It’s 6a.m. and the street is yours. The only sound is the rhythmic slap of feet on pavement or the steady whir of bicycle wheels. You didn’t make the Olympic team, but you still want to gauge whether you’re burning enough calories, working your heart hard enough and getting faster, fitter, stronger. Consumers’ desire for control has led developers of speedand-distance watches to make their products more and more high-tech. Some use satellites to pinpoint your exact location; some listen to your heartbeat. “They allow runners to map out their performance accurately,” says John Stanton, founder of the Running Room chain, who reports surging sales of the devices, “so a 10-km run will be 10 km, not 9.2.” We took four models for several spins around the block. (Okay, we just walked the dog, but it was exercise.)
can be as confusing as buying a computer: the range of features is wide, as is the range of price tags. But it’s a worthy investment provided you’re committed to sticking with a fitness program.
Sítie Polar S610i offers the best mix of useful features, such as a heart-rate monitor and calorie counter, at a reasonable price.
What’s in Store
And after the workout... aaah. As if floating in a pool weren’t great enough, now you can get a rub. The Neck Massaging Pool Lounge (www.hammacher.com) has pockets for drinks, books and music players. Also in couple size.
GARMIN FORERUNNER 201, $230
POLAR S61O~, $400
NIKE TRIAX CV1O, $500
TIMEX IRONMAN TRIATHLON BODYLINK, $480
A one-piece device, it has a rectangular, waterproof casing, with a GPS receiver built in.
Comes with a recharger that plugs into the wall and a Velcro band that fits the smallest wrist.
Virtual Partner lets you create an imaginary rival. Set up a routine and assign pace or race time to your digital foe. Screen displays two stick figures and tells you how far ahead or behind you are.
Large screen displays easy-toread fonts and images. Can keep two years of workout history, and shows summaries of previous performances, such as distance run and how fast. Connects to a PC.
Wouldn’t be caught dead wearing this chunky unit without track shoes and sweats. As with all GP$s, the feature loses the signal indoors, around tall buildings and in forested areas. No heart-rate monitor.
Set-up was flawless right out of the box. Strapped on the heart-rate monitor, pressed a button on the watch and voila, 67 beats per minute appeared on the display. Couple of taps up and down the stairs and BPM jumped to 121.
You can program the Interval Trainer so the watch beeps when it’s time to switch from warm-up to main exercise to cool-down phases. Will also notify you if you fall below or exceed pre-programmed pace setting.
Easy access to heart-rate feature: press a button and it starts; press it again and it stops.
Red, blue and black strap not exactly a low-key fashion accessory. No GP$ tracking system. An infrared device that lets you download and upload training information to PC costs extra.
Stylish watch face and large numbers easy to read while on the move. Heart-rate transmitter straps around the chest and speed/d¡stance pod clips to shoelaces.
Speed/Distance Monitor tracks foot acceleration and deceleration 100 times per second and beams info to the watch. Works even if stride length changes.
TIP: For with thick features. If
100-lap memory provides lap time, split time and distance for each lap count. Can customize the display to highlight info most important to exercise routine.
A good tutorial CD-ROM.
Buttons hard to press. Reading set-up instructions a must. Initially, watch failed to recognize heart-rate monitor. Pricey.
The attractive watch comes with a GPS armband and a heart-rate transmitter. Data recorder, which can upload to a PC, is $100 extra.
lovers only. The watches all come and it takes time to learn the not going to bother, why buy one?
Can set maximum heart rate and five target zones. Alarms sound if BPM goes below or above target.
Display shows three lines of data of your choice (stopwatch, BPM, etc.). Hands-free feature starts or stops functions based on distance, speed or time elapsed. The face has a light for midnight runs.
GPS needs clear line of sight to the sky. With all the hardware on wrist, arm and chest, you feel a bit like a cyborg.
TIP: For gadget lovers only. The watches all come with thick manuals, and it takes time to learn the features. If you’re not going to bother, why buy one?
For past Money’s Worth product test drives, go to www.macleans.ca/consumer
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