Basis is an intelligent sports watch with a micro sensor that senses the heart rate (BPM), tracks activity levels, monitors perspiration, and records skin temperature. All this at just $150.
Why run on a treadmill when you can run out in the open and enjoy the cool morning breeze. You would be thinking, a treadmill is a better alternative when it comes to monitoring your workout, and would probably not dirty your shoes. But the technology today is so advanced that you could run in the open, and a simple wristwatch would perform all the functions of a treadmill for you. Right from monitoring the distance, these running watches would take care of your burnt calorie count, number of laps, total workout time, running speed, heart rate, etc., and are equipped with astounding features like GPS, pedometer, heart rate monitors, chronograph, touchscreen (some variants), Bluetooth, and much more.
Before you make a purchase, take a look at some quick tips on how to choose the best running watch for your unique needs.
Convenience and Comfort
When buying a running watch, keep in mind that your main focus should be on running and not adjusting your watch strap or settings every five minutes. Look primarily for a big dial which makes reading the values easy and quick. Secondly, but very importantly, the watch should do its basic function of displaying time perfectly. The time shouldn’t be somewhere in the corner, but in the center and bold.
Check out the watch strap. Most straps are of resin, silicon, nylon, or rubber. Some people are allergic to rubber or resin. Try wearing the watch and see if you feel comfortable and soothing. If you feel any kind of skin irritation or discomfort, look for a different strap material. The watch should firmly hold your wrist when you run and shouldn’t dangle around your arm.
Like most other industries, here too a lot of brands compete with each other to provide the best features in the sports watch segment. So, there is a large fleet of brands and a larger variety of models under each of them to choose from.
If you just want a basic watch which can briefly monitor your workout without much effort or without sparing that extra penny, look for the following features.
Chronograph is basically a type of watch that records time with great accuracy. A basic chronograph is a must in every watch today. Look for a stopwatch and a countdown timer at the least.
This feature is very important. Look for watches with a minimum of 30 – 50 lap memory. Also, look for watches which have interval timers and data storage for your runs. For instance, things like the total time for a lap, average lap, or best lap data.
Distance and Pace Computer
This is a very fundamental and prominent feature a running watch should have. Enthusiasts love to see the miles and speed of their run, be it with a sensor in the shoe or as built-in property of the watch. If you are seriously into running for your routine workout, do not compromise on this feature. You will find watches including this feature as cheap as $60. This feature provides scope to monitor your improvement on a daily basis, and reinforcement after exercise is really essential.
Backlight and Display
A backlight proves useful when you schedule your runs in the evenings. Look for the one with a more time lag to ensure longer viewing intervals. Also, choose a watch with a decent display size; avoid too big or too clumsy makes.
Apart from the features in basic fitness, watches specifically meant for athlete training include the following useful features.
To start with, you need somebody to wake you up for those couple of laps in the mornings. But you don’t need to worry if your watch tracks your sleep and sounds an alarm every morning. Look for Soleus Go!; tracks activity for the whole day, monitors sleep patterns, and keeps a track of your fitness goals.
Similarly, Nike offers its ‘Fuelband’; while Garmin features the ‘Vivofit’, and Polar has its ‘Loop’ which performs similar functions as the Soleus Go!. All these watches sync with your smartphone and keep you updated with your daily activities and fitness targets.
Nowadays many watches come with a GPS feature. The watch receives satellite data constantly, which it uses to calculate pace. It will compute the time you take to run from point A to point B, and give you an exact calculation of your speed. When you end your run for the day, the watch shows you an average speed you followed for the entire run. Likewise, the watch synchronizes the daily GPS data to your phone or the computer via Bluetooth or USB. Almost all leading sports watch brands feature GPS in their watch models. Some of the best GPS watches are Garmin Forerunner 610, Nike+ Sport Watch GPS, Soleus GPS Fit, Polar FT80, etc.
Heart Rate Monitoring
For fitness enthusiasts who want to improve strength and cardio, heart rate monitoring is a must. Some watch models provide a separate band, whereas others do the monitoring right on your wrist. Basically, a monitor tells you whether your heart is functioning as it should, and whether it is okay to increase pace or ideal to decrease some. It’s better to make your heart strong to avoid future cardiovascular diseases. On the other hand, if you already have heart problems and intensely need to care for it without compromising on your daily run, a monitor-enabled watch would be perfect for you. If you are looking from the budget point of view, go for watches with separate straps for the chest, like Garmin Forerunner 15 + HRM, Soleus GPS Sole + HRM, and the like. Nike does provide a heart rate sensor strap, but as a separate accessory manufactured by Polar, and is compatible with the ‘Fuelband’ and ‘SportWatch’. If budget is not a constraint; go for a built-in HRM, like the Tom Tom Runner Cardio, The Pulse from Soleus, or the Alpha from Mio. If your sole aim is heart training, Mio specializes in heart training watches and bands, and has also received numerous awards in this segment.
Pedometer and Calorie Counter
These two are great motivators. A pedometer will tell you the total number of steps, whereas, the calorie counter will give you a figure of the total calories burnt. Always look for these two features in a running watch; especially, the pedometer which is essential to keep a daily record of the total steps. If you are very much figure-conscious and constantly strive to stay in shape, the calorie counter, in most cases, is your best friend, but sometimes your worst enemy too if you fall back on your diet and gulp down that extra donuts. Almost all leading manufacturers have these two features as a mandate.
Battery Backup and Water Resistance
Look for a rechargeable battery with a minimum of 5 hours workout battery life to avoid the hassles of frequent charging. The Soleus Pulse features a battery life of 10 hours in workout mode as claimed by the company. Similarly, other watches also have a battery life for a single charge as per the mode of use. In the watch mode, the battery once charged can last for weeks without charging. Talking about water resistance, look for the water resistance mark at the bottom of the watch dial. Popular watches have a water resistance ranging from 30 to 50 m. It is basically the amount of pressure the watch can withstand. For instance, a 30 m watch can withstand a pressure up to 30 meters, which could include minor splashes or raindrops. Basic watches show comparatively better resistance to water than the high-end ones.
Look for Extras
Look for extra features, like a touchscreen, vibration alerts, accelerometer, temperature sensors, caller ID, and text message notifications. Always compare brands and models in a similar budget range. Check for all the mandates and then look for these extra features. If you find a brand providing a special feature at no extra cost or a minor charge as compared to another brand, always choose the feature and not the brand.
Now that you have understood the different features that are important for a running watch, go and check out some brands at a store near you. Always decide upon your needs, buy wisely, and monitor your daily workout more efficiently. Running watches are also great to use during yoga or even when at the gym.