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Has your GPS watch actually improved your running?
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Short story: I'm getting back into Tri after about 15 years off. I have a full kit that was all pretty nice way back then. For example, a nice Polar HR monitor - it has both a stopwatch and an HR monitor!

All the shiny new toys look like fun (Forerunner 935 for example) but has anyone ever improved their run times because of using a device like this? It looks like my smart phone can do most of this ... setting up interval runs, cadence, HR, etc. I realize that the watches are optimized for this and might be more convenient, probably more durable than a phone ... but, for the run specifically, is that the only benefit that you get out of these expensive watches?

In other words, I guess I'm trying to figure out how much of the bells and whistles on these watches are just marketing gimmicks and how much they might actually improve my running.
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Re: Has your GPS watch actually improved your running? [tomljones3] [ In reply to ]
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I use a Timex Ironman watch.
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Re: Has your GPS watch actually improved your running? [tomljones3] [ In reply to ]
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No and I never expected it to.
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Re: Has your GPS watch actually improved your running? [tomljones3] [ In reply to ]
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Fancy watches are distractions.
I like looking at the details on Strava after the fact, but pay no attention while running.
I was at my best when I ran a lot of mileage, did track intervals and fartleks. A simple Timex is all I used.
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Re: Has your GPS watch actually improved your running? [tomljones3] [ In reply to ]
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Your smart phone can do all of the things an expensive garmin can do (for running). But then you have to carry your phone with you on every run...

My watch has helped me with interval training. I don't need to go to the track to do repeats anymore (most are closed to the public anyway), because I can program the distance/time on my watch. I just need to find a flattish area with minimal traffic lights. It's also helped with putting a cap on my heart rate during easy runs. Depending on how you run with your phone, it may be impossible to take a quick glance to see your metrics.

If you don't have a power meter or need GPS for >10 hrs, the vivoactive 3 gets you basically everything the 935 has but at half the cost.
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Re: Has your GPS watch actually improved your running? [NordicSkier] [ In reply to ]
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I'm gonna go the opposite direction of the above responses and say yes.

Like you, I took about 15 years off. Coming back has been... challenging...

Anyways, getting a watch so I could see my actual run pace allows me to do paced intervals that I could previously only do on a treadmill. Now, rather than just going out and running about a bit, I can go out and do proper paced intervals, or do negative split long runs, etc. Knowing my pace makes me more accountable and I'm more easily able to do the workouts my program calls for, and I have seen improvement.

It's helped me a lot on the running, but I come from a swim background, so maybe those who come from a run background it doesnt help as much..

Just N=1. Clearly it varies.
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Re: Has your GPS watch actually improved your running? [tomljones3] [ In reply to ]
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tomljones3 wrote:
the watches are optimized for this and might be more convenient, probably more durable than a phone

The watch itself may not have improved my running. But it's improved the fidelity of my workouts simply through convenience of timing and record-keeping. Likewise for swimming.

Get a used 920xt and try it. If you don't dig it, just put it back on Ebay and get your money back.
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Re: Has your GPS watch actually improved your running? [davejustdave] [ In reply to ]
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davejustdave wrote:
I'm gonna go the opposite direction of the above responses and say yes.

Like you, I took about 15 years off. Coming back has been... challenging...

Anyways, getting a watch so I could see my actual run pace allows me to do paced intervals that I could previously only do on a treadmill. Now, rather than just going out and running about a bit, I can go out and do proper paced intervals, or do negative split long runs, etc. Knowing my pace makes me more accountable and I'm more easily able to do the workouts my program calls for, and I have seen improvement.

It's helped me a lot on the running, but I come from a swim background, so maybe those who come from a run background it doesnt help as much..

Just N=1. Clearly it varies.

1) learn how to respond to the OP, not just the last comment in the thread. Your response is not to me, yet I receive a notification.

2) You can do paced intervals without a watch. There are these things called running tracks. They are exactly 400m in the inside lane.

3) Negative split long runs are only accurate if you are running a flat, windless out and back course.
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Re: Has your GPS watch actually improved your running? [reefblastbody] [ In reply to ]
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I have a 920 which definitely serves its purpose. When I first started, I think I got to wrapped up in the various numbers and metrics that it has. It's almost a matter of paralysis by analysis. So no, I don't think it helped, as mentioned above, I think it proved to be to big of a distraction. I still run with the watch, but now I just watch my HR and CAD. The plus is the ability to have all of those metrics logged somewhere for you to review or have your coach keep track of.
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Re: Has your GPS watch actually improved your running? [tomljones3] [ In reply to ]
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My fancy Garmin does not get my butt out the door for a run. So no - it has not improved my running.

I love my bells and whistles, but no - it has not made me a better athlete.
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Re: Has your GPS watch actually improved your running? [bearlyfinish] [ In reply to ]
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bearlyfinish wrote:
My watch has helped me with interval training. I don't need to go to the track to do repeats anymore (most are closed to the public anyway), because I can program the distance/time on my watch.

that's the main reason I'd consider a GPS watch..

