Training at different speeds and intensities is key to becoming a faster and stronger runner. But it can be hard to gauge how much you're improving when you’ve only your own judgement to rely on. Running with a digital device can help you to measure your progress more accurately and give you a more objective analysis of just how hard you’re training.
There are a variety of models on the market, ranging in complexity (and price) from basic sports watches to GPS-based speed and distance monitors. Some are even designed to work with a mobile phone.
What's most important, is to stay realistic about what functions you really need - it can be easy to get carried away with bells and whistles at the point of purchase only to find yourself baffled by basic functions later.
Heart-rate monitors use a chest strap to detect your heart rate and transmit this information to a wristwatch receiver. They provide an accurate reflection of how hard you're exercising and, depending on the model, can allow you to set personalised target zones and store information for post-run analysis.
Speed & distance monitors
There are two main types of speed and distance monitors for runners: GPS-based models (that use satellites to track your movement), and models that use foot-pods on your shoelaces to measure acceleration and deceleration like an advanced pedometer.
Speed & distance monitors with heart rate
The most advanced devices on the market combine speed-and-distance capabilities with heart-rate monitoring functionalities. Expect to pay more for these top-of-the-range gadgets but if you’re a statistic-conscious runner, you may soon wonder how you ever left home without one.
The most basic type of watch, usually offering a memory function to record mile times in races or lap times in speed sessions. Many also have countdown timers, which can help if you’re doing repetitions.
Running with music is growing more and more popular, and if you're planning to take your mp3 player on the run you'll need to track down the right pair of headphones.