Best Fitness Trackers for Serious Athletes

By Stephanie Watson @WatsonWriter
December 31, 2015

These tough, versatile trackers can handle the most challenging workout.

Fitness wearables have evolved into highly efficient multi-taskers that let you check email, measure heart rate, count steps, and monitor incoming calls with a few swipes or button pushes. Yet these generalist devices don’t necessarily have the functionality to meet the needs of serious athletes. If you regularly push your body to the limits, and want a fitness tracker that can keep up, we present a list of devices that put as much depth and intensity into your workouts as you do. 


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Garmin Fenix 3

Garmin has established itself as a leader in the fitness watch category with its Forerunner models. Fenix 3 is an amped-up version of the Forerunner, with features geared to outdoor enthusiasts on top of the ones it already aims at runners, cyclists, and swimmers. You choose the activity (hike, run, trail run, run indoors, swim in the pool or open water, cross-country ski, bike indoors or out), and the built-in GPS will keep track of your distance, pace, and time. Regardless of whether running, biking, swimming, or a combination of the three (triathlon) is your sport of choice, you can upload your workout info to the Garmin Connect app and chart an impressive range of data, including your pace, workout duration, and distance over time. The Fenix will even give you recovery advice, estimating the time you should wait until your next intense workout to avoid overdoing it. The only feature missing is heart-rate tracking, for which you’ll need to pair Fenix with an optional chest strap. On your off-days, Fenix behaves much like other activity trackers on the market, charting steps, calories, distance, and sleep. The higher-end Sapphire version has a metal strap (the base model’s strap is rubber) and scratch-resistant glass, but those premium features come at a steep price. The watch is also bulky, in part because of its heavy battery, but the upside is it lets you run, swim, or climb for 20 to 50 hours without recharging.

Moov Smart Multi-Sport Fitness Coach & Tracker

Moov doesn’t just track your workouts – it also acts as a wearable trainer, offering real-time feedback to help you improve your performance. Three sensors in the band record your motion, and use those measurements to give you continuous advice, both through a talking voice and live charts on the app. Just like a human trainer, Moov will tell you if your form is poor or your stride is too short, and then give you tips to improve your performance and prevent injuries. It also offers progressively harder workouts so you don’t get stuck in a fitness rut. Moov has apps for running, fitness walking, swimming, cycling, cardio boxing, and the 7-minute workout. Its battery is relatively dependable, lasting for about two weeks without a recharge (assuming your routine involves an hour-long workout four days a week).

PUSH Strength

What looks like a medieval arm guard is actually a smart armband designed for the kind of warriors who do their conquering in gym weight rooms. As you lift and press, PUSH analyzes your force, power, strength, and velocity. The tracker counts your reps and lets you know how long to rest between them. It also recommends adding weight and reps when it senses you’re breezing through your current program. At the end of each session, the band will display a summary of your routine, and how it compared to your previous workout, so you can track your progress over time. One thing it won’t do is give you tips on form. So if your squats or dead lifts are out of alignment, you’ll need to ask a real, human trainer for advice. PUSH also doesn’t have a built-in heart-rate monitor, although you can connect an external monitor to it.

Polar V800

This fitness watch is aimed squarely at triathletes – runners might find the extra modes and features somewhat superfluous. As you toggle between running, swimming, and cycling, screens display your distance, laps, heart rate, and pace – pretty standard stuff. But the additional assessments – strength, heart rate, oxygen consumption, and performance – enhance your workouts by letting you assess your fitness level. GPS is built in, but you’ll have to add a separate chest-strap monitor if you want to track your heart rate. With the monitor, the watch will keep you in your target heart zone – for example, fat burning if you’re looking to trim up. Sync up to the Polar Flow app on your iPhone or Android, and you’ll see not only a rundown of your training session but also daily measures like your activity, steps, and sleep. The solid battery will power through 13 hours of intense workouts, and claims to achieve 50 hours of life in low-power mode. Polar V800 is a solid watch, albeit somewhat chunky, but the advantage to having a large screen is that it’s easy to read. Also, the double-buckled-strap isn’t likely to slip off your wrist, no matter how much you sweat.

TomTom Runner Cardio

The original TomTom Runner underwent a makeover, and emerged with several new features and a higher price tag than its predecessor. This watch is solid through and through, with a thick, durable rubber strap and a waterproof display that can weather depths of 165 feet. The Runner Cardio also offers a feature many of its competitors don’t have – a built-in heart-rate sensor – along with an accelerometer and GPS. You can track distance, time, intervals, and heart-rate zones on the ground, cadence on the bike pedals; and stroke type, efficiency, length, distance, and speed in the pool. The TomTom MySports app lets you sync all the data from your runs, swims, and bike rides straight to your phone.

Skulpt Aim

Skulpt Aim differs from other fitness trackers in that you don’t wear it on your wrist. Instead, you place the sensor-lined device, which is about the size of a smartphone, on various parts of your body. It uses a technology called electrical impedance myography, sending pulses through your skin to measure body fat percentage and muscle quality – which essentially means how much power your muscle contains for its size. Pair up Skulpt Aim with a smartphone app, and you’ll get a window into your body, and some unique insight into whether your workouts are actually working. Serious weight trainers can look at each muscle group individually, and fine-tune their workouts if their biceps aren’t quite buff enough or their abs could use additional definition. It’s not the most user-friendly app on the market, requiring a lot of toggling to compare workouts from week to week, but it will give you far more insight on your body fat and muscle composition than your bathroom scale or a tape measure can provide. 

Garmin Forerunner 920 XT

One of Garmin’s other entries into the fitness-tracking category, the Forerunner 920 XT, is serious about its workouts. Whether you’re training for a triathlon or you run, cycle, and swim with a high level of intensity, this watch has your back, measuring just about every data point you’d need for these three activities. During swims, the Forerunner charts your distance, pace, stroke count, and number of laps. On runs, it figures out your pace, cadence, and heart rate. The biking feature uses GPS to analyze your speed and distance. This tracker will even let you see how your performance improves over time. Having so many features doesn’t come cheap, though. The Forerunner is one of the priciest multi-sport trackers on the market.


December 31, 2015