Reviewed by Kirsten Boyd
I am not a fanatical runner. But I am 5 months postpartum and have more than a little weight to shift and thus time to bite the bullet. I intended to use this watch as an aid to get my fitness back and to give me motivation to go running again.
The TomTom Runner Cardio Watch is GPS enabled and designed for runners to track their progress. It has a built in cardiac monitor that allows the user to see their heart rate and observe its response to exercise. Via the mysterious medium of Bluetooth it can be synced to the TomTom MySports mobile app for data on your smartphone at your fingertips. It is waterproof to a depth of 50m should you fancy a quick dip whilst exercising and has a decent battery life of 8-10 hours constant use.
Set up and charging
The watch needs to be connected to your PC initially via the provided USB cable and docking cradle to charge it and register/sync with TomTom MySport. The docking station is located under the watch strap, meaning it can be stood nicely whilst charging (the strap can also be detached for this purpose). A small gripe of mine was that I found it quite difficult to detach the watch from the docking station as it isn’t clear when attached which way to disengage it.
First connection will prompt you to download the TomTom MySport webtool, which is straightforward and user friendly. It also links to MapMyFitness and I was able to log into my old account. My personal data (height, weight, gender, DOB) was populated automatically.
If you have a smart phone you can download the TomTom MySports app and following your run you can upload your stats. This is a great incentive. You can see the distance of your run, your time, stride length and average heart rate in addition to calories burned, pace and elevation. There is also a map of your route. It lists your runs and comparison can be made by clicking on each date. It is a simple, attractive app and I found this one of the major benefits of having the watch.
Appearance and comfort
I found the watch attractive and easy to wear. It is not small and thus eye catching but not particularly heavy. Mine is red and black. The strap is made from soft flexible rubber and feels durable. The watch is easy to put on by means of a three pronged buckle and comfortable to wear, even when sweating. The remaining strap can be fasted by means of another three pronged buckle which slots onto the holed strap, so it remains slim and tidy.
Introduction to the watch
The watch has a large (approx. 1 inch square) digital screen with the time and date clearly displayed.
There is a light that can be activated by touching the right side of the screen – if I’m honest I found it a little hard to activate as there seems to be a very specific spot that needs to be touched in order for it to come on. Below the screen there is a small square joypad. Pressing to the left shows the battery life, storage, whether the GPS is enabled and which software version you are using. Navigating down brings up a list of options: clock, sensor (heart rate), phone, aeroplane mode, options, profile, standards. These menus allow you to adjust the settings, turn on/off the cardiac monitor, sync the watch to your phone, and input your personal profile data. There is also a useful demo mode that allows you to see what the watch can do prior to starting a run and a night mode that lights the watch as you run.
One of the biggest pulls of this watch is the addition of a cardiac monitor, negating the need to wear a cumbersome chest strap in addition to a running watch in order to provide a thorough record of stats. The cardiac monitor is located underneath the watch screen. The instructions are clear that the watch should be fastened just below the wrist towards the elbow in order for the heart rate to be accurately detected. For me it felt a little odd but only because I’m not really used to wearing a tightly fastened watch.
The cardiac monitor appears to be accurate and allows you to train using personalised heart rate intensity zones: 1 easy; 2 fat burn; 3 endure; 4 speed; 5 sprint. These zones are age related and personalised according to your resting heart rate, as measured by the watch. Heart rate monitoring during exercise is a valuable tool as it enables you to observe your body’s reaction to exercise. You can choose an intensity zone that matches your training goal and this will help you reach that goal sooner. A graph that is created as you run that allows you to monitor your heart rate and observe if you are staying within your desired zone, allowing you to adjust your speed as necessary.
Hitting the joypad to the right allows you to select run, treadmill or stopwatch and to start your activity. On beginning your run you have to wait for the watch to locate you via TomTom’s QuickGPSFix technology. I believe the time waited will vary depending on you location: I live in the county and so it took only seconds but in more populated areas it may take several minutes. It is recommended that you update the software via PC regularly to allow this to work to its optimum.
After you have been located you are then prompted to warm up; following this via a small vibration you are prompted to start running. During your run the watch display can be altered to display the data you are most interested in, e.g. time, distance or heart rate.
Whilst running you can select goals, laps, interval training, zones or race.
An example goal might be a particular distance, time or number of calories burned.
Laps mode allows you to track your pace over time to allow you to improve your training.
Interval training can be set up and the watch will tell you by way of a vibration to move on from warmup to work/rest and cooldown; the number of sets is inputted for this purpose.
You can set the watch to run within desired zones, including pace, speed and heart rate.
The watch also allows you to race against your previous times or to use other peoples’ recorded MySports scores.
On completion of your run you press the joypad to the left twice to stop. I found this a bit of a mystery at first, and it took me some time to figure this out. In contrast however I somehow managed on my second run to turn off the monitoring about three quarters in, which meant that all of the data was not actually recorded, which I found really quite annoying. I am not sure how this happened, perhaps on the cuff of the sleeve of my coat. This has not happened since, but perhaps as I am more careful to avoid this.
The battery claims to last 10 hours as a simple watch or 8 hours when using the cardiac monitor continuously. I am running about 30 minutes three times a week and have charged it weekly, although the battery has never got to a critical point and so I suspect I do not need to charge it this regularly at this level. I believe a more serious runner using the cardiac monitor daily might need to charge it much more frequently.
Conclusion and overall impression
This watch allows you to combine the incentive of recording your running stats with monitoring your heart rate. I admit I’m a bit of a geek and seeing my stats (hopefully) improve is what spurs me on to continue running, and I particularly appreciated the use of the MySports app designed for this purpose. However, there are multiple activities on the watch I know I personally will probably not use and found somewhat confusing to navigate. On the one hand I would be concerned that I might be so preoccupied with programming the watch that I would not look where I was running, or that my pace would slow to a snail’s pace. On the other hand these activities do help with the sometime monotony of running by setting goals and allowing you to monitor your progress. There is clearly a balance to be had, but with its multiple facilities and the somewhat hefty price tag of £219.99 I feel this watch is a tool more for the more serious runner than the likes of me.
Available to buy from TomTom here.