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How to Pick a Running Watch?

These days, running watches are an essential accessory for everyone who regularly exercises. Their purpose is to keep track of the intensity of your training and to adjust it according to your goals, so you can get the most out of your chosen sports activity. The main function of a running watch is to monitor your heart rate frequency which is key to determining your optimal effort. Most running watches also measure time, speed and distance. Higher-class devices include other useful functions, such as GPS or an option to save your training data via an app and monitor them over a longer period of time. Based on the measured data, the running watch evaluates your exercise activity and helps you achieve the best results.

Running watches can also be called sports watches. Today, these terms are practically overlapping and can unnecessarily confuse you. Running watches were originally devices designed only for running, measuring time and heart rate frequency. However, then came watches with GPS featuring new useful functions even without monitoring heart rate. These days, however, most sports watches feature heart rate monitoring anyway. In general terms, we can say that all running watches can monitor heart rate, while all sports watches have GPS.

Main Function

Running watches can feature a variety of functions and special features. The question is whether you’ll find use for them. The main purpose of a running watch is monitoring heart rate frequency. Most people think that the most demanding exercises yield the best results, however, that’s not true at all. If you push your body too much, not only will it not help you, you might even hurt yourself. Monitoring heart rate frequency during training will allow you to adjust the intensity of your efforts according to your ultimate goal. With a running watch, you’ll always know whether you are putting enough effort into your training or, alternately, too much. Find detailed guide on using a running watch >> here <<.

Heart rate monitoring

As mentioned above, heart rate monitoring is the main function of any running watch. Most devices measure your heart rate frequency via a chest strap that is wirelessly paired with the watch. Some watches don’t include a chest strap and it needs to be purchased separately. Then there are devices that measure heart rate via a wrist or arm sensor. These types of heart rate monitors need to be charged more frequently.

With a chest strap, it is important to know how the data is transmitted to the watch. The signal can be either digital (coded) or analogue (non-coded). Devices with analogue signal are not recommended when exercising in a group of people. The signals can interfere with one another and your data may be transmitted to a different watch. Digital signal will lock onto your frequency and prevent your data from being transmitted elsewhere. If you plan on training by yourself, analogue signal should be enough.

Most running watches can also determine training zones (heart rate zones according to training effort). If the heart rate frequency leaves the limits of the training zone, the device will alert the user with a warning sound. The user will then either increase or decrease their effort to return the heart rate to the desired training zone.


Running watches can determine the number of burnt calories according to input body parameters (age, sex, weight, height). The actual number of burnt calories depends on many factors and so the amount measured by the watch is only indicative. Even so, it’s a useful function that allows you to compare various training plans or monitor your weight loss progress.

Pairing with a Computer/App, Saving Data, Memory

Many running watches allow you to save training data to memory. Specific models differ in memory capacity and in how long the data are preserved. The recorded data can be further used for evaluating physical fitness, monitoring your training progress, etc. Mostly, this is done via an app on your computer or a smart device paired with the watch through Bluetooth. Some running watches can be connected with a computer directly, usually via an USB connector. You’ll be able to manage long-term data regarding your training activities. If you plan on recording detailed data about your training, you should learn more about the apps various watches use and their compatibility with available operating systems.

Speed and Distance

If you want to focus on your training time and distance, you should buy a watch with GPS that allows you to accurately monitor both. GPS works better for longer distances, since the margin of error is smaller that way. The advantage of GPS is that it has great uses for cycling or swimming. Most higher-class running watches feature GPS. Aside from time and distance, they can also measure your pace, for example.

What Do You Need the Watch For?

There are plenty of  running watches on the market, varying in price. All you need to do is determine how you intend to use yours. That should be the main factor influencing your decision. How you intend to use the watch will further determine its functions and features, as well as its price. If you only want to monitor your heart rate during training, there is no need to invest into a device that can track your position via GPS or measure outdoor temperature. On the other hand, if you are looking for a way to carefully monitor your training progress and keep track of your data, you should definitely get a watch with specialized functions and a wider range of use.

