2016 Run Watch Innovations

How to Utilize Your Fancy Gadget

Every year the technology available to athletes gets more and more impressive and sophisticated. Personal electronics from Garmin, Suunto, Polar and others will accurately record all workout information; heart rate, pace, cadence, power, elevation and where your workout took place using GPS. However, just because a gadget has the ability to receive texts on the run doesn’t mean that you will be faster. Below are a couple of innovations that have occurred this past year that can have a really positive impact on an athletes’ training.

One of the developments that many people can appreciate is the replacement of the chest heart rate strap with the incorporation of an optical heart rate sensor in the rear of the watch. TomTom, known for their automobile navigation devices, was one of the first manufacturers to do this with their Run Cardio series. Garmin wasn’t too far behind and early this spring came out with their first built in HRM, the 225.

Athletes often had issues with the chest heart rate strap giving irregular readings as well as the discomfort of having the band dig or cut the skin. Moving the heart rate sensor to the wrist made it much more comfortable, especially during harder workouts or races, plus it removes an extra piece. The rear of the watch uses 3 LED sensors which optically measure blood flow and from that it is able to extrapolate heart rate. This sensor is as accurate as the chest strap and most athletes will find it much more comfortable.

Many of the new watches from Garmin also have internal accelerometers that measure cadence without the need for a foot pod. Cadence is an important metric for running as it has been shown that having a cadence of between 85 and 95 rpm is the most efficient. A neat feature of the higher end models from Garmin, like the FR920XT and FR630, is that they also have a built in metronome that will beep or buzz at 180bpm or a cadence of the athletes choosing as a guide.  All watches have an Auto lap feature that records every mile or kilometer (or even your own random distance). This feature is especially beneficial for base runs where a consistent pace/effort/cadence is desired.

One other feature that is appreciated as a coach is just how simple it is to upload a workout using your smart phone. Most of the Garmin watches will synchronize with the Garmin Connect App on the phone via Bluetooth when they are in close proximity. This can then automatically send the data to a second party like TrainingPeaks or Strava so there is no excuse for not updating your workout log.

Besides your device having these new features it helps if you follow some of these simple guidelines. No device is going to make you faster by itself, but if you follow some basic rules and make each workout have a purpose, the watch will provide accurate feedback for you or your coach to analyze.

Dos and Don’ts

Do: Before starting each workout, set your device to record the specific sport (i.e. Swim, bike or run, or multisport.

Do: Turn AutoLap off for interval workouts and use the lap button at the beginning and end of every interval. For base runs, AutoLap is great for monitoring a consistent pace, cadence or effort.

An IMPORTANT Do: Use the lap button on the device. Press it when starting and finishing an interval, this makes it much clearer for your coach to evaluate/analyze within a workout. This also reinforces the athletes mind there is a time interval for a specific effort or cadence.

Don’t: Avoid switching days around if you are following a training program such as TrainingPeaks. The watch doesn’t know if you have swapped a workout and will upload training data into the day it was done. And the result is that coach will not know what the workout was since there will be no description.

Do: Pair your device with accessories away from other athletes. If you are meeting training partners for a run or cycling session, make sure your heart rate strap and/or cadence/speed sensor is picking up the correct data by “pairing” before you stand next to each other.

Do: At the end of a workout press the stop button. Also remember to Reset/Save the workout. Otherwise when you start the next workout it will keep going from where the previous one was stopped.

Do: When you log a workout, add any comments you have regarding how you felt, energy levels, weather and anything else that may have affected your performance (these are helpful for the coach or you when looking back and comparing sets).

Dan Smith, LifeSport senior coach, has trained a number of beginner, age-group champion and professional triathletes over the past 15 years. He enjoys coaching athletes of all levels. Contact Dan to tackle your first IRONMAN or to perform at a higher level. 

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