The In’s & Out’s Of The Garmin Forerunner-45

Posted by Beth Hartman

This may be just the ticket to get you off of the couch and out on the road and giving you the incentive, you need to make being active your NEW norm!

The Garmin Forerunner 45 hits the mark as one of Garmin’s most capable running watches.
The 45 does a great job of being the smartwatch to go with if you’re into tracking your sports activities. If you’re looking for a running or sport specific watch, then this is the one for you.

The Forerunner 45 also has another selling point, it's price structure of being around $200. While letting you have the ability to download structured workouts, including those from the company’s free ‘Garmin Coach’ adaptive/dynamic training programs, as well as incident detection and assistance (which notifies friends/family if you get into trouble). Just the ticket if you're heading off the regular running tracks and off into the hilly mountain paths.

It has an optical HR sensor on it for tracking 24×7 HR and stress. It supports more than just running, with other sports including cycling, treadmills, and yoga, but doesn’t have quite the number of sports their other units have. And finally, it adds Connect IQ custom watch faces but stops short of allowing full Connect IQ apps or data fields.

Below are the specs on what's improved with the 45 over the Garmin 35.
– Added two sizes: 39mm (Forerunner 45S) and 42mm (Forerunner 45)
– Added color display
– Added structured workout support
– Added training plans support (including calendar/scheduled workouts)
– Added Garmin Coach compatibility
– Added Connect IQ Watch Face support
– Added incident (crash/fall) detection
– Added safety tracking/assistance
– Added Pace/Speed alerts
– Added stress widget/tracking
– Added VO2Max calculation
– Added 24×7 HR tracking widget/tracking
– Added body battery widget/tracking
– Added new Garmin Gen3 ELEVATE optical HR sensor
– Added more sport modes
– Changed from square watch to round watch
– Changed from 4 to 5 buttons (which actually makes a world of difference)
– Changed all-day battery from 9 days down to 7 days
– Of note: GPS-on battery life remains the same at 13 hours (GPS-mode)

The above are the new features which enhance the Garmin 45. But just in case your not as familiar with Garmin’s previously included functionality, we’ve listed the noteworthy ones here below.
– Built-in GPS (no reliance on phone for GPS)
– Workout support for a few sports, with customizable pages/fields
– 24×7 activity tracking, including sleep
– Optical heart rate sensor in the watch
– Smartphone notifications
– Live tracking when paired with a smartphone
– Weather/calendar widgets
– Vibration/Audio alerts
– Uploading to Garmin Connect Training Log website via phone or USB
– Broadcasting of your HR over ANT+ (from wrist to other devices)
– Automatic sync to 3rd party sites like Strava, MyFitnessPal, TrainingPeaks and many more

Probably the biggest difference between the new Forerunner 45/45S and the Forerunner 35 is the basics of the device. While the interface of the Forerunner 35 was roughly based on past budget Garmin watches, the new FR45 instead lends itself to Garmin’s higher end watches. Which, we think makes it easier to use. Note that anytime we refer to the FR45, we’re referring to both FR45 and FR45S. They’re technologically identical in every way except the bezel is simply larger on the FR45 (not the screen size, just the bezel).

Now with that screen, you can toggle between a couple of different stock watch faces. Though unlike Garmin’s higher end units, you can’t customize the stock watch faces (changing data and such). You can only tweak the accent color. But you can download thousands of custom watch faces from Garmin Connect IQ store, which is Garmin’s free app store. You can even make your own watch faces, including adding in photos as the background. Not bad for an activity watch at this price point.

The Garmin Forerunner45 captures all the normal activity tracking metrics you’d expect, including steps (as well as distance), sleep, and heart rate. It doesn’t capture stairs, however, as it lacks a barometric altimeter to measure height.
These metrics are consolidated into widgets, which you can display on the watch by pressing the up/down buttons. Note that the FR45 doesn’t support downloading Connect IQ Widgets like some of Garmin’s higher end watches, but there’s plenty of stock ones to choose from on the watch itself. Here’s a gallery of some of those.

Keep in mind that the 45 is now tracking your activity constantly, it’s also sending that over to Garmin Connect Mobile (the smartphone app) via Bluetooth Smart. From there, you can view these activity stats, challenge friends/family, and also see the stats on the Garmin Connect website. In addition, some 3rd party sites and healthcare providers can also receive this data if you’ve authorized them to. Which helps if you get into an uncomfortable place and need help right away. This is one feature that can provide you with some peace of mind that you are never truly alone, especially if your out on a remote running trail!

