Cross Training For Runners

How To Choose A Running Watch For Beginners

11 Mins read

If you’re in the market for a running watch but feeling overwhelmed by the choices, you’re in the right place.

As a running blogger, one of the most common questions I receive is, “What type of running watch should I use for training?” The truth is, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to that question. The best choice depends on your specific needs and goals, making it a highly personalized decision.

That’s why the fitness market is flooded with running watches of various sizes, designs, functions, and price ranges. With such a wide array of options, selecting the perfect watch can be a challenging task.

But don’t worry; I’ve got you covered. In this article, I’ll simplify the process by breaking down the essential features you should consider when picking a running watch. Armed with this knowledge, you’ll be well-prepared to find a device that suits your running requirements.

Are you ready? Let’s get started!

What’s A Running Watch?

A running watch is more than just a timepiece; it’s your dedicated training partner designed to help you unleash your running potential. Whether you’re a beginner taking your first steps on the running path or a seasoned athlete aiming to set new personal records, a running watch is a valuable tool tailored to enhance your performance.

Here’s what a running watch can do for you:

  • Personalization: Running watches are all about you. They adapt to your fitness level and goals, providing insights and guidance to elevate your training game.
  • Optimization: Unlock your peak performance by analyzing data like heart rate, pace, and distance. Adjust your workouts based on real-time information and watch your progress soar.
  • Budget-Friendly: Don’t be fooled by the flashiest and most expensive options. The best running watch for you depends on your objectives and budget. Sometimes, simplicity is the key to success.
  • Key Features: Keep an eye out for important features when choosing your running watch. Whether you need precise timing, weather resistance, or specialized training modes, there’s a watch that matches your unique needs.
  • Specialization: Running watches have evolved to cater to a variety of skill levels and training goals. Find the one that aligns perfectly with your ambitions.

Do You Actually NEED A Running Watch?

The question of whether you actually need a running watch is a matter of personal preference and goals.

Here are some considerations:

  • Not a Must-Have: Running watches are not an absolute necessity. Many free running apps are available that can track your runs, record data, and help you monitor your progress.
  • Budget Considerations: If cost is a concern, you can start your running journey without investing in a running watch. Apps on your smartphone can provide basic tracking features.
  • Free Running Apps: Free running apps like Strava, Nike Run Club, and Runkeeper offer GPS tracking, pace monitoring, and other useful features without the need for additional hardware.
  • Taking It to the Next Level: If you’re serious about running and want to dive deeper into performance analysis, training plans, and advanced features, a running watch can be a valuable tool.
  • Goal-Oriented: Whether you’re a beginner aiming to complete your first 5K or an experienced marathoner looking to set a personal record, a running watch can help you set and achieve your running goals.

Learn more about the applications of running watches by checking the following resources.

How To Choose A Running Watch For Beginners

Now let’s get into specifics.

Here are some tips to help you choose the best running watch for you.

Your Data

When choosing a running watch, the type of data you want to track is a crucial consideration.

Here’s a breakdown to help you make the right choice based on your data needs:

  • Basic Data: If you primarily want to track essential running metrics like distance, time, and pace or speed, a basic or mid-level running watch will suffice. These watches provide accurate data for most runners.
  • Heart Rate Training: If heart rate monitoring is a priority for your training, opt for a running watch with a built-in heart rate monitor. This feature allows you to track your heart rate zones and optimize your workouts for better results.
  • Advanced Running Metrics: For those who want to delve deeper into their running performance, consider a mid-level or advanced running watch. These watches offer advanced metrics such as cadence, ground contact time, vertical oscillation, and more to help you fine-tune your form and efficiency.
  • Multisport Capability: If you participate in various sports or activities beyond running, consider a multisport watch. These watches can track data for running, swimming, cycling, and more, making them versatile for cross-training athletes.
  • GPS Accuracy: Regardless of the type of data you need, prioritize a running watch with accurate GPS tracking capabilities. Accurate GPS data is essential for tracking your routes, pace, and distance precisely.

Additional resource – Running equipment guide

Battery Life

Most running watches come with rechargeable lithium-ion batteries that can last between 8 to 12 hours in GPS mode. This duration allows you to track your runs and workouts for a considerable period before needing to recharge.

Actual battery life can vary based on factors such as usage frequency, how intensively the watch is used, environmental conditions (humidity and temperature), and storage temperature.

The age of the watch’s battery can impact its overall lifespan per charge. Over time, the battery’s capacity may degrade slightly, reducing the time it can function on a single charge.

What’s more?

Different brands and models offer varying levels of battery performance. High-end running watches like the Garmin Fenix 5 and Forerunner 935 are known for their extended battery life, often exceeding 20 hours.

