Reasons You Need a Running Watch

A friend of yours has had great things to say about running watches, but you’re not so sure. After all, you recently spent a lot of money on a nice pair of running shoes. Should you really turn around and buy a running watch as well?

You definitely want to consider a running watch for the following reasons:

  • Measures the metrics you care about, such as heart rate
  • More accurately logs your daily mileage
  • Syncs data you can then share with others
  • Frees up your hands so you can run more freely 
  • Some models can track running altitude
  • Includes a built-in GPS for maintaining your location
  • Tracks distance and speed
  • Most models have a rechargeable battery
  • Available in all sorts of cool styles and price points

Are you still not totally convinced? No problem! Ahead, we’ll elaborate on each of the above points so you can see why giving a running watch a chance is such a great idea. We’ll even suggest a few running watches throughout this article. You’re not going to want to miss it! 

9 Reasons You Need a Running Watch Stat

Measures Heart Rate

How fast did your heart race today when you ran? If you want to lose weight or boost your cardiovascular health through running, you need to know your heart rate. Once you get to your target heart rate zone, sticking within that zone for 20 minutes or longer will produce the above health benefits you’re striving towards. 

Now, we know what you’re going to say. Your iPhone or Android can measure your heart rate, so why should you get a running watch? Well, first of all, you likely need to download a phone app to get a heart reading, so that’s already more work you have to do. 

Some apps require you to buy extra equipment such as oxygen and pulse rings to track your heart rate. If you thought you could gauge the data you care about without spending money, you’ll quickly realize that isn’t the case. 

Then there’s the accuracy issue. The criteria an app uses to determine your heart rate varies depending on the producer of said app, which makes accuracy questionable in some cases. Even if you could get a decently accurate reading of your heart rate on your smartphone, that involves you carrying your phone with you when you run.

A running watch ditches all the finger rings and apps so you can get to the meat of the matter–tracking your heart rate–without hassle. Since you wear the watch around your wrist where one of your pulse points is, you’re more likely to get an accurate reading too. Sounds good to us!  

Logs Your Daily Mileage Accurately

We know, we know, your iPhone’s Health app tells you how far you walked today. Except it doesn’t, not entirely. If you go for a 10-mile jog sans phone, guess how many miles of that jog the phone will log? That’s right, exactly zero of them. The Health app only records the mileage you accomplish if you have your phone in your hand or pocket. That’s the case for other smartphone brands as well.

If you’re an Endomondo or Runkeeper user (which are two phone apps we recommended recently), you do have a more sophisticated mileage tracker through these apps. Even that’s not perfect. 

Since the apps use GPS data that’s pinged to satellites, the GPS will rely on trilateration to dictate how far you went. If the atmosphere of our humble earth changes too much, you can have issues with trilateration. Now the signals can’t travel as quickly, which means you get an abbreviated version of your mileage that’s not quite accurate. 

Admittedly, this can happen with running watches too, but not as often since the GPS included with your watch tends to be built right in. This reduces the need for long-distance trilateration for more accurate readings. 

That said, make sure to avoid tree cover and skyscrapers or other tall buildings as much as you can on your runs so you don’t obstruct your mileage count. 

Syncs Sharable Data

Few things in this life feel better than seeing your running progress play out in front of you in real time. With a running watch, you can create a history of your running distance over the short-term or long-term. If you buy a running watch from a brand like Suunto, Polar, or Garmin, you can then visit the manufacturer’s website, download their related software, and send your data through that software. 

Even if you own a basic running watch, you can use a USB cord to connect your watch to your computer. There, you can dump all your data onto your computer where you can review it on the big screen. The more expensive running watches can sync wirelessly to your computer, providing the same information but with less effort. 

Do some of your friends also run? The data you sync to your computer is sharable too so you can easily post it across your favorite social media platforms and brag to your buddies. This will motivate them to run harder so they can outdo your record, which will inspire you to keep doing your best so you can be the top dog among your pals.  

Lets You Run Phone-Free

There exist all sorts of reasons why you want to stop running with your phone in your hand. Here are some to consider.

  1. More likely to drop your phone

Your hands get sweaty when you run; that’s an unavoidable fact. Unless your phone has some sort of rubber grip case, then sweaty hands + smooth smartphone = higher chance of you dropping your phone on the ground. Sure, maybe your phone bounces off the dirt into the grass this time, but you won’t get so lucky one of these days and your screen will shatter into many small pieces. 

  1. Holding your phone affects how you run

If the risk of a broken phone isn’t enough to discourage you from holding your phone when running, this ought to: you won’t be running at your best. 

When you run, the way you move is known as your gait. While running gait has to do with foot movement, just as important is how you move your arms. 

When you swing your arms, this creates a counterbalance to the motion of your legs, keeping you stable. By running and holding your phone, your arms can’t move as freely, which means you’re less stable as a whole. 

  1. Could increase your likelihood of injury 

As you can probably imagine, when you run with less stability, you’re at a higher risk of hurting yourself on the trail. You might trip and fall, injuring yourself. Further, the lack of symmetry in your running stance as caused by holding your phone can put more strain on certain muscles, eventually causing tears, strains, and other injuries. 

By the way, the above risks are present when carrying anything, not just your phone. From holding your keys to your water bottle when you run, these are behaviors you want to strive to modify. 

