I wanted to include sports watches in my Top Training Gear List for 2018, but made the promise not to include anything technological. Instead of including my favorite sports watch in a technology review or similar, I make a strong case here to support my desire for every athlete I work with to have a watch—especially a sports watch. Most coaches see watches as nice-to-have, but I believe the first purchase after sports apparel and a water bottle is a good sports watch.
It doesn’t need to be fancy or pricey to be effective; it just needs to be a reliable model that is worn every day. Sure, smartphones may have made watches superfluous, as telling time isn’t a big deal anymore, but I still demand watches for serious athletes. If you are on the fence about using a sports watch or having your athletes wear one, this blog will share enough reasons to convince you that a sports watch is the ultimate tool for performance.
Why the Smartphone and Wearable Market Can’t Defeat a Sports Watch
The wristwatch is arguably the first modern wearable. Sure, the pocket watch was a predecessor, but the game changed when somebody connected a small strap to make it a timepiece for the wrist. Having a watch was a big deal last century, but watches are now more than minute-by-minute updates of time—they are tools. Many wearable products fight over the small amount of real estate on the arm, and companies realize the hard way that the space on a wrist is competitive. Smartphone makers like Apple and Samsung went back to the watch as a way to extend the power of their devices, but the effort only reinforced the fact that watches are timeless.
A Watch Makes Time a Priority
Responsibility and accountability start with discipline, and showing up on time to training prepared and ready is everything. Time—how we use it and how we respect the time of others—separates the good teams from the winning teams. If an athlete doesn’t value time, nothing else really matters. Results come from using the best training and respecting time, and showing up on time is important enough to decide who is on the podium and who just participates.
Wearing a Watch Is Practical
I have been in the sports technology game for a while; long enough that I have seen countless companies fail to make their product convenient and comfortable. The primary issue is that most wearable solutions compromise results by trying to be cute or innovative, when they simply need to refine. Wearing a piece of technology isn’t an easy task, as decreasing the size of sensors is very challenging and sometimes what is left is an awkward design.
Sports Watches Provide Biofeedback
When upgrading a watch beyond the basics, options include accessing instantaneous information on how fast or where you are moving, and heart rate and heart rate variability. You can get more specific information such as weather conditions, and oxygen levels if you are a diver. Biofeedback is extremely effective in improving performance or rehabilitation, and those that want to unplug can calibrate what they perceive to be true when they train and compete without a watch.
Good Sports Watches Are Programmable
Have you ever set either a traditional or digital alarm clock? Congratulations, you just programmed! While we see more coaches use Excel or some other software to program, the average coach isn’t a technology expert (even if they are a millennial). On the other hand, the typical athlete or coach can program a watch to do more than just wake them up.
You can now program most watches, either directly on the watch or through a web portal for customization. The best example of this is the Suunto Ambit, an award-winning watch that, in my eyes, is one of the most valuable tools for an athlete who takes their training seriously. The Suunto company built a simple programming language, that anyone can learn instantly, in order to allow users to customize their watch functions. A user can build a simple app and even share it in a community.
Watches Build Culture and Confidence
This last reason for athletes to own a sports watch is perhaps the most important. Having a watch that looks great and functions well is something to be proud of. It sends a message to the world that you believe in the value of time and you are confident in the value it represents.
Owning a watch is not a life-changing event, but it does tell the public that you can lead. The reason? How many people approach somebody wearing a watch to ask for the time? Plenty. Even in the era of smartphones, people ask the time. Athletes training outside in the rain or during a long session will not always have a phone nearby. Swimmers use a pace clock, so they seem to use watches less than endurance runners, but nearly any athlete can benefit from having a watch.