I’ve never been someone to consistently walk into the gym and find the motivation to work out on my own. Fitness classes have always been much more my speed, as I need someone to tell me exactly what to do, when to do it, and for how long. So when my gym canceled in-person classes, and all my favorite cycling and Pilates studios closed at the beginning of quarantine, I pretty much stopped doing anything at all.
After a few months of inactivity, too much wine and snacking, and an overall feeling of unhealthiness, I decided it was time to hit the refresh button and get back on track, even though most of my go-to places were still closed. Luckily, Garmin has just sent me its latest tracking smartwatch, the Venu Sq, so I figured I’d give it a try — especially since my original plan of doing YouTube workouts at home wasn’t exactly sticking. (Related: The Best Home Workout Apps to Download Right Now)
The handy gadget has a lot of the same features as other fitness trackers; it keeps track of your daily steps, breathing, heart rate, and sleep, and it reminds you to get up and move throughout the day, but it also has preloaded workouts to choose from, including running, biking, swimming, yoga, and strength training — so you can easily choose something new each day, depending on your mood. And if you ever get bored with the workouts already on the watch, you can go into the phone app and download more options.
Plus, if you have an event on the horizon, such as a race, it even offers adaptive training plans and coaching to help ensure you are as prepared as possible; for example, you can answer just a few questions and find a plan to help you train for a 5k race. The plan adjusts to your current level of fitness, coaching and schedule preferences, and race date. (Psst, if you're going for 26.2, combine the watch features with these top tips for marathon beginners.)
But the best part of having the fitness plans on my watch is that, once I start the workout, the Garmin knows if I finish it or not, so it holds me accountable and pushes me to complete each one. Plus, if I’m not sure what a certain exercise is, I can look it up in the app and find a video tutorial demonstrating exactly how to do it. (Related: This Tracking Watch Changed My Life—and It's Currently 50% Off for Prime Day Only)
In addition to the workout plans and fitness tracking capabilities, the Garmin Venu Sq can also help you track your menstrual cycle and stress levels. Cool, right? The device analyzes your heart rate variability while you're inactive to determine your overall stress level in a range from 0 to 100 — 0 to 25 is a resting state, 26 to 50 is low stress, 51 to 75 is medium, and 76 to 100 is high. It will even send reminders to do breathing exercises if it senses you’re having an extra stressful day — which, let’s face it, will come in handy for just about everyone these days.
Since I started using the smartwatch, I've finally been getting on track with my fitness goals, and my overall lifestyle habits have been changing for the better. In addition to going for daily walks to get my steps in, I’ve been doing at least three workouts a week at home, ranging from cardio to ab workouts and relaxing yoga sessions. I’ve also been meditating more and going to bed earlier to keep my stress levels low, and now that I’m consistently working out again, it makes me want to eat healthier and drink less.
Another neat function of the watch is its safety feature. When you sync the watch to your phone, you can set up a list of emergency contacts who will be notified of your location if something doesn't quite go according to your plans. The Venu Sq can detect an incident during an outdoor walk, run, or bike ride, and it sends an automated message, live tracking link, and GPS location to your emergency contacts. This helps me feel comfortable hiking or working out outdoors alone. It also lets you upload a credit or debit card to the watch to use as a contactless form of payment, so you can grab a coffee on your way from a run without schlepping your wallet. (Related: This New Device Attaches to Your Phone and Could Make Your Runs Safer)
And did I mention its long battery life? I've worn the watch for five days in a row before needing to take it off to recharge. What’s more, it has 17 adjustment holes on the soft, flexible strap, so it's easy to find a comfortable fit. There are two models to choose from: the Garmin Venu Sq Standard, which retails for $200, and the Garmin Venu Sq Music, which has all the same functionalities detailed above, but it also lets you upload Spotify and Apple Music playlists to your watch for an additional $50 — meaning you can connect your headphones via Bluetooth, and leave your phone at home during a run or bike ride.