This Decked-Out GPS Tracking Watch Changed My Life

I never thought I'd be into tracking until I got the Garmin ForeRunner 645 Music.

Photo: yamonstro/Getty Images/Amazon

Packages. My menstrual cycle. My ex's venmo after we first broke up. These are things I track. But my steps, heart rate, and sleep are not—or, more accurately, were not. Why? Because despite the fact that I'm a big-time exerciser and part-time fitness writer, I never once envisioned myself blowing legging or sex toy money (I'm a collector of both) on a decked-out bulky bracelet. "I don't even like watches," I used to think.

Then that raging bitch 'Rona forced my CrossFit box to close for good. *Sigh.* So when I couldn't find in-stock dumbbells, barbells, or kettlebells literally anywhere on the internet, I took up a new activity: Hiking. And, for the first time in my life, I was lusting after something that would track my mileage and elevation gains. So I splurged. I bought the Garmin Forerunner 645 Music (Buy It, $220, $450, And fam, let me tell you, best $450 I've ever spent (although, lucky for you, it's on sale right now for more than half off (!!), thanks to Amazon Prime Day 2020).

While FitBit is beloved by who I'll call "everyday exercisers," Garmin has the advanced athlete (think: marathoners, triathletes, cyclists) market covered. That's because most of Garmin's devices feature GPS tracking, nifty features like stroke and stride tracking, and evaluate performance stats like VO2 max and aerobic capacity to let you know if your workouts are, well, working!

Plus, most are waterproof, hold a charge for a week, and allow you to share your training data with (and compete against) other Garmin-owners on the Garmin Connect app. In short: Garmin's products tell you a sh*t ton about your workouts and day-to-day life. I ended up choosing the Garmin Forerunner 645 Music because it had all the bells and whistles I was looking for. (And did I mention that it's really pretty?)

Wondering exactly why the Garmin 645 Forerunner Music is worth the splurge—and why you need it in your life ASAP? Hang tight and indulge me as I count the ways.

1. The Step Tracker

Even if you've never owned a fitness tracker, you've heard about the 10,000-steps-per-day goal. The gist is that, for ~optimal health~, you should accumulate 10k steps, about 5 miles, per day. When I'm hiking, I reach this daily goal no problem. But on the days I don't make it out to the woods, I was shocked (shocked!) to learn I barely crack 5,000 steps a day. As good as my at-home HIIT and yoga workouts are at skyrocketing my heart rate, they don't do anything for my step goal. (Don't care about step-tracking? The Whoop may be a better fit for you.)

Then, one afternoon when I was trying to write an article, I was hit with a major case of writer's block. So, I went on a walk. An hour later, I walked back into my apartment and the words ~flowed~ harder than my period. Since then, I've started taking a midday stroll every day that I'm not planning to lace up my hiking boots. (PS: Do you need a new pair of hiking boots? These are the best pairs for women.)

Now, did the watch itself convince me to walk more? No, the creativity boost did that. But I admit, it's fun to feel the watch buzz on my wrist when I hit 10,000 steps.

2. The Safety Feature

Hate to get dark here, but the sad truth is if you're a womxn or nonbinary person, the fear of being followed (or worse) is there. That's one of the main reasons I bring my phone with me everywhere. If something were to go wrong, I could quickly dial-up help.

But thanks to the safety and tracking features in the Garmin Forerunner 645 Music, I've felt comfortable leaving my phone on the charger while I head into the woods for the first time in my life. Seriously. (Not to mention, this model can make contactless payments—great if you don't want to schlep your wallet around or if you're trying to remain extra safe during the COVID-19 pandemic—so you have $$$ on your wrist if you need it in a pinch.)

Activating the safety feature is simple. Pair your watch with your smartphone beforehand. Then, if anything should happen, you hold the light button down until you feel the watch vibrate three times. This initiates the assistance feature, which discreetly sends a message with your real-time location to your preloaded emergency contacts. That way, help has an easier time finding you.

What's more, this watch also has an incident detection feature for road-based activities. If, for instance, during a jog or bike ride the GPS feature notices that you've suddenly (and strangely) veered off-road, a message with your real-time location is automatically sent to your emergency contacts.

