Garmin Vivoactive HR Review

Posted on August 11, 2016 by Austin Rogerson | 1 comment

Hey athletes! My name is Austin Rogerson, content creator and social media manager for Tri Town. A little background for me; I grew up playing soccer and running track, and was fortunate enough to play soccer collegiately at Oregon State University and Boise State University. While in college at Boise State I found a new love for cycling in the tree city. In 2012 my passion for cycling and running transitioned into a desire to give triathlon a shot and I've loved it ever since! In this blog post I'll be talking about a product I've been using for several month now, the Garmin Vivoactive HR.

The Garmin Vivoactive HR launched in April of 2016 and since using it I’ve been extremely pleased with its performance. I’ll even go as far to say that I believe the Vivoactive HR is one of the top overall choices for sports watches for athletes of all kinds looking to track and monitor their fitness.

That being said, this blog will speak more to the needs and desires of triathletes, and each sport individually.


The Vivoactive HR can be used while cycling by enabling the Bike mode. While in the bike mode you’ll be able to collect your heart rate in one of two ways; from your wrist, or, you can mount it to your bike using a simple bike mount and then gather your heart rate data via a chest strap. The Vivoactive HR can be paired with ANT+ Speed & Cadence sensors as well as most Bluetooth sensors.  The built in GPS allows the watch to track key metrics like speed, distance, and elevation gain/loss, and even  has a helpful inside mode when you’re on your bike trainer. In bike mode it is pre-set to notify you by vibrating each time you’ve completed 5 miles and it will give you your 5-mile time (this notification can be turned off).

Below image shows data from a cycling workout exported from the Garmin Vivoactive HR to Garmin Connect online.

Cycling Tracking on Garmin Connect

I personally like cycling with my watch on and flipped over. Not only does it allow me to see the data better when in the tri bars, but it also allows me to track my heart rate. Before using heart rate monitors I would track my heart rate the old fashioned way with two fingers on my wrist; for that reason, I like the sensor being on my wrist. I’ve tried it both ways and haven’t seen a drastic difference in accuracy, so to each their own.

(This model does not pair to cycling power meters)


The Vivoactive HR can be used while running by enabling the Run mode. Similar to the bike, you’re able to gather your heart rate accurately with the watch on your wrist. From the watch, it allows you to track your distance, time and pace. If you scroll down, in the same data collecting area you can see your lap distance, lap time, and lap pace if you’re on a track. If you scroll down once more, it shows your heart rate, HR zone, and average HR. In run mode it is pre-set to notify you by vibrating after each mile you’ve run and your mile time.

Below image shows data from a running workout exported from the Garmin Vivoactive HR to Garmin Connect online.


The Vivoactive HR can be used while swimming in Pool Swim mode. However, that is the only swim mode that it supports. The reason that the Vivoactive is unable to support open water swims, is because it lacks the algorithms required to be able to handle the satellite dropouts that occur each time your wrist dips below the surface. When it comes to open water swimming, I have tried two 3rd party apps that connect with the Vivoactive HR. I just started testing the Swimming App Professional – it focuses more on the key parameters (speed, pace, distance) in open water swimming. At best I would say that the GPS tracking is ok.

The 2nd app I've used is pmTriathlon. I would recommend this app in regards to accuracy and overall triathlon usage over the Swimming App Professional. The pmTriathlon app is simple and intuitive. It allows you to start your swim, click the right button once, which stops your swim and starts your transition. Click the right button again and it stops your transition and starts your run. So on and so forth until you’ve completed your workout or race. Both of these apps, along with others can be downloaded online or via your smart phone in the Garmin Connect app in the Connect IQ Store.

Below image shows data from a cycling, running, and swim workout exported from the Garmin Vivoactive HR to Garmin Connect app.

Several factors went into me getting the Garmin Vivoactive HR:

-The price was right at $249.99 considering all the features and ability to personalize layouts and displays.

-I no longer needed to wear a chest strap to track my heart rate.

-It’s fashionable and something I wear 24/7.

-It can track each of my individual sports; and what isn’t included can be with a 3rd party app.

-Battery Life! Even when using the GPS for daily workouts, I found the watch to last upwards of 5-6 days before having to charge it. When using GPS consistently, I've had it last 10 hours with 25% battery life remaining, which matches up with the 13 hours it is suppose to last accordingly to their watch specs.

-Lastly, it links up with TrainingPeaks that I've been using with the help of Tri Town to schedule, track, and analyze my workouts.

    If you have any other questions please don't hesitate to call us (208-297-7943), stop by the shop or email to ask us about the Garmin Vivoactive HR or any of the other great sport watches we have available.

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    1 Response


    September 20, 2016

    I’ve read your post and it’s great.
    Please assist me in the best way I can use the vivo active hr during a triathlon competition. Not to be setting the watch in every transition.
    Hablas español?

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