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Garmin’s Forerunner 735XT ‘Suffer Score’ shows how hard you’re really working out

There’s practically no end the to the number of smartwatches, fitness bands, and health trackers that’ll measure the steps you’ve walked, the calories you’ve burned, the metric distance you’ve covered, and even the maximum heart rate you’ve achieved in a day. But few collate that data into a single, easy-to-understand metric. It’s tough to tell exactly how intensely you’ve been working out from calories burned alone, and that’s where Garmin’s new Forerunner 735XT sports tracker, which replaces the company’s aging 920XT, comes in.

The Garmin Forerunner 735XT is in many ways unremarkable. It’s got all the standard components you’d expect in a modern-day sports tracker, including a GPS and Garmin’s in-house Elevate optical heart rate monitor. It provides fitness feedback on a variety of activities like running, swimming, hiking, cross-country skiing, and cycling; and can track your restful sleep. But the Forerunner stands out from the crowd in one important respect: It’s the first smartwatch to feature fitness platform Strava’s “Suffer Score,” a measure of physical masochism calculated by comparing your elevated heart rate during a workout to your resting baseline. The larger the delta between heart rate zones and the longer you maintain it, the higher your score.

“The deeper you dig, the longer you can hold on, the higher the Suffer Score,” Strava explains on its website.

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No fitness tracker would be complete without bells and whistles, of course, and the Forerunner’s got those in spades. It’ll show incoming notifications, calls, emails, and text messages from a Bluetooth-connected phone, plus let you control music playback. It pairs with Garmin’s Connect IQ store for a steady supply of new watch faces and apps; syncs your data with Garmin’s online fitness service; and, if you so choose, lets you share your most impressive workouts publicly and compete against friends. And it’s compatible with Garmin’s Vector pedal tracking, Varia radar accessories, and a chest strap that’ll feed granular data like stride length, vertical ratio, and ground contact time balance to your Garmin fitness profile.

Those features command a hefty premium. The Forerunner 735XT starts at $450 — presumably high enough to elevate most people’s Suffer Score. It’s available in soft silicon black/gray or blue/frost blue combinations, and lasts up to 11 days on a charge (or 16 hours if you’re using it to train).

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