There are so many brands and versions of GPS watches that it can be difficult to know where to begin. Prices range from about $100 - "holy cow that's a lot" so how do you determine which watch is right for you?
A GPS watch can truly enhance your training if you choose the right gadget for your needs. Also - read the manual. There's no point in having a fancy watch if you're not going to use the features.
1. How Often Will You Use The Watch?
Budget GPS watches start at about $100. So, how often do you run? Many beginners may not need (or be ready for) a GPS watch if their runs are very short or infrequent. Many beginners prefer to use a smartphone app. Just remember these tend to be less acurate and have fewer features.
2. What Will You Use It For?
Will you use your watch primarily for running? Did you know they can also be used for cycling, hiking, swimming, rowing, kayaking, or skiing? So basically, just about any outdoor sport can be tracked via GPS watch.
Think about what you will use the watch for and make sure the watch has features able to track your desired activities. Not all GPS watches can be worn in the water, so if you plan to swim with your watch, make sure it is waterproof to at least 30 meters.
Are you a triathete? Some watches are designed for triathletes to switch back and forth between swim/bike/run features quickly. If you're not a triathlete, these may not be features you need (or want).
3. What Features Do You Want?
There are four major features to consider in a watch.
Training Tools and Alerts
GPS watches perform different functions with the data they track. For example, on some watches, you can set them to lap each mile and provide you with your mile split. Other watches may beep at certain intervals, provide you with a map, allow you to program interval workouts, etc.
Data is the info the watch displays. So, distance, time, and pace, elevation, calories, and heart rate. Some models track temperature, vertical speed, and can count swim laps.
Battery life is important on all our gadgets. No one likes it when their phone dies, so why would you want your GPS watch to die on you mid-run? Battery life on GPS watches varies from 5-50 hours.
Some watches include thermometers and altimeters, and different watches have different screen sizes. Remember that smaller screens usually mean a lighter watch.
Accessories range from heart rate monitor straps to foot pod sensors to track cadence to bike cadence senors.
4. How Much Are You Willing To Pay?
As noted above, there is a pretty big price range here. Budget watches begin at about $100, and top of the line watches run about $500-$600. Remember, the cost is usually tied to the features in the watch.
$100-$150: These watches tend to have the bare minimum and will track distance, pace, and time. Many are not compatible with accessories, and the some cannot download workouts to your computer/smartphone app.
- Try the Garmin Forerunner 10 or Garmin Forerunner 15
$150-$250: These watches usually support additional accessories and many can be programed for interval workouts.
- Try the Garmin Forerunner 220 or Garmin Forerunner 310XT
$250 and up: Watches in this range may be made for specific activities. Some are aimed at runners, while some are aimed at triathletes. They usually have longer lasting batteries and many come with programs for complex training.
- Try the Garmin Forerunner 620, Garmin Forerunner 920XT, or Garmin fenix 3
- The Garmin 225 (released July 2015) will track heartrate through a wrist sensor in the watch, so there will be no need for a chest strap.
5. What Brand Should I Buy?
That's up to you. But here are a few brands of GPS watches we reccomend looking into:
We hope this helps answer some of the questions many of you have about watches. Again, make sure to sit down and spend some time learning how to use your watch. There's no point in shelling out the big bucks if you are not going to use the features your watch has to offer. Make sure you understand autopause, the lap button, and what is showing on your screen. You don't want to get halfway into a workout or race and mess something up.
Good luck, and happy shopping!
This is probably going to step on some toes. Just a little warning.
It gets tiring hearing people say "Oh it's just a 5k/10k. Psssht. I'm a real runner. I run marathons" - excuse me? Good for you - glad you're running. However, just because someone runs "just a 5k" doesn't make them any less of a runner. Explain to me how running a 16:00 5k makes you less of a runner than someone running a 7 hour marathon? Because you're running a shorter distance? Because the training didn't take your entire weekend? Not quite sure where the "longer is better" mentality came from, but it's a bit disheartening to those who enjoy (and are good at) the shorter distances. Many of us run toward endurance distances for a challenge with the mentality that going longer is the only way to challenge yourself. But guess what? Improving your speed over shorter distances is also an incredibly worthy goal.