If you’re an ultra-runner or participate in activities requiring longer tracking durations, consider a watch with extended battery life or options for battery-saving modes.

Extra resource – How to buy a treadmill

Waterproof Vs. Water-resistant Running Watches

Most running watches are sweat and rain-proof, but not all are waterproof enough to swim with.

If you’re looking for a truly waterproof watch, make sure it definitely states water-resistant for no less than 30 meters.

Happy well shaped male standing and looking at smartwatch during training. He is satisfied with results. Copy space in left side

Extra Features to Consider When Choosing Running Watches

Every running watch feature is designed to either personalize or optimize your running experience so you decide in advance what features are a must for you.

Some of these extra features include:

  • Competitive racing against yourself or virtual competitors
  • Vibrations and audio messages for real-time data from smartphone notifications to lap times and heart rate zones.
  • Connectivity with training apps in order to upload and share your data
  • Recovery time calculation
  • Customizable running and workout routines
  • Sleep tracking
  • VO2 max measuring
  • Smart notifications
  • Music storage and playback
  • And so much more.

Price Of A Running Watch

When it comes to buying a running watch, budget is a crucial factor to consider. Running watches come in a wide range of prices, and your choice should align with your specific needs and budget. Here’s a breakdown of different price ranges for running watches:

Under $100:

Watches in the under $100 price range are often considered entry-level or basic GPS running watches. Here’s what you can expect from these affordable options: These watches are primarily designed for tracking basic running metrics like distance covered and pace.

Entry-level watches come with limited additional features compared to higher-priced models. They focus on the essentials.

While some of the cheapest options may not have built-in GPS, many in this category offer GPS connectivity through your smartphone. This allows you to track your routes using your phone’s GPS.

Most watches in this range can sync with your smartphone, providing access to additional data and features through a companion app.

What’s more?

Some models may include basic activity-tracking features, such as step counting and calorie tracking. However, these features are not as advanced as those in more expensive fitness trackers.

$100 to $300

Many watches in this category come with a built-in heart rate monitor, allowing you to track your heart rate during workouts without the need for a separate chest strap. However, their accuracy when tracking heart rate is a subject for another day.

Some models may feature built-in accelerometers to track additional metrics like cadence (stride rate) and ground contact time.

You may find run/walk interval alerts that help you follow specific training plans, such as run-walk programs.

What’s more?

These watches often offer interval training features, allowing you to create and follow interval workouts.

Mid-level watches typically have longer battery life compared to entry-level models, ensuring they can handle longer runs without needing frequent charging.

Depending on the specific model, you might find additional features like smartphone notifications, music controls, and more.

Additional resource – Your guide to heart rate variability

$300 and over

The $300 and over price range is reserved for advanced running watches specifically designed for seasoned runners and athletes who demand comprehensive training data across various sports. While these watches offer advanced features, they still include basic and intermediate running GPS functions, ensuring accurate tracking of your runs.

Some models feature a built-in compass, which is handy for navigation during trail runs and outdoor adventures. These watches can measure your vertical oscillation (how much your body bounces up and down while running), providing insights into running efficiency and form.

Advanced watches may offer real-time coaching and feedback during your runs, helping you optimize your performance.

In addition to running, these watches support multi-sport tracking, allowing you to monitor and analyze data for various activities like cycling, swimming, and more.

Additional Resource  – Here’s your guide to advanced running metrics

The Best Running Watches On The Market

Here are a few of the top running watches to check out.

Garmin Forerunner 30

The Garmin Forerunner 30 sounds like a solid choice for an entry-level running watch. It offers a range of features that can help both beginner and intermediate runners track and improve their performance.

Here are some highlights:

  • Distance and Pace: Being able to track your distance and pace is essential for monitoring your runs and setting goals for improvement.
  • Heart Rate Monitoring: Heart rate data provides valuable insights into your training intensity and overall cardiovascular health.
  • Cadence: Cadence, or stride rate, is an important metric for runners. It can help you improve your running efficiency and reduce the risk of injury.
  • Calorie Tracking: Knowing how many calories you’ve burned during a run can be helpful for managing your overall fitness and nutrition.
  • VO2 Max Readings: VO2 max is a measure of your aerobic fitness level. Having access to this data can help you gauge your overall running performance.
  • Battery Life: An 8-hour battery life per charge is reasonable for most training sessions and races. It ensures that the watch can keep up with your runs without needing frequent recharging.

Additional resource  – Your guide to running belts

Apple Watch

The Apple Watch is indeed a versatile and feature-rich smartwatch that can cater to the needs of many runners.