Losing Weight

If you want to start losing weight, buying a running watch is a good first step. Such a watch will help you keep your heart rate frequency in the optimal zone for burning fats. For this, basically any running watch will do. However, it is recommended to get one that can count burnt calories, so you know how effective your training is.


A running watch can obviously help you a great deal, depending on which functions you’ll use the most. If you require only time and heart rate monitoring, you’ll be satisfied with practically any running watch. Advanced runners will also want to measure their speed and travelled distance. There are models with special running functions, such as interval training, GPS route tracking, navigation (if you run cross-country) and others. If you run in all kinds of weather, you should pick a device that is waterproof and resistant to adverse weather conditions.


The best sports watches for cycling are multi-purpose devices that can evaluate several types of sports activities. Multi-purpose watches can measure both speed and distance via GPS. Make sure the device you use while cycling is water resistant – in case you have to ride your bike in adverse weather conditions. If you are only interested in regular cycling data and won’t use the watch for any other sports, we recommend purchasing a bike computer instead, since it can be attached directly to the bike and reliably records all the data necessary for a cyclist.


If you are looking for a watch suitable for swimming, the most important factor is of course water resistance. Check how far you can dive with separate models. The best choice for swimming purposes are usually multi-purpose watches. However, it needs to be pointed out that most devices will not be able to transmit signal to a chest strap under water. If swimming is a priority for you, you need to look for devices designed especially for swimming and diving. Some can even track the number of strokes or laps.

Versatile Athlete

If you are an active sportsperson and exercise at every opportunity, the best choice for you is one of the multi-purpose sports watches with specialized functions for a wide range of sports. These types of watches include the multi-sport Suunto watches, for example, that feature specialized functions for over 80 sports and allow you to share your results with others via social media. Not only do these devices record data, they are also able to calculate the ideal rest and regeneration period.

Other Important Factors to Consider:

  • Water resistance – Most sports watches are water resistant. However, there is a difference between running in rain and jumping into a pool. Water resistance can be denoted in several ways, sometimes confusing users. To make it easier for you, we only give real descriptions of water resistance in our product parameters.

  • Display – You have to be able to see the display clearly in order to check your progress during training. Most sports watches feature an LCD display that is easy to read even under bad visibility conditions. Some watches even allow you to light the display manually and use it as a torchlight. There are also sports watches with touch screens.

  • Size – Some models are more robust and may seem too heavy or large for your wrist. If a larger device with more functions is not required for your needs, it is better to get a simpler and smaller watch that will be more comfortable for you.

  • Battery – Battery requirements rise with the number of functions. That’s why most multi-function devices have a rechargeable battery. The strongest batteries will last several days even with GPS on. Batteries in running watches with simpler functions are the same as in regular watches and need to be replaced from time to time.

Maybe You Are Looking For Something Else...

  • Smart Wristband - Smart fitness wristbands are a new trend in electronics. These devices monitor your daily activities - number of steps, quality of sleep, heart rate frequency, number of burnt calories, etc. You can set your minimal daily activity and the wristband will motivate you and remind you to exercise. Wristbands are light and inconspicuous, meant to be worn all day, not just when you exercise. Smart wristbands usually aren’t as precise as sports watches and serve mainly to get an overview of your all-day activities.

  • Outdoor Watches - If you spend a lot of time outdoors, you may find outdoor watches with specialized functions more useful. Spending time under the open sky will definitely be easier with them. Aside from basic functions, such as altimeter, barometer or a compass, these devices can also use GPS to find you a way back home or predict upcoming weather changes. There are even watches designed especially for hunters and fishermen with automatic shot detection. Outdoor watches are durable and can be paired with a smartphone. They are suitable mainly for hiking, mountain climbing and extreme sports, but also for hunting or fishing.

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