by Rich Soares
I love running. When I’m finished with a run, I have that sense of accomplishment and satiation that comes from endorphins coursing through my brain. For all the satisfaction that comes with the run itself – I’m a data guy. A workout without data, metrics, charts and graphs is like witnessing a beautiful sunset on your dream vacation and not having the picture to show your relatives. For all the data that you can use to analyze and improve your running, I’ve learned in the past two weeks that there is nothing more powerful (all pun intended) than Stryd power. Here’s why.
For many runners, data comes from what is native to your GPS watch in terms of pace, distance, heart rate, grade and elevation. I’ve been intrigued with running with power and using that data in my training since running power meters first hit the market. Running with a power meter promised to have many of the same advantages as a cycling power meter. By knowing your run power, you could know your actual work and output during training. If you know your actual rate of work in training, it follows that you would know definitively what performance you can expect to perform on race day – exceed that work rate, and you risk of unraveling in a muscle-quivering mess walking from aid station to aid station.
Intrigued to put running with a power meter to the test, I recently had a chance to talk to coach Jim Vance, who literally wrote the book Run with Power. Jim advocated Stryd as the product leader in the space, so I was eager to get my hands on a Stryd foot pod and try it for myself. While it has no direct bearing on product performance, the out-of-the-box experience is an important first impression and speaks volumes about how much Stryd has thought about the user. Simplification is paramount. Stryd gets a high rating right from the start. The first thing I experienced when I flipped back the cardboard lid of the package was a simple black on white card with 3 steps comprised of 9 words of instruction.
Following the instructions to “get started here”, I opened my browser and navigated to stryd.com/get-started. The Set Up Stryd process is straight-forward and tech sexy. The wireless charging unit is sleek and has the look and feel of quality. The registration and profile setup are easy they warrant no further description and the integration to your other fitness applications is idiot proof. I had my Stryd configured to receive data from my Garmin and send data to TrainingPeaks as fast as I could read the text on the page. Installing the Stryd app on my iPhone was equally easy and the foot pod seamlessly interfaces with the phone app. One of my favorite features on the phone app is being able to check the battery charge level of the Stryd foot pod to monitor the progress to a full charge – another tech sexy point!
The Run with Stryd process is where you first start to interface Stryd with your GPS or other watch; in my case a Garmin 735XT. Stryd’s website is very intuitive and the instructions are simple. Select the type of watch you are pairing the Stryd with and then follow Stryd’s instructions. If you follow the instructions literally, you should have no problem completing the device connection and collecting data. Deviate at all from the instructions and you will potentially find yourself lost on in your watch’s menu. My advice, trust the Stryd instructions and not your belief in your confidence in tech adoption.
Stryd is compatible with Garmin, Suunto, Polar, iOS, Android, or you can use the Stryd by itself. In the case of Garmin, I downloaded the Stryd Power activity app and then installed it in the Garmin Express application from my laptop. On my watch, I set up a running activity screen with a single field for “power”. Once the setup was completed, I started a run activity and the power foot pod connected within 20 seconds. During my first run with Stryd I frequently checked my watch to take note of the power numbers in various terrain (uphill, flats and downhill), and was pleased to see the reading adjust instantly to the changes. Hit an uphill section and the number reading would instantly increase. Adjusting my pace on a constant grade, and again the display would immediately change in response. By contrast, pace and heart rate would like considerably behind the Stryd’s response time.
At the end of my run, I completed the activity, launched the app and with a single thumb press synced my power to Stryd, Garmin and TrainingPeaks. From the Stryd app, I could immediately see a summary of my power data from the run on my phone. Eager to see my complete power data analysis I turned to the last of the three easy “get started” steps – Learn From Stryd.
Navigating to Power Center on the Stryd website where you can begin to analyze your data. Again, first impressions are important and the Analyze view of Power Center presents a dashboard view with a summary of the workout including power, form power and cadence. I used the radio buttons to toggle between elapsed and moving data to filter out stop light stops. This is great if you capture elapsed time on your GPS and still want the option to just see moving time data.
It’s not been more than a week and I’ve collected Stryd data for six runs in that time. That has enabled me to explore some of the other features of Power Center, including the comparison feature to evaluate two workouts side by side and compare differences. Analysis is only the beginning of the features in Power Center. I wanted to begin exploring other features in the application, including Improve, Compete and Settings.
Settings is where I first completed my profile and data sync preferences. This is also where I would establish my power zones. Stryd provides 4 methods in the application for establishing your power zones. For this review, I chose the 5K estimation method. During this past week, I performed the Jim Vance 20-minute rFTPw test and ironically came up with similar FTP numbers using the 5K estimation method. I’ll likely experiment with the other methods, including the 3-9 test, which involves a 3-minute all out, followed by a short recovery, and then a 9-minute hard effort. With FTP known, I was able to establish my power training zones and experiment with training within specific power zone ranges.
The Improve screen of Power Center is designed to provide individual insights about your power data and running performance. The Runner Profile presents your relative strengths and weaknesses with respect to metabolic fitness, muscle power, and muscle endurance. The Training Optimizer suggests workouts that will help you focus areas where you have the most potential and areas for improvement. Having facts and data helps me be accountable to today’s performance and provides actionable information for setting goals and direction to my training. The Training Power Heat Map does a great job of illustrating where you are spending your training time compared to where you should be spending your time to reach your running goals.
The Stryd and Power Center has provided a whole new world of insights in the first week of usage. It has peaked my curiosity to learn more, and is channeling me to address my greatest opportunities for improvement and track my progress. It feels like I’ve just begun to understand the new possibilities these insights will provide and stirred up a sense of excitement about my training plan over the winter months and eager anticipation for my race season next year.
If you are looking to stir up some excitement for your tech-lover-athlete this holiday season, Stryd is more powerful than mistletoe. Cheers!