It's fair to say we are big fans of the TomTom Spark 3 at Wareable HQ. The GPS running watch might not be crammed with the kind of hardcore fitness metrics you get on a Polar or Garmin watch, but it's a really easy to use, offers great GPS performance, packs in a host of features to make you go faster and includes one of the best optical heart rate monitors we've tested.
Outside of smartwatches like the Apple Watch Series 2 and Google's Android Wear army of watches, it's one of the few sports watches that even lets you stream music so you can leave that smartphone behind.
Read this: Best running watches for music playback
We've spent a lot of time running and working out with the Spark 3, so if you are looking at ways to get more from the sports watch, we should be able to help.
Here's our top tips for using the TomTom Spark 3 for your training.
Grab a pair of compatible headphones
The Spark 3 beats Garmin, Polar and Suunto for offering the ability to stream music from your watch. You just need to get yourself a pair of headphones to get up and running. It should play nice with most Bluetooth headphones, but if you're in doubt, TomTom has a list of supported devices here that work depending on which wrist you wear the watch on.
Along with TomTom's own headphones, the list includes the Plantronics Backbeat Fit, Jaybird Bluebuds X and Beats Powerbeats 2 wireless. We've also had success with the Jabra Sport Pulse and Coach headphones as well so definitely give those a try as well.
See heart rate zones on the watch
If you're more concerned with workout intensity than how much distance you've covered, you can see a simplified breakdown of heart rate-based effort levels without syncing the data to the companion Sports app or supported third party app. It's just not very obvious that it's there. Press right on the button below the display like you would to activate the tracking mode and then press up to see workout summaries. Scroll down to the bpm results and you'll be able to click right again to see heart rate zones data.
Check in on heart recovery
That heart rate sensor is not just for showing how hard you push yourself, it can also indicate fitness levels based on your heart's ability to return to a normal rate better known as heart rate recovery. The faster it returns to normal, the fitter you are. To view heart rate recovery, you'll need to pause an activity that you're tracking and wait a minute before a score is served up.
Get some trails
With the addition of a compass, the Spark 3 is now able to keep a closer eye on where you're running and make sure you know how to get back home. It also means you can upload routes, which is handy if you're exploring new territory. So where can you get these routes? The best services to try out are MapMyRun and Strava's route builder. You can also try out Maps to GPX, which takes Google directions and turns them into the compatible GPX file that you can upload to the Spark 3 via the TomTom Sports Connect desktop manager software.
Send your data to Strava instead
While TomTom's own app has been vastly improved, you can export activity data to a host of third party apps including Nike+, Runkeeper and Strava. The good thing is that most of these services will also pull through the heart rate data as well as the usual running data metrics. To start exporting data to other services, go to the TomTom Sports app and go to Manage, then select Connected Apps. This will then push you into the TomTom website where you can begin selecting the sites you want to add your data to.
Do some interval training
We've talked before about the benefits of interval training and TomTom's watch is one of the best at getting it added to your regime. To get it set up, jump into run tracking mode and then head into the Settings then Training and select intervals. Here you'll then be able to set up sets, warm up and cool down periods and periods of work and rest based on time or distance.
This one has been knocking around on TomTom's running watches since the first Runner and it's still one of the best ways to push yourself to run harder and faster. Before starting to track a run, press down to go into the Settings menu. There you can select Training and then Race where you can race against recently logged runs, TomTom's own race times based on different distances and there's even a custom mode. It's also available for treadmill training so you can keep things competitive even when you're keeping out of the cold.
Set a goal and stick to it
Since TomTom revamped its companion app it's been a much nicer place to view workout data including activity tracking and it's added features like the ability to view workout trends. It's also now includes the ability to set something called Sport goals. Whether it's running, cycling or just hitting the gym, you can select a sport and the metric you want to hit (distance, active time, activities) and set the time period you want to achieve that goal. To set it up, go to the Sports app on your phone, go to Manage and then select Manage Goals.
Pair an external heart rate monitor
If you don't entirely trust the heart rate data that's being dished out by the on-board heart rate monitor, you do have the option to connect a range of Bluetooth Smart heart rate sensor chest straps including the Polar H7 and Mio Alpha wearable.
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Once you've got hold of a suitable chest strap, moistened the electrodes and strapped it on, you need to head back to the watch. Press down from the watch screen and select Sensors. Here you can then then select Heart and you need to scroll through the options until you find External. If you have correctly positioned the chest strap, you should then be good to go.
You can see the full list of compatible external heart rate monitor here.
Pair a cadence sensor
It's a similar story for cyclists if you want to capture more ride data by connecting an external cadence or speed sensor. TomTom has tested its own sensor and the Wahoo Blue SC setup as well, but it should technically work with all Bluetooth Smart compatible sensors as well. You need to head into the Sensors menu again and this time go to Bike to get things paired up.
Give Spark 3 a reboot
If things on the watch are not working as they are supposed to and you've tried everything else to fix it, you can perform a factory reset. This will get the Spark 3 back to its original setup when you first took it out of the box. Just be aware that any saved data and settings will be lost in the process.
Once you've connected the watch to your computer and the TomTom Sports Connect software is running, click Settings and then Reset. The software will be installed onto the watch and then you'll be prompted to log in and start the registration process on the TomTom Sports website once again.
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