The best sports watches for running or triathlons are not the ones you see in commercials or on the wrists of top athletes, but the ones that can quickly and easily provide the information that you need.
I should warn you right away that I am describing a sober view of things, not heavily clouded by advertising and public sports pressure. In this regard, the first recommendation would be to buy a waterproof electronic sports watch capable of showing the current time and having a stopwatch function. That’s it.
Such devices can be found in any store like Decathlon for 500 rubles. Or directly from the Chinese for 100 rubles with delivery.
Now 90% of athletes have twiddled their thumbs and looked at their on-board computer to check their current heart rate, time to recovery, message availability, and God knows what else. But most importantly, whether it’s time to put the gadget on another charge.
Modern myths about running clocks
In the vast majority of cases, beginner runners are convinced from all sides that the latest model heart rate monitor for 50-60 thousand rubles – is an item of prime necessity, without which it is strictly forbidden to run. Of course, this is utter nonsense, but the fact is that advanced athletes, having got used to analyzing piles of information (often having only entertainment function, because analysis is the end of the matter), do not know how to do without it.
This situation is completely similar to getting used to cell phones, and later, to smartphones. Now runners and triathletes are constantly charging two gadgets (or even three). And, of course, everything is integrated, synchronized and automated, and therefore beeps, vibrates and alerts.
Useful Functions of Expensive Watches
Are there really useful features in a modern sports watch? There are. Although there are not as many as manufacturers say and as people tend to think.
Are they worth the money? No.
That is why it is better to buy them not in Russia, but abroad or on eBay. It is almost half the price. The only disadvantage is that, in case of warranty repairs, the RF officials like to send the owners of heart rate monitors back to the country where they bought them.
And warranty repairs happen often. Most of them, however, are not serious malfunctions or glitches in the hardware and software, but banal broken straps due to exposure to ultraviolet light and sweat (!) or some chlorine in the pool.
Therefore, the ideal versions of watches from this point of view are those in which it is possible to change the strap yourself to any commercially available strap. That is, its attachment should be classic and not make a single piece with the case.
Leaders of sports watches
Today the entire selection of sports watches in 90% of cases comes from three giants: Garmin, Suunto and Polar. 5% come from the pure Chinese from Aliexpress, and another 5% from other companies. We do not take into account all sorts of fitness bracelets, Apple smart watches and other outright nonsense.
Among these three whales is also a leader: Garmin .. How is Garmin better than Suunto and Polar? Historically, Garmin has been the leader in portable navigation, and a clear GPS track record is one of the main requirements for all cycling athletes today. However, that doesn’t mean that the other two write tracks out of hand. Not at all.
It’s just that Garmin will always be more packed with a variety of features, bringing it closer to a universal watch. They are suitable for everyone, from diver to mountaineer, no matter what the model is called or positioned. But why a running fan would need such functionality is a big question.
That’s why athletes often buy the simpler and cheaper Polar or Suunto, without a ton of unnecessary information that saps the battery and sometimes slows down the device.
In general, most athletes honestly admit the main functions of quality track (route) recording, altimeter (altimeter) and heart rate monitor. All the rest are useless toys, because the data on the distance covered are sent directly to Strava (via smartphone or its built-in Wi-Fi) and analyzed there, if necessary (almost no one uses native applications for data collection and analysis).
Many runners and triathletes prioritize the accuracy of heart rate measurement during training, so the only workable and reliable option was and remains the chest sensor. Optical integrated heart rate meters may not be considered at all, saving a good ten thousand rubles.
So what to choose.
If the cost of a sports watch doesn’t matter to you, just get the most expensive one that fits well on your hand. In about a month you will understand half of the functions and be able to start training.
But a more reasonable option is to choose by the maximum operating time. Unfortunately, nowadays, you have to look at the battery level in a sports watch as often as on a smartphone with some active application that likes to check something online every second.
Yes, you can turn on the economy mode, you can reduce the brightness, you can turn off the device at all. And then there is a legitimate question of why we need all this at all, if it requires such constant control.
Such disadvantages are obvious, although all athletes pretend that they do not exist and it’s just a matter of habit. And in return they get “a lot of useful information that can replace a personal trainer. The battery, too, in time loses its capacity more and more. But, however, it becomes noticeable later than the most modern model of sports watches morally and technically obsolete.
For many marathoners and trail runners, there is only one function among all the stuffed software that is useful. It is a recording of the training track with the possibility of its subsequent filling into the application and with the display of all the characteristics: pace, speed, etc., tied to the area.
You can, of course, just install Strava on your smartphone and take it with you for a run. But it is not always convenient, especially if you consider that there are many fans of multi-racing, where one of the obstacles can be the water element. Classic smartphones have a negative attitude to water and quickly become inoperable ballast.
For some reason in this case (for the sake of track recording) everyone buys well-publicized Garmin and Suunto, leaving 90% of their functions unclaimed. However, for many years now Casio has been making simply gorgeous and unbreakable versions of watches with a GPS module at a price several times cheaper than purely running and triathlon brands.
By the way, they are also able to communicate with a smartphone. However, previously there was only IOS support, so be careful when buying used versions.
Now pay attention. Casio with GPS does not need daily fiddling with chargers. The built-in battery lasts for at least 2 (two!) years of operation, which is subsequently replaced. As a rule, it is a classical CR2032. There are known examples of battery life in such watches for 4 years or more. Models a little more expensive have in addition to all this solar panel. They have no equal in terms of autonomy.
Of course, Garmin, Soonts, and Polars are not the only ones. There are other, no less high-quality manufacturers who understand the training conditions and the basic requirements of athletes. For example, the Germans from Sigma.
The ubiquitous Aliexpress offers many cheaper and more Chinese options. These are mostly smartwatches that have all the necessary features, including GPS. Judging by the reviews, some of them work quite well. But personally, my advice is to add a little and buy something more adequate.
Do you need a sports watch
The problem with modern and overly feature-rich sports watches is that they addict athletes, tying them tightly to notifications. And when combined with apps and recommendations, it makes training too mechanistic, devoid of any improvisation and freedom. Because the head is busy with constant analysis before running, during it, and of course, after.
Why would an amateur who only has to learn to run at a conversational pace and enjoy the rest of the time moving and contemplating?
The heart rate monitor in the watch is always presented as an essential feature without which proper training is unthinkable. Especially for beginners. This is utter nonsense. Such training is called “heart rate training” and is only one of the varieties and a way to control the load. However, it is constantly questioned by many sports physiologists.
The need to carry a watch and a sensor was invented long ago by the manufacturers themselves to stimulate sales. Although if running without heart rate monitoring is unthinkable for you, you can find a heart rate monitor for a thousand rubles. And it will not be a shame to break it, lose it, or drown it.
If you think that today’s running computers are used by all professionals, and you have to do the same to achieve any results, you’re wrong. There are a huge number of world-renowned marathon runners and trail runners who don’t analyze anything at all. And, what’s more, they don’t even know their heart rate zones, lactate thresholds, and other related trivia.
You can also see top brands’ watches on the wrists of athletes who are contractually bound to a sponsor. Marketing is still going on, and it’s still easy to make people feel the need to have something, without which a full life is unthinkable (let alone in sports), through advertising gimmicks.
And, unfortunately, this is rarely questioned, and the idea that in fact the opposite is true does not often visit modern people.