Running, jogging or walking is one of the easiest outdoor activities. Grab a pair of shoes and out the door you go. You immediately begin to exercise once you leave the house.
There is no need to get in your car to travel to the gym. No need for any fancy equipment, such a bike, swim gear or loads of cardiovascular machines at the club.
However it can be hard to track information about your workout. Many of us choose to exercise at a gym because the machines allow us to zone out, get our cardio in and provide us with vast information about our training. We know how long we exercised, how far we went, how many calories we burned, how hard we worked and how fast we went.
All of this information affirms our workout and guides our next training sessions. However, many of us like to get outdoors to exercise. We feel less confined, are able to enjoy the fresh air, look at a change in scenery, get away from others, and sometimes just save time.
This is where one simple piece of equipment comes in handy, and that is a GPS watch or smart phone with a similar app. If you already have a smart phone it is easy to search for such applications that will track heart rate, distance, speed, pace, caloric burn, and so on. Plus it offers the convenience of your music and the phone for emergencies. Note I mentioned emergencies and not to keep constant contact with others via text, email or call. This only detracts from your workout. Remember you wanted to get away and exercise, not be tied to your phone.
The other and sometimes better option is a GPS watch. Now there are many out there on the market. It all depends on the price point and functions important to you. You can find them in various places from online to pharmacy, athletic and sporting stores.
Top of the line brands include Polar, Garmin and Timex. Nike, Ironman and other brands also make great products as well. Some key elements to keep in mind though are the ease of use, additional components to wear (band around chest for heart rate or clip for distance tracking), compatibility with entering and tracking information online (if that is something important to you) and watch and screen size (toggle through information or be able to see multiple tracked information on one screen).
I have personally used a few different versions and had a lot of success with Polar’s RCX3 GPS. I like its sleek design, ability to capture loads of information that can be seen easily and the comfortable and small heart rate transmitter and GPS sensor clip.
Three unique and very cool features of the RCX3 GPS are the zone optimizer, training load and the running index. The zone optimizer modifies your training for the day based on your current physiological condition, which basically ensures you are training during that session at the right intensity based on how your body feels at that exact time. The training load displays color coded graphs on polarpersonaltrainer.com (free site) so you can monitor recovery and prevent overtraining. The running index is amazing. It not only provides running performance metrics, but it records your running data over time and sessions to monitor your progress and performance.
The price point of roughly $330 is reasonable for all the features. It costs a bit less than Garmin, which I have not used but have read and heard many positive reviews for the newer and more upscale versions. The one charge use of roughly 20 hours of training is also impressive. It also is compatible with bike riding to track information, which is great if you participate in multiple distance sports.
If you are looking for something less expensive, try Timex GPS at about $110. I use it often as well since it does not require a heart rate monitor or sensor clip for distance. However, there are some drawbacks. The charge tends to only last about 10 hours. It does not offer additional features such as a zone optimizer, training load or running index. It can be slow and not as responsive to toggling through screens to see captured information. However all in all it is a solid, basic GPS watch.
If you are looking to capture outdoor training information, then I suggest using a GPS watch. It is light years beyond your typical sport watch which only monitors time. There are many options out there to choose from for your personal needs. Think about what you truly want to know, how you want to progress with your training and make a decision for what suits you best. Summer is a good time to get outside and exercise and fall is just around the corner. Those slightly cooler temperatures are a great time to exercise outdoors and keep track of your work and progress.
For more information about Polar, visit http://www.polarusa.com/
Kyle Washburn is the National Health and Fitness Editor at Edge Publications, Inc. He earned a BS in Physiology, M.Ed in Sport Psychology and Counseling and an MBA. He is a certified personal trainer through NASM and ACE and has been training for over ten years. He is an avid triathlete, softball and tennis player, runner, hiker and enjoys the outdoors.