Running watches are one of the best investments a runner can make. They allow runners to track their progress accurately, enhance the quality of their training, ditch carrying a phone and look stylish, to name a few of their many benefits.
Running watches are a hot accessory in the running world.
Lots of runners have a GPS watch, like the Garmin Forerunner 735XT which I have personally and love. If you’re a regular parkrun participant or have competed in a race somewhere, you’ll hear tonnes of GPS watch beeps as their owners start recording their run.
However, not all runners use running watches. Some runners don’t like the idea of buying and using a running watch, because they might have some limiting beliefs about these accessories. I know this first hand because I had some limiting beliefs of my own before I decided to take the plunge and get my first running watch.
What are some examples of limiting beliefs?
Limiting beliefs about why runners don’t get GPS watches:
Some are put off by these handy GPS watches because of the cost. Totally understandable. However, parting with some hard-earned cash for one of these handy devices is well worth the investment (as you’ll soon see in this article).
- People can track progress themselves
Some think they don’t need a GPS watch because they can track their own progress. What’s wrong with a free app on a mobile phone like Strava, or just tracking progress the old-fashioned way without any technology?
- Dislike for technology
Some people have a general distaste for technology. You could say we’re in the 21st Century, and everybody has learnt to accept and use technology, but this just isn’t the case.Some don’t like technology because it wastes time, destroys face to face communication, it reduces literacy (think texting abbreviations), and so on. The list is long.Some people don’t like the idea of running watches because they’re a piece of technology, and maybe they’ve had negative experiences with technology before.
- Lacking passion for running
Some runners aren’t willing to invest in a decent running watch because they just aren’t in love with the sport enough. It happens all the time. If you love doing something, chances are you’re willing to invest some money into purchasing the very best tools.Think of musician friends you have and how much money they’ve spent on expensive guitars, pianos and drums. Think of people you know in love with cars, and the thousands they spend on a BMW or an Audi.What about those who spend ridiculous amounts on make-up products? You know what I’m talking about.When you love something and are passionate about it, you are prepared to spend money on getting the best tools. Though it’s not always the reason, runners who choose not to get a GPS running watch may not be as passionate about the sport as they once thought. There’s no shame in that.I initially put off getting a running watch because I wasn’t as passionate about running as I thought I was. I’ll be honest and own up to it! Times have changed now though of course. I love running, and it’s a fundamental part of my life.
- Fear of change
A key reason people don’t get a running watch is the fear of change.Though exciting to some people, a lot of us just don’t like change. We get comfortable and used to doing something a certain way.We like running the same routes, hanging out with the same people, eating similar foods, going to the same places, and so on.When things change we experience anxiety because we lose control, experience uncertainty, find ourselves in unfamiliar territory and fear we won’t be able to cope. When people think of getting a running watch they might be anxious because of the change it will ensue.
Wearing a watch for every run, learning how to use the device, connecting the watch to an app like Strava, are all examples of new experiences associated with a running watch. Silly as it may seem, some don’t like the idea of change and resist a running watch because of it.
It’s time to break these limiting beliefs.
Without further ado, here are 9 reasons you should buy a running GPS watch
1. No more holding your phone
One of the main reasons I wanted a running watch was because I was getting sick of holding my phone. Carrying around a bulky phone is not only frustrating, it can also be distracting for runners.
When I carried my phone, I listened to music and I’d be tempted to change the song or select a different album mid-run. Not only was this a health and safety hazard due to not being totally aware of my surroundings, it also meant a decline in performance.
I was so focused on carrying my phone (and using it) that I didn’t focus on running as much, and I got slower times and had reduced form due to looking down at the screen.
Getting a running watch is a perfect remedy for holding your phone when running. Running watches work like normal, everyday watches. They wrap around and strap nicely to your wrist meaning you can record all the important data with ease.
A positive of running watches (particularly for me because I love my music and podcasts on runs), is that some watches allow you to download and listen to music or podcasts. Most recommended with wireless earphones, having all your music in a nice running watch is a true game changer. Getting a running watch surely beats carrying your phone.
2. Record lots of useful data with ease
A positive of running watches is they are practically designed to record data on your runs. Data sets are varied and incredibly useful.
Most running watches can record your heart rate, speed, elevation, location, how far you’ve run, what mile you run the quickest, and so on. If there are one thing runners like, it’s recording and analysing their data. Once the data is recorded, it can be easily accessed using the watch screen itself or by connecting to a popular running app like Strava.
Runners want to know how fast they were, how far they’ve travelled and most importantly if they’ve achieved a new personal best for a specific distance.
Also, for runners who are interested in conditioning themselves for long distance races or as part of a triathlon training regime, having the ability to measure heart rate is a true game changer. Running watches let you track and monitor data from your workouts and performances.
