How to Choose the Best GPS Watch for Running

Running seems easy enough. Pick a pair of shoes, throw on shorts and a tank top, and head out the door, right? Well, technically, yes (as long as you find the right pair of shoes). But the more you get into running, the more you realize there are tons of gadgets that can make it easier to get faster, get better, or even just easier to plan your runs. At some point, almost every runner will look into upgrading their basic watch for something a little more technical with a few more features. But then that opens a whole other can of worms – how do you pick one? You can ask your running buddy or running group, but we’ve narrowed it down to four of the best here (and even a couple that won’t break the bank).

Budget

Photo Credit: TomTom
Photo Credit: TomTom

The TomTom Runner is your best option if you are on a budget, coming in right around $100 (we found them anywhere from $89.99-$129.99). It’s one of the more basic watches, with an easy to read screen and reliable GPS. It’s waterproof, and can track indoor miles on a treadmill as well.

Mountain Running

Photo Credit: Suunto
Photo Credit: Suunto

While many other GPS watches track elevation, the Suunto Ambit3 Peak is designed for mountain running. It tracks elevation, weather, multiple sports (swimming, running, biking), heart rate, recovery time, and more. The face is easy to read, the buttons are easy to push, and it can sync with your phone. There are a few color options with the straps, too. But this one is gonna cost you a bit more – $400-500.

Just the Basics

Photo Credit: Soleus
Photo Credit: Soleus

It’s really easy to get into all the different features that these watches offer, so if you are looking for something more simple, the Soleus GPS Pulse + HRM ($199) is a good choice. That’s not to say it doesn’t have features, but the main ones include the typical distance, speed, and pace, as well as calories burned, interval timers, and a backlight.

The One Everyone Has

Photo Credit: Garmin
Photo Credit: Garmin

Garmin is a company that has made a name for itself in the running community. With a variety of options ranging from the Forerunner 15 ($119) that is similar to the basic Soleus, to the multi-sport capable Forerunner 735XT ($449.99) that measures everything from the regular distance to VO2 max and lactate threshold estimates. For a mid-price range watch that will have more than enough features for the average runner, the Forerunner 235 ($329.99) is an excellent option.

Feature Photo Credit: Forward Runner

Staying Injury-Free with Dr. Heather North, Physical Therapist and Running Coach

Dr. Heather North is the owner of Red Hammer Rehab in Louisville, Colorado, and a co-founder of Revolution Running club (she is also a coach and in-house physio for the club). She has been awarded “Best Sports Medicine Doctor” in the Mountain/West region by Competitor Magazine in 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015, as well as “Best Sports Medicine Rehab Facility” in 2013, 2014, and 2015. Dr. North’s focus is on sports medicine, and is known for being aggressive with injuries (hence her nickname, “The Hammer”). She also happens to be Fun Run Box’s blog writer’s physical therapist and coach, so we thought who better to ask a few questions about staying injury-free?

Fun Run Box: What is the most common running injury that you see as a PT/coach?

Dr. Heather North: We see a lot of knee injuries. Mostly because there are so many different injuries that can occur at that joint. It also is very susceptible to poor running technique, bad biomechanics, and weakness in the major stabilizers (gluteal muscles).

FRB: What is the number one thing that new runners can do to stay injury free and why is that one thing so important?

DHN: I’m going to give two because I really feel that there are two great ways. Keeping your cadence at 180 is so very important. Not only does it make you a more efficient runner, but it also decreases the amount of impact during each foot strike you make. This translates directly to less injuries and speedier running!

The second is your butt. You want a wattage cottage not only because it helps to drive you forward. That of course is the goal of running…to move forward as fast as you are able for whatever distance you race. The gluteal muslces are most importantly major injury preventers because they stabilize the leg by keeping the knee driving over the feet and preventing knee pronation (internal rotation) and helping prevent foot pronation. If you keep the mechanics lined up, you decrease injuries substantially.

FRB: What’s your favorite workout/exercise for a new runner, or a runner just getting back into it?

DHN: My favorite exercise is hill repeats. It’s a hard workout, but one that is fun and non-intimidating. Mixed repeats of short time efforts such as 30-60 seconds is perfect. Hill workouts also get the runner’s heart rate up without putting a lot of stress on the body itself. Basically it is working the engine and not the wheels, chassis, and structure of the car.

