Tuesday, July 03, 2012

GPS Watches Training Softwares Review

Data without any meaning is just gibberish. We can obtain many sports tracking devices application (app) and software to sync your workout - either for personal glorification or just as a record of your fitness level. And today, I shall take the chance to show what comes with the Garmin 910xt (910xt)  and the Timex Global Trainer (TGT). To start with, both the software are available online and both has the option to download (and install) a desktop software that will record/show your workout.
Desktop Software
1. Garmin Training Centre (TC) - Free of Charge
Garmin Training Centre is the core of any products under Garmin that will allow for easy uploading/downloading of maps and even Point of Interests (POIs) onto any Garmin GPS products. It works wonderfully being an offline standalone software and provide adequate basic information of your workout. I have this installed in my PC. Files are auto saved as they are sync-ed between the device and the PC.
Interface of Garmin TC
What the software will show:
- Map
- Route
- Saved/Sync workout
- Saved/Sync workout lap/time split
- Heart rate in graphical form (above photo in red) vs time
- Elevation in graphical form (above photo in green) vs time
- Pace in graphical form (above photo in blue) vs time
What other things the software could do:
- Historical workout archive
- Setting Course (and POIs)
- Customisation of Workout (including stock and your own)
- Syncing of PC and Garmin products (either by cable USB or wireless by ANT+ dongle)
Allowance for personalised/custom workout and sync-ing with device directly
You an download the basic Garmin TC at the website here. For full suite of software and other items that they can support (such as for Mac and for ANT+ agent) click here
If you want more graphical map (i.e. like the one you see above, you will need to head over to MalSingMaps and download a version of their MSM map. Else, you will only have a BaseMap that comes with the TC.
2. Timex Trainer - Free Of Charge
Timex Trainer is a basic no frill desktop software that provide adequate analysis of your workout. Unlike the TC above, it does not tell you the route you take and only limited with just data. So, the whole purpose of your GPS watch is lost, as you can't map where you run.
No workout was uploaded because personally find it too basic
What the software will show:
- Saved/Sync workout
- Heart rate in graphical formvs time
- Pace in graphical form vs time
What other things the software could do:
- Adjusting preferences of your device and syncing via USB.
Yeap, it is that basic. The software were developed for more basic devices by Timex.
Download your Timex Trainer software here or for full option of the other Timex software, click here.
3. Device Agent by Training Peaks (Free of Charge)
This is a third party software develop by Training Peaks and works (claimed) with 60 different devices with the TGT being one of them. It covers extensively many other brands but since I am specifically reviewing for the TGT. Sadly, this software does nothing but sync the device and PC apart from allowing device administration such as changing of settings etc.
Only for syncing
And device administration
Reason for this is that they want to encourage you to use their online program that will offer a lot more. Sadly, you will need Internet connection to access the online program, which I will review below.
Download the Device Agent here. Or for other options within Training Peaks, here.
The two Timex software that does little even when combined together.
Online Software
1. Training Peaks (Free for Basic function. Pay for Premium)
Following up from the write up above on Device Agent that sync the workout from Device to PC and from PC to the software online, it is obvious that the software developer wants you to interact with their online software. In a very cluttered web page, one would need to know where to go to start using it. Alternatively, the Device Agent has a "LOGIN" button on the lower left side where you can click and it will automatically open up the browser and points you to the page.
Cluttered Interface with many choices. Notice the LOGIN on upper right.
Upon login in, you will see a Calendar like setup and many other charts/info/windows around it. One word. Cluttered. It took me a while to learn how to navigate around it and realise that there are more buttons to be pressed just to view what i wanted.
Yeap...and i have removed/hidden some of the charts
To be fair, Training Peak is a very wholesome software that even tracks your calorie intake and more. It is a one-stop software; if you get around the learning curve to learn it all. It will be a good analytical software for coaches or team managers to monitor and plan their team's workout and monitor their progress. On a more basic level, it is too much info (TMI) and can be overwhelming as some of the items will need effort and more understanding to make sense. To access the sync-ed workout from Device Agent, one need to locate the workout and double click on it.
The 10km run i did from Home-TTDI and back home on June 9, 2012.
As expected, the whole GPS functions came alive in this software. Again, the whole setup is very cluttered with informations being shown everywhere. Take note of the window on the left hand side where it provides a "Summary" but looked more cluttered that the two graph and map. Plus point, is that they allow for different layout. So, this is how it look, horizontally split.
ermmm...and the summary went...missing
The graphs is a composite of distance, elevation and pace plotted against time. I did not wear the heart rate monitor (HRM) and thus, one missing line denoting the HR is not shown. Looking at the elevation profile, it seems that i have ran over a big elevation. As the data are collected by the TGT, it is technically "not corrected". This simply meant that the elevation plotted is approximate relative to the watch. A more accurate reading will be, or should be plotted against the Map.
Opps! Sorry! Pay for it to use it!
As mentioned, the Training Peaks is a basic program that is free. For detailed and more functions, you will have to upgrade or pay for it. I am not sure how much it will cost, but i have no intention to purchase it as the existing data analysis is already too much to process at a few sittings even. Good thing are the data can be selectively chosen and shown - with a few being "premium" features such as POWER graphs used by cyclists nowadays as a determination of their workout quality. Check the Device Compatibility Page to see how you can use it to track your workout. 
For your info, my 910xt works with Training Peaks and Device Agent as well. The integration, however, requires me to export my training file as *.tcx (* being file name, and from Garmin Training Centre) and import it into the Training Peaks's website. It has to be done manually i.e. choosing the date where the workout should be placed. Remember to change the timezone in the setting. I ran the 10km Home-TTDI-Home on Saturday, June 9 and upon uploading, it went to Friday, June 8. 
Getting the timezone all wrong
Choose your file, must be with TCX extension, else, it would not compute
Tadaa! But do note the elevation is not corrected and that there is an extra RED line denoting my heart rate
The integration went well with the 910xt, but on user friendliness basis, I will stick to the Garmin Connect (for online monitoring) per reviewed below.
2. Garmin Connect - Free
A cleaner and more simple to use/understand software that allows for no-frill upload of workout and syncing. Garmin Connect shows what you need to know without being TMI. The welcome screen shows a distance marker that claims to be recording in real time, the amount of distance being synced by user globally.
OK. Much Better.
Navigating around the page is simple as there is the LOGIN in option on the upper right. If you are already logged in, you will find an "UPLOAD" button where you can immediate sync your device and PC to upload it into the website. The Dashboard will show the latest workout and the summary. Of course, the minor details such as the "name" of your workout is user input (with options for FULL edit of QUICK edit)
Last workout as of June 11, 2012
Choosing the same 10km Home-TTDI-Home workout, it further provides summary of items that were monitored.

