Watches these days come in many shapes and sizes. From standard analog pieces to advanced devices, the form and function of watches has changed drastically in our modern society. In the world of fitness, however, GPS watches are the pinnacle of watch technology.
A GPS watch is a device, worn around the wrist, which has a built-in global positioning satellite (or GPS) uplink, which provides navigational information useful for tracking location, and other pertinent information such as speed, altitude, and pace. Many models also contain heart rate monitors, and offer interval exercise information, helping to create fitness regimens and track exercise progress. Along with the standard GPS functionality of the watch, many watches can upload fitness information to a server, allowing the wearer to gain access to their statistics from a PC. The server also allows for the creation of routes in the watch’s internal mapping, which can be useful in planning exercise.
Recently, however, the accuracy of many of the watches has come into question. In testing, many watches were only accurate in perfect conditions, e.g. with no tall buildings around and clear skies. The inaccuracies have been logged as anywhere between a few tenths of a mile up to a half mile too short when the route is compared to mapping software. These discrepancies can, of course, make training more difficult.
The accuracy problems seem to have multiple causes. One such cause is called multipath. Multipath is caused when the satellite signal is received directly from the device and deflected off another surface, such as a tall building or a mountainside. This can cause the satellite not to know which signal to use in tracking. Routes with many turns can also be problematic for the tracking software. If signal is lost between the device and the satellite in a turn, the tracker will simply draw a straight line between the place where signal was lost to the point where signal was picked up again.
Despite the problems, many runners find GPS watches to be an indispensable asset to their training regimen. Like most other types of watches, the price range is quite wide, from as low as $ 50 for a basic training watch to several hundred for more advanced devices. An average watch will be around $ 150. In testing, the price of the device did not affect accuracy. However, the more expensive watches often offer more functions, which can be useful. When shopping for a watch, it is recommended to research the functions available, choose the functions that will be necessary for training, and then find a watch that fulfills those needs.