A speed & distance monitor is a tool that measures your running data, such as how far you have run, how fast you have run, and thus at what pace. There are two ways of capturing this data while running: either with a GPS receiver or with a footpod. The monitor itself comes in the form of a watch that displays the data.
Speed & Distance Monitor: Watch + Footpod
A footpod uses a technology called an accelerometer to estimate how far the foot has travelled by measuring the time it takes the foot to touch the ground.
Monitors using this system can gain up to 97% accuracy if calibrated. Calibration is a simple procedure, you simply follow the instructions on the watch. You generally need to complete a number of various runs from walk-jog all the way to sprint over the same distance (best done on an athletics track).
This type of monitor will work with no problems in bad weather conditions.
Speed & Distance Monitor: GPS
There are a number of satellites orbiting around the Earth. The GPS receiver picks up signals from the satellites, relaying information about where the satellite is in space relative to the Earth and the time at which the signal was sent. Then the GPS receiver works out how far it is from each satellite and calculates its position on the Earth.
GPS is 99% accurate. The reception can be affected by bad weather conditions like rain and clouds, tall buildings and areas densely covered by tall trees. However, the latest technology offers very sensitive receivers (e.g. Garmin FR 610) and the discrepancies should be minimal.
The beauty of a GPS monitor is that everything is built in to the watch, you just press start and run. It operates almost like a mobile phone, so you have to remember to charge it. The standard battery life is about 8 hours of consecutive use. The more advanced GPS watches will not only tell you about distance covered, but speed and pace, elevation and descent, Ordnance Survey reading and more.
Different Types of Speed & Distance Monitor
It’s worth taking the time to think through all the features you might want to use, and then picking a model accordingly – too much and you can get bewildered using them, too little and you might always wish you’d spent slightly more.
The basic models will give you the speed, distance and time spent running. They’re ideal for the runners who just started out or those who don’t need any extra features. The benefits of the more advanced speed and distance monitors are the features such as:
- Split times and autolap
- Memory files to store your previous sessions
- Interval training (with recovery by distance or heart rate)
- Training effect
- Tracking system
- Multiple sports – swimmers and kayakers can use it in the water
- Virtual training partner to race against on your watch
- Heart rate monitoring
- Online training analysis and downloadable running programs
These are ideal for runners who are training to achieve specific goals, want to be challenged, need guidance, or for triathletes. Polar RCX 5 is a perfect example of such a model, it’s sleek, light and switches between different sports within a second.