Say Good Night!
It will automatically track your sleep if you wear it at night. Technically you can set your regular sleep timeframe to any portion of the day, though it will only track one ‘sleep’ per day. Meaning – it doesn’t track naps. In my experience, it does a pretty good job of nailing my sleep, even with having toddlers running around and waking us at all sorts of random hours. The unit will track the exact sleep cycle, and then log it into Garmin Connect. You can plot and trend this over various timeframes.

The Garmin 45 benefits from a new optical HR sensor ‘package’, the same exact package as the Forerunner 245/945/MARQ. This is used to track your heart rate 24×7, as well as during workouts. For heart rate, it includes modest updates over the sensors used about a year ago, though a bit more significant update over the much older Forerunner 35 sensors. Note that while the sensor hardware itself on the FR45 compared to that of the other new units noted, it doesn’t have PulseOx enabled.

From a continuous heart rate standpoint, it tracks this constantly and then uploads it into Garmin Connect mobile as well. Using your resting HR is a great indicator of when you’re over-trained, fatigued, or when sickness is on the way.

Just a Few More Basic Functions:
The Forerunner 45 supports smartphone notifications like all previous Garmin watches. You’ll see the notifications based on how you’ve configured them on your smartphone via the normal phone notification center, and then they show up on the unit itself. You can then open up a given notification to get more detail about it (such as a longer text message): You can also check missed/past notifications in the notification’s widget seen in the widget gallery a bit earlier in this section. Note that unlike the higher end Forerunner watches, the FR45 doesn’t support a privacy mode for smartphone notifications.

Now Let the Sports Begin!
The Forerunner 45 is all about being a sports watch, or at least, a running-specific watch. But it does monitor other workouts, including cycling and yoga. But face facts, you’re buying it for running (or perhaps walking).

To begin with sports, you do indeed have a few options when it comes to which sports are on the device. By default, that’s: Running (outdoors), Treadmill, Cycling (outdoors), Walk, and Cardio (catch-all bucket).

However, you can use the Garmin Connect Mobile app to add other sports, which include: Indoor Track, Bike Indoor, Walk Indoor, Elliptical, Stair Stepper, Yoga, and the mythical ‘Other’. You can have a max of 6 activities loaded onto the watch at any one point in time. In other words, they duplicated what Fitbit does here (for no particularly good reason).

No matter whether you’ve modified the sports or just kept with the defaults, to start recording a new workout you’ll simply tap the upper right button and then select the sport. Once you’ve done that, it’ll ask you if you want to execute any scheduled workouts for that day. So if you had something loaded up from Garmin Coach for example, or something else on your calendar, it’ll offer those to you first (which you can skip).
After that, you’re at the GPS and HR waiting screen. It’s here that it’ll go off and find GPS. This Sony GPS chipset supports GPS, GPS+GLONASS, and GPS+Galileo.

As part of this, the 45 will also ensure it has a lock on your heart rate via the optical HR sensor on the back of the unit. Generally, that’s instantaneous since it’s constantly tracking HR 24×7 anyway.

If you press down again before you start the workout you can tweak some of the settings for that sport, in this case – running. First is the ability to select a structured workout. While before, it asked us if we wanted to do the day’s scheduled workout if you had nothing scheduled/setup – then this is a chance to select one from your library of workouts. Or, you can just do a one-off interval session where you define the duration of the interval, the repeats, the rest, and the cool-down/warm-up.

Next, you can customize your data screens during the workout. The FR45 is pretty basic, mirroring that of the FR30/35 before it. Here’s what you get to start with (all are three-field pages by default). All of these are customizable:
Data Page 1: Distance, Timer, Pace
Data Page 2: HR Zone, Heart Rate, Calories
Data Page 3: Lap Time, Lap Distance, Lap Pace
Data Page 4: Time of day clock page
Data Page 5 (Optional): 1, 2, or 3 metrics each of your choosing

Available Data Metrics: Timer, Distance, Pace, Calories, Heart Rate, HR Zone, Lap Time, Lap Distance, Lap Pace, Average Pace, Cadence, Steps, Time of Day.

