Initial impression of new TomTom Runner Cardio

Discussion in 'Product Reviews' started by SI barefoot, Jul 25, 2014.

  1. SI barefoot Barefooters

    Member Since:
    Jul 15, 2014
    Message Count:
    161
    Pre-review summary: I really really like this product. The review focuses mostly on the heart rate monitor because that is what distinguishes this unit from the rest.

    I've been doing a copious amount of research to find ways to improve my running fitness and overall life happiness. Running barefoot has taught me a lot. Better technique and more efficiency. It has also greatly reduced the amount of pain and fatigue I experience throughout the day. Proper attire helps by seeming to "disappear" from your sense of awareness, making you feel more naked and natural, and that is one big reason (among many) I run in merino wool. In spite of all of these wonderful things, overdoing it is still a real threat that can chip away at all my new found life benefits. A way to curtail the likelihood of overdoing it is to train based on your heart rate, and your heart rate alone. The idea is that if you can keep your heart rate in a certain range, which happens to be relatively low, then your aerobic physiology will develop optimally. In order to comfortably and conveniently monitor your heart rate while in motion you need a heart rate monitor.

    Most every heart monitor on the market uses a sensor that is attached to a strap that you wrap around your torso and it wirelessly communicates with a device on your wrist that gives you the results. IMO, the strap is functionally competent but is less than ideal. You can feel its presence, it starts to stink, it can chaff, and it will wear out and lose its elasticity. This new tomtom has the heart rate technology built into the wrist unit! It uses Mio alpha technology to read your pulse through the skin on your wrist. It uses a green spectrum light, which is a little different than the red spectrum used on pulse oximeters. Green light is a smaller wave length so it probably doesn't penetrate as deeply into the tissue as the red and therefore may not be as sensitive. This is ok, though, because it still has worked accurately and reliably for me. The instruction go as far as to say the monitor works best AFTER warmup. I figure this is because your vessels have dilated and your pulse has become more pronounced, making it easier for the unit to find what it is looking for. I have gotten some obviously bogus readings and to fix them I slid the unit up my forearm (maybe 1/4-1/2 inch) until the unit was firmly seated in place. I'm guessing it was vibrational interference that it registered from being a little too loose. When properly seated, it never felt too tight, just snug enough to leave indentations in my wrist after a 45 minute run. It didn't bother me one bit. The alarm/vibration it deploys when you are out of your set zone is nice and not too bothersome. You have many options for how you see your fitness zones. You can see them as your heart rate or as a fractional number. Easy is 1-2, fat burn is 2-3, endurance is 3-4 and so on.

    The GPS is as good as any. It finds the signal quickly and is very accurate, even under the moderate tree cover I usually run in (no melanoma for me!). There are a whole host of parameters you can fiddle with (pace, speed, laps, distance, etc) and the main running screen allows you to set 3 of those parameters for viewing at a quick glance. You can easily toggle through the other parameters while in motion thanks to its convenient control pad. One feature I would like to see is the ability to see the pace for each separate mile on the watch. You can see that info on the internet based software once you are back to your heavy smartphone or back home, so I forgive this shortcoming. The GPS function makes monitoring you fitness progress much much easier and quicker. It takes a lot of guess work out, too.

    The online interfacing is really cool (especially how it interfaces with google maps), but is not that different from all of the free apps you can use with your smartphone. It provides a thoroughly detailed analysis of your run, rich with statics and facts. You can view progress and PRs. I like the basic watch function. It looks sleek and trendy. The battery is a rechargeable lithium ion and it has a docking cradle that USBs into your computer. Undocking mine requires a little trick, but is very easy once that trick is learned. You just have to slide it off just right. Reported battery life is 8 hours if you are using both HR monitor and GPS at the same time, and 10 hours if only using one or the other. I'm sure it lasts for days just running the watch mode. I guess you'd need one on each wrist for super long ultras, lol. Just click the second one into action once the first dies, lol.

    The unit seem durable enough and I think it is water proof. The band is wide and secure. I can only hope it will last for years to come, but I think it should.

    In closing, I can sense that this device will become an invaluable training tool for me. It gives objective data and will help to monitor improvements easily. I highly recommend it to anybody wanting to improve their game. A word of caution, which could apply to any device designed to help improve performance, is to not let is govern your exercise. You are still in control and you are perfectly imperfect. You will regularly fall out of range and that is nothing to freak over. Just allow the device to give you a heads up and casually make adjustments. Remember, breath, relax and have fun!
    Josh16 and dutchie53 like this.
  2. Josh16 Barefooters
    1. Canada

    Member Since:
    Jul 2, 2014
    Message Count:
    196
    What about the weight? Was it bothersome? Did it change your arm movement any?
    I always ran with my smartphone but I am starting to like it less and less when not running plugged-in (music on).
    The price seems pretty steep as well.
    Also it looks pretty bulky on the pictures.
    Any idea how it compares to other alternatives? (I realize you did compare to the standard heart rate chest band, but is there any similar type of watch on the market or is it the only one using this type of technology.)
    Keep in mind, I never really used a heart rate monitor. I always felt human being has run for a quite years without it and did just fine.

