When you're trying to get back into shape, there's nothing more motivating than seeing some basic stats of your various workouts. Most of these devices aren't that expensive and you get a lot for what you pay. Also, there are quite a few solutions that are compatible with smart phones.
One of the first things that I noticed when I bought a GPS training device, a Garmin Edge 500, is how useful it was. The device was made for cycling, but it had no trouble tracking my weekly runs as well. Sure, it relied on the GPS to calculate distance and speed, but while I run, I don't really watch how much and how fast I'm running right now.
Currently, the Nike+GPS app for the iPhone is also a great companion for your workouts. The app will record all sorts of stats when you go for a run. If you'd rather have something for your iPod, then the Nike+iPod is the way to go. For $29, this little package will be able to monitor your training progress.
For most endurance athletes, listening to some tunes is a must. That's why we find the Nike+iPod a nice combination. With all of these devices, you can easily set goals and track your progress. While the iPhone and iPod solutions are made expressly for running, a dedicated device like the Garmin Edge 500 has the benefit of being quite accurate and precise, as well as working for a variety of fitness activities, like hiking, running, and cycling.
No matter what you use to stay in shape, even if it's just Google Maps, the trick is to stick with it and you'll see your progress.
[header image via Individual Sole]