recovered. When I ran my warm up on Sunday morning, my recovery status was displayed as “good”, which eased any concerns I had about racing that day.
In this case there was nothing I could really do because that was the day my race was scheduled for, but in training this feature could help with scheduling workouts. If I did a tough workout on Tuesday and needed 3 days to recover, I would wait to do another hard workout or long run until at least Saturday.
These features are not by any means a necessity for a running watch. They are definitely “extras” that may help with measuring your progress if used consistently. I like the data, so I find all the graphs and charts and numbers helpful. It did take some time to start using these features in the way they are intended, and to see some patterns emerge. I actually don’t think much at all about pace (unless doing a specific workout), but instead focus on training properly and improving my running efficiency, all of which can be monitored using these features.
I hope that you found this at least a bit interesting or helpful! Let me know if you have any questions about anything I explained, or the watch in general!
What kind of running watch do you use?
Do you track any data from your runs besides distance and pace?
Which of these features do you think would be the most helpful to you?
I’m linking up with April, Patty, and Erica for Tuesdays on the Run and Sara for Tried it Tuesday!
meredith@ Cookie ChRUNicles says
Thank you for this because I find it very informative and the way you explained everything actually makes sense in terms I can understand lol..I actually don’t use a watch and just use MapMyRun. I think about getting more detailed and getting one of these watches but sometimes don’t think I need so much info. I would like to see though what my numbers would be! Very cool.
While this stuff can be fun, its also alot of “extra stuff” that we don’t really need. I think it really just depends on if you would use it enough to make it worth the big purchase!
Michele @ paleorunningmomma says
The vertical oscillation is really interesting and one thing my watch doesn’t track, at least to my knowledge (fr110)
I haven’t been tracking my hr but might start because I feel like summer is the time to do that with the heat, since pace can be very deceiving! Since I’m about to go out for a pace run and it’s hot I might wear it and go by effort. Love the thorough and informative review!
I definitely think that in the heat its more helpful to track HR rather than pace. Or really, its important to look at both, to see if you can keep your HR low while still improving your pace. Although as we know that usually does not happen in the summer! I definitely pay attention to HR during easy runs to make sure they are actually easy!
Maddie @ Dixie Runs says
I have the very basic Garmin Forerunner 10. I didn’t even realize these features were available! When I was choosing a watch I went with this one because it was $90, but as I get more serious about training I can see how these features would make the higher price tag worth it! Thanks for sharing 🙂
It definitely just depends on what you want out of a watch! I had a more basic watch for a few years before upgrading to this one. I think if you know you will use the features and that you will keep it for a long time then it can be justified!
Wendy@Taking the Long Way Home says
Vertical oscillation! Who would have thought about that?
I have the Garmin Forerunner 10…I just wanted something to track my miles and my pace. It works fine, but I wish that the pace and miles were on the same screen. It shows calories burned, but I don’t care about that.
Laura @ This Runner's Recipes says
There is a way on the 10 to get pace and miles on the same screen. I set mine up for that and the time and miles on a second screen. You go into run options and change the data fields to any of the preset options, which include pace and distance.
I never pay attention to my calories burned either. On mine there is a way to pick what you want to be displayed on each screen. It sounds like based on what Laura said that its similar on yours!
Wendy@Taking the Long Way Home says
I had no idea I could do this! I changed it and I have speedwork tomorrow, so thank you for this! 🙂
Wow, this watch does a lot, but like you mentioned, probably aren’t necessities for every runner. I have a Garmine Forerunner 10 and it does everything I need it too. If I get something too techy it just confuses me..lol. The only thing that I don’t like is the battery life. When I get back into marathon training I will need it to last more than 4 hours. My sister just got a Soleus watch so perhaps i’ll check that out as far as battery life!
Its nice that there are so many options, so everyone can find something that works for them! I read about the Soleus yesterday on your blog; sounds like a good watch for the price!
Susie @ SuzLyfe says
SO FREAKING FANCY. That vertical Oscillation monitor is amazing–I know some people who would really benefit from it. And recovery advisor? So cool!