    Sorry for all the questions. I'm sort of a curious person by nature!

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  3. SI barefoot Barefooters

    Member Since:
    Jul 15, 2014
    Message Count:
    161
    It doesn't encumber me at all. I love it, especially now that I have gone +20 miles with it. No changes to movement. It is kind of a big watch but it is light weight and fits comfortably on my wrist. It is expensive, but so is any other GPS heart rate set up, even the ones with the strap. I think the Garmin with the strap is $30 more. It is shocking how little extra effort it takes to push your heart rate out of its ideal aerobic zone. It keeps things in check. I think I will allow myself the occasional run without it and not pay attention to my heart rate, because, while not being 100% condusive to building your aerobic reserves, running faster is fun!
    Josh16 likes this.
  4. Josh16 Barefooters
    1. Canada

    Member Since:
    Jul 2, 2014
    Message Count:
    196
    Well, tbh, I don't have a lot of spare money at the moment, but you definitely got me interested in this nice piece of gear. I'll keep it on my radar for when I have spendable money.

    Thanks for the review.

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  5. Tristan-OH Barefooters
    1. Ohio
    2. New York

    Member Since:
    Sep 15, 2011
    Message Count:
    1,179
    It certainly does look much sleeker! My ol Garmin with its old school '90s lcd display seems pretty low tech in comparison lol. But I've been using my smartphone now anyhow, eliminating a little of what I used to carry.

    One thing that would sell me on it right now, and I'd order it tomorrow, is if it was compatible with my Linux computer. I'll have to check out the specs but I highly doubt it'll work on my computer and one reason I leave my Garmin at home now and take my phone which can upload data directly online anyhow.

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  6. Sid Barefooters

    Member Since:
    Jan 1, 2011
    Message Count:
    2,251
    With the GPS watches, I like the convenience of having access to start/stop tracking my runs and having the data at my wrist. I don't like the inconvenience of turning on my Windows machine, each time I want to sync. (My main computer is also linux.)

    I do like the convenience of using a smartphone to sync. Although, taking in and out of my armband is not convenient.

    I'm hoping that the new smartwatches might address some of these issues. The Pebble was okay, but not terribly sophisticated. I'm hoping the new smartwatches will also be nice enough to wear as a regular watch.
    Josh16 and Tristan-OH like this.
  7. Nerobot Barefooters

    Member Since:
    Jun 8, 2014
    Message Count:
    30
    If you have an ant+ gps watch (such as a Garmin) then you can upload your activities to certain smart phones and then upload them to certain online services.

    I do this with my Garmin and my Xperia phone, cutting out the computer step.
    Tristan-OH likes this.
  8. migangelo Barefooters
    1. Oregon
    2. California -...

    Member Since:
    Jun 5, 2010
    Message Count:
    2,500
    i've bought my two watches on ebay. if you don't need the latest and greatest you can save some money and still buy brand new. it just won't be this year's model but last years close out. i bought my first one as a refurb to save money. it broke twice and since it had a full year warranty garmin replaced it. the second time they gave me a brand new watch so i didn't have to be troubled with a possible malfunction again.

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  9. Tristan-OH Barefooters
    1. Ohio
    2. New York

    Member Since:
    Sep 15, 2011
    Message Count:
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    I hate the armbands personally, and its too hard to actually see the data on the phone on your arm. When I had an iphone for work I sometimes used it with an armband (mainly because I was on call anyhow), but when I finally got myself a modern smartphone it wouldnt fit, so I ordered one that said it would fit most 5" smartphones and that one didn't fit either. :mad:So I just gave up. But most of the time when its warm out I run with my hydration vest anyhow so it just slips into my front pocket and easy to take in and out. Still though I do prefer the convenience of being on my wrist.

    Hmm I've never heard of that, but since my Garmin can only connect via USB I am sure it doesnt support that. Personally I'd rather cut out the online step and just have it on my computer. Especially for my garmin Oregon for hiking, so I can create routes and stuff overlayed on topo maps. I just dont know of any good software that will work on Linux for this, and even the online software needs the device to be synced over usb with at least a browser plugin.

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    Josh16 likes this.
  10. Sid Barefooters

    Member Since:
    Jan 1, 2011
    Message Count:
    2,251
    Can you run it on linux using a virtual machine running windows? I used to be able to do that with the Nike watch, until Nike changed the software, but never with my Garmin 305.

    I'll wait until the new smartwatches come out. I like the idea of having a phone just in case. I've come across water mocs and rattlesnakes in my area. :D

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