Why GPS-Enabled Watches Are Worth It.
About a month ago, I made a pretty controversial purchase: I bought a 250 dollar watch. The watch is called the Garmin Forerunner 210. Considering how cheap I am, this was a pretty bold move. Despite my concerns going into it, though, the watch has been worth every dollar.
It works pretty much like the GPS some people have in their car’s; you push a button that connects it to a satellite. As I’m running, it tells me the distance I’ve run, my pace per mile, and the speed I’m running at. When I get home, I can plug the 210 into my computer and it will show me the route I just ran, along with my splits, the elevation gains and losses, and a whole host of other great features.
So what’s go great about that, a naysayer might ask. Well, for the casual jogger who runs a few times a week just to get a bit of cardiovascular exercise in, it’s probably not a big deal. However, if you’re getting ready for an upcoming track or cross country season, it’s a huge tool. I’ll give you a couple reasons why:
1) Optimal training.
I generally don’t have a great sense of what pace I’m running at when I’m just out for a 7 or 8 mile run. Sure, I can tell the difference between a warm-up jog and an all-out sprint, but the difference between running 9 minute miles and 8 minute miles is not readily apparent to me. Running can be pretty boring at times, and I have a tendency to just get lost in my own thoughts and sort of float along, particularly when I’m by myself.
With the Forerunner 210, though, I always know what pace I’m at. Why does it matter so much, though, that naysayer might ask. Well, the main reason is because, if you want to improve, you should be running your easy runs at a pace that correlates to your fitness level and the times that you want to run for your event.
In other words, if Runner A is looking to do a 5k in 15 minutes, running 10 minute miles on his easy run is probably not going to help him. If he’s capable of running, essentially, 5 minute miles for 3 miles, 10 minute miles are going to feel like jogging. Similarly, if Runner B is looking to do a 5k in 20 minutes, it’s probably not a great idea for him to be running easy at 7 minutes per mile, which isn’t that far off his race pace.
Figuring out what pace you should be at for easy runs is fairly difficult. There doesn’t seem to be a consensus opinion on how fast or slow you should run them. One of the better formulas that I’ve found comes from the McMillan Running Calculator (http://www.mcmillanrunning.com/). Basically, you plug in a recent race result and it tells you what your pace should be in different workouts. So from that site you can get the ideal pace for different kind of runs, whether it’s easy runs, cruise intervals, tempos, etc.
That’s where the Forerunner comes up huge. Because it’s one thing to know you should be running 7:30 pace on easy days; it’s another thing entirely to actually go out and do it. With the Forerunner, it becomes a lot easier to monitor where you’re at during a run. It even gives you mile splits as you’re running so you just have a great sense of where you are within the run.
Before I got this new watch, my runs were designed like this: I’d map out a route on a website based on the particular amount of miles I wanted to run that day and then go out and try to stick to that route. Oftentimes I would end up doing the same routes over and over, just because it was easier than mapping out a new one that landed me right back at my house. The other option would be to do it by minutes, but then you’re never sure exactly how much you ran because you don’t know how fast you were going.
What I love about having a GPS-enabled watch is that it gives me the freedom to run wherever you want. Feel like doing a couple loops through some random path in the forest? Go ahead. Have an inkling to try a new route? No problem. Wherever you go, the watch will not only keep track of your miles, but it will show you a map of where you went. It’s awesome!
When I was in college, I remember seeing other runners with this fancy watches and thinking that they were really pampering themselves with these ridiculous gadgets. I liked to think of myself as being above that, like Rocky punching meat and training in the Soviet wilderness while Ivan Drago has all sorts of technological doodads surrounding him.
Now that I have a GPS watch, I’m actually filled with regret that I didn’t get one sooner. Not that it makes that much of a difference. When it comes down t it, running isn’t about what watch you have or what pair of shoes you bought, but the amount of work you put in. Still, having a watch that is going to help you put the right kind of work in can be a huge boost.
So I guess in closing, I would highly recommend anyone who is serious about running to buy a GPS-enabled watch. I can tell you that the Garmin Forerunner 210 has been great, but there are plenty of other options, some cheaper, some more expensive. You won’t regret buying one.