Pedometer-eschenbachBelieve it or not, runners used to measure their runs by hopping in a car, retracing their running route, and using the odometer to mark mileage. Talk about delayed gratification! Google maps and the rise of websites like Gmap Pedometer and Map My Run helped. And good, old-fashioned pedometers have been around for years provided you don’t mind calibrating them, doing some math, and dealing with their finicky-ness.

But these methods are quaint compared to today’s GPS watches. Distance, pace, speed, calories, lap speed, average lap speed, elevation, heart rate, cadence and boatloads of other data are instantly available with a quick glance at your wrist.

And with features like auto-lap, interval workouts, virtual running partners, customizable screens, and audible and vibrating alerts, watchmakers have found ways to use this data to get the most out of workouts. Post-exercise, this data is easily downloaded to your computer to analyze, log, and brag share with friends.

Garmin Forerunner 101

Garmin Forerunner 101 (circa 2003)

Garmin Forerunner 230 (current)












Now is a great time to buy a GPS watch. Gone are the days of wearing a bread pan on your wrist, waving your hand in the air while it locks on a satellite signal.

Today’s watches are small-ish (hey, they still ain’t perfect), can quickly pick-up a satellite signal, and offer tons of features and training aids. While Garmin remains the big player on the market, more and more companies are coming out with competing models.

In the next section, we’ll delve into the pros and cons to see if a GPS watch is right for you.