In the case of cycling, you’ll get the speed variants of each of the above (i.e., MPH/KPH) instead of pace.

Next, you can configure alerts. Options include heart rate (zone, or custom BPM range), run/walk (time-based), time, distance, pace (specific pace), or calories. What’s nice is that you can configure alerts but toggle them on/off quickly to use on different runs. For example, you might setup run/walk for your long run, but then toggle it off for your other runs that week. It’s a single toggle, versus having to set it up again.

You can also configure laps. By default, auto-lap is enabled at 1-mile (or 1-kilometer depending on if you use statute or metric). But you can manually lap at any time with the lap key. Or you can turn auto-lap off.

Finally, there’s auto pause, which is off by default but can be enabled to automatically pause the timer when you stop. Unlike some of Garmin’s higher end watches though – there’s no configurable threshold on this though. Also, the GPS options are in here as well, where you can toggle between the aforementioned GPS modes (GPS/GLONASS/GALILEO).

With the setup process complete you’re ready to get moving and then you can see your results displayed on the various screens. If you’re running a custom, structured training session, you’ll also get a custom workout screen which shows the specific targets of your workout. Say you're doing a run, it will give you a 5-second beeping countdown to each segment of your workout followed by the specific targets for that portion. It’ll also give a guide chart while doing that section with the target, as well as the specific time/distance/etc remaining for that portion.

It works well and is easy to follow. And in many ways, this is the most important part of this watch. It’s what fundamentally separates it from the Apple Watch and others which lack the depth and customization of the structured workout program.

You have to do a test workout first (it’s only 9 minutes), and then based on the results of that test workout, it’ll fill in exactly what the structure and intensity is to reach your goal time. You can adjust which days of the week you can work out, and your preference for the long run too.

Once you’re done with your run, you’ll go ahead and press the start button to pause it. At this juncture you can eat some ice cream and then press resume to continue running, or, you can end it. Then you'll get a summary page, including your current VO2Max level.

Then the watch is automatically transmitting this information over to your phone via Bluetooth Smart. It’s there that you can see much more detailed information on Garmin Connect Mobile (the smartphone app). Additionally, you can also look at your workouts on the Garmin Connect website as well.

Further, if you’ve connected Strava, MyFitnessPal, TrainingPeaks or any other sites, all of those will receive a copy of your workout instantly as well. Just remember on Strava to add emoji, it increases your likes (so they say).

The one last thing we want to touch on in the sports section is Garmin’s Incident Detection and Assistance features, which are seeing widespread rollout to Garmin devices – especially with these three (FR45/245/945) product launches. Both features are safety focused and have two slightly different purposes.

Incident Detection: This will automatically detect an incident while running/cycling (in a workout specifically) and notifies your predefined contacts with a text message and a live track link to see exactly where you are.

Safety Assistance: This allows you to, with one button, send a predefined message to emergency contacts with your initial location, followed by a live tracking link. The main scenario here being, you feel unsafe and want someone to be aware of that.

Both of these features depend on you having your phone with you. Since the Forerunner 45 doesn’t have cellular in it, you need to be within range of your phone. Both features can be canceled in the event they’re triggered accidentally. And both features are set up on Garmin Connect Mobile first. It’s here you define emergency contacts.

Once that’s done, the crash detection will occur while cycling or running during a workout. This is different than Apple, which has fall detection 24×7. Essentially, Garmin is looking for forward speed, followed by a significant stopping accelerometer event – and then critically – no further forward progress. Meaning, if you were running along and jumped down a big ledge and kept running, that wouldn’t trigger it, since you continued going. Whereas if you were running, jumped off the ledge and then face-planted, that would likely trigger it since you ceased making forward progress.

Rounding things out – the thing that makes the Forerunner 45 a more capable running watch than the Apple Watch or Samsung Galaxy Active (or Fitbit Versa/Ionic) is the structured workout and complete tie-in with all of the aspects of Garmin Connect/Garmin Connect Mobile. 

To Sum Things Up:
There’s no question that Garmin packed an incredible number of features into the FR45, at least from an upgrade perspective over the FR35. If sports and fitness are what you’re after in a sports activity tracker – then the FR45’s super strong offering is all ready to strap on to your wrist.

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