They are pretty great features! And if you use them correctly, they can definitely be beneficial. But like I said, not by any means a neccesity!
This post was really interesting and informative. I did not know about vertical oscillation. I keep playing around with the idea of buying a heart rate monitor. This summer I have thought numerous times how I should be focusing on effort not pace in this heat. I tend to obsess about pace and I feel like a heart rate monitor would get me to focus on other important things.
I do think a HRM is really beneficial! It can be really helpful in the heat to just pay attention to your HR versus your pace since we tend to slow down so much in the hot summer months!
Katie @ Daily Cup of Kate says
That is quite the watch- crazy what those things can do now! I just have a simple Garmin 10 but it does the trick!
It really is amazing! But like you said, the basic watches do their job too!
Judy @ Chocolaterunsjudy says
The recovery adviser sounds cool!
I just got the Vivoactive. And now I’m like why doesn’t it have a recovery adviser, LOL? So far I do really like it. I sat on the fence about a fitness tracker for sooooo long & I like the fact that it’s a GPS & fitness tracker rolled into one.
Still figuring it all out, I’ve just had it literally a couple of days.
The vivoactive does sound really great! I have the vivofit, which I feel like at this point may just be overkill to have so many devices with so many features and stats. But at least they are both garmin so I can sync it all together!
Laura @ This Runner's Recipes says
The vertical oscillation tracker is fascinating! I run with the Garmin 10, although it may not be long before Intrade up because I can geek out over data all day long. We also just ordered a Garmin Fenix for hiking, which I’m so excited to play with!
Its definitely fun to upgrade and be able to get some new fun features! I also enjoy all the data. One of my favorite things to do after a run is to upload everything and look it over!
Whoa. Vertical oscillation is an interesting data point. Being a bit of a science nerd myself, I find it interesting that with more strength training you are finding lower oscillation numbers. I would really like to get information about my VO2 max, since I think that would be helpful especially on differentiating recovery runs from workout runs. Right now I use my Nike GPS watch, but have been looking into a Garmin for some time. I would love to get my heart rate data since I used to train quite a bit based off HR ranges. Thanks for the review … you may have just sold me a new watch : )
Let me know if you have any questions about the watch! Obviously I was just posting this for fun, but I wish that i could have known some of this before picking out a watch. I definitely think the vertical oscillation is connected to strength and stability, although there are many other factors that play into the stats. Even how tight the HRM strap is on your chest can affect it I think!
Amy @ Running on Faith and Coffee says
Hmm I had no idea that Garmin did that, or what it even was. Thanks for this. My little Forerunner 10 isn’t this ‘fancy’ and I’m ok with that for now. 🙂
The basic watches definitely do their job as well! I consider all this to be “extra” stuff…fun to play with but by no means a necessity!
Sam @ See Sam Run says
I never knew that watch could do so much! It’s incredible what Garmin’s can do. I really like the vertical oscillation feature and would love to test it out. I’m good with my simple watch for now, but this makes me really want a fancier one. One day!
Maybe other watches will eventually start doing some of this stuff too!
So cool. I have the 220 and am a total nerd about tracking data – mine just has pace, elevation, cadence and heart rate. I’ve been struggling with cadence so that’s a big one for me. This makes me want to upgrade though!
I went back and forth between the 220 and 620 but it was a bday gift so I decided to go for the 620:) But the 220 has alot of great features too! It definitely helped me to improve my cadence.
Janelle @ Run With No Regrets says
This is very cool! I have a Nike+ watch and it doesn’t have all these bells and whistles. When it’s time to upgrade I’ll definitely be looking at the Garmin!
Its a great watch if you like getting a ton of info about your running!
WOW! I actually had no idea that Garmin ever had any of these features! VO2 max?! Incredible! I’ve never owned a Garmin. Before smartphones, I’d drive my car around and measure running routes and now I’ll map out a route with my phone. I obsess over stuff, so I have always figured that for me, ignorance is bliss.
