Fitness watches are a great way to track many performance activities while allowing you in many instances the ability to share results on the internet and track on the  computer through wired or wireless downloads. The exercise monitoring watches basically come in four categories. You will either have a GPS only watch, a Pod tracking only watch, a Heart Rate only watch or a watch that offers varied combinations of the GPS, POD and HR functionality.   Depending on exercise needs and training environment, an athlete will select different options.

GPS Watches use satellite positioning to track speed, location, elevation and distance. The watches tend to be quite accurate and effective. The only downside is that GPS functionality does not work indoors and can have difficulties along with accuracy reduction on heavy overcast days or when you may be running in dense wooded areas, tight city streets, etc. Remember, Satellites primarily work on a “line of sight” concept. If your watch can’t see different areas of the sky it may have performance limitations. Here are some watches you may want to consider.

The Pod watches use accelerometer technology to track distance based on stride frequency and distance.  The “pod” is attached to your shoe and some watches allow you to calibrate the device to your running stride.  Unfortunately if you run on uneven surfaces the device will be less accurate.  On the positive side, it does allow you to run indoors or in confined areas while also allowing the ability to track pace (some models) which has become quite popular in the chi/free running adoption.

Many of the above watches can be purchased with a Heart Rate function as well.  HR watches tend to come with a chest strap that allows for tracking of your heart rate throughout the exercise, monitor whether you are within targets, averages, etc.  Depending on the watch the functions can vary greatly. There are some watches out there that tend to be in the lower price range where you would touch your finger to sensors on the phone.  This is typically challenging if you are cycling or running at a reasonable pace, but could be useful if wanting to check your rate during a circuit workout in a gym, etc.


  • Pick a watch that has the desired capabilities, whether you want to just track your HR or also track distances via GPS or Pod.
  • Understand that GPS and Pod have their advantages and disadvantages, choose the capability that is best for your needs.
  • Make sure you are aware of the watches functionality within the provided capabilities.  For example, heart rate min and max zones, etc.
  • Make sure the watch is rated waterproof if you tend to use outside in heavy rain or take in the water for swimming exercises.  The watch should state usages.
  • Be clear before purchasing whether the device requires battery replacement at the factory rather than normal user replacement.  It is good to understand where those watches can be serviced because many do require mailing back to a central location.


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