I'm running again - yay! I'll admit that I'm still struggling to rediscover my running mojo after injury earlier this year but I do at least get out for a run once a week as I lead a running club on a Tuesday night so I've no excuse. For the past couple of week's I've been using the TomTom Spark as my running watch during these sprint and hills training sessions with my friends and neighbours - putting it's heart rate monitor and running features through their paces.
The TomTom spark is a GPS Fitness Watch for running, walking, swimming, cycling, gym and more. With the Cardio option, the TomTom Spark comes with a built in heart rate monitor so you can track your effort as you run, or you can choose to workout in your heart rate zones. I've tried using a heart rate monitor in the past and I enjoy seeing the stats but I've previously only ever used a chest strap which is uncomfortable and easy to forget to put on when you go out for a run; having the HRM built into the back of the TomTom is a luxury that means I can see heart rate stats every time I run. This is particularly useful to me when I'm running a club session with intervals as I can use my watch to see when my heart rate is recovering after an interval. I've been really pleased with how accurate the heart rate monitor is, and despite needing to make sure the strap is quite firmly done up around your wrist, the watch strap is very comfortable.
Perhaps the biggest selling point for me of the TomTom Spark + Cardio + Music is in fact the music! I hate having to run with a phone for music so I gave that up some time ago. Recently I'd been really missing my music (and wanted to listen to the Couch to 5k tracks again) but the Bluetooth on my phone had died. Thankfully the TomTom Spark comes with the option to wirelessly connect to a pair of headphones. I've chosen to connect mine to my Aftershokz wireless headphones but you can choose to buy TomTom in-ear bluetooth headphones included with your TomTom Spark. The watch can hold upto 500 songs on it and you transfer them onto the device as playlists from iTunes or equivalent using the TomTom MySports app. I've packed mine full of fast dance music to get my feet moving at 180 strides per minute!
I've found the Spark really easy to configure. Using the touch-sensitive button on the watch I can set up pretty much all of the running sessions I'd want to using either time or distance intervals. It took me a while to get used to the fact that the watch didn't beep at me when I'd come to the end of each kilometer but I've now got used to the gentle buzz that it gives my wrist when I reach the end of an interval. I find the screen modes simple and easy to move between when I run - as you go you can see heart rate as a graph, % of time spent in different heart rate zones, time, distance and if you're running intervals, the time left until the end of that interval.
I use my TomTom Spark for running sessions mostly - I've hooked it up to automatically post my runs to Strava so that I can monitor routes and segments when I run. I also tried using the TomTom spark as a general purpose activity tracker to track my steps and sleep but as an active member of Bounts, I really want an activity tracker that will upload my steps to Bounts for me to earn rewards so I've defaulted back until TomTom can built an integration with Bounts (hint, hint). It's a shame though because the little fuel-gauge to indicate steps progress towards your goal is pretty neat and it would be good to have everything in one place so that my watch did everything, especially if I buy a pretty, colourful replacement strap! In it's default black it doesn't feel very sexy to me - not something I'd wear all day as my main watch (although, much sportier types might find it perfect).
The TomTom spark is perfect for running - I think that without music, the battery will get me through my 5-6 hour marathon I've got planned for next spring! I'm genuinely impressed. From the speed of the GPS signal location (no hanging around waiting to find a satellite!) to the ease of connection to my headphones, there's nothing complicated about the TomTom Spark, and yet it does pretty much everything you need it to.
But aside from running, I've also tested it out in the pool. I was very impressed by the accuracy of the distance and laps that it measured in the pool without a GPS signal. I don't often swim any more but it is nice to take a look at how my performance changes over time. And if you like stats...
...the TomTom MySports website has all the stats you can need! I think its a fabulously clean and simple user interface that allows me to understand my runs and my progress. If you are using your Spark as an activity tracker you can set goals and see how you're progressing towards them. With the heart rate monitor data I can see effort against the different points in my run as a coloured indicator. I'm really pleased with the functionality available in both the desktop app (for synching the watch) and the website (for viewing stats).
The TomTom Spark costs from £109.99 to £229.99 (with cardio, music and bluetooth headphones).