Opinion – Sports Profiles

So we’ve probably all worked out that I’m quite opinionated by now! I like to think that I’m just saying what we’re all thinking 🙂

Today we’ll talk about “sports profiles”. Now, to me, a sports profile, app, whatever you want to call it consists of a specific mode on a device for handling a given sport. Now don’t get me wrong, some of them are basically the same. Take running and cycling for example. These use speed and distance and sometimes cadence and power. The difference between them is often as little as changing speed (miles per hour) out for pace (minutes per mile). They also add the right labels so you can tell one from the other after upload and keep them separate.

Then we have swimming. Swimming is different, and needs to be treated differently. Garmin are a great example of this with their rest timer, repeat timer, and easy to read screen inversion which shows when you’re resting. This is a great example of a specialised sport profile.

Then we have the others. Sometimes hundreds of others, all different in name only. Polar even brags about how many sport profiles they have. Don’t fall for this marketing, all they did was think up 130 names of sports. This is not a feature. I could quite easily have typed those names myself.

In anticipation of an upcoming holiday I added windsurfing. This profile is identical to running. Identical. I was hoping for the ability to auto-lap my tacks/gybes so that I could track distance or speed in a useful way. When I’m windsurfing I don’t really have time to create laps manually as I’m a little busy. The watch can track changes in heading so this would be easy enough to implement and would then genuinely be a different sport profile/app. Same for surfing, I should be able to track my progress on the way out and the way in automatically. Paddling looks very different to surfing for a watch with this many sensors. Even wakeboarding, I ought to be able to identify some tricks based on movement (not necessarily the tricks I can do!).

I’ve picked on Polar here, but I think it’s a problem on most platforms with vendors renaming a generic profile and calling it done. We should demand more from these devices and companies, or at the very least call them out when the marketing people “add features” that engineering didn’t put time into.

I’d be interested in your thoughts below as usual.


  1. Nice point.
    130 profiles…ridiculous.
    Accelerometer can be very usefull in a lot of profiles (rowing, weights etc.) And is underused.
    What you need of a watch is:
    1/Accurate sensors…no use of a 40% accuracy factor..better to follow body sensations at this point.
    2/Good weight/size/battery/look so its not a burden for long sessions, you dont have to charge it every day, you are not ashame of i
    3/ Some progammable trainings like intervals, swimming program etc.
    4/ Some help for recovery time
    5/Historic of activities, some stats for stimulation

    Then having music, maps could interest a good part of the community. I m ok with mp3, and maybe a back to start…for hiking i think my phone do the job better.

    I was gona buy a 935 tri bundle, i think i will get the vantage V insteed. Any opinion about this choice? (Fenix 5 is less good from my point of view than 935, fenix 5 plus is different and for different profiles)

    Thks for your work.

    • Hi in my opinion the forerunner 935 is the better choice right now if you’ll only have one device. I have the luxury of a whole box of devices to take out with me so I can enjoy the Vantage plus points like the nicer interface while also keeping all of the functionality elsewhere.
      I take my FR935 on every activity for recording purposes. I occasionally use my Fenix (this is mainly a work watch with metal band) and often swap in the Suunto, polar etc. to see where they are feature wise. Garmin now have stability and broad feature support and seem to have chosen features over polish. This is great for Suunto and Polar (and others) because if Garmin polished their features there would be no way to compete!

  2. Thx! I was quite decided for the vantage..but i like the rationality you put in your judgements and i trust them.

  3. Rowing comes to mind immediately. It may be akin to Running, but in case of Garmin, they added stroke rate (instead of cadence), recalculated pace to the 500 m base, and added distance per stroke (a calculated output). Quite a decent way to update cycling, I’d say.

    • Yes it’s that kind of customisation that makes a new profile worthwhile and I’d like to see more of that from all of these manufacturers.

  4. Hi,

    have you seen the GPS from Omata? Its a different take.

    • Thanks I took a quick look and it looks like a great device. Not for me though, it’s way too specific!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.