Many beginner runners rush straight toward the longer distances, missing the valuable development experience found in the shorter distances. Due to genetics, development, training time/work schedules, location, etc we are not all designed to run the longer distances, yet that has become the default goal.
So that being said, as runners swarm toward these longer distances, completion has become the goal as well an indicator of success. How hard someone trained or raced in combination with the racing techniques and lessons learned all become devalued in the face of simply "completing" the distance. We all want the 26.2 sticker for our car, but why not truly race to earn it? (That being said, sometimes completion needs to be your goal if you are coming off an injury or perhaps it is your first time trying a longer distance).
As this has become the new running reality, how can a shorter distance (no matter how hard you trained) ever compare to the esteemed 13.1/26.2/Ironman. Now that completion has seemed to become our ultimate goal in the running community, the distance no longer seems to matter, despite how hard the athlete trained. Numbers are meaningless when we focus simply on completion. What is the athlete's story? What were their goals? Did they reach them? Did they leave it all on the course? Did they adequately prepare both mentally and physically? Did they take calculated risks and chances? Did they race properly (form/technique)? This is where the distinction between completion and racing lies. Maybe your best is a 5 hour marathon. Well, as long as you trained your hardest, raced your heart out, and met your goals, then rock on fellow runner! You gave it your all, and you raced today. Congrats. We all know not everyone can be an Olympic caliber athlete, and that's okay. But - when you work hard and reach a PR, it's much more satisfying to know you gave it your all both in training and on race day then simply completing a race.
So, what makes a racer vs. a runner?
So, by this definition, EVERYONE has the potential to race (as opposed to complete) a race, no matter your speed. That being said, not everyone is ready to actually race certain distances, and that's okay.
It's time we stop viewing shorter distances as little stops along the way to the "final destination" - we need to give these distances credit for what they truly are. Worthwhile goals. If you're one who scoffs at those who like to race 5ks, give one a shot. Really try. Train hard. You might be surprised with what you learn.
You shouldn't run. It's bad for your joints. You'll get saggy skin and you'll look really old. Running will kill you - you'll die of a heart attack or something (said while eating a cheesburger and cheetos).
Then you have the flip side of that - Real runners run every single day. You won't nail your PR if you miss that workout. You need to use 47 GUs and drink at every hydration station. You need a hydration belt for your mile race.
You've heard it. We've all heard it. Just remember who you hear it from.
Today's post is going to address some of these statements.
1. You Have To Run Everyday
- How is this possible? First of all, your body needs a break. Second - sometimes life gets in the way. Some people like to run 6 days per week, while some run 3. You need to find what works best for you. Find a training plan that you can handle and is conducive to your schedule. If you only have time to run 20 miles per week, don't start a training plan that is asking you to put in 60. You will get discouraged and likely give up. That being said, make those 20 miles count.
2. You Cannot Miss A Workout
- Life happens. Bad days happen. The flu happens. You just have to deal with it. If you miss a workout, it is ok. Don't worry about it. Of course, don't make it a habit, but life will go on. If you cannot make it up, move on. Your training is not going to be totally derailed because you missed a set of 400 repeats or a fartlek.
3. You Have to Wear "X" Brand Of Shoes
- No. Why would you wear a brand of shoes that doesn't work for you just because someone says so? If a certain make or model has proven over and over to hurt your feet or legs, try something new! Just because your running pal wears Asics or Mizuno doesn't mean they are right for you. Head to a local running store and check out the shoes. Maybe even try a gait analysis. It's also good to have several pair of running shoes in different brands. For example, one of our runners rotates a few pair of shoes. One day is Nike Vomero day. Then she moves on to Brooks Ghost, and then to New Balance 980. This helps to keep too many miles off one pair of shoes, and it helps to keep the legs and feet from getting hurt.
