Using a running watch is integral to any training that a runner does. However, it can become mind-boggling when deciding on which running watch to choose. Not only are there watch functions to decipher, many runners need to make the decision of whether to go that extra step and invest into a running watch that also have the functionality of a heart rate monitor and/or GPS sensors, such as the Garmin models.A runner needs to take a look at their training, goals and racing plans to determine whether the extras will be beneficial. For any runner that is serious about their training and has specific goals in place such as running a marathon or increasing their speed, then they should definitely consider a watch unit that includes a heart rate monitor. However, most runners find this extra technology a challenge to learn and to use. With an estimated running population of over 24 million, only a mere 2.3 million heart rate monitors get sold annually. It is the technically minded that will gravitate and use the extra features that are available.Runners looking for a running watch without a heart rate monitor or GPS still need to ask themselves – what features would they benefit from? Any basic sports watch will time a run if that is all that is needed. The choices start when there are options such as chronograph, lap times, split times, memory recall, interval timers and more. The following is a guide of important features that runners should consider they shop for their next running watch:
A large clear display with large digits
Chronograph with lap or split times
Interval or countdown timer First and foremost it’s best to choose a watch that is lightweight and fits nicely. It would be distracting and uncomfortable if a watch was either too tight or flopping around during a run. It is then important to be able to see the display clearly while running. Look for nice, big number digits on the watch. Most watches also come with a night light feature. If the watch has a resin band, then wipe it down after the run and the watch band will last longer.A chronograph is referred to as a watch that can measure time in others ways as well as regular time-keeping. In a chronograph mode, we have a stopwatch that has the functionality to take split times and laps time. A split time is the total time in relationship to the starting time and a lap time is the total time in relationship to the last split time.Let me try elaborate and explain why a runner would use lap and split times. If a runner is running in a half marathon, they may want to record their time at each mile and their finish time. The runner would start the chrono timer at the start of the half marathon and then at each mile marker. At each mile marker, the runner would press the lap button (or on a Timex this is the start/split button) and the watch would record the time. The watch would tell the elapsed time recorded since the start of the race (the split time) and the time recorded since the last time the lap button was pressed (the lap time). The runner could determine their elapsed time since the start of the race and also how fast they ran each mile.The memory recall function is the ability to store these laps in the watch’s memory. Typically sports watches have 30, 50 and 100 lap features. This refers to how many laps can be recorded. Going back to my explanation about recording the laps of the half marathon, the runner would have pressed the lap button 14 times during the half marathon, so if they were using a 30 lap sports watch, they would still have 16 laps left in the memory.An interval timer is perfect for timing interval repeats. For speed training or track workouts, perhaps the runner runs two minutes all out with a five minute recovery period in between. These two and five minute intervals can be programmed into the interval or countdown feature of the watch as a sequence and when it is used, the interval or countdown timer will set off an alarm when when it has finished counting down the programmed time. This feature allows the runner to focus on the fitness workout and not have to continue looking at the watch to check when the time is up.It’s important to note that not all watches offer all features. Consider what is needed and make sure to check the attributes and read the customer reviews that come with each specific watch. Running watches are not too expensive and are typically long lasting. Usually the first to go is the watch strap, so it may be beneficial to choose a watch which the strap can be replaced on.If a runner takes part in interval training or organized running events, they should be keeping a record of their training progress. The features that running watches have to offer can help structure a runner’s training program which will ultimately improve their running times and the enjoyment of the sport.