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GPS and other Technology to Track Running Data

By Marco Encinas

Running for fitness has taken a giant leap forward with the invention of GPS running watches that track a wide array of data. These gadgets can track not only the actual course run, with mapping and mileage, but they can also count steps, measure heart rate, analyze stride length, and track fitness. Knowing the distance covered and the time spent running are important details for anyone who wishes to train to enhance fitness levels. A running watch on the wrist can be the next-best thing to an actual running coach working with you to build endurance.

What to Track

GPS running watches differ from other activity trackers, which often limit data to movement or the number of steps taken in a day. Running watches offer more information, including the duration of a run, a measurement of the distance traveled, and the correlating speed or pace. Many gadgets provide even more data than this, however. A running watch often measures heart rate via an optical sensor that reads the wrist pulse. Many running watches also track the number of calories burned while running. Advanced features measure cadence, the number of steps taken per minute, and stride length. Some experts recommend that runners strive for a shorter stride, which increases their cadence, because this may reduce injuries. Running watches may also offer navigation features to pinpoint the current location and guide runners to a specified destination. Very advanced gadgets may also measure vertical oscillation and ground contact time to help runners improve their form.

How to Track

Running watches are effective for helping runners increase endurance by running longer and faster. Another benefit of running with a GPS running watch is the ability to monitor heart rate to stay in your optimal training zone. Your training zone depends on your fitness goals, such as building aerobic endurance or burning fat. Whatever your goal, your tracker can help you zero in on the range that achieves the desired outcome. Glancing down at your wrist regularly is one way to monitor this, but some watches make it even easier by delivering heart rate alerts that vibrate if you stray below or above your targeted zone. Monitoring cadence is another way to use the tracking capabilities of a running watch. While 180 strides per minute is often said to be the ideal goal, this cadence is not optimal for every runner. Anyone wishing to increase running cadence can use a running watch to track their progress, especially when striving to run at an elevated pace with more strides per minute.

What to Do With the Information

As you engage in regular runs, your running watch will collect the data from the exercise. Over time, you can use the tracker to analyze your performance to see how you maintain or improve your fitness. Seeing your run times and watching improvements toward a pace goal can be motivating for virtually any runner. Watching the distance during a run can help you stay motivated to finish strong. Knowing how many calories you burned during a run also helps make sure that you eat in accordance with the energy expended.

Other Running Tips

Anyone embarking on a new running program should use the 10 percent rule, which involves increasing weekly mileage in 10 percent increments every third week of training. Following this method, people generally see gains in strength and endurance without over-training and risking injury. Some experts recommend keeping your mileage at or under 15 miles per week, adding strength and flexibility training sessions in for optimal health and fitness. Warming up and cooling down and hydrating adequately are also crucial for overall fitness and well-being. Runners must also pay attention to discomfort and pain experienced, addressing potential issues that may occur before they become severe.

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