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!
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