My thoughts on the Garmin 235

I was lucky enough to get a new Garmin for Christmas. The Garmin 235 replaced my old Garmin 110 which had been with me since I started taking running more seriously at the start of 2013. It was a great watch and did everything I needed. I have to admit here that I never used a lot of the functions such as training modes, but it tracked my distance, splits and pace and that was enough for me. The 110 also came with a chest heart rate monitor that I used twice. I hated wearing it and decided I would just have to run by feel and forgo heart rate measurements.

When I heard about the 235 I thought it was awesome. It could measure heart rate via the wrist strap and I decided it would be my next watch. Well, my husband decided that would be happening much sooner than I had planned, and I’ve been wearing it for the last month or so.

Heart rate:

This is what really sold it for me. It can measure your heart rate but you don’t have to wear an annoying (at least to me) chest strap. Because this is the first time I’ve ever monitored my heart rate while exercising (and because I am a huge nerd), I am completely obsessed with all the new data. You can probably find other reviews that talk about the accuracy of the HR monitor, but personally I take it as a pretty good but probably not perfect estimate of my HR.

For each run, I now get my elevation, pace, HR and cadence.

Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 16.05.16

You also get a measure of other aspects related to your heart rate. Here for example is what percentage of each run you spent in each zone (from easy to all out), which reminds me of the couple of workouts at Orange Theory Fitness. Basically, Z1 = warm-up, Z2 = easy, Z3 = aerobic, Z4 = threshold and Z5 = maximum. This particular run felt on the upper end of easy, sub-tempo but still working. This is also how my long run looked on Saturday.

Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 16.06.33One on my aims is to have my recovery runs all green.

Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 16.12.32And this is how my tempo looked.

Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 16.13.23I’m still figuring it all out but it’s a good reminder to keep easy days easy.

You 75also get a couple of other pieces of information related to HR. One is a training effect number. This can range from 1 to 5 and gives you some feedback on how that particular run affected your training as a whole. A number greater than 3 but less than 5 indicates that you are improving. A 5 means that you are probably over-reaching.

You also get a recovery time which is dependent on your training effect number i.e. a hard session needs a longer recovery time. Not rocket science but still interesting.

Because of the HR monitor you also get a better estimate of calories burned per run. This has actually shown a lower number for me (my old watch was guessing 90 calories per mile, but now it’s about 75).

The 235 can also act as an activity tracker and can continuously monitor your resting heart rate. This has shown me that I have a pretty low resting hear rate – about 45 bpm which I’ll probably mention to my doctor at my next annual checkup.

Activity tracker:

The 235 also tracks your steps (including those from running), which I didn’t know about before I got it. It will initially set your steps to 10,000 and then alter it for each day depending on your activity levels. It’s a nice reminder to move a little more each day. You also get a vibrating reminder to move if you’ve been inactive for more than an hour.

Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 16.34.01Can you figure out my rest days?

Other features:

I’ve found the GPS acquisition to be significantly faster than the 110. You can also sync your watch and phone so that you get text message and other alerts (these can be customizable) on your phone, and use bluetooth to upload your data via the Garmin connect app. It comes with a USB connector that I personally find to be easier and quicker for uploading data but the bluetooth seems to work pretty well.

The watch itself is more intuitive to use than the 11o and has a color screen. It is smaller and I’ve been happy to wear it as a normal watch.

You can get some interesting data too. For example, it gives a VO2 max score and uses this to predict your race times for 5K, 10K, half and full marathon. I have no idea how accurate this is but for me, the more numbers the better.

I’ve also been getting a measure of my cadence which I’ve never had before. This was something that I worked on with my PT who encouraged shorted strides and it’s nice to see that I’m usually close to 180 steps per minute.

One downside:

The 235 has two options for running: indoor and outdoor. In my opinion the outdoor works just fine. My usual routes are measured correctly and I feel the pace is pretty accurate too. But indoors all bets are off. The tracking is way off with a treadmill. For example, a treadmill run of 7 miles translates to just 6 with the watch. I know treadmills can be a little off but that seems a little too much. Also, a treadmill pace of 7:13 (8.3 mph) will only register as 8.33 min/mile using the watch. After using it a bunch of times inside I feel like this feature is just not accurate and you should just stick with the treadmill data.


I love this watch. I don’t think I’ve taken it off since I first got it and think it’s a great combination of GPS watch and activity tracker.




16 thoughts on “My thoughts on the Garmin 235

  1. Ahhhhhh you just made my decision soooo muchhhh harddderrrr! I was leaning hard towards the 230…but now this heart rate data you are showing me is AWESOME. CRAP. Thanks so much for posting this, it will give me something to think about! I was curious about the treadmill running thing, though. I agree that a whole mile seems wrong. Plus, I feel like you can see by the overall time you are running and the effort you feel that you are certainly not a mile short. Like if someone runs a 10 min mile and they set the treadmill for that and run for 60 minutes, they ran for an hour and got their 6 miles. It would take them an hour outside, too. I’m glad they are trying with the indoor tracking though – I bet as new software updates become available it will improve!

    • Sorry for complicating your decision! When I first used it on the treadmill I thought “Man, I am out of shape”, but having used it for a while I’m convinced it is not measuring pace or distance correctly so I’m back to using the treadmill data. It’s the only bummer but hopefully they can fix it, and in a couple of months I should be able to do all of my runs outside anyway.

  2. Hanna @ TheMillennialNextDoor says:

    I just came here to say that a 185 cadence is seriously impressive – a 180 is considered really good even by pros! I’ve wanted to get some kind of heart rate monitor for a while, but I’ve heard that the wrist monitors are not as accurate as the chest straps.

    How exactly is the watch tracking your indoor treadmill miles? I’m guessing via a shoe pod? My Garmin 210 also came with a foot pod, and I found it was similarly inaccurate. Like yours, it also shorted me on distance. Now when I run indoors, on the track or the treadmill, I either just use the treadmill data, or do it old school with just the watch timer and count the laps and then do the math.

    Great review!

    • There is no foot pod. I think it does it through some kind of acceleration measurement. I’ve read a couple of things saying that the indoor measurements get better once it calibrates better with your outdoor run. So I’ll probably check in later in the year but I think the treadmill is more accurate for now. When I was injured about a year ago I worked with my PT on my form and she was all about the shorter stride and increased cadence so it was nice to see that paying off although without a foot pod this might just be an estimate too!

    • Hi! I mentioned this below, but you may need to calibrate your footpod on a track if you want to get accurate reads on the treadmill. It’s auto set to 100%, which is based on an average runner. For example, I have mine set to 93.2 because I’m super short and have a shorter stride.

      • Hanna @ TheMillennialNextDoor says:

        Thanks for the tip, Judith! Good to know. I’m not even sure I know where my foot pod is anymore, but I’ve been getting by alright without it šŸ™‚ I’ll definitely keep this in mind if I decide to use it again!

  3. Sounds like a great watch especially with all that heart rate info! The watch I’m coveting has so many features as well but like I said, minus the HRM. I’ve been curious to run my HR but like you, am not a fan of chest straps. One of the many things I love about the fenix is that it tracks altimeter and barometer so when I do R2R2R it would give me some pretty cool data. But alas, out of my price range. (Looking up to see how much yours is! šŸ˜€ )

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