As technology advances, runners are offered more and more metrics and measurables that are accessible from the wrist.
My first Garmin (Forerunner 110) displayed simply distance, time and pace, with HR available via an external sensor. Now, with the support of other external sensors and pods, watches will provide us with cadence, vertical oscillation, ground contact time and stride length. With the exception of cadence, I question just what we can do with this additional information, certainly as mere mortal runners anyway.
The latest, and of course greatest, metric available to us is running power. I’m not a particularly keen cyclist, but I appreciate that power has been used for some time in cycling and I’m told it is a reliable measure of work done. Well, that’s exactly what it is! With that in mind then, it’s no surprise that it has now been introduced into the running world.
The most popular running power meter that is available on the market today is the Stryd, which is a foot pod that claims to be highly accurate. Tests have been carried out on the Stryd’s ability to gauge pace and it does indeed prove itself to be very accurate. However, as power is relatively new in the running game, the question remains as to just how accurate it is at gauging power.
Garmin have recently announced that they will be introducing running power metrics into their more high-end watches (anything with a barometric altimeter). This will be achieved by using Garmin’s Running Dynamics metrics, which can be measured using the RD pod or one of the newer HRM’s within the Garmin range. So, providing you already have a compatible watch, that will be around £60 for the pod/HRM, assuming you don’t already have one of these too, against the £200 Stryd pod. No contest it would seem.
However, early tests by DC Rainmaker show that there are big differences between measurements of the two. During the same run, the test showed disparities of 100-150 watts, with Garmin figures coming out higher than Stryd. The general consensus within the blogging world is that it is the Garmin that is off here, as opposed to the Stryd. With the additional testing that has been carried out on the Stryd, you would have to agree. My point surrounding a lack of data to compare it to still stands though.
I suppose if you’re looking to maintain a steady level of power throughout a race, then the accuracy/disparities matter very little. As long as the figure is consistent with increasing/decreasing when you would expect it to, then the actual figure holds little importance. If you’re comparing against someone else’s power readings though, well that’s a different matter.
I was looking at the Stryd, debating whether it was worth the investment. For someone at my level of running, I’m not convinced that it is. I will give the Garmin running power feature a try though. I already have a compatible watch and I will be getting a new HRM replacement very soon anyway, hopefully for Xmas. With the R & D budget that Garmin have, you would have to back them to get it right in the long run. There will undoubtedly be some teething problems, but I think they will get there in the end.
It’s a shame that we are becoming more and more reliant on metrics and measurables. This all takes away from the best part of running. The fact that you don’t need anything other than a pair of trainers to get out there and enjoy the sport. As we see improvements in our running though, we are constantly looking at different ways of improving our race times. Companies like Garmin and Stryd, among others, play on this by providing us with more ways of tracking our progress, charging us more and more each time in the process. It almost takes some of the skill out of running too. Knowing how much you can push your own body, when you need to hold back and when you can push on. This should be done by feel, rather than keeping an eye on a figure on a watch face.