For most runners, heading out for a run without a training device is simply unheard of. How will you know how far you ran and what your pace was? But beyond pace and distance, there are a lot more features that can be utilized in your typical GPS watch. With the costs of these devices starting at about $50 and going up as high as $500, it’s best to know what you are paying for and how to get the most out of it.
If you purchase a device on the lower end of the price spectrum, you will get what you pay for. Usually, that means distance and pace. But if you can spring for one of the higher priced models of GPS running gadgets, you can really get some bang for your buck—if you understand all the features, that is.
Heart Rate Monitors1 of 8
Some GPS watches have uber-convenient wrist-based heart rate tracking; but you can also add a heart rate strap for minimal investment. Heart rate training has been very effective for many athletes. That little gadget on your wrist can show your heart rate as you run and help you stay in the specific zone you want to achieve. Keep in mind that heart rate monitors built into the watch can increase the cost.
Support Software2 of 8
These days, GPS watches now also include online software that track almost everything. From your fastest times to the map of where you ran plus the elevation, the software allows you to dig down a little deeper into the data of every single run.
If you are competitive, some devices feature online software that lets you view the details of your friends' workouts and see how you compare. It can be tempting to race them every time you step outside, so be careful to stick to your training.
In addition to heart rate tracking, some models allow you to upload your workout pre-run on your home computer so that you don't have to remember all the steps when you head outside. For example, if you have a fartlek run that has three minutes at one pace, then two minutes at another, you can program it into the watch ahead of time. Your device will then beep at you to speed up or slow down and help you remember your workout.
Training Features3 of 8
While most of your GPS devices come with running pace and calories burned, not all of them feature cadence. A watch that tracks your cadence allows you to focus on how fast you are turning your legs over. The majority of training watches also come with the auto lap or manual lap feature. If you aren't great at pacing yourself during the mile, you can always turn off the auto lap and hit lap manually every quarter mile or whatever distance you prefer. It's also great to use manual lap at the track or when doing distance repeats.
Additional Features4 of 8
With the addition of Bluetooth, running gadgets can now also sync to your phone to send you text messages and social media notifications. Not to mention they now come waterproof, and many can also track swim and bike for multisport athletes.
There are a lot of GPS devices on the market, but the following three are a good example of what you can get at each price range.
Soleus GPS 1.0 - $495 of 8
This watch keeps it simple with speed and distance. It has the added feature of calorie burn tracking and is water resistant to 30 meters. It's a great price for a watch that does the basics.
Polar M200 - $149.956 of 8
The Polar M200 featured a built-in wrist HR monitor and syncs with your Bluetooth devices. It also syncs with Polar's online system to check out your post-run data.
Sunnto Spartan Sport Wrist HR - $499.007 of 8
At the top end of the price spectrum, this watch is touchscreen and has a built-in HR monitor. This is a multisport watch and can be used for triathlon, so the swim and bike features are an added bonus if you venture into that world. For the price of almost $500 it has almost every bell and whistle you can think of.