Do You Really Need a GPS Watch for Running?


do you really need a gps watch for running

One of the best things about running is that this incredible activity only requires a pair of comfortable shoes and motivation. You can run anywhere and never have to worry about costly equipment or a gym membership. This universal fact has left many runners questioning the need for new tech devices and rightly wondering what all the fuss is about.

But a GPS watch is quickly becoming a runner’s best friend, but do you really need one for running?

Having a GPS watch when running is a great way to track your performance. They can track running distance, time, and speed, as well as offer a detailed analysis of your run based on dynamic performance indicators. GPS running watches also offer helpful navigational support.

Having a GPS running watch with you on your run takes away the inconvenience of trying to carry around a large smartphone. But there are so many other incredible benefits of using a GPS running watch. This guide will explore exactly what a GPS running watch can provide users, as well as a range of helpful frequently asked questions about GPS running watches.

Here’s a really useful video from the Running Channel:

What Does GPS Do on a Smartwatch?

A GPS running watch can best be described as a smartwatch that uses GPS navigation to track your distance, speed, and running pace in real-time. But GPS can provide much more than just navigation and real-time statistics, and the Garmin line is one of the best brands on the market for GPS performance tracking.

GLONASS and Galileo are global navigation systems that stretch distances far beyond basic, regional GPS. Most Garmin watches, for example, still have a basic GPS system but those readings and distances are enhanced by a huge margin with satellite GPS. Of these two GPS systems, GLONASS is the most common, and the inclusion of this GPS system is what powers the impressive performance dynamics data in a Garmin watch.

The Galileo addition brings the pinpoint accuracy of GPS and GLONASS to an even more impressive statistic. With all three of these GPS systems reporting results based on pace, time, and distance during your outdoor workout, this takes out any of the uncertainty that may have been reported with GPS alone. Therefore, a GPS running watch with satellite GPS protocols can greatly increase the tracking features of a running watch.

Additionally, many of the more intermediate and advanced Garmin watches have features that use GPS in truly innovative ways. Interactive real-time maps and performance tracking for things like altitude tracking and gyroscope technology allows you to measure movements and velocity among a wide array of customizable inputs.

You cannot get these benefits with just a regular fitness tracker or stopwatch.

Let’s take a closer look at how these various GPS features improve running performance…

Is it Worth Buying a GPS Running Watch?

If you are serious about running and conduct all of your runs outdoors and not on a treadmill, a GPS running watch is definitely worth your investment.

Time, Distance, and Pace

Any device that has a timer can easily track your overall time during a run, but running with a GPS watch can track your time and base your time with pinpoint accuracy based on the location you are running on. Additionally, a GPS watch can measure other variables that you couldn’t normally track otherwise, including cadence and transitions that can arise when running outdoors.

Your distance is also a key factor when analyzing your overall running performance and a GPS watch can pick up your outdoor location and track your running performance based on the topography and real-time distance between the two points you select. The pace of your run is also important since you can select a certain pace at which you run to accurately reflect your overall speed and pace against what the overall distance may otherwise report.

Detailed Analysis

When it comes to a detailed analysis of a run based on GPS features, I have found that Garmin watches are the standard for this useful feature. The Garmin Connect App allows you to upload your run into a more advanced flow chart to receive even further statistics and analysis of just how well you performed.

More advanced Garmin models will also include analysis through Strava when you also want to compare Garmin’s detailed analysis data to another popular assessment tracker.

Garmin Connect

Areas for Improvement

Even the most skilled and professional runners are always open to ways to improve their performance. With many Garmin models, for example, there are features that use the GPS tracking data to even offer areas for improvement based on your running dynamics. The Pace Pro feature, for example, is an adaptive training plan through a Garmin coach of your choice that is available to help guide you through your run.

This convenient coaching works in tandem with the GPS tracking of a Garmin watch and works well to help you reach your goals on those days when running or any fitness regime seems like a chore.

