By Coach Joe Beer
In this Power series, Coach Joe Beer looks at ‘Training with Power’, both for the bike and run. In this third instalment in the series, Joe looks at how to actually use the Stryd footpod and how to make sense of it in your training (racing comes later)...
Joe’s first two articles looked at an overview of power and the benefits of using power.
Now it's time to get down to practicalities: it’s time to see the ways that power measurement can help, particularly using the Stryd foot pod and making sense of the data without paralysis by analysis. So let’s dive right in!
How to Set Up a Stryd Power Meter?
Setting yourself up with the Stryd takes very little time and effort. Some people may be sceptical that something so simple, so small, can work out power output or athlete biomechanics – they assume a massive amount of effort and hassle must be the only way that technology helps us. However, tiny electronics and clever algorithms really can produce power data, your run economy and accurate stride metrics like your stride length and vertical bouncing (or oscillation).
To get going with the foot pod you simply clip it onto the laces of one of the shoes you intend to run in. Those already used to power on their bike may have had nightmares with precise pedal torques, strain gauge temperature hassles or a one-sided crank that was, basically, a random number generator. Stryd could not be easier or more diametrically opposed to those kinds of hassles.
Pairing Stryd to a sports watch
The techy side to using the Stryd system comes when pairing the food pod with your chosen wrist device. As both a Garmin 1000 and Apple Watch user I have found it fairly basic, but not something you leave until just 5-minutes before you are due to meet a friend for a run or drive to a club meet-up. So, here goes:
- Get yourself a Stryd Power Centre account at www.stryd.com – you then login each time by clicking 'PowerCentre' (top right) to use the desktop software though your web browser. This is also available on mobile devices.
- Download the Stryd software onto your display device (e.g. at the App Store on your iPhone for the Apple Watch or Connect IQ store for supported Garmin devices). Stryd also supports Polar, Coros and Suunto devices along with Training Peaks, Final Surge and 2Peak platforms. Here is a useful installation guide.
- Boot up the device software (e.g. Stryd App on iPhone) and search for the foot pod. Once found, pair the foot pod.
- If the system has found your Stryd foot pod then the moment you set it underway you should see visible power on your wrist, even walking (or running) around the house (it's really hard to resist this before you go for that first run).
- The metrics you can set on screen are aplenty, but I would advise power, HR and distance and only set pace on your second screen. Having pace (like speed when cycling) encourages pushing things harder to go faster. In time you can bring pace to the front screen, but power is key right now – not a pace you feel you need to keep to.
Getting Started with Stryd Power
You are now set for your first run, but here's the key to the first several uses of Stryd:
1. Be normal
Just train like normal and resist looking at the power number constantly, just do your normal planned sessions and accumulate power data. Stryd can start to calculate your power zones – however don't rush this process. Get a feel for various efforts – the Stryd website has some ideas for some efforts that you could try.
2. Resist clock watching
See this early Stryd power data as getting a “blinded baseline” - though I realise that you “know” you are wearing the Stryd foot pod so its not double-blinded. Please resist trying to run faster than usual or overly analysing every run by constantly glancing at your watch (you also are more likely to trip over, skid or miss vital visual information about those moving around you).
3. Get used to downloading
However, keep away from overly data-mining the sessions in search of that factor keeping you from Kona, being a pro or breaking the 2-hour marathon barrier. Power graphs should be used to show how well you can stay smooth, whether that is a long run effort, powerful hill reps or pacing a run time trial. Power data (bike and run) shows how well you are delivering the effort that the session was meant to produce.
Different platforms have different download layouts.
How to Use a Stryd Data File
Depending on your exact set up, sessions may auto-upload after you stop the session, alternatively you may need to do some jiggery-pokery with the software to sync. Whether on mobile device or desktop, each session can then be clicked on and the data looked at. And here's the tricky bit:
How much Data Reviewing, Analysis and Learning is best for you?
If we look at the mobile output, you can see average power, elevation, distance, moving time, stress score, elevation gained, splits for each km (or mile), averages for power, pace, heart rate, cadence, air power, leg spring stiffness, elevation, form power ratio, form power and stride length. Add power distribution curves, recovery score, surface analysis over the past week and analysis of the run from comments you make on feel, shoe used and perceived effort. Phew, that is data!
Coaches, sports scientists and very keen data miners might like all that data but its “paralysis by analysis” for most readers. Cleverly you can export the file in .fit and .csv versions – I know that’s unnecessary gobbledygook for many, but useful for some who want to produce their own graphs or import to other software, such as iSmartTrain or TrainSmart.
Which Run Power Data do I need?