4. Runners Do Not Need to Strength Train
- No. Sorry. Hit the gym and pump some iron. Multiple studies have shown that strength training is beneficial for runners. Strength training improves performance and reduces the risk of injury when performed correctly. Remember that a strong core is essential to good running form. Plus, a strong upper body helps you propel forward. Not to mention, it helps you look good.
5. A Runner Doing Yoga? Pansy.
- No, you don't have to be super flexy. But, yoga does help counterbalance the tightness that runners find in their hamstrings. Additionally, yoga helps to work the core and upper body (see number 4). Plus, many runners tend to move at a very fast pace in life. Yoga helps us to slow down and enjoy what is happening around us.
6. Mileage Is All That Matters
- Is mileage important? Yes. But, it's what you do with those miles that matters. Running 6 miles 5 days per week at the same pace is fine - much better than sitting on the couch. But, if you want to increase your performance, alternate hard days. Add tempo runs, hill work, and speed work. Varying the intensity and mileage during your workout will help you make greater performance gains than running at the same pace every. single. day. Plus, doing the same thing every day gets boring after a while.
7. Running Is Bad For Your Joints. That's Why I Sit On The Couch.
- Enjoy your couch time, pal. Aerobic exercise improves most body functions including joint health. When you exercise, the cartilage in your knees, ankles, and hips compresses and expands. This draws in oxygen and flushes out waste products keeping the cartilage healthy. Without exercise, cartilage cells get weak. Also, running strengthens the ligaments that support our joints making them more stable and therefore less susceptible to sprains/strains/etc.
But knees - what about your knees! Isn't running just AWFUL for them? Actually, a running regimen can actually improve healthy knees.
So - run responsibly. Wear good shoes and replace them when necessary. Rehab your injuries properly, cross-train, and take rest days.
8. You Must Have A Certain Body Type
- Look at our group! We have all types of bodies. Each of you is a pretty strong runner. So we know this isn't true. Are certain types of bodies better for certain distances? Sure. But anyone can be a runner.
9. Stretch Before You Run
- This isn't necessary because your muscles are not yet warm. It's really imporatant your muscles are warmed up before stretching. Disagree? Take a yoga class (which is primarily about flexibility) and you will notice there are many poses that will not be attempted until later in the class when the body is warmed up. Cold muscles are at the highest risk for injury which can happen while stretching.
10. While Racing, You MUST Drink At Every Water Station
- Cute. Drink for thirst and you are less likely to be overhydrated and have stomach troubles. You really don't want to be stuck in the bathroom for half the race. Many runners now are trained that they need their hydration belt for a 5k. That's not really necessary. For an ultra, yeah - take it with you. Just remember that your body is tough. That being said, don't deny it fluids.
11. Runners Are Suppose To Peak In Their 20s. I Guess I'm Too Old To Be Any Good.
- Good try. You can still kick butt at your next race. Yes, your aerobic capacity does fall with age. It is not your heart's stroke volume or your ability to extract oxygen from blood that decreases with age - it's that your max heart rate declines. The reality is, your max heart rate declines by a beat per year according to Sandra Hunter, PhD, an exercise scientist at Marquette University. Usually the age-related issue that runners start to notice first is their ability to recover from hard workouts and races. Muscles store glycogen so when you lose muscle mass with age, you also lose some of your glycogen reserves meaning it will take longer to recovery. So, yes, there is an inevitable decline that comes with age, but just because you may not be able to be as fast as someone in their mid-late 20s does not mean you don't have it in you. Keep running and training. You'll see improvements. Trust us.
12. You Have To Carbo Load The Night Before A Race.
- Yeah it's totally a good excuse to hit your favorite Italian place with your friends. But, there's no reason to carbo load unless you eat that way normally. Why do something that isn't in your routine the night before the race? (If you don't know why you wouldn't try this out - give it a shot and see how many times you end up in the lovely port-a-pottie).
You never know what running related myths you may hear, but do your research and keep up the good work. Remember, you're lapping everyone on the couch and you look good doing it.
Who Picks the Topics?
Each week, we notice different things. We try to incorporate the questions we are receiving or the training issues we are noticing into our post(s) for the week. If there is something you'd like us to cover, let us know!