I have always used a low end Garmin watch to track my distance and pace on my runs. Now that I am running with a phone that has data, I wondered how well the apps work and which would I prefer. For about the next month or two I used both.

My Watch:

I have a Garmin Forerunner 10. I bought it for the price and it has lasted through the tests of time. There are things that I don’t like about Garmin in general, but we always seem to wear them. My husband has a Garmin Fenix, which would be in the garbage if he wasn’t an engineer. He had a Bia for a short time and loved it, but they went out of business and it had to be supported. We have heard good things about Suunto, but haven’t gone in that direction yet.

This watch tracks time, distance, and pace. It also has a virtual pacer so it can yell at you if you are too slow or too fast if you want it to.

My Phone App:

I downloaded Map My Run onto my phone. The website has been around a long time. We used to use it to see our distance before we had watches and apps. I tried to plan a route on the website not long ago and it was clunky and frustrating, but the running app is great, so I guess that is where they put their efforts.

The Comparison:

It actually took a while for me to decide which to use long term. If I had a fancier watch it probably wouldn’t even be a question, but I have a more basic watch. There are pluses and minuses to each one. In the end I stopped using the phone app and stuck with my Garmin. Although, I think that the phone app is great if you aren’t ready to go out and purchase a GPS watch. I also know a few people that dislike watches and stick with their phones, so it may be more a personal preference too.

The watch can be slow to sync with satellites. If you aren’t in the habit of turning it on ahead of time it can be a problem. I once was almost a mile into my run before it finally started working. The phone is always set right away. No waiting. No lag.

Another thing that the phone app has that the GPS watch lacks is automatic upload. You are recording the information right there so there is no uploading it to get the details. The phone I still need to plug in to my computer, which is silly really. Bia had this functionality figured out and Fitbit also does a decent job.

Battery usage is something to consider as well. Will you remember to charge your watch? Do you keep your phone charged? I learned I was most likely to keep my watch charged, just because its only use is for running. If I listened to podcasts all day on my phone or played a game to pass some time my battery could be gone by the time I get around to running.

I like the information I can get from the Garmin website and Training Peaks better than Map My Run. They are all good, but I found when I wanted to analyze my progress and adjust my goals, I went to Garmin Connect to do so. In the end, that was what got me. The whole reason I keep track is to help improve and plan my training. I relied on the Garmin Connect website for this.

In Conclusion

I think if you are just starting out, you don’t need to go out and buy a watch. Your phone will do just fine. I do think that if you are starting to take your running or triathlon to the next level, a GPS watch is really worth the investment.

Great, now I want to go get a better one.

Until the next adventure.