Numbers, Data and Marginal gains
Working at Wiggle I am fortunate enough to be surrounded by some of the newest and most innovative products in the world of cycling, running and Triathlon. The constant flow of bling and merchandise promising ways to put a new dimension on your training is sometimes hard to resist as my wife would testify.
Every now and again as staff sponsored athletes we are given the opportunity to test drive some of these products and feedback our findings to hopefully give our customers an incite into the benefits, or otherwise of some of these training tools.
I have recently been given one such opportunity. In December I was asked to put the recently launched GPS training system from Suunto through its paces. The AMBIT, on first glance looks and feels like a classy item. Sturdy in construction and certainly not out of place when worn outside of physical activity. The screen is large enough to view easily whilst training and the illumination function makes things clear and precise even when training in low light.
The aesthetics, while stunning, are far from this watches forte however. It’s all about the data and functions. With the AMBIT you get these….in spades.
What Suunto have created in the AMBIT is a do it all system with more data and options than even the most hardened ultra athlete would be troubled to exhaust. This may sound overwhelming to most amateur level athletes, but it’s where SUUNTO have done so well. Not only have they provided enough information for a hardened ultra runner but they have also made the system incredibly user friendly for the keen amateur triathlete, runner or cyclist.
What you have, essentially is a system which allows you to extract every piece of information that any athlete would ever want or need.
The AMBIT can be used for almost any sport(there’s even a skiing mode)you could possibly think of, making it ideal for the triathlete who wants to collate data for all three sports on the one system.
It also offers navigation and has a built in 3D compass and can work to preset locations or waypoints for those wanting to explore the wilderness without the worry of getting lost.
My first test of the AMBIT was to take it out for a run. I decided to test it alongside my Garmin to see how the accuracy faired on a known route. The initial GPS fix takes a little longer than other GPS systems that I have used, on first use taking around 90-120 secs to pick up a signal, no biggy if, like me, you use the time to stretch the muscles. The SUUNTO uses whats called ‘hot fix’ technology, which from my understanding essentially means that the system remembers the satellite signal that it has used previously in a given location i.e if you start every run from your front door. The initial fix takes some time (90-120sec) but with subsequent uses this time is greatly reduced. I found that on following days GPS acquisition was much, much quicker locking on in around 15-20 seconds.
In use the GPS and HRM appear to be as accurate as other offerings in this price bracket and the display makes monitoring your heart rate and pace easy during training, one bug bare I had is the lack of an alert function. This is something that I would certainly expect from a watch of this calibre. I believe, from digging around on forums that it is being addressed on the next firmware update from SUUNTO. This leads me nicely onto another massive plus for the SUUNTO. The software.
SUUNTO has its own standalone software which is available for all SUUNTO system users called movescount. Much like Garmin’s CONNECT this is an online system designed to allow you, the user, somewhere to store the wealth of information recorded on your AMBIT. Movescount however is much more than just a log. It is a social network which allows you to connect and follow activities from fellow users. A forum awash with a wealth of training tips from top athletes, unique training plans geared towards finishing, or PBing any given event you can think of, a calendar of worldwide prestigious events allowing you to mark out to fellow users your intended season targets. What really sets the software apart is how many options this offers you for your AMBIT watch. Once connected you can customise the fields displayed on your watch for your chosen sports. Enabling you to have all the information that you want right where you want it. SUUNTO also provide regular software updates through movescount for your watch to offer additional features such as the alerts function.
The AMBIT really does allow you to monitor and plan every aspect of your training even down to recovery post activity. Each ‘move’ is given a training stress score based on your level of exertion during training. This is displayed on your downloads and device as a PTE(peak training effect) score, this score allows the watch to calculate how long your body will take to recover fully from this activity. If you were to train again within this recovery period the watch will accumulate the recovery needed after the subsequent activity based on the amount of recovery you have allowed yourself from the previous session. Something that is invaluable for a multi sport athlete.
Being a bit of a numbers junkie when it comes to training I could wax lyrical for days about how good the SUUNTO is as a training aid, but somethings are better left to be discovered.
In conclusion the AMBIT really is all the watch that you would ever need as an athlete. It is towards the higher end of the scale in terms of pricing, but when compared to the two or three bits of hardware it could potentially replace looks like a very sound investment indeed.
Size- The AMBIT is quite a large unit compared to some others on the market. Not something I found a problem but may be to others.