I guess it might help with pacing in standalone run races too. The one time I wore a GPS in a race it was while pacing for Leadville 100, and I didn't know to turn off the autostop, so it was hopelessly inaccurate.

Had a Polar HR watch at one point, but found HR training wasn't helpful for me, so still run with a Timex as my run watch..
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Re: Has your GPS watch actually improved your running? [tomljones3] [ In reply to ]
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Yes - knowing my pace makes my harder workouts more accurate (especially important to keep my initial pace in check and overall pace consistent)
- I like tracking heartrate and often use this metric to pace tempo runs
- overall mileage tracking is fun for me
No - I have to fight the urge to avoid being hyper-focused on pace for slower/recovery runs

I use an older fenix 2 + HR strap...kept the initial buy-in cost low and they work great.
Last edited by: re-fresh: Apr 15, 19 10:42
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Re: Has your GPS watch actually improved your running? [tomljones3] [ In reply to ]
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No. Next question...

#swimmingmatters
Laugh hard. Run fast. Be kind.
The Doctor (#12)

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Re: Has your GPS watch actually improved your running? [NordicSkier] [ In reply to ]
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Hey OP I love my Fenix 5, just do it if you can afford it
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Re: Has your GPS watch actually improved your running? [NordicSkier] [ In reply to ]
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Definitely has helped me (FR935).
1) Interval sessions - before I used to be constantly looking at the watch for time, and previously for pace feedback. Now, I can just run with good form and the vibration tells me if I'm out of pace zone or when the interval is over.
2) Intervals part 2 - I can do much more complex intervals without needing to remember / carry paper with the instructions on.
3) I found the left / right balance very useful as I was recovering from major ankle surgery and rehab - allowed me to track when I was more balanced with my running and so only then increase pace / mileage.
4) The ease of automatically uploading to Training peaks meant there was no wasted time in tracking weekly mileage / intensity
5) Race pacing - that's a given. And especially as I tended to go too fast at the start so even timing the first few KM would have left me over doing it.
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Re: Has your GPS watch actually improved your running? [tomljones3] [ In reply to ]
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A watch doesn’t make you any better of a runner, but one thing I’ve found is that if I’m prepared for a race (especially an open running race) it can be very easy to go out too fast as that first mile or two can feel pretty easy. A watch can help me settle into the proper pace I know I can target based on training and not over run at the start. This is true in a tri as well - if I’ve paced the bike properly I know what run pace to target and many folks take off too quick out of T2 based on their fitness. I like a slight negative split in a race. I can say it feels so much better to finish strong than to pay the price for going out a bit too fast at the start.

So, the watch doesn’t make you any faster, but it can help to hold you accountable to proper pacing based on training.


Blog: http://262toboylstonstreet.blogspot.com/
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Re: Has your GPS watch actually improved your running? [tomljones3] [ In reply to ]
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I was given a FR205 many years ago by my wife. I had always run by distance (not time) and ran the same few measured routes over and over. Suddenly I could run anywhere I wanted and know how far I had run. It was like being let out of a cage, of sorts.

I currently use an FR910, and I only use it to measure distance, time, and heart rate. I never really got into all the other metrics the newer watches produce.

Did it make me a better runner? It made me a more consistent runner. When I didn't have time to run a measured route I usually didn't run. When I was tired and should be taking an easy day I would still run the shortest measured course. Those days are gone. So are the recovery guess work that comes with slowly building effort. I know how far I ran and how long it took - every time I go out the door.

"...the street finds its own uses for things"
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Re: Has your GPS watch actually improved your running? [tomljones3] [ In reply to ]
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tomljones3 wrote:
In other words, I guess I'm trying to figure out how much of the bells and whistles on these watches are just marketing gimmicks and how much they might actually improve my running.

My answer is probably yes. To give more definitive answer, I'd need a time machine and repeat the last 5-6 years of training without s watch. It still be N=1, to have a scientifically accepted answer, we'd need many more time machines :)

Very few data points, generated by modern sport wearables are actually actionable. I find those helped me to get faster:
- GPS for mile alerts. Simply knowing when I'm done with my 5, 10, 15, etc mile run. Without watch I'd probably have to spend a lot of time planning with a map beforehead
- Constant heart rate monitoring for long runs. Recently I don't glimpse at the HR very often and mostly run by feel, but it took years to trust my RPE. I needed a watch to know how hard I'm running for the first several years.
- timing for intervals, both on track and in a pool
- GPS for pacing in races. Of course you run first 3 miles too fast. A watch helps to minimize that.

