Best GPS Watches and How to Keep Track of Your Fitness Journey in 2021
How Can I track my Fitness with GPS watches?
As a person who likes to keep track of their fitness journey, you probably recognize the need for purchasing a GPS running watch.
Regardless if you are into trail running, cycling, swimming or are simply an outdoor enthusiast, you need something to store your fitness data and tell you when you managed to reach a certain goal.
In that aspect, we have decided to help provide some insight into what GPS watches can do and which one you can purchase to get the best benefits.
Why buy a GPS watch ?
Some people run just for the sake of running. They do not care about their progress, and they know that if they start running, calories will also start burning.
On the other hand, there are other people who like to be in full control over how many calories they burned, how many floors they climbed, how many laps they made – they want to be aware of every inch of their progress.
If you are not one to care about your running progress, then running watches may not be the thing for you. All they will do is make you crazy.
If, however, you’re the kind of person who likes seeing numbers and data, you might want to invest in a GPS tracker. It will tell you exactly what distance you are at and how many laps you need to make in order to reach your goal.
Basically, you will be getting a watch that will tell you what you did well on and what you can improve about yourself.
Benefits of GPS tracking
As stated, an obvious benefit of GPS tracking would be to see how your progress is going. Such a watch will let you know how long you went, how fast and how much you worked. Basically, if you are training for a race, the best GPS watch that you can find can be God sent for you.
When it comes to benefits of GPS tracking, it mostly all boils down to the increased accuracy in which you are made aware of your burned calories as you run. They will take your physical stats in mind (weight, height, and body type), and based on that, they will offer you a decent reading of how many calories you burned. The result of that will be a more efficient training and a better understanding of your own body.
Pros and cons of a GPS watch for runners
There are, however, pros and cons of getting a GPS watch for runners. While a GPS can do many things for you, there are also some things that it can’t do. Before looking into the top running watches, you need to be made aware of the limitations:
Accuracy: A GPS watch has an error rate of 1% to 3%. It is not something that is 100% accurate. For example, if you were to measure a 10-mile run, your GPS will consider anything between 9.91 and 10.09 to reach that exact distance. That may mean that the distance of the race may not be the same as the distance of what your watch shows you.
Complexity: If you were to compare GPS running watches to smartphones, you would realize that they are a similar piece of wizardry. Not many understand the complexity of their features, and most of them end up being unused. If you want something that is less complex, you may want to opt for a cheaper watch with fewer extra features.
Connectivity: Some watches function independently from your cell phone, which makes them much easier to use. However, there are some watches that can receive notifications from your phone such as texts, just in case you decide to step out without it. Those who make a habit out of running without pockets and cannot take their phones with them may want to look for such an option.
Satellites: A GPS running watch will work on data received from satellites, which is why you will have to train outside in order to get real data. Other obstacles such as tall buildings, thick tree covers or even clouds can affect your reading. If you get a watch with foot pods, however, this problem may be less evident.
Price: The cheaper the watch, the fewer features it generally has. You can get a watch for the same price as that of a pair of running shoes, but it won’t usually have any smart features. For example, you may get a good watch that’s around $100, but if you want one that also has a heart monitor, you need to be open to bumping the price with at least an extra $50 or $100. A GPS watch is an investment, so consider if the cost is worth what you are looking for. If you are comfortable with technology and like to exercise outdoors, these cons may not affect you as much, and you’d benefit greatly from a GPS watch. GPS watches are far from perfect, but if used correctly, they can become a great asset.
The State Of Running With a GPS Watch: Simple GPS watch vs. phone GPS
You can pretty much get a GPS device anywhere nowadays, without necessarily having to use an actual watch for that. If you have a smartphone, for instance, you have the opportunity of using a smartphone app that is relatively cheaper than a watch (you can get an app for as much as 5% if it’s not available for free). They have all the smart features that the best sport watches have with a layout that you may already be familiar.
Looking at it from the size and weight, though, it’s much more convenient to use a GPS watch, since it’s much smaller than a smartphone. Plus, since it’s strapped to your wrist, it’ll be much easier to check your progress without fearing that you may drop your phone and crack it.
Plus, there is also the issue of battery drain. A GPS watch will only be used for fitness while a phone will have other post-workout uses as well. Therefore, the battery of a smartphone will drain much faster than the one of the watch, which you can use up to 20 hours.
