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Running is cheap they say, all you need is a pair of trainers and a sports bra and you are good to go, so you think great and you get started…but wait whats this? What are all these flashy gadgets I see on peoples wrists? The regular updates I see on their social media profiles?…it looks like technology is an important part of my required kit list too…but what should you invest in as a beginner when there is so much choice?

This post is by no means a detailed review of all of the technology out there, I mean that would take me a lifetime and I’d still not be able to comprehensively give you an answer to what you should spend your hard earned cash on, instead I am just going to give you a bit of background to my running tech past.

So back in the day when I started running, not the first time as a child, no the second time when it was just a tad more difficult and all together embarrassing, well I didn’t use any technology to help my running, I didn’t use much. I had a cheap pair of trainers which I had used for the gym and I wore two normal bras one over the other to give me the support I needed. But back to technology.

After a while of running naked (the term for running without technology, not without clothes heaven forbid) I started experimenting with mobile phone apps. I figured I was running with my phone anyway so I might as well combine the both, so lets start with the pros and cons of using mobile phone apps like MapMyRun and Nike+ etc

Pros

  • Cheap or Free
  • Can connect with friends for accountability
  • A friendly voice updating you on your progress as you go
  • Share progress via social media
  • You always have your phone with you anyway right?
  • Have corresponding websites with further features
  • Helps you find routes nearby

Cons

  • If your batterie dies then so does you run record
  • Sometimes (don’t know why) they just don’t record your run (Soooooo FRUSTRATING)
  • The ability to compare stats over time is limited (compared to sports watches)
  • You have to remember to switch it on
  • You have to calibrate the app first time using it (which always made me a bit nervous)
  • Not as flashy or hardcore as owning a sports watch

I must admit, its been a while since I last used a mobile phone app for running…well actually it was 2012 when I run the London Marathon…and the bloody thing conked out on me at 16  miles…its like the next 10 miles didn’t happen and I can assure you they did…you can read about it here if you don’t believe me.

So the following day seeing as I couldn’t get off the sofa to actually move, I ordered a Garmin as a treat to myself. My very first sports watch. But while we are on the subject of mobile phone apps I just thought I would draw your attention to a few which you might find interesting.

  1. Zombie Run – Download the app then receive your mission, and as you pound the street you run from the undead and collect supplies, its actually quite good fun and good for disrupting the negative voices in your head…in fact its a bit like starring in your own action movie.
  2. Run an Empire – If you like strategy games like civilisation or sim city, then this one will be of interest, although its not actually out yet…but its coming soon.
  3. Runnit – This time with real life rewards such as meals and discounts for simply challenging yourself and of course achieving your running goals. Look some of us need an incentive right?

OK so onto Sports Watches

I bought a Garmin and after it sitting in a draw for a year (I took 12 months off to grow a small person) I started using the Garmin basically to track and record my runs. The model I had was very advanced and most of the features I never used, but I did enjoy uploading my stats and comparing sessions. However my real breakthrough with my sports watch was when I actually started looking at the damn thing during races, and not just to see how much longer I had to run. By understanding your pace and regularly keeping an eye on your running stats it can really help you up your game.

Pros

  • The investment encourages you to get your moneys worth
  • It helps you feel like a proper runner
  • It helps you to understand your pace settings
  • It helps with intervals sessions
  • The website platforms normally have a whole range of features that help with analysis and comparison
  • GPS features record details such as elevation and weather
  • You can connect with other runners that use your brand
  • You can use your phone for more important things like listening to music or podcasts

Cons

  • You have to remember to charge the thing
  • Outlay expect to spend anything from £70-£300
  • Sometimes it can take a while to locate the GPS satellites, this is frustrating at races
  • Some models are so complex you only use 10% of its features
  • Once you are tied in with one brand you can become precious about sticking with it for results consistency

The best thing I ever did was buy a sports watch, it really upped my game and marked the point I started to take my running seriously. I recently downgraded my model (check out my review here) and it does everything I need it to and a relatively affordable price too.

So what about activity trackers, how do they fit into all of this?

Well in some ways I think they are a completely separate (yet useful) piece of kit, but compared to sports watches and running apps I think they serve a very different purpose.

I guess the first type of activity tracker was the old skool pedometer…do you remember those? I had a few, many of which were inaccurate but still managing to get me off my backside more and that of course is what the new age trackers are supposed to do, and the market in this is absolutely massive.

I have tried about 5 different types of them over the last few years, and in all honesty they pretty much do the same, OK but with a little variation.

I got my first one when my daughter was just 3 months old and it really motivated me to move more, and I started walking everywhere. The fact it linked up to a food diary app helped curb my overeating too. After about 10 months though I got a little bored of it and stopped using it consistently.

I have recently bought a new one, after a bit of peer pressure and after owning my FitBit Flex for exactly a week I am all enthused about upping my daily activity once again, because despite running 3 times and swimming twice a week you’d be surprised at how sedentary I can be if I don’t keep an eye on it. The thing I am most enjoying is enjoying my competitive nature by getting involved in various challenges…yes I have a competitive streak.

The main data you are going to get from an Activity Tracker is how many steps you take each day, but some also tell you how inactive you have been and the quality of your sleep, which can also be quite useful. But I think having a sports watch is more likely to motivate you to run than a tracker in the longer term.

So the verdict on the Sports Watch or Tracker dilemma?

Well it would have to be a Sports watch if I could only have one, but both if you really want to get an all round picture of health and a record of your improvements.

If you are just starting out on your fitness journey and walking more than you are running, then perhaps get a tracker and save the sports watch for when you are running more consistently….see it as a reward for improvement.

Hope thats helpful folks.

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