After months spent perfecting your garden and home workouts, it’s only natural that you’re hungry for adventure. But before you embark on your solo expedition in search of greater fitness, we suggest you take this opportunity to hit pause and take stock of your training tech. More specifically, GPS watches. Today’s trackers clock much more than how far and fast you move. With hundreds of calibrated sport modes, heart rate monitoring, motion sensors, barometers, compasses and even blood oxygen sensors, they are effectively mini-performance labs on your wrist.
These next-generation GPS watches don’t just keep pace when your quest for extra stamina goes off-road – they can help you hit the right training intensity and provide feedback that ensures your workouts are truly benefiting your fitness, too. They even reveal if your sleeping patterns are undermining your efforts, plus which workout to choose next, based on how well you’ve recovered overnight.
That’s a lot of tech to get to grips with. So the Men’s Health Lab experts strapped on the best coaching watches money can buy and put them through rigorous testing on the roads, trails and pandemic-induced backyard boot camps. Now we can reveal the tech that really pushes you to make progress. Try to keep up.
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Fēnix 6S Solar, Solar-powered Multisport GPS Watch
Training for a trail marathon, an assault on Mont Blanc, or an Ironman? If you can stomach the price tag, this is the complete multisport watch for you. It boasts style, accuracy and, in saver mode with solar help, up to 59 days of battery life. There’s also offline Spotify, colour maps and some everyday smarts, such as contactless payments.
It’s a little chunky, but this offers more fitness insights than any other watch on test, from training impact and excellent navigation to decent rep counting.
COROS APEX Pro Premium Multisport GPS Watch (Black)
The Apex Pro is basically a Fenix 6 but lighter, at 59g – and lighter on features, with fitness tools that don’t quite match Garmin’s top-end tracker. Thankfully, it’s gentler on the wallet, too. It packs an impressive 40-hour GPS battery that extends up to 100, estimates how much stamina you’re burning, and has 200 pre-loaded strength workouts to follow.
A solid option for those new to adventure, it’s equipped with a useful suite of sensors (including a pulse oximeter, a barometer and a compass), and it simplifies a range of stats with lively, easy-to-decipher displays. But you don’t get the breadth of fitness and recovery insights that some of the other watches offer, and the wrist heart rate is sketchy.
Forerunner 945, Premium GPS Running/Triathlon Watch
Designed for serious runners and triathletes who stay on the beaten track, the Garmin Forerunner covers every training detail you’ll need on the road and in the gym, pool and open water. It’s waterproof to 50m, has a battery life of 36 hours and monitors your VO2 max.
Training insights rely on an accurate measurement of your heart rate, and this watch’s sensor is among the most precise. Its battery holds up well, too, offering at least a week’s training per charge. A crisp, clear screen, music, maps, excellent customisation and smart notifications finish off a brilliant swim-bike-run tool.
Polar Grit X Multisport GPS Watch
The trail and endurance-friendly Grit X combines GPS, heart rate and a 40-hour battery life (extendable to 100 hours), with turn-by-turn navigation and smart fuelling tips for staying energised and avoiding “the wall” when you’re going long. It suggests guided workouts based on your overnight recovery and has a fitness test that you can literally do lying down.
It lacks the full adventure features of the Fenix 6 Pro but it’s a very capable watch for the price. Excellent battery life, decent navigation, and you won’t find its innovative fuelling feature anywhere else. The heart rate accuracy is hit and miss, but you also get the best sleep and recovery insights going.
Suunto 9 Baro GPS Watch
This Suunto packs 80 sport modes, but the headline is a battery that extends to 120 hours. It also offers reminders for when you need to switch settings and features such as route discovery and waypoint navigation.
This 81g tank could probably survive a meteor strike. It combines motion sensor data and GPS for excellent accuracy, but it’s let down by a fussy interface, limited apps and a screen that’s harder to read than the other trackers here.
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