My experience with Final Surge

Since I wasn’t terribly happy with the Garmin Connect analysis capabilities, I explored other options available and one of the better ones is Final Surge (https://www.finalsurge.com/).

Final Surge is available for free for athletes (and that’s super) and it has a paid plan for coaches (starting at 19USD/month for up to 5 athletes) … I’m a self trained person, so I enjoyed the free athlete version.

The Final Surge ecosystem for me is build from:

  • Web platform (where I spent most of the time)
  • Mobile App (very nice and polished – didn’t spend that much time there)
  • CIQ app for Garmin (a key component for moving your planned workouts to the Garmin watch)

I wouldn’t have created the Final Surge account if I wasn’t have been interested in one of their training plans (80/20 Matt Fitzgerald and David Warren – not available anymore on the platform unfortunately) – it applied the plan easily and I could see the next weeks planned in the calendar. You can play with the start date or end date .. that’s nice, you don’t have to start the plan just after the purchase and you can reuse the plan after you finish it (I mean reschedule another round of training – it’s not a disposable item purchase).

Planing view in Final Surge (beta) – just an extract

Immediately, I installed the CIQ app on my Fenix 5X+ (you can find it here
https://apps.garmin.com/en-US/apps/22847e32-8ab1-4208-ac18-8da8c8b56c7a) and tried to sync the first workouts … unfortunately, I could only see the message “No workouts can be downloaded” … you’ll see in the app user messages a lot of complaints that this message is common and people are upset. I contacted Final Surge developers and they were very responsive, highlighting the fact that you can only sync to Garmin device the structured workouts and at that moment (March 2019) the plans available in the platform were not structured (yet – I don’t know if that changed, I would imagine that if the coaches would spend some time with the workout builder, they could convert their plans into structured workout plans). So … if you want to use the plan and the integration with Garmin (which is nice), you have to manually convert any of the workouts in the plan into structured workouts. The difference is subtle, but there .. and also is only available in the beta version of the platform (you won’t see the nice calendar in the older version of the platform)

The left workout is structured, the right one is not

For the conversion, you have to select the workout and click on Workout Builder – that triggers the display of the workout editor.

Workout Builder Details for a structured workout

The workout editor is a masterpiece, very flexible and intuitive – you only need to know what you want to achieve (follow the text instructions of the coach in my case to edit the elements of the workout).

Choose between workout targets – HR/Power/Pace

The next step after selecting the type of target is defining the steps, which is also very intuitive and simple.

Easy to use and flexible interface for defining the workout

The final work looks like below – nice and clean (the image below includes also the results of my run)

Final look over the structured workout

The workout is synced with your Garmin watch using the CIQ App – you can download up to 5 days of workouts in advance (that’s a setting the the CIQ App) and you can use the Garmin Run App (or other apps available on Garmin watch depending on your plan – it could be Cycling or Trail, or other apps). There is a limitation on Garmin’s side – eventually during your plan sync you’ll get an error message (“Not enough storage”) and you have to manually delete some workouts on your device. More details available –
https://www.finalsurge.com/help/ConnectIQ#errormessages

The sync back to the platform is seamless, as you are connecting Final Surge with your Garmin Connect account – you can analyze the results both in Connect or Final Surge. The later is better than Connect, more flexible and goes deeper in the analysis, but since is part of the “old” Final Surge platform, it lacks the ability to check the execution against the planned elements of your workout.

Final Surge workout analysis

You can go into more details and graphs, but that’s not yet at the level of the workout analysis you get for example in Polar Flow, where you can actually see how you performed against you targets – you can see the evolution, but not exactly the compliance with the HR zones you defined in the workout.

Deeper analysis of the workout – still missing the structure

It’s better than what Connect offers (but not by much) because it uses also additional information provided in my case by Stryd.

That’s my preferred way of looking at a structured workout (kudos Polar!)

Anyway, with some effort, I got close to finishing up the plan and I’d say that Final Surge is a nice platform, but not completely balanced. It has very good planning capabilities, once the now beta platform becomes the main entry point and the coaches will all convert their plans into structured workouts. Final Surge has plans to add the structured analysis in the platform (based on the emails I exchanged with them) but, for the moment, the analysis screens can’t match the planning ones, which is a shame.

I’d say that they will improve the sync of the workouts, eliminating the limitations of the CIQ App, once they will use the Garmin Training API which allows direct interaction with Garmin’s platform at service level without the need to install an app on your device and also eliminating the constraints of the CIQ platform version – for example devices like FR735 or FR920XT weren’t capable of using the Final Surge CIQ App (because they didn’t have the right Garmin app platform version) but they will be able to use it through Garmin Connect services. I’ve seen that happening with Training Peaks, I would assume the other platforms will follow – Final Surge included.

So, as a summary – things are looking encouraging with Final Surge – with some effort to extend the analysis capabilities and upgrade all the platform to the latest currently beta capabilities and integrating the Garmin Training API, they will be one of the successful training platforms at least for Garmin devices owners. It could work for other devices, like Polar and Suunto or Coros, but that requires integration (bidirectionally) between the backend platforms and services, and that might take a while.

Author: Liviu Nastasa

Passionate about software development, sociology, running...definitely a geek.

4 thoughts

  1. Thanks for great info! Is it correct that the workouts on watch will be similar to a garmin connect created training sessions? Incl paces, distances, intervalls etc? After downloaded to watch, It’s executed as a regular workout within watch, the IQ app is only for syncing?
    Thanks again for great info!

    1. Hi, the workouts on your Garmin watch will look and act similar to the custom workouts created in Garmin Connect. You’ll use the IQ app as a wrapper and launcher for the workouts – actually the app does the sync and also launches the workout after selecting it. I haven’t used the app lately since I started playing with Training Peaks which is integrated with Garmin Connect through the training APIs making the sync more seamless. At this moment I play with the half marathon coach plan offered by Garmin, I’ll see how that goes. When Stryd and Garmin will actually get there with the structured power based workouts (there is some work done there it seams), I may come back to Final Surge, since Steve Palladino has some great plans available only for Final Surge.

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