With a running watch, you’re hands-free, which lets your arms move as they should, which in turn maintains your gait so you can run with a lower chance of injury. 

May Track Running Altitude

Heart rate and mileage are two of the big metrics runners like to measure, but those shouldn’t be the only ones you care about. You also want to learn about your running altitude. Your altitude is how elevated you are compared to the ground level or sea level.

Since we’re sure you’ve run on a treadmill, you know how you can set the altitude on those devices, right? Running in real life has natural altitude changes as well, such as ascending and descending hills and slopes. 

Some running watches such as the Garmin Fenix 5X Sapphire come with an altimeter built-in. Theirs is a barometric altimeter, meaning the Garmin Fenix 5X Sapphire can read the atmospheric pressure around you to determine your altitude. 

The other type of altimeter you sometimes see in running watches is a GPS altimeter. This pings satellites to determine the altitude. As we described above, GPS tracking can work fine sometimes but not in others, so you want a running watch with a barometric altimeter if you can get one. 

For hillside running especially, knowing your altitude will paint a fuller picture of your running prowess, so this is always good information to have! 

Has a Built-In GPS

The GPS in your running watch is for more than simply tracking stats like running speed and distance. It also graphs your location as you run. 

The Suunto 9 is one such example of a running watch that uses GPS as its main feature. It even has a barometric altimeter, which is another nice feature!

The Suunto 9’s GPS works for 120 consecutive hours to track your exercise and where you go. A running watch like this might let you send your GPS coordinates to your friends so you can meet up with them for an impromptu run. If you happen to get lost on one of your runs because you veered off your normal trail, GPS also comes in handy for allowing you to recalibrate yourself and get home safe.

Tracks Distance and Speed

What was your fastest running speed of the week or all time? You won’t have to guess with a running watch. 

If you’ve been using a smartphone app for tracking your speed all this time, you’ll want to discontinue that ASAP. These apps might have issues tracking switchbacks, running on curves, and other tricky maneuvers. Even if you buy a motion sensor to augment the app, this does improve accuracy to an extent, but not by a large enough margin that you’ll get precise numbers.

Running watches will gauge your speed as well as your distance in a few different ways depending on the brand of watch you buy. The cheaper watches tend to include a pedometer. The pedometer can determine how many strides you took as well as the length of each stride to then tell you how far you went. With a combined time-keeper, you get your pace in relation to your speed as well.

Better for indoor than outdoor running, pedometers are okay, but not the best nor the most accurate option for tracking speed and distance. Instead, for that, it’s once again GPS to the rescue. The GPS tracking unit is often included as part of the watch for the more high-end models. The pod communicates with the watch to share distance and speed data. 

The Garmin Forerunner 45 is one such running watch with GPS for measuring speed and distance. You can also learn more about your pace and heart rate through this watch. 

Has a Rechargeable Battery 

Hopefully, this article has convinced you to stop using your smartphone on your runs. Another reason it’s a good idea to switch from carrying your phone to using a running watch is for the surplus of battery power you get with the latter.

Using an app on your phone while listening to your running playlist and maybe having Facebook or your email open in the background depletes your phone’s battery fast. You might get through an hour-long run with some battery to spare, but if you’re running for several hours, forget it. You’d have to bring a portable charger, which is just another thing to hold.

The average running watch has a battery life of a day or two, sometimes as long as 50 hours. By turning on the GPS features, you do suck up more battery, limiting you to only six or eight hours of battery at a time. Still, unless you have a brand-new smartphone out of the box, then you’re not getting that kind of battery out of your phone. That makes a running watch the smarter choice here.

Many running watches include rechargeable lithium-ion batteries that you charge between runs. You’ll certainly charge your watch far more seldom than your smartphone, that’s for sure. 

Comes in Many Styles and Prices

You might have gotten into running because it seemed cheaper than a gym membership. Then you had to buy running clothes, shoes, a bag, and other accessories. If you’re reluctant to spend more money on running gear, know that a running watch doesn’t have to set you back that much.

You can buy a running watch for under $25 if absolutely necessary. It probably won’t have as many high-tech features as those we’ve outlined throughout this article. For example, your watch might include a traditional watch battery instead of a lithium-ion one. You’ll also have a GPS altimeter so your results might not be as accurate.

The average price of a good running watch is $150 to $200. If you can splurge, then we’d encourage you to do so.

Besides the price flexibility, you can also buy a running watch in all sorts of styles, materials, and colors. 

If you’d rather your running watch look like a smartwatch, try something like the Garmin Vivoactive 3. Maybe you like your running watch to be more like a watch. The Garmin Vivoactive 4S for women is dainty and comes with appealing rose gold accents. The Timex Ironman Classic can also be confused for an everyday watch, but it is indeed a running watch! 

Final Thoughts

Running watches can log the data you need to make the most of your runs, including heart rate, distance traveled, running speed, and pace. You can then sync this information across health apps or to your computer, sharing it on social media. 

Other features of running watches include GPS functionality, altitude tracking, and a rechargeable battery. It’s safer and smarter to run with a running watch than it is to hold your smartphone, as you can reduce your rate of injury. We hope this article has proved to you why running watches are an essential that any runner should have! 

Geoff Southworth

I am a California native and I enjoy all the outdoors has to offer. My latest adventures have been taking the family camping, hiking and surfing.

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