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How to choose your GPS watch?

You want to buy a GPS watch or you want to change yours which did its time? It's not always easy to navigate through the huge selection proposed on the market (Garmin, Suunto, Coros, Polar, etc.), so here are some tips based on every discipline to help you find the rare gem.

Except for the design and an eventual fondness for a particular brand, the main parameters to take into account when choosing a GPS watch are your intended use of the product, your allocated budget and your objectives.

GPS watch for running

If you are a beginning runner, you'll need to learn the following parameters: distance travelled, instantaneous speed, pace (the number of minutes for a given kilometre) and, optionally, heart rate thanks to an abdominal belt or a sensor on the wrist. Most entry-level watches provide these data and they are more than enough to start running.

If you are a mid-level or expert level runner, and you practise running regularly, you'll need a more performant watch for further information on your training data. Mid-range and high-end watches allow you to program, for example, interval training, to measure the intensity of the exercise and to analyse saved data afterwards in order to follow and optimise your workout: speed, heart rate (bpm), VO2 max, recovery...

For runners who love advanced statistics and want to push their workout even further, high-end watches like the Garmin Forerunner 630 give highly performant metric. Indeed, they measure the ground contact time, vertical oscillations, pace and stride length, right/left balance at ground contact time... This type of watch also measures the lactate threshold, the body's fatigue and contains a performance indicator. We're getting into top-of-the-line territory.

This type of watch allows you to record a route too. You can visualise it on a map afterwards and share it with your friends through applications like Strava, Runtastic... It's both fun and motivating!

Brands propose more and more often smart watches which include daily activity and sleep tracking, a watch for everyday use as much as sporting uses. It's possible to add extra functionalities by downloading applications that can be consulted on the watch connected to your smartphone via Bluetooth (weather forecast, pollution, pollen concentration, music...).

Finally, if you're more of a trail runner, you'll need a GPS watch with additional functionalities oriented toward trail running like elevation changes with an altimeter, a navigation system with cartography, a compass... and even weather functions! For ultra trail, the watch's autonomy is emphasized.

GPS watches for the triathlon

The triathlon GPS watch must be able to measure the three sporting activities and the transitions. Instead of having one mode for swimming, another for cycling and one more for running, there's only one mode that reunites all three disciplines. It must be waterproof and not too big to avoid causing any discomfort when changing out of a tracksuit during a race.

You'll need the measure functions the three disciplines have in common: time, instantaneous speed, distance and heart rate (bpm) and specific measures for each. For swimming : movement frequency in pool but also in open water (sea, stream, lake); for cycling : measure of cadence (pedal rotation speed) and power; for running : pace (stride number per minute), and VO2 max (respiratory capacity).

Some smart watches offer the possibility to track your daily activity and to receive smart notifications via Bluetooth if connected to your smartphone.

Multisport GPS watch

Multisport GPS watches include several athlete profiles, namely: running, treadmill running, trail running, hiking, cycling, indoor cycling, natation, snowboard, gym, golf, rowing... and measure the necessary data for every practice: speed, distance covered, calories burnt, etc.

Most GPS watches quoted for running can be worn for cycling too and they do include cycling functions. They can measure speed, pace, distance, power, stride, heart frequency, VO2 max and burnt calories. They're associated with pace sensors and bike speed.

For outdoor sports, you'll need a watch with functionalities that take outdoor elements into account: barometer, altimeter, compass and navigation in addition to the more classic functionalities like swimming, running and cycling.


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