Do you find chest straps constricting? Not to worry: The Mio Alpha is a promising wrist-based option for athletes.
Foot pod: This small, lightweight device typically clips onto shoe laces and tracks workouts when you are stuck on a treadmill, or lose your GPS signal when doing fartlek intervals in a canyon. It uses a small accelerometer to precisely measure your stride directly at your foot, producing more accurate measurements than you'd get from a pedometer on your waist. Foot pods wirelessly stream data to your GPS device, which records the activity.
Even if you already have GPS on another device, the foot pod counts cadence and will keep your speed and distance if you lose the GPS signal--often automatically. Once calibrated for your shoe placement and stride, foot pods are impressively accurate. Make sure you calibrate a foot pod on a known distance; newer watches will let you calibrate it off the GPS. Like a heart rate monitor, you'll need to select one compatible with your watch--usually ANT+ or Polar. No Bluetooth versions are available yet, but they should appear soon.
Running websites: Sign up for a running website to track all the data you gather, build workouts, and find new routes. Analyzing your data can really help you improve your training, and many runners find it motivating to review, or even share, workouts and races. Garmin, Suunto, and Polar each offer their own service free with their respective devices. If you don't want to be locked into one device manufacturer, Training Peaks is the site most pros use, but you'll still need your manufacturer's site to import workouts and routes that you've downloaded from Training Peaks.
If buying a stand-alone device just isn't in the budget, your smartphone can come handy. It has nearly all the capabilities of a GPS watch--once you load up the right app. What's more your smartphone can double as an MP3 player, providing a soundtrack to your workout, and many phones can automatically upload workouts or allow family members to track your race while sitting at home (as long as you have an Internet connection). That said, a phone is larger and often harder to read during a run than a dedicated workout device, and precision GPS tracking can drain the battery.
Great apps for runners include: Runmeter Pro (iOS) that has almost every feature you can dream of; Wahoo Fitness (iOS); Endomondo (Android); Runtastic and RunKeeper (iOS/Android), which are very popular, but require (free) subscriptions. Runtastic lacks a pedometer feature but is an ideal app for long-distance runners (especially those who already own a pedometer), while RunKeeper can integrate data with over 70 other apps and services. Fun bonus offering: Zombies, Run! (iOS/Android) turns your run into a zombie-filled adventure as it overlays apocalypse survival missions on your workout playlist.
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