Todays serious athletes, no matter what sport or sports they participate in must go through the process of looking at all the different features of the various sports watches that they may be considering.
And, this can be a time consuming and frankly it can be a boring task. In this article, well outline the various features that you actually need for athletic training that are available on the current crop of sports watches. You will be able to look at each feature and easily determine if that particular feature is one you would like to have on your new sports watch.
If you are like most athletes, cost is certainly a consideration when selecting a sport watch, however, many sports watches are extremely economical, and yet upon close examination have the exact features you will need to get the most out of your regular training regimen.
Sport watches range in price from a few dollars all the way up to several thousand. For example, you can get a Timex Expedition Digital Compass Sports Watch for between $40 and $55.
Look at the many features this relatively inexpensive sport watch has:
- Indiglo® night-light with all day Indiglo® display and Night-Mode® feature.
- Elextronic compass displays headings in cardinal points and degrees.
- 100-hour chronograph with lap or split option.
- 99-lap counter.
- Daily alarm.
- Hourly chime.
- 100-minute countdown timer.
- 12/24 hour time.
- Water-resistant to 100m.
Or, at the high end of the scale of watches in the sports watches category, take a gander at the features and the price tag for the Omega Speedmaster Broad Arrow Red Gold on Leather Strap.
- Water Resistant
- Scratch Resistant
- Date Indicator
You can purchase one of these smart looking, status denoting sports watches for between $2,400 to $9,700, but, as you will soon see, it does not have near the features that most serious training athletes will need.
Price isn’t always a good indicator of which sports watch you should choose for your athletic training. With literally hundreds of really smart looking sports watches on the market today, it’s certainly no surprise that athletes often feel quite confused and overwhelmed when selecting a watch for their training.
As sports watch making technology rapidly advances every year, the high level of complexity of many of the features engineered into the latest sports watches only adds to the overall confusion.
Having all those options to choose from is great, but it makes narrowing down your final selection from all the sport watches available more than a little perplexing. Just as an example, lets look at the features required in a sport watch for a serious runner.
Runners have a certain set of needs and requirements that the recreational runner or fun runner doesn’t have. The occasional jogger or fun runner will be happy with a digital watch with just a stopwatch timer feature, but these minimal features just won’t do it for the serious runner who will want a sports watch, a personal training aid, that will help him or her strive for peak performance.
Serious runners are looking to improve their physiological condition for better competitive performance and they race regularly whether on a 400m Olympic standard running track, or they may compete in road races on tarmac or cross country through trails and mud.
They will also probably do frequent Interval Training, do several slower and longer runs weekly, and they will want to record their training activity in their Training Diary.
Like the fun runner or jogger, the serious runner will want his sports watch to perform the basic requirement of tracking time over a run.
But, the serious runner when looking at all the sports watches on the market today will also require his personal training aid to have the ability to record and recall segments of a run or lap splits. This feature will be required for both long runs and for any distance based interval training. An interval timer or what is sometimes called a countdown timer is also useful for those athletes including time based interval training in their workout. If you are a serious runner, when you are evaluating the various sports watches, be sure that the sports watch you end up with has at least these three basic top features:
- A Stopwatch Chronograph is an absolute necessity. The Stopwatch Mode or Chronograph of a running sports watch keep a running time in hours, minutes, seconds and fractions of seconds. Inexpensive or cheap sport watches usually only have start/stop and lap buttons that start, stop and pause the display without stopping the stopwatch. Very few cheap sports watches have the memory needed to store sessions or laps, so all your times will be lost when the stopwatch mode is reset. Serious runners require that their sports watch has the memory capacity to store laps and sessions. Additionally, good running sports watches feature a display with the capacity to show two or more data fields on the screen. In the Chronograph mode, one half of the screen usually shows your overall time or split, the other half displays your current lap time. While the digits on the display screen don’t have to be as large as the numbers on digital wall clocks, they should be large enough to see at arms distance away. The more advanced sports watches have a greater ability to allow you to customize the real-time display and you will also find a larger variety of data fields in these more advanced sports watch models. Choose a running sport watch with a digital display that is easy to read at arms length while you are on the run. As simple as this consideration may sound, many runners omit really examining and practicing with the display screens of the different sports watches they may be looking to buy. You want to end up with a sports watch that is easy to read as you are in the midst of a lap or run. Can you imagine what having to stop and focus on you display screen would do to your times?
- It should have a Lap Storage and Recall feature for distance based interval training and long runs. Sports watches with Lap Storage have the memory capacity to save splits and laps. Some digital sport watches save laps in memory but can only store one session, while others maintain a session history. Serious runners wishing to save their repetition times should get a session history sports watch. Sports watches having the session history function allow you to pull up a list of your sessions by date and time. Sports watches with a session history feature can greatly aid your training progress as each session contains important information about any particular workout. It is very useful to have access to saved information such as overall time, lap times, and your best and average lap times. Many sports watches are equipped with a heart rate monitor that records your heart rate. If you are training with a target heart rate in mind, this feature is a prime consideration. Typically, the number of sessions a watch can store is from 10 to 150 laps, but the high end or top line sports watches have storage capacity for a lot more. While 150 laps of memory might seem like tons of laps to you right now, as you progress and really get into your training, you’ll be surprised at just how fast you’ll use up 150 laps full of memory. Many runners use this up in just a week. Keep in mind that the more session storage capacity the sports watch has the longer you wait to update your diary. If the watch you select has room for only a few sessions, you will have to update more frequently. Really, the amount of session storage you need depends on what you can live with. Personally, I would opt for a runners sports watch with more, rather than less, session storage capacity.
- Check out the various makes and models of sports watches to make sure they have a Countdown Timer or Interval Timer feature for time based interval training. A Countdown Timer on sport watches lets you set a time and when started, it counts down to zero.
The classic Countdown Timer lets you choose if you want the timer to beep and repeat the countdown at the end of the first cycle, beep and stop or beep and count upwards, but there are some drawbacks to the classic countdown timer.
The main drawback is that it runs over a fixed time interval. In actual practice, most timed interval workouts require you to run at varying length time intervals. For example, 4 minutes of running, followed by 2 minutes of recovery, repeated 8 times.
A Countdown Timer or Interval Timer feature is not absolutely necessary, unless you are doing fixed time repetitions, but it can be an very useful training feature.
In summary, when shopping for sports watches for athletic training, first, decide on and look for the features that will help you advance in your specific sport.
Consider only the sports watches that actually have the specific features and the memory capacity to help you achieve your personal training goals.