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The Best GPS Sports Watches for Your Fitness Needs

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Turns out, there are certain advantages to getting an actual GPS watch rather than tracking your runs, rides, and swims on your activity tracker or an app. (Those are great, too, for other reasons! Just check out these 8 New Fitness Bands We Love!)

“Having a GPS watch (which includes a heart-rate monitor) provides more info than you would get from a fitness tracker,” says exercise physiologist and owner of Trimarni Coaching and Nutrition Marni Sumbal. For one: “Many GPS watches have multiple screens (that you can easily switch between), so instead of just looking at current heart rate or total distance covered (or, seeing nothing as some activity trackers do not have screens at all), you can see current pace, average pace, current heart rate, and current distance/time all on one screen,” explains Sumbal.

What’s more, many watches allow you to upload your training data to a site like Training Peaks. “If you are working with a coach or trainer, being able to download data for their review is very helpful,” says Sumbal. Training Peaks actually offers a service that will match you to a coach and guide your training; if you prefer to run sans coach, it also allows you to upload and review your own data (for free!), which lets you track, measure, and plan future workouts/goals.

So, how do you find the right GPS watch for you?

“There are very affordable GPS watches that will track the bare necessities, but then there are some that have more features and cost a bit more,” says Sumbal. Which one you get depends on (other than your budget!) what you plan to use it for. We’ve rounded up four great options—each with unique features—to help you pick the one that best suits your workout needs, whatever they may be.

Garmin Forerunner 920XT

For triathletes, this is a game-changer. It tracks all three of your sports with nitty, gritty details and feedback like stroke type identification when swimming—it even estimates your VO2 Max! ($450; garmin.com)

Polar M400

For anyone reluctant to choose between an activity tracker over a GPS watch, here’s your 2-in-1 solution. This GPS watch also tracks your activity (like sleep quality), gives you alerts when you’ve been sitting for too long, and looks pretty cool to boot (so you won’t mind wearing it day-to-day). ($250; polar.com)

TomTom Runner

Simple and inexpensive, but packed with everything you need (per Sumbal: must-haves include heart rate, distance, and pace), including TomTom’s own GPS technology. ($150, tomtom.com)

Suunto Ambit3

Not to downplay the other features in this great watch (it tracks activity, like steps, and estimates recovery time, for example), but we’re pretty amped about the “Workout Celebration” app that alerts you when you’ve done enough exercise to warrant a glass of champagne (Let’s get #WillRunForBubbly trending!). ($400, suunto.com) (Not ready to commit? Use your smartphone! Check out these 5 Fun Ways to Use Apple's New iPhone 6 Health App.)

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