There’s also the issue of water protection. All watches are water and sweat-proof, and you can easily take them swimming. You would not be that comfortable with a smartphone since none of them is safe from the damage of water.
The best running watch
Whether you are looking for the best running watches for men or best running watches for women, there will always be many things to consider. Whether or not it has a heart monitor, how you charge it, how expensive it is – you need to make sure that its features balance the price. Here are some features you need to consider in the best buy running watches category:
Built-In GPS: Everyone wants to know what distances they ran, first and foremost. You can choose between two options here: either purchase a watch that has its own GPS or get one that piggybacks on your phone’s GPS. The downside to the latter is that you won’t be able to go running without your phone. With a built-in GPS, you can leave your worries at home.
Heart Rate Monitoring: Heart rate monitoring is great for tracking your cardio data, and therefore, it’s the best way to bring your workout experience up a notch. You can opt for a chest strap or an optical heart rate (OHR), but keep in mind that the best GPS heart rate watch is the chest strap one. You have a lower chance to get an accurate result with an optical heart rate.
Indoor and Outdoor: If you prefer to work indoors and on treadmills, then you may want to go for a watch that has an indoor run option and a built-in accelerometer.
Training Plans: A good GPS watch will either offer you a built-in training plan or allow you to create your own sessions. Garmin and TomTom, for instance, have these options that will allow you to follow training plans.
Extra Features: Regardless if their watch has a built-in GPS, some people are stuck with their phone due to the fact that they cannot listen to their favorite beats otherwise. The best running watch will be able to satisfy the music lover in you and not force you to take your phone out – because you can listen to your tunes from the watch’s storage! The best sport watches are the ones that will let you leave your phone at home so that there’s nothing hindering you. Nobody likes running with the knowledge that their phone could dangle off at any minute, leading to a precious loss.
Top Gps watches to buy in 2021
TomTom vs. Garmin Watches
When it comes to running watches, there are two brands that always seem to stand out: TomTom and Garmin. While Garmin appears to be in the lead for the best GPS watch, they are still very similar when it comes to features, accuracy, and pricing. Basically, you cannot go wrong with either one of them.
Therefore, here are some of the best sport watches from TomTom and Garmin that you can use for various activities:
The TomTom Runner is definitely one of the top running watches that can be bought for less than $100 – making it also one of the best affordable GPS watches. It has a pretty fast GPS locking, and the display is easy enough to read regardless of your gadget watches. Plus, if your vision has gotten fuzzy from all that running, the display is large enough for you not to miss any digits.
This tracker will allow you to measure your runs regardless if you are indoors or outdoors, and it’s waterproof enough, allowing you to go down to 50 meters. You can change the straps if you are in the mood for some color, and you can also add a heart rate strap (although that is available as a separate purchase).
Garmin ForeRunner 630
This Garmin GPS watch adds some extra “pro” features to your training. It shows dynamic metrics such as stride length, cadence, and vertical oscillation, but it can also measure psychological factors such as lactate threshold and stress score.
This watch can also be connected to other apps and devices, allowing you more liberty to check your stats. You have the ability to choose your color, and it also comes with a heart rate monitor option (although the strap is available as a separate purchase).
This is known as the best activity tracker for runners because it’s trying its best to become your only gadget as you are going out of the house. You can store up to 500 songs in it, which means you will no longer have to carry your phone around with you; all you will need are your Bluetooth headphones.
This one comes with a built-in heart rate monitor which can be attached to the wrist. Since it’s Bluetooth compatible, you can pair it with any of the latest straps, so that you are always connected to the latest technology. It’s better equipped for outdoor workouts, but you can go indoors as well with this watch.
Garmin ForeRunner 230
This watch is an update to the Forerunner 220. The additions include Smart Notifications and more options to track your activity. Plus, this watch comes at a very competitive price compared to others, and it classifies as the most accurate GPS watch sold at a moderate price.
This watch also has a longer battery life as compared to its counterparts. It can keep track of your progress for as much as 16 hours, or it can stay for up to 5 whole weeks in watch mode.
It’s difficult to choose between TomTom and Garmin, because they may as well be siblings. However, these four are definitely some frontrunners that you need to consider.
