Running wasn’t always a passion of mine. I picked it up when I moved to New York City just after college as a way to blow off steam while discovering my new neighborhood. Five years later, it still is a great stress reliever — and there’s still plenty of ground to see here. But I often run the same paths when I’m short on time and even with a good playlist, it can get a little boring.
One way I keep myself motivated to run is by competing with myself by using a fitness tracker, whether its an app on my phone or a wearable watch. So when the Garmin Venu Sq. launched in September 2020, I had to check it out.
Shop: Garmin Venu Sq., $199.99
Also available at Walmart.
The Venu Sq. is Garmin’s latest fitness tracker, but it looks and operates more like a smartwatch. While Garmin has running watches for serious racers, this is one is more for your everyday athlete looking to track overall wellness, not just workouts.
It has a crisp LCD watch screen with a rubber athletic band that adjusts comfortably to your wrist. Admittedly, it looks very similar to my Apple watch, only more advanced health and wellness features.
For starters, the watch is a 24/7 health monitor, meant to be worn both day and night. Each morning when you wake up, the watch will provide you with your personal “Body Battery” score, which is an energy monitoring scale from one to 100. This tells you how much energy you got after sleeping, and while the goal is to rest and wake up with 100, it’s likely it will differ for each person. After my usual weekday 6–7 hour sleep, I wake up with a score generally in the high 90s. On the weekends, I strive for 100.
Its pulse rate/heart rate sensors are the same ones you’ll find on Garmin’s $2,000-plus advanced smart watches. The tracker samples your heart rate every second, and based on Heart Rate Varied, it will calculate your stress levels.
You can also use the smartwatch to track hydration, respiration, menstrual cycle, steps and of course, calories burned and workouts.
Garmin is famous for its GPS, and obviously the Venu Sq. has one built-in. I find the watch’s GPS is often more reliable than my phone for tracking an accurate running distance, which is important when you’re training for a race, trying to be consistent or trying to beat your last long distance.
The Garmin Venu. Sq. also comes preloaded with 20-plus built-in sports apps for tracking and analyzing activities like running, walking, cycling, swimming, golf and even mindful breathing. You can also follow along to preloaded workouts including cardio, yoga, strength training or create your own workout. (Using the Garmin Connect mobile app, you’ll even get step-by-step animations.)
I mentioned that this fitness tracker is more like a smartwatch because besides its wellness and fitness features, you can also get notifications on it for texts, calls and email. And it has Garmin Pay, a contactless payment method.
However, there are two variations of this Garmin watch: one with music capabilities and one without music. The music version costs $50 more and can download playlists from Spotify, Amazon Music and Deezer.
Shop: Garmin Venu Sq. (Music Version), $249.99
Also available at Walmart.
Personally, I have the one that plays music so I can go for a run without taking my phone — just my watch and my AirPods.
Maybe my favorite part about the Garmin Venu Sq. is that it has six days of battery life for all day and night wear. This is huge, because other trackers usually die after a day and need to be charged constantly. This allows for round-the-clock tracking and more accurate numbers.
My overall thoughts
Overall, I really like my Garmin Venu Sq. watch and would definitely recommend it to a friend. So far, it has helped me track my running more accurately, and has encouraged healthy habits like hydrating and getting enough sleep.
I’ve previously used an older, first generation Apple Watch to track my workouts. Comparatively, I like my Apple Watch for texting, emails, “closing my rings” and the many watch band options. But the Garmin feels more advanced when it comes to overall wellness, and I plan on using it for all of my running in Central Park and beyond.
If you liked this story, check out these 11 fitness gifts for the person who never skips a workout.