Here are some notable aspects of the Apple Watch for runners:

  • Always-On Display: The always-on display is a convenient feature, allowing runners to quickly glance at their stats without having to raise their wrist or tap the screen. This can be a significant advantage during runs when you want to maintain focus.
  • Blood Oxygen Sensor: The blood oxygen sensor is a health-oriented feature that provides insights into your overall fitness and well-being. Monitoring oxygen saturation levels can be particularly valuable during high-intensity workouts or at higher altitudes.
  • Battery Life: With a battery life of approximately 18 hours, the Apple Watch should comfortably last through most daily activities, including workouts and runs. However, it’s important to charge it regularly, especially if you plan to use it for sleep tracking.
  • Health and Fitness Tracking: Apple Watch offers a wide range of health and fitness tracking features, including heart rate monitoring, GPS tracking, workout tracking, and the ability to connect with various fitness apps. It can also provide insights into your daily activity levels, helping you stay motivated to move.
  • Customizable: The Apple Watch is highly customizable, allowing you to choose from various watch faces, bands, and apps to tailor it to your preferences and running needs.
  • Integration: If you’re already part of the Apple ecosystem, the seamless integration with other Apple devices and services, such as the Health app and iCloud, can be a significant advantage.

TomTom Runner 3

The TomTom Runner 3 is indeed a budget-friendly running watch that offers essential features for runners.

Here are some key aspects of the TomTom Runner 3:

  • Affordability: As you mentioned, one of the standout features of the TomTom Runner 3 is its affordability. It provides a cost-effective option for runners who want basic tracking features without breaking the bank.
  • GPS Tracking: The built-in GPS allows for accurate tracking of your running routes, distances, and pace. This is essential for runners who want to monitor their performance and progress over time.
  • Multi-Sport Tracking: In addition to running, the TomTom Runner 3 offers multi-sport tracking, making it suitable for various activities such as cycling and swimming. This versatility can be appealing to individuals who engage in multiple sports.
  • Battery Life: It’s great to hear that the watch has a good battery life. Long battery life is essential for runners who participate in longer races or workouts, ensuring that the watch won’t run out of power during your activity.
  • Sleek Design: The “smart enough look” you mentioned suggests that the watch has a stylish and sleek design, making it suitable for everyday wear as well as workouts.
  • Heart Rate Monitoring: While you didn’t mention it explicitly, some versions of the TomTom Runner 3 come with built-in heart rate monitoring. This feature can provide valuable insights into your training intensity and overall fitness.
  • Connectivity: Check if the TomTom Runner 3 allows you to connect with fitness apps or platforms to sync and analyze your workout data. Compatibility with popular apps like Strava can enhance your tracking experience.

Where to Find A Cheap New Running Watch

Finding a cheap new or secondhand running watch is a great way to save money while still getting a quality fitness tracker.

Here are some tips and places to look for affordable running watches:

  • Seasonal Sales: Black Friday and January sales are excellent times to find discounts on running watches. Retailers often offer significant price reductions during these sales events. Keep an eye out for deals from major retailers and online stores.
  • Online Marketplaces: Websites like Amazon, eBay, and Craigslist often have listings for new or gently used running watches at competitive prices. Be sure to read product descriptions carefully, check seller ratings, and ask questions if needed to ensure you’re getting a reliable product.
  • Outlet Stores: Some manufacturers have outlet stores or sections on their websites where they sell discounted or clearance items. These may include previous models or discontinued lines of running watches. Check the official websites of popular running watch brands for outlet options.
  • Refurbished Models: Consider purchasing a refurbished running watch. These are devices that have been returned, repaired, and certified by the manufacturer to be in like-new condition. They are often available at a lower price than brand-new models and come with warranties.
  • Online Retailers: Explore online retailers that specialize in discounted and clearance items. Websites like Overstock, Sierra, and The Clymb occasionally offer running watches at reduced prices.
  • Local Sporting Goods Stores: Visit local sporting goods stores, especially during clearance sales or when they are making room for new inventory. You may find discounted running watches in-store.
  • Coupon Codes and Promotions: Keep an eye out for coupon codes and promotional discounts from both online and physical retailers. Subscribing to newsletters or following stores on social media can help you stay informed about upcoming deals.
  • Trade-In Programs: Some manufacturers and retailers offer trade-in programs where you can exchange your old fitness tracker or electronics for credit toward the purchase of a new running watch. This can help reduce the cost of upgrading.

Additional resource – Guide to running gadgets

How To Choose A Running Watch For Beginners – The Conclusion

When looking for a new GPS running watch, it’s key to consider exactly what features you need as well as your future needs. The rest is just detail, really.

Please feel free to leave your comments and questions in the section below.

In the meantime, thank you for dropping by.

Keep running strong.

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