I got the most awesomest Christmas present ever this past Christmas. I know Christmas a while ago but I love this more every time I use it.

TomTom Spark Cardio + Music, GPS Fitness Watch + Heart Rate Monitor + 3GB Music Storage (Large, Black)

Mine is purple, not black.

I ruined my last phone by running with it. I know this sounds crazy but Djibouti is so hot and I sweat so much that even though it was just on my upper arm and inside a supposedly sweat and water protected case, the buttons and slots – like for earbuds and for charging – were destroyed. An Apple IT guy asked if I dropped it in water. Nope. I just am water for six months of the year here.

For a while I ran with an old iPod. It held a charge for two hours and then reset itself so almost weekly I had to completely reset and reload the iPod.

I’m a data geek. Slow, but I care about my numbers. I wanted a GPS watch, that was why I had run with my phone. And, I love to listen to podcasts while I run. But, I didn’t want to ruin an expensive phone again.

I wanted a watch with GPS and the ability to play music and I wanted a single device.

This was hard to find.

I started googling and researching and eventually found the TomTom Spark Cardio

Perfect.

Well, it isn’t perfect, but my complaints are minimal. Really, this was the watch I wanted.

And I got it!

My husband and my parents love me. Not the cheapest watch in the world, which is why it required the love of both my husband and my parents. But still. I see it as protection for my, more expensive, phone.

The watch can hold up to 3 GB of music (or, in my case, podcasts), loaded by syncing to a computer with iTunes.

It requires bluetooth earbuds. Which are also awesome. The only pain is that they have to be charged, of course. But bluetooth means there isn’t a long wire attaching my ears to my wrist. Nothing flapping around, nothing for my exhausted fingers to get tangled in. And the ones I got, Soundpeats, come with an extra piece that also loops into the ear so there is absolutely no slipping, no falling out, no need for pushing them back in or readjusting. I love these earphones. Oh, also? Great sound.

SoundPEATS Wireless Bluetooth Headphones In Ear Sport Earbuds for Gym/Workout (Bluetooth 4.1, CVC 6.0 Noise Cancelling, 6 Hours Talk time, Stereo, Secure Ear Hooks Design) – Black&Purple

The watch itself counts steps, calories, heart rate, distance, pace, and more. It has settings for running, biking, treadmills, gym workouts, even swimming. It can be set for distance, racing, pace, intervals, goals, and laps. And all the data can be uploaded online.

So, for example, this morning I wanted to run 12 x 2:00 with 2:00 rest intervals, a 1 mile warm-up and a 1 mile cool-down. I also wanted to listen to a podcast.

I hit play (they seem to play on random so I usually just take whatever happens to come up in the moment). Today it was On Being, with Krista Tippett. Not the best conversation for speed work, but I went with it. (bonus suggestion: if you haven’t read Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living by Krista Tippett, read it. One of my favorite recent books.)

I set the running setting to Intervals. Then I set the intervals to reflect my specific goals. Then I started running. At 1 mile, the watch vibrated, telling me to hit it for interval #1. I didn’t need to ever look down at my wrist (super important when running in Djibouti, even on roads. There are just too many obstacles: goats, garbage, dead cats, cars, holes. I trip and make myself bleed approximately once a year). For each interval and rest period, the watch vibrated. When I finished, it calculated my heart rate and my recovery rate. I plugged it into my computer to check the stats – my heart rate during the intervals, the distance covered each interval, the pace, etc.

(this is a pre-TomTom run and not the best form, but. Ah well.)

Then, with the watch set on the gym setting, I did some stretches, some hip exercises for my tight hip flexors, a couple pull-ups, and some foam rolling.

If I were really, really trying to track absolutely everything, I would have then set the watch to bike mode for my 1-mile ride to work at the International School of Djibouti. But I didn’t, I left it on the clock.

My two complaints are that I can’t fast forward the podcasts. I either have to listen all the way to the end and all the way through the commercials or I end up listening to one again, or have to remember where it cut off so I can start it up at that point on my phone later, while making lunch probably.

The other is that I can’t change the settings in the middle of a run without completely starting the run mode over. Sometimes I like to finish a medium length tempo run with a tabata workout. 10 x 20 seconds all out sprint with a 10 second walking rest. (If it sounds easy, you’ve never done it. Do it. Super hard. Super fun.) But I can’t change the watch from the tempo run as I’ve plugged it in to a tabata run setting without totally stopping the run, which sets the distance and time back to zero and means I’ve stopped running while I rearrange the numbers. Ultimately, not the end of the world. Either I do that, and then add the two runs together when I upload the data, or I do the tabata run by my old fashioned method of actually looking at the watch face. It is really easy to see, big and clear numbers, so I usually do that.

There have already been several extensive reviews written about all this watch can do, and how to make it do it, so I won’t bore you with all those details. Check out the reviews at Wareable, Expert Reviews, a YouTube review, and on the TomTom website.

Anyone else wear a TomTom? Do you have another running watch you love?

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