Get a Triathlon Watch. Your PR is Waiting!

triathalon swimmers

If you’re reading this, chances are you have already crushed a few hills and swam plenty of laps. You’re ready to take the next step and milk the most out of your multi-sport training.

Keep your eyes on the sweet prize of crossing the finish line as you browse the triathlon watch options, while keeping in mind that the key to success is in understanding that participation in multiple sports is a lifestyle that includes recovery.

A good triathlon watch will indicate when you should rest and when you should bump things up a notch.

Quick answer: What are the best triathlon watches for the money in 2020?

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A good triathlon watch can monitor not only your miles, but also track your heart rate, oxygenation, sleep patterns and provide analytics that can help you understand how to piece together a custom-fit training plan.

A great triathlon watch will have a battery that can be trusted to stick with it and literally go the extra miles with you whether you’re swimming, biking, running or racing all three.

If you talk with people in the world of endurance sport, you don’t have to look far to find that person whose watch died out on them mid-race. Don’t be that sad triathlete!

What Makes Tri Watches So Darn Special?

The difference between a multi-sport triathlon watch and a typical running/biking watch is that it is capable of tracking outdoor and often indoor swims. Tri watches that are currently on the market also have some sophisticated technologies that monitor blood oxygenation, sleep patterns and more.

This informs users of when to push training and, conversely, when it might be best to recover. In addition, uploading music is easy on many of these devices which can motivate training.

Finally, if you’re logging long miles, inevitably you will happen onto a poorly marked trail or a detoured roadway. Several triathlon watches take safety and navigation very seriously and include a compass function, easy mapping, and emergency call features.

As you shop, determine which features matter most to you. It is truly possible to have it all in a multi-sport watch.

Should You Really Spend the Money?

Triathlon watches can do what treadmills and spin bikes cannot. They can track your miles outside of the gym whether running, biking or swimming.

In addition, tri watches make it simple to have all of your analytics in one place. Garmin Connect, for example, automatically syncs your data so you can review it day to day and year to year.

If you never swim, then a basic running watch or cyclometer might be your best bet. But, if swimming is part of your life, take the tri watch plunge!

A multi-sport watch can help you train healthy and productively. It is the tool many athletes employ to take them from just keeping up with the pack to crushing their goals.

How to Choose?

When browsing all of the multi-sport watch options out there it is important to determine what features you need. This largely comes down to your goals.

If you plan on training for an Iron Man or have Ultra Marathons included in your athletic plan, you might need the watch with the longest battery life. Other features you find on these watches might seem more frivolous to you.

Some runners and cyclists don’t trek off trail. For them, enhanced compass features might not be worth the extra expenditure. But, others might be biking and swimming across the continent. In which case, navigation and emergency features might be essential.

The point is, don’t worry about what others at the start line are wearing. Think about what will get you to the finish line!

Things to consider

  • Water Resistance.  
  • Do you have to purchase additional equipment to access the features you need on the watch.
  • Are you a small person? If so, size will matter. Some triathlon watches are quite large.
  • Durability. Whether trail running or cycling, it is not uncommon to occasionally take a dive outside of the lake. Consider watches that cater to this reality!
  • Tech support and app compatibility is a must with a multi-sport watch if you want to get the most out of it. Whether you want to easily load music or browse your stats on a big screen, consider buying a watch from a company that has a track record of providing good technical support and easy data transfer.
  • Battery life.
  • Emergency features.
  • Fun Features. Music storage.

Best Triathlon Watches to Consider

Here’s a quick look at our favorites for the best triathlon watches for the money. See if one of these models meets your needs.

1. Garmin Forerunner 945 GPS Watch

The Garmin Forerunner 945 GPS has a super long battery life, 50 meter water resistance, damage resistant glass watch face, pulse oximeter, basic wrist heart rate monitor with the ability to upgrade with add-on tools and ample music storage.  It’s compatible with Garmin Apps and Strava. And, it is slightly smaller than other tri watches, which puts it in the running for smaller athletes.

Garmin Forerunner 945 GPS Watch

 Pros

  • 50 m water resistance and swim lap tracking.
  • Rugged watch face.
  • Slightly smaller than most.
  • Plenty of room for music storage.
  • Approximately 10 hours of battery time when GPS and music are turned on. But, a whopping 2 weeks of battery time possible when in smart mode!
  • Watch face/readout has lots of customizable options.
  • Advanced analytics at play and at rest. And plenty of add-on options available for purchase to increase heart rate and cadence analytics accuracy.
  • Space for emergency contacts.
  • Compass and advanced tracking features.

