Should we run with a GPS watch? | Women's Running

Should we run with a GPS watch?

Read Time:   |  March 19, 2019

Until relatively recently, runners set personal, national and world records without GPS watches. But these days wearable tech is everywhere, giving us instant feedback on our performances. Does this help or hinder our running? Two experts discuss the issue.

Keith McNiven

Founder of London personal training company Right Path Fitness.



“Just like how you can drive a car without GPS, you can run without a GPS watch, but the technology makes both driving and running a whole lot easier and more efficient.

When you first start running, you might not be as bothered about measuring your performance – it’s often more about just getting through it. But as you progress and improve, a GPS watch is invaluable at enabling you to track your performance and improve as a runner. Each day that you run you can challenge yourself that little bit more, which is really useful if you’re aiming for a goal like a half marathon or a particular time at a specified distance.

Many phones have the ability to measure fitness performance, but most GPS watches are more accurate, especially at tracking heart rate and calorie burn, which is ideal for weight loss and performance-based goals.

It’s much easier to have a watch on your wrist as you run than carry a phone – you can just glance down to check your distance or speed. Most GPS watches will also have music, the ability to sync to email, receive calls and so on. You can even pay for things with some, so you can literally run with just you and your watch. For a committed runner, that’s a really liberating feeling.”

Marie Spreckley

Personal trainer and owner of The London Weight Loss Clinic



“GPS trackers have become popular with runners since the introduction of the Garmin Forerunner 101 in 2003. The GPS tracker market has since gone into overdrive with hundreds of sports watches, apps and devices to choose from, promising to measure everything from your pace to post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC).

Unfortunately however, using these fancy gadgets can easily decrease the overall workout quality and enjoyment for runners. You can easily become too focussed on improving your metrics, leading to increased levels of anxiety and stress. A 2017 study by Ulster University found that runners using GPS trackers had decreased pace, attention levels and focus, which could also lead to higher likelihood of injury.

Similarly, fitness trackers garnered huge popularity when they were introduced to the market. But unfortunately, after everyone raced to the shops to buy them, we found there was one rather large caveat: they were highly inaccurate.

It’s important to keep this in mind when you’re considering buying a GPS watch or fitness tracker to improve your running performance. The gadget is unlikely to be the magic bullet you were hoping for.”

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