Getting a GPS running watch with built-in heart rate monitor
Looking for the best activity tracker for runners is never easy, especially if you are already advanced enough to require a built-in heart rate monitor. Sure, you may get a GPS watch, and you may get a detachable heart rate strap, but why not get one with a built-in strap and relieve yourself of one hassle? Keeping track of your heart rate will tell you whether or not you’re getting fitter and if you are building up resistance. And here are some watches that you may want to consider:
Suunto Ambit3 Peak
This may not be the cheapest of the GPS watches, but it’s definitely the most accurate GPS watch when it comes to checking your heart rate. Found at an average price of $500, this watch doesn’t only track your heart rate, but it does so while you are underwater! Its life can reach 20 hours with the GPS, and it has the ability to track your speed and cadence (once you activated the Bluetooth sensors), your distance on Google maps and all the other metrics that you need in order to train. For an extra $100, you can get this in a more durable Sapphire crystal glass.
Timex Ironman Run Trainer 2.0
From the moment you hear “Ironman,” you can imagine that this watch is going to be high class. This small-looking GPS watch will provide you with real-time speed, distance, space, and an accurate heart rate reading. Plus, you can set your desired target, and the watch will tell you if you are going under or above your goal. It will also tell you when it is time to drink some water or eat, which makes it a top GPS heart rate watch that is also multifunctional.
Which Garmin watch to buy
Just as there are differences between TomTom and the Garmin GPS watch, there are also different kinds of Garmin watches that can be used for various purposes. Here are some options that you can choose from, depending on your running style.
Garmin ForeRunner 35
It might not be the cheapest of the Garmin batch (like the ForeRunner 25), but it’s definitely one of the best affordable GPS watches. It packs everything you need as a new runner; you have distance tracking, pace, calories burned, time, splits and even an optical heart rate monitor. Plus, you can also read smartphone notifications on your wrist, so that you do not have to carry your phone with you every step of the way.
Garmin Vivoactive HR
Just as the ForeRunner 35 is the best watch for beginners, this one is the best multisport GPS watch for advanced runners. It may not offer such an in-depth analysis as the Forerunner 630, but it still offers enough features to make most of the wearers happy – and that also includes an optical heart rate monitor.
So why should you get this watch? First of all, it’s considered by many the best activity tracker for runners. It can track your distance, your space and your time. You have heart rate monitoring, you have sleep tracking, you have cadence, and you have step counting. Plus, you can also pair it with your phone so that you get your WhatsApp texts, your Uber alerts, and your tweets. Basically, you have everything from your smartphone transferred to your wrist.
This watch is the answer for those who are looking for a dose of style. By using the Vivomore, you can estimate calorie burn, count steps and monitor your sleep pattern using the accelerometer. All these features are incorporated in what looks like an analog watch, making it one of the best running watches for women (they all like a little bit of style in their life).
It doesn’t have a heart rate sensor, but it still has a long battery life (up to one year) and provides a great indoor workout tracking. Plus, it also has a great design that will make you look like a classy runner.
So how do you choose the best buy running watches from Garmin? The answer is very simple: you decide on your level, you choose your style, and then you pick the watch that suits you most.
The best sport watch that you can take outdoors
Finally, there are some watches that aren’t designed to be classy or be used on a treadmill; they are designed to be as sporty as possible, preferably taking the running on a proper mountain track.
Garmin Fenix 3
This is the perfect multisport GPS watch that will make every hiker happy. It has extensive tracking ability that goes from running to swimming, biking, skiing, snowboarding and so on. If there if such a thing as the one watch to rule them all, this one is it.
This one comes with a built-in heart rate monitor, a battery that can go up to 20 hours in GPS mode and the ability to receive smart notifications. It is also one of the best running watches for men since it is not only stylish, but it also has endurance.
Fitness Watch Comparison Chart
Now that you’ve made an idea of what a GPS watch should do and which models are the most reliable, here is a summary of their best features so that you can compare them.
Steps, Distance & Calories
Built-in Heart Rate Monitor
Smart Phone Alert
Garmin ForeRunner 630
Garmin ForeRunner 230
Suunto Ambit3 Peak
Timex Ironman Run Trainer 2.0
Garmin ForeRunner 35
Garmin Vivoactive HR
Garmin Fenix 3
What is the best GPS watch for runners?
Extensive research has proven that you can never go wrong with Garmin. Regardless of the model, this is one of the most popular brands for runners since it provides the most accurate GPS watch features. However, there are many options for you to choose from, so if you’re looking for a multisport GPS watch or a classy one that tracks your daily city progress, you won’t run out of great brands to pick from.