Runners are strange people, in the sense that no one will understand the level of annoyance when your watch dies half way through a race or if the start gun goes and you are still waiting for a GPS connection. Accuracy and battery life are (next to shoes) a hot topic of discussion at any running club gazebo.
That is why I was quite excited about trying out the TomTom Runner Cardio, the latest addition to the TomTom fitness watch range. The Runner Cardio comes in a range of trendy colours and offers a GPS, accelerometer and is waterproof.
The review device came in a sporty white and orange with a flexible rubber strap that felt comfortable on my wrist. As a running watch it was easy to set up and to get started. A navigation button below the face of the watch allows you to scroll through menu options, set the time and alarm.
Setting the time, adding your weight and measurements and starting a run was quick and straightforward. The device supports USB and Bluetooth data transfer and is compatible with the TomTom MySports mobile or desktop app. The watch wouldn’t sync with the app on my Nexus 5 phone, but it synced seamlessly when I installed the app on my iPad. The watch face shows the time and running information in clearly with white text on a black background and it offers a backlight for night runs.
The only negative was that the TomTom Runner Cardio is quite bulky. This is due to the addition of the heart rate monitor and it felt rather large on my wrist. The watch features an alarm to get you out of bed for those early morning runs, however I found it too bulky to sleep with and ended up not wearing it at night. When you compare it to other fitness watches the Runner Cardio is actually similar in size to competitor brands. Still, I would not recommend wearing this as your main a watch as it will definitely stand out in the boardroom.
My first run with the Runner Cardio was a race and I was thoroughly impressed when it picked up GPS signal in seconds (while a friend was cursing at her watch, which took significantly longer). In three runs over the course of the week the watch didn’t make me wait more than 5 seconds for it to find GPS. The heart rate monitor was accurate and it was interesting to see your heartrate on your wrist.
Chest strap heart rate monitors do not appeal to me and this is the one big advantage of opting for a watch with an integrated heartrate monitor. When switched on, green LED lights flash against your skin to detect your blood flow and then it gives a heart rate reading based on this. This does deplete the battery faster, but TomTom states that the device provides power for up to 10 hours of continued use with the GPS and heart rate monitor. I found that it lasted me for nearly a week between charges, considering that I usually only run 30-45 minutes per day four days a week. It won’t last for the average Comrades run (few watches will) but for day to day training and weekend races it will definitely add to your training efforts.
Training with the TomTom Runner Cardio
The Runner Cardio lets you choose between different training plans which includes setting a specific time or distance goal, racing yourself, running laps, a stopwatch function, intervals and heart rate training based on running according to specific heart rate training zones.
The heart rate zones are as follows: Easy (75-113bpm), Fat Burn (113-131bpm), Endure (131-150bpm), Speed (150-169bpm) and Sprint (169-187bpm). This allows you to set a heart rate level and you are then encouraged to speed up or slow down to remain within that zone. All of this can be tracked on the TomTom application or desktop software available for download from their website.
Over time you can graph your training and see your improvement. Post run you can also see the map of your run with your kilojoule burn, distance, duration, pace, speed and elevation. This is similar to what you would find on popular running applications and offers adequate information.
If you are looking for a running watch that does everything you need and more, the TomTom Runner Cardio is definitely worth considering, especially if you want to upgrade from an entry-level model. It sits at the higher end of the running watch market, but is well worth the price if you are looking for something with an integrated heart rate monitor. Visit the TomTom website for more information and full specs.