Can modern smart phone do all this? Probably yes, but a sport watch is better:
- you don't have to think about battery life
- the screen is always on
- there a convenient buttons
- it's simply more convenient to have a light device on your wrist than a heavy smartphone on ... I don't even know, where do you put it if you want to monitor your pace/heart rate?
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Re: Has your GPS watch actually improved your running? [natethomas] [ In reply to ]
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natethomas wrote:
A watch doesn’t make you any better of a runner, but one thing I’ve found is that if I’m prepared for a race (especially an open running race) it can be very easy to go out too fast as that first mile or two can feel pretty easy. A watch can help me settle into the proper pace I know I can target based on training and not over run at the start. This is true in a tri as well - if I’ve paced the bike properly I know what run pace to target and many folks take off too quick out of T2 based on their fitness. I like a slight negative split in a race. I can say it feels so much better to finish strong than to pay the price for going out a bit too fast at the start.

So, the watch doesn’t make you any faster, but it can help to hold you accountable to proper pacing based on training.


I definitely agree with this. I certainly tend to go out way too fast and the watch helps let me know I'm going out faster than I should and I should settle down. But I do try to practice getting my pace right in training as well, as I do the same thing there. I go out way too fast and have to dial it back. it's even harder in a race though with all the adrenaline going.
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Re: Has your GPS watch actually improved your running? [ask77nl] [ In reply to ]
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>> Very few data points, generated by modern sport wearables are actually actionable.

This is what I was thinking. I'm (somewhat) surprised that nobody is chiming in about the more advanced features that Garmin touts .. training effect, status, load, ground contact time, vertical oscillation in running, etc. Although one poster did mention using it to track his recovery after an injury.

It would have been interesting to hear from someone who posted "for years my form has been wrong but when I looked at my stats on running form I changed ..."

Or

"The VO2 Max calculation totally changed my training and now ..."
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Re: Has your GPS watch actually improved your running? [tomljones3] [ In reply to ]
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tomljones3 wrote:
>> Very few data points, generated by modern sport wearables are actually actionable.

This is what I was thinking. I'm (somewhat) surprised that nobody is chiming in about the more advanced features that Garmin touts .. training effect, status, load, ground contact time, vertical oscillation in running, etc. Although one poster did mention using it to track his recovery after an injury.

It would have been interesting to hear from someone who posted "for years my form has been wrong but when I looked at my stats on running form I changed ..."

Or

"The VO2 Max calculation totally changed my training and now ..."

This is true for majority of industries, infected by 'big data'. It is much easier to collect data than to analyse it and make in actionable.
Athletic performance is in worse condition than others because it's very subjective. Also sport science is all empirical. PhDs might mention V02 Max, mmols or millimeters with a straight face. But there are no theoretical models even on a level of one muscle fiber, not to mention the whole body.
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Re: Has your GPS watch actually improved your running? [bearlyfinish] [ In reply to ]
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bearlyfinish wrote:
Your smart phone can do all of the things an expensive garmin can do (for running). But then you have to carry your phone with you on every run...

My watch has helped me with interval training. I don't need to go to the track to do repeats anymore (most are closed to the public anyway), because I can program the distance/time on my watch. I just need to find a flattish area with minimal traffic lights. It's also helped with putting a cap on my heart rate during easy runs. Depending on how you run with your phone, it may be impossible to take a quick glance to see your metrics.

If you don't have a power meter or need GPS for >10 hrs, the vivoactive 3 gets you basically everything the 935 has but at half the cost.

I am going to 2nd this. long runs hasn't made a impact, but for interval work both running and in the pool has been amazing.
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Re: Has your GPS watch actually improved your running? [NordicSkier] [ In reply to ]
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NordicSkier wrote:
Fancy watches are distractions.
I like looking at the details on Strava after the fact, but pay no attention while running.
I was at my best when I ran a lot of mileage, did track intervals and fartleks. A simple Timex is all I used.

X2
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Re: Has your GPS watch actually improved your running? [natethomas] [ In reply to ]
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Really helps with pacing. I'm always puzzled when people say "run by feel", I get off the bike and am running at a ridiculous pace that feels like a sunday morning jog, then you find out 5kms later that it was too fast. The correct pace should feel uncomfortably slow which is why so many people go too fast, because the correct pace doesn't feel right.
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Re: Has your GPS watch actually improved your running? [dunno] [ In reply to ]
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dunno wrote:
Hey OP I love my Fenix 5, just do it if you can afford it

See, I want to love mine, but I cannot.

The optical HR is a bad joke.
Utterly useless for running.
I’m back to using my chest strap so I get non-randomly-generated #’s that aren’t 5-25+ bpm too high.

The GPS is far less accurate than my 310 or 520.
I do the same out and back run loops from my house, and the other 2 Garmins & my iPhone are all typically within just a few steps per mile ‘marker’.

The Fenix is almost never bang on.
Worse, it’s not even consistently wrong the same way.

To the OP - IF you want a GPS, get an older, cheaper model.
You’ll be much happier.


float , hammer , and jog

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