Choosing the Right Fitness Tracker for You

Photo by Karolina Grabowska

“I have been part of the running community for a while now and have been seeing lots of fancy-looking watches. It makes me want to get one … but I don’t know what to look for or how to figure out the best watch for me.”

Many people find themselves in this same position, so I wanted to break down how I figured out what watch I felt was best for myself. Do bear in mind that a few of these steps may overlap a bit, which is fine. It helps to break down what you’re looking for a little further into specifics to land you on your ideal watch.

What is your primary sport you’re tracking?
If you’re reading this article, this one should be kind of a no-brainer. You’re tracking your runs. I know there are others who do more than just running, so be sure to include those as well. For me personally, I selected swimming, biking, running, weights, and triathlon/multisports as my primary sports I was looking at. So when you figure out the overall sports you want, make sure the watch you’re looking at includes them as well.

Then you have to think a little about the purpose of the watch.
What do you plan to track exactly? This does overlap with the previous step a bit. You’re looking at what you’re planning to do within these sports to gather data on. For us runners, this could include track workouts, trail runs, treadmill runs, cross training with weights, among others. Depending on how you do your workouts, remember some people base their workouts on heart rate, time or pace. That’s something to look into as well as you start to think about specific features. This step helps you look at the features and functions you are wanting your watch to have.

Primary Features
Now comes the fun part. These are features that make or break whether you even look at the watch or not. If the watch does not have these features, it’s not on your radar to even consider.

My primary features included workout profiles for the sports I participate in. If it did not have a multisport or triathlon function, I was not even going to consider it. Other primary features within each of those profiles I wanted was an automatic and manual lap function so I could see my pace on command and automatically. I also was looking for an ambient light sensor so that I could actually see the screen during my workout, as some of my past watches didn’t have this feature, which made it very challenging to be able to track the workout effectively.

Secondary Features
Secondary features are not mandatory, nor will they make or break consideration for a watch. However, if you’re torn between two or more watches, having these functions will likely tip the scale in favor of one or the other.

My secondary features included having other sport options in case I decided I wanted to dabble in other sports for a while. Then after a race where I had to deal with ambient noise that was rather distracting, I decided to also consider having a watch that could hold music so I could listen to music without having added weight of my phone. The other secondary feature I was looking at was distance tracking after lapping. I wanted to be able to see how much distance was covered in the time I ran to make it easier to remember what workout I’m looking at when analyzing a run. So, for example, the watch would track each distance of a ladder workout, which makes it easier to remember what type of workout I did on a certain day.

Are you OK with a used watch?
Having a nice model watch is great, but they do not come cheap. Some people are hesitant to spend hundreds of dollars on a watch that they’re going to have to learn how to use and not even sure if they’re going to like it. So they may opt for a secondhand watch as a bridge into the watch universe. Buying secondhand watches is great because you can get a great product without the monetary commitment. But there is a bit of a catch. While we’d like to believe that sellers all have good intentions, it’s no surprise that buying online is a bit of a risk. You don’t know the person you’re buying from, you don’t necessarily know the condition of the product, and you want to make sure you’re knowledgeable on the subject of buying online to avoid any issues , which extends the length of the search versus simply buying one from the store. I had already worked with a couple different models of watches, so I was comfortable with spending the money necessary for the model I wanted. I also knew I did not want the hassle of buying secondhand.

What is your budget for a watch?
This is the not so fun step in buying a watch. While the latest and greatest watch sounds like a dream, we already know that a fitness watch is not cheap, and the techier it is, the pricier the device gets. So It’s important to know what (if any) monetary limits you have about buying a fitness tracker. Unfortunately, this could mean that you have to cut back on the lovely features you may have been eyeballing previously.

Other Factors
Every person is different in what they’re looking for in a watch.

The steps above are a guide to get you started if you are in a position where you don’t know where to start. A few other things you may want to consider in a watch are as follows but also not limited to: battery life, how waterproof it is, the brand (some people are brand loyal), the vendor to get them from. Make sure to be aware of what is offered from some of these priorities so you can make sure you select the best watch for you.

One of the biggest things I will advise about getting a watch is make sure that you do your research on the model of watch you’re looking for. A lot of watches have similar basic features, so once you have an understanding of what features are common across the board, then you’ll be able to see the difference in some of the “advanced” features that separate some models of watches to others as well.

Now you have the basics of how to pick out your ideal watch. Do feel free to ask your friends for recommendations or assistance if you’re lost, but do your due diligence so you can get the best watch for your buck.