Are GPS Running Watches Better Than Regular Heart Rate Monitors?

If you’re a runner, whether experienced or novice, you probably have been given many running tips about using technology to improve your running. There are a lot of options out there.

From simply timing yourself with an old-fashioned stopwatch to getting a top of the line watch with GPS, heart rate, and tracking, to everything in between, finding what’s right for you is just a matter of sitting down and deciding what you want.

If you only do runs on paths that are straight, flat, and marked with mile markers, then you probably don’t need as much technology as someone who runs a more dynamic course. You can simply look at the mile markers and keep track with a stop watch.

But that’s about all you can do. Adding a heart rate monitor to your workout adds a lot of information. You can tell how you’re doing by what zone you are in. (And you can make sure you’re working hard enough by keeping yourself in a specific zone.)

Then we get into GPS running watches. The jump from a simple heart monitor to a watch like this is a considerable one in terms of the capabilities you’re gaining. This type of watch is essentially a wrist-mounted (or bike mounted, if you buy the attachment) computer that keeps track of a number of things.

Firstly, the GPS monitoring keeps track of where you are. When you get home, you can plug it into your computer a see a precise map of your route. But the watch also tracks a number of other factors, too.

Tracking where you are and when you go there, these watches can then calculate your speed. Many also gauge not only latitude and longitude, but altitude: it can tell when you’re going up a hill, and how steep that hill is.

This is especially useful in conjunction with a heart rate belt, an accessory that many GPS running watches include. By analyzing your heart rate alongside your course, you can see exactly how your body responded to that big hill, and therefore, you can see how that response changes over time.