Human beings like style. The clothing we feel comfortable and good about wearing is fundamental to boosting our confidence and self-esteem.
Style helps us to express ourselves as individuals, explore different aspects of our personality, and have a unique way of presenting ourselves in public. Ever felt a rush of excitement when you make a purchase for a top you just had to have? What about the glow of pride you had when a friend complimented your choice of shoes at that time? Style is important to humans, there’s no denying it.
Wearing a running watch can be an integral part of any runner’s style, which is why they’re such a good accessory to invest in.
Manufacturers understand style is important for runners, so they focus on making them slick and cool. Watches often look sporty, funky and give users a real premium feel. There’s a tonne of styles out there, and one is bound to gel with you.
4. Some watches are suitable for triathletes
If you’re someone who likes getting in the pool and training on two wheels, as well as running, a GPS watch might just be what the doctor ordered. Some watches, like the TomTom Cardio Multisport, Polar V800 and the Garmin Fenix 3, are all triathlon-friendly and are totally waterproof.
These watches have special training modes for running, cycling and swimming, meaning you can get as much bang for your buck as possible with your GPS watch. If you’re not currently a swimmer or a cyclist, getting a running watch with these features might inspire you to take up these disciplines later down the line.
Some runners who get triathlon-friendly watches feel the waterproof and cycle orientated features are going to waste, which encourages a dabble in the other disciplines.
Whether you’re already a triathlete, love cycling, enjoy swimming, or might be interested in these disciplines in the future, the existence of triathlon-friendly watches is a fantastic reason to get a running watch.
5. Social sharing functions
Companies who manufacture GPS running watches understand the importance of social media and sharing of achievements online. That’s why they design their watches with live tracking and social media connectivity, making sharing your runs easier than ever before.
Why does it matter to share your achievements?
Think about all the great things you’ve done in your life. Maybe you’ve passed a driving test, graduated from college or university, wrote a novel, started a business, passed an important exam.
These achievements are always best when shared with friends and family, the people that make our lives extra special. Sharing your running achievement can be motivational and encouraging, especially when you receive praise from friends and family.
Share your achievements with those special to you with a GPS running watch.
6. Some watches offer advice on recovery
Maybe more of a feature for serious and elite runners, some running GPS watches offer post-run advice on how long your body will take to recover. Particularly important for when you’re training for an important race or are trying to condition your body to a certain level of fitness.
Watches like the Garmin Forerunner 620 and Polar V800 both offer quick post-run recommendations of how long you should rest before running again. A handy tool to avoid injury and over-training, common problems for runners all over the world.
Whilst this is a fantastic benefit of certain watches, not every runner will see it as crucial so it’s important you think about what watch will be suited to your needs.
7. Track your daily activity
Your running watch can be used outside of running. Wear it on your wrist during your normal day to day activities, to record how much physical activity you’re doing. Once you start recording physical activity, you’ll be aware of how much you move and if you need to adjust your lifestyle for improved health.
You could say “why do I need a running GPS watch to record daily activity? My phone does it okay already.” A good point. However, the watches record data much more accurately than phones and also provide a comprehensive report on steps walked, distance travelled, heart rate, sleeping patterns, and so on.
Why is it important to track your daily activity?
There’s been much research into the dangers of a sedentary lifestyle, sitting around and being inactive. The American news giant CNN published an article with the headline ‘Sitting will kill you.’ If that headline doesn’t make you spit the coffee out of your mouth, I don’t know what will!
We’ve come incredibly far as a species. We’ve developed technology, discovered tonnes of life-saving medical knowledge, churned out legendary composers like Beethoven and Mozart, built humongous buildings, sent a man to the moon. The list is endless. Despite all this, we’ve become reliant on sedentary behaviours like sitting too much.
Sitting at a computer, watching Netflix and chilling, scrolling through social media, reading for too long (reading is great and highly recommended, but one needs to strike a balance with an active lifestyle). Being inactive is okay in moderation, but too much is a health hazard.
What does the NHS say about excessive sitting and an inactive lifestyle?
According to the NHS, excessive sitting is linked with being overweight and obese, developing type 2 diabetes, some types of cancer, and a higher chance of an earlier death.
They say sitting for long periods is thought to slow the metabolism, raise the blood pressure, and reduce the body’s ability to break down body fat. Not good for a healthy waistline!
The NHS says the average UK adult spends more than seven hours a day sitting or lying down (outside of sleeping) which is a problem!
What are the benefits of an active lifestyle?
The benefits of an active lifestyle are huge. Being active every day means a lower blood cholesterol level, a lowered risk of diseases like type 2 diabetes and some cancer, reducing your risk of a heart attack, having stronger bones and muscles, improving mood, being healthy. The list goes on, and on.
