Running Watches

I am technology nerd. I read technology blogs, hang on the words of Silicon Valley and MIT thinkers, and look forward to seeing the latest wares each year at CES, the Consumer Electronics Show. My fascination with technology isn’t new. When I was 14, I owned a beeper, at 16, I bought Nokia’s first digital GSM phone, and would regularly read 2600 Magazine – an early zine for the hacking community.

The current trend in technology (beyond autonomous vehicles) is wearable devices. The Apple Watch will soon be in its third iteration, Fitbits are ubiquitous, and traditional Swiss watchmakers, like Tag Hauer, are teaming up with technology companies to provide a classic look while incorporating all the modern advances of technology. Runners have been some of the earliest adapters of this technology.

Last year, after much humming and hawing, I made the jump and bought a running watch. I initially tried using my phone, but it became a data killer and the data didn’t prove to be particularly reliable. Deciding on a watch was difficult, but I had very specific list of features that I was looking for:

GPS – Being able to step out and start running without pre-planning my route or going back and retracing my steps was something that I had gotten from my friend Mathew. We would run together and he would later send me a Strava screenshot of the route we had taken. When I would run alone, I would miss having this record to look back to.

Programmable – Being able to program specific workouts was important because I didn’t have an easily accessible track near my house. Being able to program various times and distances allowed me to do interval workouts without the need for a track.

Heart rate monitor – This was future proofing. I had been using a heart rate monitor in the gym to understand how I could control pacing and intensity and new that I would eventually would apply the same approach to running.

Nothing ugly – Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but a lot of running watches should only be worn during workouts!

I settled on the Garmin Forerunner 230 because it checked all the boxes (we can debate the aesthetic merits later). Despite the initial upfront cost, I have found the feedback loop that it creates to be incredibly valuable.

Total km’s, splits and records –Like many people who spend a fair amount of time in the gym, I keep track of lifts, loads and sets, but never did the equivalent for running. Now, the watch has automated this process. I am able to keep track of total kilometres I’ve done in a week, month, year, etc. I am also able to see at a glance my average and fastest split times. What’s really nice is the unexpected personal records, like when I have run my fastest kilometre or 400 metres.

Aligning Intensity with How I’m Feeling – We all have good and bad training days.  Having a record of my recent running history, I have a better sense about what intensity I should be running at on any given day. If I’m feeling fresh after a couple of days off from training, I may go out harder. The data allows me to set targets to align with my desired intensity level.

Making On-The-Go Adjustments – With the help of the heart rate monitor, I am better able to make changes to my pacing on-the-go and ensure that I meet my distance targets at a consistent intensity. The real advantage is to ensure my pace is under my control and being able to adjust, up or down, as needed.

 

Social Feedback – I have since synced my running watch to the social networking app, Strava. It has allowed me to share my workouts with my friends and to see how they’re doing. It’s a great way to celebrate each other’s efforts.

 

While my initial curiosity was motivated by my interest in technology, the benefits have extended well beyond my nerd-like tendencies. I’m happy to say that the data provided by my running watch has reinforced the long-standing training principle that workouts should be recorded to ensure that the training is having its desired effect. For me, I want to ensure that I get the benefit of running without the risk of injury or junk miles.

 

-Andrew