When it comes to running watches, there are a vast selection to choose from. Figuring out what you require in a running watch, depends on how you intend to be using it and how seriously you take your sport. If your needs are simple. Say you only want a simple timing device to measure how long your runs take, then a simple $10-20 sports watch with a chronograph stopwatch timer will do you just fine. There are many attractive watches in this price range to choose from.
If, on the other hand, your needs are more complex, you should be prepared to spend a little more money. A more sophisticated running watch feature is the ability to record a history of your sessions.
These types of watches allow you to keep a date-ordered history of your runs, allowing you to look back and see what time you ran last Tuesday so as to determine if you ran faster this week, or not. This feature can be exceptionally valuable to athletes who are making a conscious effort of keeping track of their workouts.
Performance Running Watches
For those who are more performance-oriented and follow a structured training program, there are running watches around that are capable of recording individual lap times in memory. This is useful for runners who run laps around Olympic standard running tracks or similar venues as part of their training. If you perform a workout of say, 8x 400m efforts, then this type of watch has the ability to store your times for each 400m that you run.
Another advanced feature that is valuable is an interval timer which is essentially a series of countdown timers that run in sequence. An interval timer allows you to run against the clock rather than a set distance, allowing you to run for a certain amount of time, then recover for an amount of time. Three minute efforts followed by a two minute recovery period is a popular training session.
The Timex Ironman watches collection are one series of watches designed for the serious athlete. Many Ironman watches feature the ability to store a history of past sessions including multiple lap times. Many Timex runners watches (but not all) provide support for an interval timer as well making them an attractive and affordable choice for the serious runner. While you may pay more for a watch that can record your running history and has an interval timer feature, there are many inexpensive running watches that provide this essential functionality. Timex Ironman watches as mentioned can be found at very reasonable prices as can watches from Nike.
The price of running watches rises, however when looking for more sophisticated features like heart rate monitor watches and GPS enabled watches. Heart rate watches have the ability to measure your heart rate, (an indicator of optimal training). GPS watches can measure your current running speed, total distance covered. Some even measure elevation and allow you to plot your runs on a 3D map using software.
Polar and Suunto are two makers of running watches that offer a much higher level of sophistication than a standard fare running watch. Suunto are unique in the fact that they are the only running watch that measures Training Effect, a measure of how hard you have worked out over the course of a session – a statistic that Suunto claim is more accurate than simply measuring heart rate alone. Some Suunto running watches also measure EPOC (Excess post exercise oxygen consumption). Polar running watches measure just about every heart rate measurement ever invented and provide you with sophisticated systems for measuring the effectiveness of your workouts and how much fitness you have gained over time.
What to Look For in the Perfect Running Watch
You should always be looking for a running watch which has the following essential features:
- A large clear display that is easy to look at while running.
- A stopwatch chronograph with the ability to record split times.
- The ability to store laps in its memory.
- Has an interval timer mode and countdown timer.
- A heart rate monitor (optional).
You should also consider choosing a running watch with the ability to record lap splits during your running sessions. This can be useful for measuring individual lap times around a running track or part of a long run
You certainly do not need a complex computer running watch to benefit from the features good running watches have, but if you take your sport seriously (or wish to), than you can certainly benefit from something more advanced than your average cheap sports watch.