Help me choose - Garmin or Polar for recovery tracking?

Hello, I’m in the market for a decent sports watch to wear to track my sleep, steps and recovery, as well as gym sessions.

It looks like the Polar Vantage V or the Garmin Fenix are the watches to consider - and I’ve now tied myself in knots trying to decide which is likely to be more accurate or useful.

What do you have? Why did you choose it? Would you choose it again?

I got horribly overcooked/overtrained a couple of years ago, and I’m keen to avoid a repeat…hence interest in the watch.

I use a Wahoo bike computer after getting fed up with the Garmin, and I have a first gen Garmin Vivo watch which does the sum total of nothing. I don’t know whether it’s a good idea to hope for third time lucky with Garmin.

And then there is Polar - I’m not fussed for a smart watch and notifications and all that. I want a training aid, and this seems maybe a bit more serious/focused than Garmin?

Please help me choose!

Have you looked into getting a Whoop? There are some threads about it here and while it may not be exactly what you think you’re looking for, it does a good job tracking sleep and recovery.

Yeah, the whoop is a good shout and definitely interesting. In the end I ruled it out on the basis of:

*The data only lives in Whoop and doesn’t seem to sync with Strava, MFP or anything else useful
*The subscription fees v a one-off purchase that’ll hopefully last three to four years
*Reliability and build quality seem a bit iffy
*Having top open the app to get the data

But I do think the Whoop will be a strong contender soon.

When I bought mine, it was a 1 time purchase. I am grandfathered in on that and would never pay a monthly, because I am opposed to gravy train monthlies just on principle. That being said

reliability/build quality is absolutely solid, Neither I nor any other whoop users that I personally know have had an issue

Opening the app is pretty easy, it’s right there on your phone. There’s also a web version with even more stuff.

It syncs with trainingpeaks, to what end I don’t know because I didn’t care enough to examine it

I think Whoop has very limited time to get itself sold. People will not want to wear a strap when the same functionality should be in a device that also does other stuff (apple watch etc).

The monthly cost, in perpetuity is crazy. It was touted in the fitness press as a less expensive way to get a whoop, as if the writers didn’t have a calculator.

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I would start by watching the review of 2019 watches on YouTube by @dcrainmaker and @DesFit

Then listen to the recent That Triathalon Show podcasts by @Mikael_Eriksson on sleep tracking/recovery wearables. Episode 216 and some Q&A 66

Both might save you some money.

With regards to the Fenix 6, i am an owner, but I’m not sure it offers anything over the vivoactive4/venu watches regards to sleep and recovery. Again, @dcrainmaker just dropped his in depth review of the vivoactive4 so that might be good to watch/read.

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The one challenge you’ll have is that unless you’re also going to record your rides on your Garmin, it won’t account for anything recorded on the Wahoo unit.

I wouldn’t focus on the Vivo lineup, since that doesn’t really track recovery at the level you’re looking for. I think you’re focus on the Polar Vantage V or Fenix lineups is valid, but you should also include the Forerunner 945 in there too (it’s virtually identical in software to the Fenix 6…just plastic instead).

I don’t see Polar as any more or less serious than Garmin. Recovery/training-load wise, they’re pretty similiar. Garmin’s added some new bits around heat and high elevation impact/recovery tracking, but that may not impact you. I’d say Garmin probably has a better system for tracking load/recovery that I’d argue is more extensive, whereas Polar’s app generally makes it easier to understand than Garmin’s (it’s more simplified).

I’ve been using Whoop for a bit of time now, and I’m still mixed on it. Some data is correct, but some is clearly wrong (for example, my sleep last night). More data needed on my side…


I have a polar vantage and love it. The hrv and hr tracking is super useful and no monthly charge:) I don’t let it totally dictate my training but it does have a say
for example if I wake up feeling rough and my hrv supports how I feel. I may take a zone 2 ride to a a zone 1.

Also I’ve really noticed the importance of a night time routine and its impact on my sleep.

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This is related but also offtopic in a sense that it doesn’t answer your question: do you really want to quantify your recovery?

Numbers are great, we all compare FTP, w/kg, NP, TSS, IF, etc. But, personally, I believe there needs to be a “gray zone” where you just have to “guess” for optimal mental strength and motivation.

First, recovery tracking arguably does not explain 100% variance in true recovery. Thus, when you look at your “recovery stats”, the risk is you may cater to those numbers and think “I cannot train because I have not recovered”. Or fool yourself by giving up on mental toughness partly by saying “yeah well, I gave up, but I also can see I did not fully recover”.

There is even a pro team where they no longer use some of these stats, there is a GCN video on this. I believe it was this one:

So, for me, I want to have stats for my “uptime” but not for my “downtime”. Instead, I try to listen to my body and just try to replenish everything in downtime (food, massage, not too much alcohol, good sleep, etc.).

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I get this approach works for you and maybe others but from my perspective, knowing I will see data changes my behavior and makes planning the downtime a thing I can do. That leads to earlier bedtime, less alcohol or none at all, etc

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From what I know of Garmin devices (I have a Vivoactive 3 + reading DC Rainmaker + Desfit youtube channel), the fenix series is way over kill if you want to track recovery type metrics. That is really more the vivoactive line.

Just curious what features of the fenix are drawing you to it, instead of something like the Vivoactive?

If I can bring this topic back up, I’m in a similar boat to OP.

My major focus is overall stress and recovery tracking, including sleep within that. I mainly want guidance on sleep (how good/bad it is, what to action for the day and the next night), and big-picture guidance on training with general life stressors (travelling a lot for work, stress from daily life). Specific workout tracking is secondary/a bonus as I have devices that can do that now (Wahoo and Polar watch).

@dcrainmaker I’ve read your analysis of the three I’m looking into, Vantage V, Garmin 945/Fenix 6, and Whoop band. If the whoop is inaccurate, accepting person to person that can vary, do you think the other two offer enough here? Polar seems to have put a lot of effort into the sleep tracking in particular, but I hear a lot of good things about Body Battery too.

Very hard to navigate all the different marketing and feature names when really I just want consistent and reliable RHR, HRV, stress and sleep tracking! Not asking for much… :innocent:

I went Fenix 3 years ago for 2 reasons. One was already having a Garmin bike computer meant I wouldn’t have to sign up to or install any new apps. And the second was that I wanted a watch that I could wear that looked somewhat like a regular watch and didn’t scream “I’m a cyclist/runner!”.

Been very happy with it. Metal strap and and watch body have worn well and still look good even though I am far from being a careful owner. Battery life is still great. From a recovery perspective then tracking sleep and resting HR seem to me to be the most useful metrics. I find the post-workout recovery advisor to be pretty hit and miss. And have previously also played with various HRV tracking apps and not found them very useful either. But resting HR seems to be a pretty good “catch-all” metric for my state of recovery.