FRB: How do you know if something is just a minor tweak that you can run through or a real injury that you should take time off from?

DHN: If there is a tweak or niggle that pops up, it is smart to keep an eye on it. Don’t run hard the following day, or cross train instead. Take some ibuprofen and maybe even use a bit of ice. If it is persistenting a few days further, get a massage and take a few days off of running. Cross train instead but do stay moving. If it is still hanging on after a week or two it is time to visit your orthopedic specialist – otherwise known as your local Doctor of Physical Therapy. This person is your go-to for any injury that involves the musculoskeletal system. They are fully qualified to refer you on if need be as well and will be a wealth of information and treatment guidance. In most states DPT’s are direct access too which means you do not need a referral from your Medical Doctor.

FRB: What piece of advice would you give a new runner?

DHN: Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Be patient and consistent. Realize that so much has to change in order for your body to acclimatize to this very specific pounding and weight bearing exercise. Muscles must grow, connective tissue must become tougher and more resilient, and bones must become more dense. Start off with walking in combination with running. Run every other day, but walk every day. Begin to decrease the time you walk and increase the time you run. Advice is 10-15% increases in total running time per week. Keep your heart rate around 140-150 maximum.

FRB: Is there anything else you would add?

DHN: The best advice that I give as a DPT and as a coach for Revolution Running in Colorado is to STAY CONSISTENT. This means aim to run 80% of your weekly mileage easy (90 seconds slower than your marathon pace). The remaining 20% is split evenly into tempo (10Kish pace) and interval (faster than 5K pace). This also means running 5-6 days a week each and every week. Consistent and repeated loading of the body tempers it and makes a runner quite durable. This also translates directly into performance boosting too.

Feature Photo Credit: Rachel Dehner

7 Motivational Running Movies to Get You Off the Couch

Some days, the weather doesn’t really cooperate for a run. Some days, our minds or bodies won’t cooperate for a run. The next time you are stuck on the couch for whatever reason, pop in one of these movies that will have you up and at ’em in no time!

1. Forrest Gump

Obviously, this one is on every list. Forrest Gump, played by Tom Hanks, sets out on an undetermined run that ends up lasting three years, two months, 14 days, and 16 hours, after girlfriend Jenny Curran (Robin Wright) leaves him. After covering 15,248 miles, it seems as though the past is behind him. You can even follow the running route in real life, if you feel so inspired.

2. The Jericho Mile

Originally a made-for-TV feature, Peter Strauss plays Larry “Rain” Murphy. Murphy was sent to jail for murdering his father, and as there isn’t much else to do in prison, he runs. The warden notices that he might actually have a talent for it, and allows Murphy to train for the Olympic trials.

3. Running on the Sun

If you ever want some motivation to get off the couch and go for a run, watch this movie and know that it could always be worse. Running on the Sun documents the 135-mile Badwater Ultramarathon through Death Valley up to Mount Whitney, the highest peak in the lower 48 states.

4. Chariots of Fire

This classic running movie, the historical British drama tells the tale of two men – Eric Liddell, a Christian from Scotland, and Harold Abrahams, a Jewish Brit. Liddell runs for the glory of God, while Abrahams runs to overcome the prejudice that Jewish people were facing in the 1924 Olympics. Their commitment to the sport and personal sacrifice will motivate any athlete, from casual to Olympian.

5. Prefontaine

Even people who don’t run have heard of the legend who’s life was cut tragically short – Steve Prefontaine. The movie documents his life and running career, as well as what it was like for American elite runners in the 1970s compared to international elite runners. Without Limits is a second movie about Pre’s life that also gets good reviews, and came out just a year later in 1998.

6. Personal Best

Let’s hear it for the women! Personal Best is about a fictional group of female track athletes working towards the 1980 U.S. Olympic trials,  but features several American athletes from the time. The title is what all the women are left with when the U.S. decided to boycott the summer Olympics in 1980.

7. Run Fatboy Run

Most of these movies are pretty serious, so if comedy is more up your alley, check out Run Fatboy Run. Directed by David Schwimmer, comedian Simon Pegg (from Shaun of the Dead) gets motivated to run a marathon to win back the love of his life. You’ll surely appreciate all of the running puns included in this one.

Feature photo credit: telegraph