Running watches are a step up from your everyday fitness tracker. Most half-decent running watches have an accurate GPS function. What makes a running watch better is that you can use it to monitor your general fitness. However, a fitness tracker might not be able to accurately measure your running progress.
A running watch can be an invaluable aid. So, here are five running watch features to look out for that will help you get the most out of it.
1 – GPS
Your running watch will use GPS to tell you your precise location through triangulation. The GPS function on your running watch will be able to give you information about your speed, distance and pace – useful insights into sessions and overall progress.
A running watch with accurate GPS lets you record a route and go back and analyse your data later. If you’re a trail runner, you’ll be able to see the elevation differences depending on terrain – one area where a running watch becomes more of a friend to the serious runner than a generic fitness tracker.
A good example of a reliable running watch with accurate GPS is the Garmin Forerunner 235.
2 – Elevation and Altimeter
Elevation data comes from GPS and gives more in-depth information, such as like the number of floors climbed. This feature is for those who are keen on climbing mountains, hiking in canyons and doing laps around known climbing sites. Barometers are becoming more commonplace in running watches because, without elevation data, some of the distance measured is lost.
The Suunto Traverse is an excellent watch for this feature.
3 – Heart rate monitor
Being able to record your heart rate via a built-in sensor on the underside of your watch means you can monitor your pulse during a session. This translates into data that tells you when you’re either burning fat, increasing strength, or at the optimal cardio zone for endurance.
A good heart rate monitor will also give a fairly good indication of your maximum VO2 levels, max oxygen consumption and recovery rate. Watches with these features will be more expensive, but if you’re a serious runner who wants a detailed analysis of performance; you should consider spending the extra.
Saying that, the Garmin Vivosmart 4 offers this on a budget.
4 – Waterproof
The reality is that a watch is never 100% waterproof. There will always be a limit to the amount of water pressure a device can take. If your potential running watch is only labelled as ‘water-resistant’ it’s advised you keep searching as it’ll only be able to withstand light rain or maybe a shower.
Look at the ATM rating. ATM means ‘atmosphere’ and 1ATM is the equivalent of 10m depth.
It’s worth remembering that testing is done in only about 10cm of static water with varying pressure applied to it. No one has put your potential watch on and dived to 200m to see if it’s still working. In real life, water is rarely still. Waves crashing, diving in, sudden torrential rain, all of these things cause a sudden change in water pressure. If you’re doing these things as part of your activities, the higher the ATM rating, the better.
5 – Compatibility
If you’re considering buying a serious running watch, you’ll be interested in the in-depth data it will give you. In order to read that data you’ll want to pick a running watch that talks to other devices like your smartphone and tablet or laptop.
The Apple Watch has long been hailed as the king of fitness watches. And thanks to the compatibility with apps like Strava, runners have been buying it in hordes since its launch. However, Apple products don’t play well with other brands. So, a Samsung Galaxy Watch, for example, might be more suitable if you use anything other than an iPhone, iPad, iMac or MacBook.
Consider the third-party apps you’d like on your running watch that will help your progress. Do you use Spotify, for example? Some running watches will enable you to not only listen to your music but will select music based on your pace.
The Samsung Gear S3 Frontier is great for this.
All of the features mentioned above are aimed at optimising and customising your running session. This has the overall goal of improving your performance. The running watch that you end up choosing will depend on your taste (and budget), but also your training needs. Remember the most expensive isn’t always the best (some designer watches stand testament to this, such as Tag Heuer).
Most running watches these days are compatible with your smartphone so you really can make the most of analysing the data that your device is capable of harnessing. It works both ways, too, so that while the watch is collecting information about your performance, it’ll tell you about text, call, social and app notifications from your phone as you run.
Design is important too. Do you want something lightweight so you hardly notice it on your wrist, or do you want something more rugged and hardwearing. And a final consideration is battery life. All of the above features will have an impact on the battery life of your device. If you’re an endurance runner, you’ll need to know how long you can rely on your watch.
Make sure to do your homework first with your needs in mind.