Here is a list of seven different audio products athletes can take a look at this Christmas holiday shopping season. You’re likely going to need to experiment with different products to see which ones work best for your physical activity, as wear and tear can easily destroy pricey electronics and peripherals.
Polk Audio UltraFit 3000a Earbuds
The $79.95 Polk Audio UltraFit 3000a earbuds have proven to be an ideal product for athletes that want good quality sound that are durable and won’t fall out while training and racing. There have been some complaints that they aren’t comfortable for some wearers, but I didn’t have any problems using the in-ear buds and the around-the-ear-bendable hook–the earbuds are sweat-proof and offer decent sound quality for the price and purpose of the product.
I think Polk Audio’s UltraFit line of product is ideal for athletes that likely overlook Polk – and other established audio manufacturers – thinking they don’t have products geared towards active people. However, the Polk Audio UltraFit 3000a earbuds are a solid product that deserves more recognition than it has received.
Garmin Forerunner 210
This is an entry-level running $249.99 GPS, just $20 more than the Garmin Forerunner 110, and provides athletes with the ability to track distance, time, pace, and heart rate – designed for indoor track use or outdoor use on the roads and trails.
Garmin has clear control of the running GPS market, and while Timex, Polar, and a select few other manufacturers are involved, athletes can expect the highest innovation from Garmin. The Forerunner 210 has a friendly user interface and connects quickly to satellites for San Francisco Bay Area runners. Despite it still being an entry-level device, the Forerunner 210 obviously works with the Garmin Connect run data analysis and sharing software.
The Garmin Forerunner 10 is a no-frills GPS monitor for $129.99 MSRP, but doesn’t have a heart rate monitor, so I didn’t include it. If you only want to track speed and distance, then the Forerunner 10 could be an ideal device. It’s a great choice if you simply want to track distance and record time splits.
I know many of you likely run with your Google Android or Apple iPhone smartphone, but the Finis Neptune has a unique, niche consumer base. For athletes looking for a durable, waterproof MP3 player, the Neptune is one of the best I’ve used. It only has 4GB of internal storage, but that should be plenty for your training sessions. It has a built-in USB that can be connected to a PC or laptop for charging and transferring files to and from the device.
For those unfamiliar, Finis is a swim-focused company that makes a handful of different electronics for those splashing in the pool.
Yurbuds Ironman Inspire PRO Performance Earbuds
Marketed as the ideal pair of earbuds for athletes, as they are supposed to fit well and not fall out of your ears during exercise. Some people love them, and other people hate the Yurbuds–and I found them to be more than adequate during training. I was able to use them, and despite not the best sound clarity, the earbuds didn’t fall out and tend to be easy to clean once a workout or race is over.
It’s nice that these earbuds were designed to endure water, sweat, and other moisture while out training or racing–don’t expect to try and go swimming with them. But thankfully you shouldn’t destroy them with some sweat and a splash of sticky, sugary sports drink. The Yurbuds Ironman Inspire Pro earbuds have a $59.99 MSRP.
SanDisk Sansa Clip Zip
The SanDisk line of flash-based MP3 players continues to be my favorite MP3 player for exploring the world–the Apple iPod might have the glitz and glamour, but the SanDisk Sansa line of MP3 players simply works. The MP3 player plays music files, audiobooks and podcasts, and even has a color screen. Although the Apple iPod Shuffle is a great product for athletes, I like the ability to simply drag-and-drop files onto the MP3 player without needing to deal with iTunes.
The 4GB model is available for less than $40 and should prove to be durable enough for runners and cyclists that don’t plan to jump into the water.
Finis Swimsense Performance Monitor
It is difficult to try and get accurate tracking for pool or open water swims, and it can be difficult to track swim workouts and physical efforts. The unit is worn on a swimmer’s wrist and is easy to use, offers decent accuracy, light weight and simply works–the device seems to burn through its battery quickly, and timing splits in smaller pools is sometimes difficult.
Bonus Item: Not designed specifically for athletes, there are certain products that just seem to endure the physical abuse that athletes dish out on products. I’ve found any Shure earbud audio product I’ve owned has turned out to be a great product to use while running, though the higher price tag of something like the Shure SE215, SE315, or SE425 could scare away athletes–I have a few older pair of Shure earbuds that have withstood countless training runs and trail half marathons without the wires showing signs of age.
Athletes have a growing number of audio-related products that we can choose from, but trying to select the appropriate products can be an extremely difficult task. You’re likely going to have to destroy some products before finding the right accessories that you can use while out running, cycling, swimming, or otherwise enjoying the outdoors.