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Do You Really Need a Running Watch?

Discover the benefits to these tech-riddled fitness accessories and whether or not they are an essential piece of any training get-up.

runner in the park preparing for jogging
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We live in a digital era, and with that comes a handful of ways tech has infiltrated our normal fitness routines. It's no longer about working out solely based on how we feel — we now have the metrics and data points to promote when we should workout and how our training sessions should be structured.

There's no better example of the marriage between tech and fitness than the running watch. These tech-heavy fitness accessories bolster a plethora of metrics and sensors, all designed for the purpose of better informed training. But are they an essential for every runner? It depends, but the first step to answering that question is understand what they can — and can't — do.

What Does a Running Watch Do?

First and foremost, running watches are timepieces. Outside of the common features like a stopwatch and alarm, running watches also feature additional sensors that, at a baseline, can also track your heart rate, location, and pace. Higher end (and more expensive) running watches often offer features on top of that, like measuring VO2 max, sleep routines, elevation, stride length and more.

Is all this data necessary for every training session? The short answer is no, but once you begin to understand just how your body responds to certain stressors — like an extended route or quickened pace — you're more capable of fine-tuning your workouts for better results down the road.

athletic runner start training on fitness tracker or smart watch and looking forward
Running watches are capable of tracking a plethora of data points including heart rate, location, VO2 max and more, all for the sake of more informed training sessions.
Oleg BreslavtsevGetty Images

How Can a Running Watch Benefit My Training?

The amount of data available through running watches can seem overwhelming, especially to the uninitiated. After all, plenty of world-class athletes have gotten by solely relying on feel for the sake of what makes a proficient workout. But you're not likely to have the same knowledge of your physical limitations as Eliud Kipchoge if you only run a handful of miles per week.

This is where running watches can bridge the gap. By monitoring your output throughout the day, you're better able to understand how your body responds to the rigors of training. Are you posting slower times on certain days of the week? Or routinely turning out personal bests after a good nights sleep? Uncovering this data leads to well-planned sessions that work with your body's output.

Trouble staying motivated? The statistics and detailed information a running watch provides can be a great incentive to getting out there day after day. By automatically tracking personal bests and other details about your progress, a running watch can help encourage you to keep putting effort in without requiring you to do the fiddly work of tracking things yourself.

Is a Running Watch Necessary?

Necessary? Of course not. There are plenty of everyday fitness enthusiasts out there charting positive training results without the use of a running watch.

A running watch can help you make the most of your workouts, provide encouragement you need to push yourself just a little bit harder, and it's just a fun to look at all the information you've generated while pounding the pavement.

Think you're ready to make the leap into the digital running age with an all-new running watch? Here's just a handful of our favorite training timepieces on the market today:


Garmin Forerunner 955 Solar


Apple Watch Ultra


Amazfit T-Rex 2

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