Running with power – structured workouts

Since I bought my Stryd (non-wind) three years ago, I explored the power based training using different various apps and to date, but I still haven’t found the right support level that makes power based training as accessible as HR or pace based training. Stryd excels at consistently measuring distance, pace and is a great support for those freaking out about GPS accuracy. With Stryd, I wasn’t that much focused on the GPS accuracy, it was only something that helps me find a way on a map after the running session. For hiking, maybe the situation is different if you want to follow a path or find a specific place .. but for running, if you have the Stryd, then you are not looking that much at your tracks.

Now, let’s go back to power based training which some may sound like training over-engineering, not to me – I really like it because it takes the hills complication out of your pace based training or the latency of HR adaptation for intervals. I said it before here, the HR will have delays in catching up with the changes of intensity in your training.

Training with power when you have Stryd sounds simple, since is well supported now by Garmin (with Connect IQ fields or apps), Polar and Suunto (natively). For Garmin, if you add the Stryd Connect IQ fields to your running screen after adding the Stryd device as footpod (for recent devices – Fenix or Forerunners), you’ll see the power (and even power zones) displayed on your screen – so that’s easy.

For Polar and Suunto is even simpler, since both support native running power, Polar even offering its version of power calculation based on the data the watch provides. The power data is collected in the data stored by the apps and you can review (with various levels of details available) the information later.

Part of the power based structured workout in Final Surge (great for plan and analysis for power)

But, when it comes to structured workouts and running plans, the problem becomes more complicated. Polar supports running power (now supports even Stryd calibration since FW 4.0) but surprisingly it doesn’t support power based structured workouts. It does support complex workouts based on HR or pace … not power – don’t understand where they have seen the challenge of adding this in Flow and the device, to me it seems so natural given the fact that the framework exists there. One potential workaround might be the zone lock, you may force a zone lock during running and you’ll get alerts when you’re out of the zone … but that is not exactly the structured workouts support you may want. For Suunto, the recent Spartan series doesn’t support structured workouts at all, so the power is displayed with zones on the watch but you have to memorise the workouts and play it yourself (similar with what you can do with Garmin and Polar).

Among the platforms that support power based running workouts Final Surge and Training Peaks are the most well known (to me at least). Both allow the creation for power based training with a high level of flexibility (zones definition and phases that are either zone linked on freestyle). Now that you have defined the workouts (or you bought some power based training plans in the platform), executing those workouts on your watch will be the next challenge.

The most advanced surprisingly is Apple Watch, which with Stryd app supports the connection directly with Training Peaks, moving the workout to the watch seamlessly and pushing back the results to PowerCenter and Training Peaks. Details are available here. Stryd has some very good articles describing the functionality. Easy-peasy …

Stryd Apple Watch app – during power based workout

For Garmin, you have some options, some better some not, I have’t tried all of them. If your workouts are in Training Peaks, eventually 80/20, you have the option of using the 80/20 running zones field from Connect IQ (available here) which will allow when executing the workouts, that are automatically synced from Training Peaks to Garmin Connect, to see the zones and get some feedback. The field can be used for HR, pace and power zones, being pretty flexible in functionality. I didn’t use it, so I don’t know if it has alerts or just works similarly with the Stryd zones field. The other option is to use the Stryd zones fields after you got your workout downloaded from Training Peaks (or Final Surge using the Connect IQ app from Final Surge), and that works somehow similar – you’ll have the target details for the phase at the beginning of the phase and you’ll execute it looking from time to time to the zones field. It’s not that easy, especially if you have high intensity intervals, but it might work.

The default phase screen in running is not of great help, you need to switch to the Stryd zones field

The better and promising option (but yet limited for the moment) is the Garmin Stryd workout app which allows proper definition of structured power based workouts and execution, but only has 2 slots for keeping your predefined workouts, which may become easily annoying when you have a wide variety of workouts and all need to be defined on the watch as they are not yet retrieved from any platform: Stryd PowerCenter, Final Surge or Training Peaks. Stryd has plans to lift the restriction from 2 workouts and also will do the integration to download your workouts from the plans available in Stryd PowerCenter, Final Surge or Training Peaks. When that will happen? Let’s hope that will come soon … because even though the solution works, it gets frustrating to define every day a complex workout on your watch.

For Garmin, some people work with some tricks, using the Stryd as a power device in an adapted bike workout (after the execution they change the workout type from Bike to Running), which offers all the benefits of the structured workout with alerts and all … like it would if running power would have been supported natively. This approach still has some limitations (you can’t convert a running plan into bike plan, and you have to create the bike workouts for example in Garmin Connect or Training Peaks with running zones) and also creates some headaches since it messes your bike power zones and also doesn’t carry the rest of Stryd stats and data into your FIT file. If you don’t use a bike or a power meter with your bike, then this might be a reasonable option, but you still have some work to do manually.

I might not have covered all options to execute power based workouts with Garmin, there are some CIQ fields or apps that try to deal with this, but I feel that until either Garmin does support native running power or Stryd gets a better integration with the workout calendars (from Garmin Connect – with feed from PowerCenter, Training Peaks or eventually Final Surge) things won’t get any better and still the people interested in running with power won’t find a great appeal with Garmin and might use Apple Watch (?!).

As for me, if Polar would add power based structured workouts, I’d use my Vantage V as the main device (with all the shortcomings, but also with the positives of sleep analysis and very good web platform). If Stryd get the app polished on Garmin, then Fenix stays on my hand for good (or for a while..).

Stay healthy, be positive and run!

Garmin Fenix 6X FW 9.0
Polar Vantage V FW 5.1.4
Stryd CIQ Workout App 1.1.0

Author: Liviu Nastasa

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

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