3. The Music Capabilities

Named for this feature, you can store 500 songs right onto this lil guy. Then, sync your bluetooth-compatible headphones for easy listening on the go. The watch is also compatible with Spotify and Apple music, so I can leave my phone at home and listen to my favorite playlists and artists (Selena Gomez, anyone?) on repeat if I want.

4. The Heart Rate Tracking

Like most fitness trackers on the market, this bad boy tracks your heart rate—and does so really well. In fact, this is the all-time favorite feature of run coach Kindal Alysse Wallum, founder of Running With Strength. "I love that I can use it during swimming, biking, or hiking workouts to track my heart rate and target training zones without having to wear a cumbersome chest strap," she tells Shape. "I also like tracking my resting heart rate so I can see how well my body is recovering from training."(If you're not sure how to find and train in your personal heart-rate zone, this guide can help).

5. The Stress Tracker

Obviously, I didn't need a stress-tracker to tell me I'm stressed. I have my stress acne and Lexapro prescription for that. (LOL, kidding not kidding!). But it is pretty wild to see my stress score—determined based on heart rate variability—spike in real time, like after that third shot of espresso or smiley-face-free work email, for example.

6. Its Training Status Measure

Real talk: Without any weights, I was nervous all the gains I'd worked so hard for before coronavirus would disappear. Bye, 300-pound deadlift! Cya, 250-pound back squat! Adios, 5-minute mile! (Yes, I'm bragging.)

But the Garmin Forerunner 645 Music has a built-in training tracker which measures not only today's run but also your longer-term training habits to tell you whether or not you're getting more or less fit. If your fitness level is improving, it tells you your training is productive. If your fitness level has flat-lined, it tells you your current training load is just enough to maintain your fitness level. And if your fitness is decreasing, it lets you know that your training is unproductive. (FYI: Yes, it's possible to build muscle doing bodyweight activities.)

Shockingly, according to the watch, all the hiking I've been doing has been enough to maintain my fitness level! Apparently, hiking is actually very good exercise. *High fives self.* Of course, when I finally get my hands on a barbell again, I'll still have to check my ego at the door. But it's motivating AF to know I'm putting in real #werk out there on the trails.

7. The Period Cycle Tracker

I've been stanning for the Glow period tracking app since I started sleeping with people who could get me pregnant. But I admit, the built-in period tracker in the Forerunner 645 Music is just as good. In addition to notifying me as to when I'm (likely) going to get my period, it also lets me know the days I'm most fertile. Pretty nifty for a wrist-watch. Oh, and if you don't want to think about your period every damn day of the month (fair), don't worry: You can only see this feature on the connected app.

Are There Any Downsides to the Garmin Music 645?

The major downside of this device is that it usually costs $450 buckaroos, which is no small thang. (You'll have to give up your morning latte for like a year to afford this guy.) But the amazing news is that you can get it for just $220 right now, since it is insanely marked down for Amazon Prime Day! (Honestly, at that cost I'm thinking about getting one for my boyf, Dad, and Mom.)

There's also a bit of a learning curve. Just like with any new piece of tech, it takes a hot-minute to learn how to use it. In my experience, it takes about three weeks to adjust to the watch and learn the answers to your questions.

And, there's one common disadvantage with many of the latest fitness trackers: They "force" you to stay connected 24/7. Much like the Apple Watch, the Garmin Forerunner 645 Music has a feature that allows you to receive notifications when your inbox, Instagram, or texts are blowing up, and even respond to them right from your wrist. For me, this is a major con (hence why it's on the con list). For you, being reachable even when you're in the middle of a mountain might be appealing. Luckily this feature can be disabled, which your girl did, because #boundaries.

The Bottom Line: Buy It

In case it isn't clear, I'm heart-eyes for my Garmin ForeRunner 645 Music and I'd recommend it to any hiker, runner, cyclist, or triathlete looking for a kick-ass watch to support their training. It comes in a few different colors—including cerise, black and silver, black and rose gold, and slate—and, if you're not a music person, you can get the Forerunner 645 without music typically for $400. However, it's on sale right now for $226.

And while more basic Gamin models—such as the Garmin ForeRunner 45s (Buy It, $200, or the Garmin ForeRunner 245 (Buy It, $310,—are also typically decent options, considering the ForeRunner 645 Music is currently just $220, IMO there's really no reason to get anything else.


Buy It: Garmin Forerunner 645 Music, $220, $450,

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