For most athletes, there are just a few key metrics to show on your watch and review afterwards for your first few sessions:
1. Power (3 or 10 seconds)
DURING: This tells you the work output right now as a smoothed number. In time you should be able to feel how hard you feel you are working and glance at the watch to get confirmation of your bio feedback.
AFTER: Look at the Stryd graph and see if you tended to keep power nice and smooth. If you are targeting, for example, a base (Zone 1 Heart Rate) session check that this was achieved. We do not want higher average power or surges which take you out of the aimed Zone 1 HR. If you are doing a series of intervals be sure they are where required and they do not drop off in quality within each rep or over the course of several reps.
Interval training showing consistency of reps. Perhaps needed more of a warm-down.
2. Heart Rate (HR)
DURING: Heart rate correlates with power, so if you work above your threshold, for example, your heart rate soon climbs to the same corresponding threshold level (Upper Zone 2 in HR zones). Check on HR to ensure you are doing the right level of effort, but no more than usual. Resist trying to push power up and “just about” (but in honesty not really) stay in zone.
AFTER: Now start to look at the HR staying in zone to see what approximate power you deliver to get such a HR. For example, 250 watts may deliver a HR of 120 and have felt super relaxed. As you can click on each kilometre or mile split this allows you to see any areas you went off plan or ran without control. Be sure you are delivering the right HR and you will see the power must be smooth and in the right zone.
Super easy jog showing the pace drop on hills - sometimes the power & HR spike if the pace didn't drop sufficiently. Power average 171 @ 114 HR
Time or distance
DURING: As most runs tend to be planned as, for example, 40 minutes steady or 8 miles on the trails, this bottom-most data allows you to check in on how far you are through the planned session. You may go a bit longer, get slightly lost or decide its time to turn early, but at least your duration can work with the effort to give a session plan. Those doing intervals or race pace work can use the time/distance metric on their watch.
For example - an 8-minute hill incline or a 3 mile 70.3 power effort - to keep bang on target for the desired period or distance.
AFTER: Look at the pattern of terrain against power and heart rate - were any spikes in your power and heart rate caused by pushing too hard up or down hills, or perhaps towards the end of your run when fatigue was setting in a form was diminishing.
Power & HR remained steady up the big hill, but spiked on smaller inclines as effort wasn't adjusted as appropriately
Training with a Power Meter
When sessions are done to plan, even as simple as 80% of sessions being Zone 1 heart rate at moderate power with one harder effort day, the training effect is happening - you are stimulating the body enough to cause improvement. To see whether you are improving, you need enough time elapsed and training consistency to produce gains. Patience is the name of the game and knowing you are delivering smooth, powered runs and on-target intervals means you leave your body to get on with making changes.
Training athletes is not hard, the science is quite simple and the effort not super-human, but it is when personalities, egos and lack of confidence creep in that things become too hard, too much, too serious and too impatient.
Simple power monitoring of these early sessions in your Stryd career can build to more specific race day work and analysis. But for now, use power to deliver relaxed running – that's the key to being fit, well and consistent.
Train smart and have fun.
‘Nah, but… run power is just a gimmick!’
Some may say "but I can run perfectly fast, pace my races and know how hard to do my hill reps or intervals. I don't need a gimmick more expensive than my shoes.”
I get it that many will see this as another gimmick. Another gadget for the techies, making more data and expense for the triathlete to grapple with.
For some it will be more than they've spent on run shoes in the past 3 or 5 seasons, so its a non-starter. For others they just like the purity of running so this invades the karma in their running - I get that too.
However, for those seeking a better way to train with less injury, better run speed application in training and a better idea of how to race faster, I think the Stryd is a very useful tool. Seeing smooth training effort delivery is a great sign for a coach that the athlete can exert control.
Just trying to stay at the same speed no matter what the incline, terrain under foot or wind direction is bizarre. Groups or individuals that “run at 7:30's” or “keep to my training pace” must be running on billiard tables like a metronome, not listening to their body. We all sometimes need to run a bit slower but you'll see (using power) that it’s still a solid amount of work even if pace drops off your ‘magic’ target pace.
We know that the best athletes put out more power and if you slow down the watts go down. Having insights into your actual effort, if a shoe really works for you or that you over-exert hills (amongst many other “insights”) is very, well, powerful.
About Joe Beer
Coach Joe Beer has been in endurance sports since the mid 1980's coaching athletes of all levels to improve their training, knowledge and performances. He has written for many magazines including 220, Runners World, Cyclist, Triathlete, Inside Triathlon and Cycling PLUS. He has written two books and continues to follow the multisport lifestyle, mixed in with gadgets and a bit of sweat – plus lemon curd or jam sandwiches and ultra running with his partner across the beautiful terrain of Cornwall and Devon.