Back in 2003, I was one of the slowpokes who was just getting a cell phone. My now-husband joked that I was like a boat in the ocean and no one could reach me. Now, I can’t imagine life without my cell phone. How did we not get lost constantly without navigation? How did we look up that actor who looks so familiar but you just can’t place him and you have to immediately pull up IMDB to figure it out? How did we manage going to the bank to physically deposit checks?
Likewise, as I felt behind the cell phone curve in 2003, I also felt behind the fitness tracker watch trend until just recently. It seems like everyone has some smart watch that’s improving their fitness. But I’m a minimalist (see: no cell phone until 2003), so I haven’t felt the need for one. But I decided to take one for the team. You know, donate my body for science and test out the new TomTom Spark GPS Fitness Watch. Now? Just like my cell phone, I don’t want to be without the thing. In the few weeks I’ve had it, I’ve only taken it off to charge. I’ve taken it off so little, in fact, that I discovered that your wrist can actually get smelly. Interesting, I know. But I’ve also discovered so much more.
First things first: When it comes to new technology, setup has got to be easy. No one wants to be intimidated by a new fancy piece of technology. No one has time to get a degree in Fitness Trackers to be able to operate these things. Luckily, it was super easy to get set up. I downloaded the TomTom MySports app on my computer and Android phone, registered, and connected my watch to get it charged, synced up and ready to go. The only thing that was even slightly tricky about the process was getting it plugged in. The port for the charger is on the inside of the watch, so there was just a slight learning curve figuring out how to line it up correctly. Once I did, I was all set.
Navigating the watch itself is pretty intuitive, although it does take some trial and error. The navigation button is a square, and you basically push the side of the square in the direction you want to go. It simply takes a bit of practice to learn which direction will take you to the places and information you want. You’ll get friendly with the left button, which exits you out, until navigating is second nature.
As you could maybe imagine given my techy history, I don’t regularly run with a Bluetooth headset. I know, this is shocking, but I even go super old school with headphones so I don’t have to worry about them budging from my ears. But one of the coolest features of the TomTom watch is that you can load music on it — up to 3GB or 500 songs — and connect it to the TomTom’s Bluetooth headset. (Also super easy: just drag and drop!) This lets you leave the phone in your locker at the gym or at home or at least put it away in your pocket and not have to fumble with it for music. Your super-rocking workout playlist is there without you having to worry about dropping your phone or if it’ll die mid-workout.
The TomTom has all of the basics, too, like heart rate monitoring and a step-counting feature. And you might think I’m not going to talk about those but you’d be wrong. As all of this was new to me; I want to sing all of its praises. The heart rate monitoring lets you say good-bye to chest straps as it detects your heart rate from your wrist. You can also select a zone to match your training goals so you know whether to pump up your intensity or take it down a notch.
The watch tracks steps, active time, calories spent, distance and sleep. I found the data to be hugely interesting. At first it was interesting just to see how many steps I took on a daily basis. I can pretty solidly count on 10,000 but it does fluctuate depending on whether the kids and I play outside, whether we go to the park, go on a walk around the block and whether I work out. It did reassure me that I’m certainly not sedentary in my kid-centered life right now! A day I met Kristen in NYC? Boom — 21,000 steps!
You can also track your activities by sports, with its eight multi-sport modes including outdoor run, outdoor cycle, swim, treadmill, freestyle, stopwatch, as well as the newly introduced indoor cycle and gym. I like this because then you can easily scroll through your runs or gym workouts to see what those stats are. It’s also cool to be able to see your maps of your distance covered; if you walk around a parking lot like a crazy person while waiting for your kids to get done with their soccer class, your map will look awesomely kooky. Plus, all of that tracking I mentioned before? You can customize goals and workouts. For instance, you can set intervals by distance or time for running fartleks. You can set pace, speed or heart rate for running. You can aim for a certain amount of time at the gym, a specific number of calories burn or a set distance. The buzz of your watch will keep you on track.
The sleep tracking is also really interesting, seeing as how I have three kids and am always interrupted by someone. I know when I got in 300 steps overnight and six hours of sleep that I will be feeling fatigued the next day. This helps me plan how big of a pot of coffee to make.
I know I’ve only scratched the surface in the data, but I’ve found it to be hugely motivating. Not only does it encourage me to get more activity in my everyday life — parking farther away to get in more steps, doing a quick workout even when I really don’t feel like it — but it’s cool to see your activities stack up. No one wants an empty activity tracker, after all. It’s also fun to compare workouts and what your heart rate does during those workouts.
The watch comes in several different price ranges depending on your needs. For $249.99 you can have the Cardio + Music version I have. For $199.99, you can have the music capabilities. And for $149.99 you can have the GPS fitness watch basic capabilities.
Now that I am hooked on this thing, I’m already trying to convince my husband to get one. It might be the perfect Father’s Day gift, actually.
Do you have a fitness tracker? What’s your favorite thing about it? —Erin