Haha yea it can be easy to obsess over this a bit too much. Its nice to be able to see it, but it really is extra stuff.
Lauren @ The Bikini Experiment says
Very fancy! My watch for running and workouts is a very basic timex. I totally want an upgrade. 🙂 Thanks for the review!
Its amazing how many options there are these days! Hopefully you find something you like!
Tara @ Running 'N' Reading says
This is so interesting, Lisa; almost makes me wish I’d sprung for the 620, instead of the 220 – ha! I LOVE, love, love the extra data I get from my 220, versus my old 405, though; I’m such a nerd, so I love to check out all the cool stats! Thanks for sharing this!
I definitely enjoy this stuff but the 220 is pretty great as well! I got my garmin as a gift and I don’t know if I would have paid more for the 620 back when I got it. But now that I have it I am loving it!
Sue @ This Mama Runs for Cupcakes says
I loved these features but I just couldn’t wear the chest strap despite all of the lube in the world, it just didn’t work for me. Sadly I sold it and opted for the 225. Less info, but I do like the HRM. It seems to be fairly accurate!
I have somehow managed to stop chafing with the HRM but that could change again any day now! I wish that there was a way to have all these features from just a watch worn on your wrist.
Sue @ This Mama Runs for Cupcakes says
Yes! Totally agree. I was talking to a Garmin rep and they said that you couldn’t get all of the 620 features on the 225 version because you need more detailed EKG data from a chest strap to give you the same info.
Karen G. says
I’m impressed! I honestly had no idea these features were available! I use a GPS watch, but strictly record mileage and pace… I do wonder if the HRM strap would bother me to wear. I’ve found extra “gear” irritates me so much on a run!
Very cool though! Thanks for sharing!
The heart rate monitor has caused chafing for me, but I find if I use some vaseline it helps. Its pretty amazing all the things that watches can do now!
Margaret @ Young and Rungry says
I have had my Garmin 620 for over a year now and JUST got my heart rate monitor last week! When I ordered the 620, I was working for a running store so I got it at an unbeatable price, but in an attempt to save money I chose to forgo the HR feature. Huge mistake! My coach finally mentioned that it would help him build my proper training schedules and I am loving learning all this new information. The HR component is helping to show him when the workout is difficult for my even when I push through and try to act like it was a breeze. This was a very great outline, I can’t wait to keep playing with it!
That sounds like a great way to use the features of the watch!
Ooooooh I love it! I’m a complete data nerd, so this is right up my alley. I still have an almost 6 year old Garmin 305 that I’m using. I hate to replace something when it still works! BUT… part of it doesn’t work anymore. It won’t connect and transmit to Garmin Connect anymore, so I can’t get any of those cool readings off of it that I used to. It gets a good enough connection to charge but not good enough to transmit data. It used to work if I squeezed it in the charger really tight long enough for it to transmit, but even that doesn’t work now. It might be about time to start shopping…
One nice thing about the 620 is it transmits data wirelessly! I think alot of new ones might do that now, but its so nice to not have to plug it in! I can also upload the data to my phone using bluetooth!
Beth @ RUNNING around my kitchen says
This is really interesting! I have used a Garmin for years, but have never used the heart-rate monitor….and I really had no idea that you could get that much more data from it! I guess this is naive, but I thought it was just for your heart rate and I have never trained by heart rate 🙂
Victoria at Ice Packs + Races says
The vertical oscillation feature is interesting! It’s very cool that you can see progress after your strength/stability work, and I definitely notice that hill workouts really do encourage good form. I use a standard Forerunner 10, which suits my time/pace/distance needs just fine now, but I might consider something else down the line!
April @ RunTheGreatWideSomewhere says
I’m still using the Forerunner 10 but I’m starting to think about upgrading to something with more features. I love the extra info your watch gives you and how it takes some of the guess work out of how hard to push and how much to rest after a tough run.
It’s pretty amazing some of the things that watches can do now! It sounds like the 10 is a great basic watch. There are lots of options out there, so you will have lots of good choices when you upgrade:)