At one glance, the layout are less cluttered even though it provides more information that Training Peaks. All charts are collapsible and can be hidden. Clicking on the small triangle button under the "Charts" will show you more items.
Elevation, HR and Lap split timing
Unlike the Training Peaks where the Elevation correction needed a premium account, Garmin Connect allows you to do it for free. Take note of the elevation profile before and after correction below.
Elevation not corrected shows a declining pattern

Elevation corrected shows a more accurate pattern
All GPS elevation data (recorded real time on watch) fluctuates based on the barometric pressure. Should you started the run bright and sunny showing say 100m elevation (above sea level), and towards the end the sky turned grey and threatened to open up (i.e. rain), the final elevation might be less than 100m due to the drop in ambient pressure. What the software does is to co-relate the GPS coordinates against the known billions of GPS points and correct it based on what was on the ground. This is a good to have features as it shows a more accurate and representative data field on elevation - as you know, we often pride ourselves being able to sprint up that hill and we want to know HOW HIGH it went and how fast.
The Garmin Connect software, unfortunately only works with Garmin products.
Final Words
I have not done a review so extensive as this GPS watches series and armed with better knowledge of what both the units can and can not do, a more informed and realistic judgement of my own personal ability and workout can be obtained. No doubt that the choice is biased towards Garmin 910xt, and rightly so after paying that much for it. In comparing it against the Timex Global Trainer that cost 1/2 the price and realising that it too, works as well, my only wish is that future owner of either watches will be able to make a more informed purchased and not be hog washed with marketing brochures. Truly, the final integration of both the watches boils down to what and how the data collected will be used - and that is where the sensitivities are weighted and considered. So, if you are the more simplistic straight to the point person, 910xt (or any Garmin GPS) will work perfectly. If you are the data geek (that is potentially more hardcore than me to be able to write in more details than just these), Timex and Training Peaks might be for you. Whatever the decision is, you are now able to speak in a product language that might even make the seller think twice about promising you something that the watches can't do. ;-)
As usual, comments and questions are appreciated, do leave me some if there are further queries.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Excellent review, thank you. Have you noticed erratic speed data differences between the training software? I noticed when I run with the TGT the data recorded into training peaks is essentially useless because of the spikes and and lows, when I'm actually running relatively consistent. Are the different softwares different?

    If not, would you mind sharing your GPS and display settings?

  3. ndechant - thanks for dropping by. One thing that Garmin did well was smoothing out the datas recieved by the watch for less "jagged" profile. I noticed that too in the TGT and Training Peaks. It could be the information that is being squeezed into the small screen and the multiple tab that opens in Training Peaks. Try to configure the layout (in settings of training peaks) to show the layout in landscape or horizontal mode, that will stretch the graphs out and smoothen the lines out a bit.

    might help a little, but do be informed that the TGT itself is very erratic. I am sure you noticed that the speed still fluctuates even if you stop moving. The level of inaccuracies is the TGT related issues with the firmware not being able to keep up with the data, perhaps.

    I am leaving this respond in your blog as well.

  4. The top or excellent gps watches enjoy may also have a pulse rate monitor, pc screen regarding getting the information you have in your pc and also target notifications regarding whenever you meet a collection target.