How to Choose the Right Activity Tracker
Written By: SportsShoes
Whether you’re a gadget junkie or not, investing in wearable technology can enhance your training experience, providing invaluable insight into your workout and allowing you to map and track your progress. But with a bewildering array of sports tech on the market, from GPS watches to fitness bands, how do you know which tracker is the right one for you? Here’s what to look for.
WHAT DO THEY DO?
Activity watches and fitness trackers collect and feed back data from your workout, such as your heart rate, pace, distance covered or time taken to complete an activity. This personalised insight helps you to accurately establish the effectiveness of your training, what is and isn’t working for you, and adjust accordingly. So whether it’s average pace, distance or calorie burn, these metrics can be used to help guide you to a better personal performance.
WHAT’S YOUR ULTIMATE GOAL?
First off, when you’re choosing a sports watch, it’s important to decide what you ultimately want to get from your training. Are you looking to get stronger or faster, achieve a new PB, lose weight or is your training part of an overall drive to be more fit and healthy?
Knowing your fitness goals will help you to determine the kind of data you’ll need to collect. For example, if you’re aiming to shed a few pounds, then calorie burn and heart rate are going to be important metrics, whereas if you’re looking to run faster or further, then you’re going to need an accurate measure of your distance and average pace.
WHERE ARE YOU TRAINING?
Once you’ve established your fitness goals, next you need to think about where you’re going to achieve them. Will you be working out indoors, outdoors or a mix of both? If you’re combining gym work with outdoor activities such as running and cycling, then GPS is a must-have essential in your activity tracker.
Using satellite activity, a GPS watch will measure your pace and distance in real-time, allowing you to measure and adjust your intensity. On the other hand, if you’re only going to be training indoors at the gym, then GPS isn’t going to be a lot of use under cover, so there’s no need to spend extra cash on this feature.
Are you going to be hitting the pool? Make sure your watch is waterproof for swimming and tracks your activity and effort in the water.
IMPROVING YOUR PERFORMANCE (MULTI-SPORT WATCHES)
If you’re seriously looking to improve your performance, then a dedicated sports GPS watch is well worth investing in. Incorporating accurate GPS with detailed data capture including distance, pace, cadence, heart rate and zones as well as intervals, laps, splits and even VO2 Max on more expensive models, these watches display multiple data fields during your work out and feed back your stats in real time.
Importantly, sports watches are no longer only for running. As cross training and multi-sport activities become more popular, users who want an entire picture of their activity, whether in the gym, pool or on the road or trail, now demand more from their device, paving the way for new-generation technology that tracks performance across multiple disciplines.
According to performance watch specialists, Suunto, this means that as well as tracking multiple parameters, a multi-sports watch should also have the ability to switch easily between disciplines in a single session. Suunto’s newly developed Spartan range, featuring both Sport and Ultra Models, is specifically engineered to allow the user via touch screen to quickly and smoothly transition between over 80 different activities from road to treadmill, cycling to skiing, and even lifting weights – delivering full visibility and training insight across all your activities.
So what features should you be looking for? Suunto HQ’s top tips are as follows:
- Look for the ability to switch easily between activities without fiddling and distraction. That includes pre-configured multisport functionalities such as triathlon, and ad hoc activity such as running to and from the gym.
- If triathlon is an important discipline for you, make sure to look for both pool and open water functionalities.
- Consider the metrics you want to track. As well as specific training activities, you might also want to track calories and steps taken daily as part of your overall training insights.
- Battery size and life is important. What kind of adventures will you be taking your watch on? Smaller devices will tend to have a lower battery life whereas larger models such as the Spartan Ultra are designed for more battery power and can last for days.
- How does your device calculate heart rate? Bear in mind that heart rate tracking from the wrist is more convenient, but via chest band the measurement is more accurate.
- Navigation. If you need this, make sure it’s built into your device as this is not a standard feature of many watches. Look for route navigation features, a compass and “breadcrumb” view to help when you’re lost.
- Training insights. Your multi-sport watch should also connect to a service platform, such as Suunto’s Movescount that allows deeper analysis of your training metrics and follow up of your progress, with added benefits and expertise such as training programmes, heat maps for route-finding and community sharing, knowledge and groups.
IMPROVING YOUR LIFESTYLE (FITNESS TRACKERS)
If, on the other hand you’re simply embracing exercise as part of a wider lifestyle plan to improve your general health and fitness, then an all-encompassing fitness tracker can deliver a real boost to your training by tracking the basics. Tracking almost every aspect of your lifestyle and wellness from sleep patterns, to calories burned, to steps taken, a fitness tracker usually takes the form of a wrist band that you can eat, sleep and even shower in.
Data is usually gathered and synced with an app that tracks and feeds back on your all-day activity and progress with reminders and notifications, encouraging you to incorporate healthier habits into your routine. They’ll also often deliver “smart notifications” including texts, calls, emails and calendar entries directly to your wrist, fusing fitness with lifestyle.
Fitness trackers use accelerometers to measure motion and steps, altimeters to track altitude (perfect for knowing how many flights of stairs you’ve climbed) as well as monitoring your heart rate and calories burned. They also have a longer battery life than the average sports watch, enabling 24 hour tracking with minimal charging.
Relatively inexpensive, activity trackers such as Garmin’s VivoSmart are great for gym goers who want to boost their fitness as part of an active,healthy lifestyle, and new starters who want an easy-to-use device to track the basics.
THE BOTTOM LINE
When investing in a wearable, always bear in mind the activities you need to track, the data you need to collect to track your progress, and where you’re going to be training – and choose a device with the functionality to support that.
If you’re seriously looking to improve your performance, training for a race, triathlon or event, a multi-sports GPS watch with advanced, detailed data collection is a must-have for key training insights that will boost your progress…whereas if you’re simply looking for a device to track the basics, help encourage healthier habits and boost overall wellness, a fitness tracker can provide everything you need.