So, your overall fitness is at its peak, and you have decided to start training for a triathlon. Thinking to get some quick training in, you go for a few laps in the pool at your local gym, run a few miles at your local green way, and finish off the day by cycling around town.
While this was all well and good as far as training goes, later on you started to ask yourself: is there a quick and easy way to keep track of my stats so that I can see here I need improvement?
Want to learn more? Jump ahead to out guide to triathlon watches.
As it turns out, there is. Enter the modern day smart watch. These nifty devices not only eliminate the need to carry a pen and paper with you on your training sessions, they can also keep track of your caloric intake and have embedded sensors like GPS units to log your running distance and acclerometers/altimeters to keep track of your pace and elevation.
But if you’re looking to improve your triathlon game, not just any smart watch will do. You are going to need something that is especially geared towards tracking triathlons.
Highest Rated Triathlon Watches
Now that you’ve probably gone through the guide below and over the most desirable features to look for in a triathlon watch, here’s five of our favorite triathlon watches.
#1 – Garmin 920XT
The 920XT seems especially geared towards triathlon runners. It even has a special “triathlon” mode, which will automatically detect your current activity and begin logging it automatically. You also get the all-important open water swim tracking with this watch, as well as the ability to log V02 max.
V02 max is used by elite athletes to measure the maximum amount of oxygen their body can use during physical activities. It is generally used as a way to determine an athlete’s endurance. The 920 is also watch is fully submersible, of course.
#2 – Suunto Ambit 3
While it may not be as feature packed as the aforementioned 920XT, the Ambit 3 is more than adequate for triathlon tracking.
This watch has the unique ability to keep track of your heart rate underwater, albeit a bit less accurately. Also, the Ambit 3 can also automatically detect the type of stroke your using during your swim and match it up with your swolf score.
However, the watch is not limited to just being a decent swim tracker. The device also allows supports the pairing of power meters, so dedicated cyclists may want to look into this one. The only downside to the Suunto is that it only supports Bluetooth smart.
#3 – Garmin Vivoactive
The Garmin Vivoactive is more of an “allrounder” rather than a dedicated triathlon tracker, but it will suit that role just fine.
The Vivoactive has a sleek design that sets it apart from other smart watches, and come stock with a touch screen interface. The watch face is easily the lowest profile of all of the devices on this list.
And while the Vivoactive unfortunately does not support the pairing of heart rate monitors, you’ll still be able to track distance, time, pace, cadence, and elevation.
The Vivoactive also has a decent swim tracking module with a swolf scorer.
#4 – Polar V800
The V800 is a solid choice for any triathlon trainee.
The watch has decent running and swim tracking, and like the Suunto it is also able to track your heart rate underwater (when paired with a hear rate monitor).
The included Polar flow app is also very user friendly and contains many different details about your activities which makes this a great device for those who like to dig down really deep into a lot of data.
Lastly, unique to the V800 is it “orthostatic test” feature. Turning this mode on lets the watch record your various physical activities over a period of time and will give you a report about how your body is responding to your fitness training.
#5 – Magellan Switch Up
This watch is the budget option of the list, but it doesn’t skimp on features. The switch up is a fully featured GPS smart watch that also has the all-important open water swim tracking.
This watch also has the ability to hold 9 customize activities, so you will never be short of options when it comes to your triathlon tracking.
The included bicycle mount gives this device an added benefit for people who need to work on their cycling, and the ANT+ functionality is great for pairing with a power meter for keeping an eye on your cycling stats.
Finding a smart watch for tracking your training progress is simple if you are only doing 1 activity at a time. However, when it comes to tracking triathlon metrics you are going to want a device that has the capability to record certain metrics that are integral to triathlon training.
Here’s a few things to look out for when deciding on a device to purchase.
What type of running metrics are out there, and what should a watch encompass? Let’s take a look below.
VO is a measurement of the amount of “bounce” (up and down) you take with each step. The basic premise here is to have a little as possible, since having a large amount of vertical motion results in wasted energy. This metric will be able to tell you have much energy your putting into your forward momentum.
Cadence (oftentimes denoted as “foot strike”) is a fancy way of measuring the revolutions per minute of your feet. This is a vital metric for improving your running efficiency, and it is probably one of the easiest ways to improve your running speed. To get the most accurate measurement of cadence you will want to pair your smart watch with a foot pod.
Additionally, cadence can also be used to measure cycling.
Ground Contact Time
Your ground contact time is measured by how long your foot remains on the ground during each stride of a run. This will typically be measured in milliseconds, and it is more of a finesse stat than anything else.
Runners who are looking to improve their form will be wise to pay special attention to this metric. Reducing your ground contact time and paying special attention to your cadence will help you improve your running form, and by extension lessen your risk of injury.
That dreaded swim in a triathlon, will feel painful while you’re doing it, but with a good triathlon watch the data you get afterward will be priceless.
Open Water Mode
Oftentimes triathlons will feature an open water segment. While training in a pool can be a good way to get your (pun intended) feet wet, eventually you’ll want to move to a lake to simulate a real triathlon segment.
While many fitness trackers are adept at keeping a tally of how many laps you swim, very few of them feature what is known as an open water swim tracking mode. Open water swim tracking is basically a water based version of the running distance calculator on a smart watch.
Smart watches with this feature will be able to keep track of the total distance you swam while in the water, not just your laps back and forth in a stationary pool.
Swim Golf Score
Smart watches are now starting to come stock with the ability to measure swim golf. Swim golf (Swolf for short) is a measurement of swim efficiency.
A smart watch with this feature will measure the amount of strokes taken against your total swimming speed, and give you a number. Keeping track of your swolf score is vital for improving your swim efficiency, which makes this a desirable feature on a triathlon watch.
These are the cycling metrics paramount to any quality triathlon watch.
Many of the metrics for measuring running will carry over to cycling as well, such as distance or cadence. But if you want to measure cycling accurately you will want to invest in a power meter. Although there are some Bluetooth smart enabled power meters, most will sync to a smart watch via ANT+.
It is also wise to invest in a heart rate monitor to pair with your triathlon watch. While you can get by without one, having the ability to track your heart rate in real time will give you another way to gauge your overall fitness level and you will be able to better keep track of your heart rate zone during your workouts. Heart rate monitors typically come as a separate chest strap, and will have pair to your smart watch via Bluetooth or ANT+.
Logging your times and activity levels is crucial for improving your triathlon times. Luckily, modern day devices have made this task a breeze. Triathlon watches are an amazing tool for those who are looking to gain the advantage on their competition.
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- Updated on March 28, 2019 by Ada Lane