A GPS running watch is truly worth it.

garmin fenix 6 pro solar

What Is the Best GPS Watch for Running?

The perfect GPS watch for running needs to be tailored specifically for expert navigation for running. In that regard, I think the Garmin Fenix 6 Pro Solar is the best overall. The Fenix 6 Pro Solar can be used for all fitness types, yet the tone and functionality of the watch are more geared towards advanced runners and triathletes. This model is also one of three Fenix 6 models that are customizable in terms of size and lens type.

Since the Fenix 6, Pro Solar uses solar charging for battery through a powerful Corning Gorilla Glass 3 lens, I consider this model to be a personal favorite. In terms of GPS, the Fenix 6 Pro Solar uses the standard GPS, Glonass, and Galileo that make-up the GPS systems of most Garmin watches recently. The accuracy is precise and syncs well based on a variety of different sports and activities.

Since the Fenix 6 Pro Solar uses a powerful solar-charging lens, the GPS readings are given a strong and quick boost when used outdoors. This model is just right for runners who stick to a chosen path or venture further out into rugged terrain.

Garmin Forerunner 945

What is the most accurate Garmin running watch?

The Garmin Forerunner series is one of the best in the Garmin line and the Garmin Forerunner 945 consistently wins high marks in terms of GPS accuracy, innovative performance tracking metrics, and seamless notifications across the Garmin Connect App.

How do I use my Garmin watch for running?

To use your Garmin watch for running, the process is mostly universal across all Garmin running models. Go into the settings tab and open the Apps setting. Then, choose which app you want to add your running session to and select the ‘add new’ feature to calibrate your time and customizable settings.

What is the best Garmin watch for running and cycling?

Any Garmin running watch is certain to please runners and cyclists but the best models usually have premium music features available. The Garmin Forerunner 245 Music and the Garmin Forerunner 645 Music have advanced performance tracking features and superior music capabilities, including music storage.

What is the most affordable Garmin GPS watch?

One of the most affordable Garmin watches that has minimal GPS tracking is the Garmin Forerunner 35. This small and compact watch allows basic navigational support that is built-in to the watch for convenience. The GPS is a bit outdated thanks to newer and more advanced models but this Garmin watch is the least expensive in terms of GPS.

How does GPS work on a Garmin watch?

The GPS protocols on Garmin watches work by transmitting data received by multiple satellite systems from above the Earth’s orbit. A Garmin watch picks up the signals from the satellites and transmits the data to the watch through triangulation. Some Garmin watches have more advanced GPS navigation such as Glonass and Galileo GPS systems.

Do you really need a GPS watch?

If you enjoy doing any kind of physical fitness outdoors, a GPS watch can certainly come in handy. More importantly, a GPS watch can provide exact calculations of pace and distance, as well as time measurements that can provide data on how well you are performing in a fitness activity. Using GPS on a watch may not be necessary for those only doing routine fitness, but GPS is very beneficial for athletes or those wanting detailed performance metrics.

How do I turn on GPS on my Garmin watch?

Most Garmin watches will have a basic GPS system already built-in to the watch. This will report back basic data from a variety of satellite systems. If you want to unlock the increased performance data that comes from Glonass or Galileo GPS, then you can simply pull up the menu and go to activity settings. You will see the icons for GPS as well as Glonass and Galileo, select the option for Glonass and Galileo.

Final Thoughts

You do not need a GPS watch for running, but it will certainly come in handy when you want to analyze your performance. In addition to tracking intervals and transitions in your run, a GPS watch keeps you in the know with acute navigational support and routable maps. You can even further analyze your running performance with detailed statistics and data to help you improve your running capabilities.

Ben Jones

As a running enthusiast, I found it frustrating that there were limited review sites available willing to give me an honest opinion on the latest technology to aid my hobby. I am certainly not trendy (my kids will testify to that), however I am an early adopter and just love getting my hands on the most up-to-date gadgets.

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