Cons                   

  • Added features means it is a bit pricier than more stripped down tri watches.
  • While the watch can provide extremely accurate heart rate and cadence feedback beyond wrist-based measurements. Accessing the added accuracy requires the purchase of additional equipment like a chest strap and/or foot pod.

Takeaway

This watch has all the bells and whistles that can provide the feedback you need to take your training and racing to the next level, with the added bonus of fun via music and safety through enhanced navigation tools. The battery is dependable and can see you through to the end of ultras.

It has added GPS orienting and emergency features that might appeal to more adventurous athletes who go off the beaten path. This is a solid choice for any athlete hoping to invest in a training tool that provides feedback regarding working out, resting and sleeping.

2. Polar Vantage M GPS Watch

Yes, performance is priority. But, dang, this is a good looking tri watch. But, does its utility measure up? The answer is yes. The Polar Vantage M GPS is a solid, affordable choice in the world of tri sport watches.

Polar Vantage M GPS Watch

It doesn’t have every feature other models offer. But, it has the basics and is reliable. Polar has its Polar Running Program. But, for all three sports (swimming, biking and running) this watch is compatible with outside apps like Strava.

In addition, let’s face it, not all tri athletes have endless space on their forearms. Polar seems to understand this. This tri watch is slightly smaller and slimmer than some other tri watches.

Pros

  • Polar claims to have good accuracy for a wrist-based heart rate watch.
  • 24/7 analytics.
  • Sleek design.
  • A system called Polar Training Load Pro pieces together your cardio and muscle loads together along with perceived exertion to help you gain a deeper understanding of your personalized training.
  • Water resistance to 30 meters.

Cons

  • If you need music storage, this might not be the watch for you.
  • GPS capability is solid, but basic.
  • Battery life is 30 hours, which is decent, but might not be enough for some.
  • Water resistance of 30m is also good. But, it is not the best out there.

Takeaway

The Polar Vantage M GPS is a solid, sleek and affordable tri training tool. It is a good value for budget shoppers. For ultra-adventure athletes, the bare bones navigation features and 30 hour battery might not be enough.

3. Garmin Fēnix 5X Plus

Run, bike, swim, pay for stuff, listen to music, navigate new terrain…the Garmin Fenix 5X Plus is the tri watch of the multi-tasker’s dreams. You’ll get up to 13 hours of battery life while its multiple features are turned on and 20 days with the added features off!

Garmin Fēnix 5X Plus, Ultimate Multisport GPS Smartwatch, Features Color Topo Maps And Pulse Ox, Heart Rate Monitoring, Music and Pay, Black with Black Band

That’s a lot. The makers seem to understand that this 24/7 analytical watch will be worn by the serious athlete who attacks terrain.

The Garmin Fenix 5X Plus has a scratch resistant watch face surrounded by a carbon titanium bezel and case. But, when it’s time to get wet, the Fenix 5X is ready to swim.

Pros

  • Access and compatibility with all of Garmin’s navigation and fitness apps and analytics and more.
  • Space for 500 songs.
  • Pulse oximeter and wrist heart rate.
  • Garmin Pay connectivity
  • Rugged construction.
  • Colorful topo maps.
  • Water resistance to 50 meters.
  • 13 hr. battery with music and navigation on.
  • Pulse Ox Acclimation sensor, particularly useful for high altitude workouts.

Cons

  • Large.
  • More features = higher price tag.
  • Plethora of features might overwhelm some users.

Takeaway

The Garmin Fenix 5X is a souped-up workhorse. If you want a tri watch that is dependable and has virtually everything, this is a good choice.

Final Thoughts

Exercise science and experience has shown that athletes reach their goals when they understand both how and when to exercise and honor the importance of recovery. Today’s triathlon watches enable the user to get biometric feedback that can enhance their training.

Tri watches can be found at various price points with practical features, enabling many multi-sport athletes to find their fit. In short, some watches do a lot, some do it all. Well, we are waiting for the ability to shoot spider webs from the watch. But perhaps one day…

top image license: Adobe Stock

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