Having a running watch to track daily activity for a healthier lifestyle
Having a running GPS watch can be used outside of the running shoes. It can be used to accurately track and monitor physical activity, so you can achieve your targets.
Use the running watch to track various activities. Try and go for a walk every day, use the stairs instead of the lift, park further away from your work building, go hiking in the woods, cycle to work, take up running. Get the body working and the blood pumping.
Using the running watch for the 10,000 steps a day goal
The NHS recommends 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week, and many studies promote the benefits of trying to achieve 10,000 steps a day. Using your running watch can help you to accurately track your progress as you try to achieve this goal.
8. There are watches for every budget
It’d be nice if we could buy the watch we most desired, but this isn’t possible for a lot of runners. Not everyone has stacks of money to buy whatever running GPS watch we fancy. That’s fair enough and totally understandable.
Just like every other product you’ve bought in your life, there are expensive running watches and cheaper watches. Of course, the expensive ones tend to have more functions and improved tracking than their cheaper counterparts.
However, there’s a lot to be said for the simplicity of purchasing and using a cheaper running watch. Watches on the lower end of the budget line tend to only focus on important things like speed and distance and don’t force you to spend lots of time in complicated menus measuring confusing data sets you never knew existed.
On the other hand, some will like the idea of having all the menus and data they can get their hands on for a comprehensive analysis of their performance.
At the end of the day, remember there will always be a decent watch to suit your needs regardless of your budget. For example, the Polar m400 and the TomTom Runner are relatively cheap and have a simple set of features that are easy to use.
Don’t let the price put you off enhancing your running life with a GPS watch.
9. Track your heart rate
Lots of running watches offer inbuilt heart rate monitoring. This is known as the optical heart rate. If you’re serious about training, having a way to measure your heart rate can be effective.
Monitoring how effective your body is at pumping blood around itself as you come up against certain obstacles like hills or long stretches of road, can be important for creating and altering training plans.
Your heart rate is measured by the number of times your heart beats per minute. During rest, the heart will beat considerably low compared to when you’re in a running session.
As you become fitter and your heart strengthens, you will find it beats fewer times per minute. When you condition your body, the heart gets stronger and becomes more efficient at pumping blood around the body.
Having a running watch that can accurately gauge your heart rate means you can track the trajectory of your training, keeping an eye on how fit you’re getting and whether you’re on track to achieving your goals.
What are some good running watches to buy?
Now we’ve established the many benefits of running GPS watches, let’s look at some of the best watches on the market.
1. Garmin Forerunner 235
This is a fantastic watch which is reasonably affordable, smart, and highly effective. It has enough battery life for 11 hours of GPS tracking and tracks day to day activity (outside of running) for approximately 8-9 days on one charge. If that’s not efficient, I don’t know what is!
With a built-in optical heart rate sensor, super lightweight design, soft straps and a slick style, the Garmin Forerunner 235 features a high-resolution display and a large screen for better viewing experience. The watch is presentable and cool, and the perfect size for male and female wrists.
A cool aspect of this watch is the handy ‘back to start’ feature, which generously guides you back to your starting place should you get lost on your run. It sounds like an unlikely scenario, but it’s happened to me a few times. Embarrassing, I know! I had no running watch on for all the occasions I got lost. If I had the Garmin Forerunner 235, maybe I’d have found my way quicker.
If you’re interested in the Garmin Forerunner 235, check it out here
2. Garmin Vivoactive 3
One of Garmin’s finest watches, this innovative watch combines smart, fashionable and GPS features. The Garmin Vivoactive 3 truly is a watch that will up your running game from a variety of angles.
Fitted with GPS and heart rate tracking, waterproof to depths of 50 metres, and the use of Garmin pay (make card payments with your watch) the Vivoactive 3 is one to look out for.
The battery life lasts 13 hours for GPS and 7 days for normal everyday use, making it a durable option for runners everywhere.
Being 11.7mm in thickness, it comfortably fits around the wrist and doesn’t weigh you down. Lots of runners sporting a Vivoactive 3 often forget they’re even wearing one.
If you’re interested in the Garmin Vivoactive 3, check it out here
3. Samsung gear sport
The watch is incredibly impressive. It’s a super solid device with a stainless-steel body for durability and peace of mind on your runs.
Moreover, the watch mixes traditional design with modern function making for an interesting product. The Samsung Gear Sport is waterproof, and can be used in 50-metre depths, and is salt-water resistant.
A nice extra touch about this watch is the option of purchasing a wireless charging dock. Simply place your watch on the charging cradle and watch the watch face rotates after placing it in the charger.
The watch lasts 4 days in pure smart watch mode, and 3 to 4 hours in GPS mode on your runs, which makes it one of the shortest batteries lives on this list. However, as we’ve already seen, the watch makes up for shorter battery life with all its exceptional features.
The watch face display is particularly impressive with 360 by 360 pixels and offers high definition statistics and easy to read writing.
And of course, the Samsung Gear Sport features a built-in heart rate monitor for tracking your heart efficiency. Nice extras include Wi-Fi, speaker, microphone, and is compatible with virtually all smartphones and Android devices.
If you’re interested in the Samsung Gear Sport, check it out here
4. The Suunto Ambit 3
The Suunto Ambit 3 is a highly versatile running watch which has become a favourite within the running community.
Complete with GPS tracking and advanced outdoor and multisport functions, smart mobile connection capability, water resistance up to 100 metres, a battery life of up to 30 days (in casual non-running mode), and a smart design, this watch really does have it all.
Connect the watch wirelessly to your smartphone and use the free Suunto Movescount App to adjust the watch on the go and visually enrich, relive and share your adventure.
Though it comes with heart rate functionality, it is a good idea to get a heart belt to go with it for truly accurate readings.
One strength that runners often note is how effective the watch is at recording altitude, particularly useful on trail runs or courses with varying inclines.
If you’re interested in the Suunto Ambit 3, check it out here
5. Apple Watch 3
Ideal for the casual runners out there who love their style and want to invest in a watch with much more than running in mind, the Apple Watch 3 could be the answer.
The Apple accessory is a smartwatch and acts as a stylish GPS run tracker, and a day to day companion in everyday life, make it highly durable and multipurpose.
It features heart rate tracking whilst running and in everyday activity, giving you a more complete picture of your overall health. For music lovers, the watch has excellent on-board storage for approximately 250 songs.
Additionally, the watch can take texts and calls which allows you to stay connected whilst on the move. It’s a good companion for casual runners, with most of its focus being on an everyday companion.
Unfortunately, the watch isn’t waterproof, so you may wish to look elsewhere if you’re a triathlete or love a good swim.
Elite and serious runners might not feel content with the Apple Watch 3, because fitness isn’t its primary purpose. Before you make a purchase, make sure you work out what your needs are.
If you’re interested in the Apple Watch 3, check it out here
6. Garmin Forerunner 935
Often named as one of the best GPS watches for triathlons, the Garmin Forerunner 935 is lightweight slick watch is one of the most comprehensive GPS watches to date.
As well as featuring standard features like a heart rate monitor, all the standard GPS tracking functions and being waterproof to 50 metres, it comes with some advanced features too.
It is a multi-sport watch, with a series of advanced features like stride length and ground contact time.
The Forerunner 935 is also a smartwatch and will have every normal feature of such watches. You can access the weather, change the music playing on your phone, check notifications, track your day to day activity, and so on. The battery life on the 935 is particularly impressive, with Garmin reporting a maximum life of 24 hours.
This is a particularly pricey running GPS watch. Whilst this watch will be fantastic for serious and elite runners, it might not be as necessary or relevant for every day casual runners. The advanced features are incredibly useful if you’re competing, but if you’re just running as a hobby or a brilliant way to stay in shape then you might look out for cheaper models.
If you’re interested in the Garmin Forerunner 935, check it out here
7. Fitbit Ionic
A staple of the GPS watch world, the Fitbit Ionic is a fitness-focused smartwatch without the arguably ‘unnecessary’ features of other smart GPS watches. It’s simple and easy to use, looks stylish, and can be used for everyday activity tracking as well as one your runs.
It comes with a multi-day battery life, decent heart-rate tracking, the built-in GPS, a sleep tracker, and the impressive ability to store and listen to music via wireless Bluetooth headphones. The Fitbit Ionic is incredibly ideal.
Ideal for runners who just want a GPS watch purely for running statistics and tracking, this watch might just be the answer. It features a high-resolution screen, water resistance of up to 50 metres, and a lightweight feel, making it one of the best running GPS watches out there. See what you reckon, try out one out for yourself.
If you’re interested in the Fitbit Ionic, check it out here
There you have it! 9 Reasons you should buy a GPS running watch, and some examples of fantastic watches. Hopefully, you’ve learned some of the game-changing benefits a decent running watch can make in your running life. Happy running!
If you’re interested in more clothing and accessory related articles, check out the following blog posts:
- 30 Great Gift Ideas for Runners
- 30 Great Fancy Dress Ideas for Runners
- The Benefits of Running Sunglasses
- 7 Signals You Need New Running Shoes
- 5 Best Men’s Running Shoes for 2018
- Top 5 Running Shoe Brands