While I was a sprinter in high school and college, my favorite way to exercise today is long distance running. Pace has served as my primary metric for years and I seem to have plateaued with fairly consistent half marathon times over the last five years. I want to do better in 2019 and am going to train to power levels to achieve success.
A few months ago the folks at Stryd sent along the latest version of its power meter and I've been running with it in order to establish some baseline power levels while trying to understand how power could be used to improve my performance. Power is commonly used in cycling, but is fairly new for running. There are still differences between available power meters, but Stryd has been at it for a few years and has a system that is worth consideration.
Running to a pace has been my approach to training for years, but the thing about pace is that the data lags a bit behind current performance due to GPS signal acquisition, update speeds, and conditions. I also train in areas with lots of hills so maintaining pace often results in working harder than I probably should while running uphill during my training runs. Regular readers know I also use many different wearables and current pace performance varies by those devices.
Some people also train to a heart rate level, which is something I have yet to try. This can be a better approach for someone like me who runs on hills, but heart rate readings also lag behind current conditions and wrist-based heart rate is not as accurate as measurements from chest straps. I hate wearing chest straps as they tend to chafe my chest and are just not comfortable enough for me to put up with them.
Price and retail package
The Stryd power meter is available now for $199, which could be half the cost of your wearable GPS sports watch or smartwatch. It does come with a 30-day trial so you can test it out to see if this price is worth it for you and your training regime. Although I haven't yet ran a race after training to a power level, I like what I have experienced so far and plan to purchase one for my own routine.
The retail package includes the Stryd power meter, microUSB cable, two shoe clips, and a charging base. The Stryd power meter itself weighs in at just about nine grams so you cannot even tell when it is mounted to your shoe. The pod is covered in matte black soft touch material and looks a bit like a thick guitar pick. The bottom is flat, while the top appears similar to a topographic relief map of a mountain with various levels and a central flat top piece. There are small openings on the front and back to secure the Stryd to the shoe clip.
The shoe clip slides under your laces and then the Stryd snaps in at the front and back to stay in place. I've been running with the Stryd for more than four months and it has stayed securely in place through rain, sun, and other environmental conditions.
The charging base looks similar to the Stryd with one side being flat and the other side having the topographical map look. I couldn't get it to charge at first because I didn't realize that the flat part faces up while the raised part sits on a flat surface. There is actually an outline on the glossy flat part that indicates where you place the Stryd to charge up wirelessly. The microUSB cable attaches to the charging base to power the wireless charger.
One thing that a Twitter follower pointed out to me is that the right flat spot on the Samsung Wireless Charger Duo can be used to charge up the Stryd power meter, in addition to the Galaxy Watch that it is designed to charge.
Setup on Garmin and Apple Watch
When the Stryd power meter first arrived, I was using a Garmin Fenix 5 Plus GPS sportwatch. There is an offical Stryd Power data field that you can add to your running screen on your compatible Garmin watch in order to run to a power level. There is also a Stryd IQ widget that lets you view Stryd data on your Garmin watch.
After installing the Stryd Power data field and setting up my running fields with it, I simply launched it on the watch and then connected the Stryd power meter.
I recently committed myself to using the Apple Watch Series 4 as my smartwatch and was very pleased to find a Stryd app for the Apple Watch. The Stryd app is actually one of the best running apps for the Apple Watch with the ability to have up to three screens of data consisting of four to seven metrics per screen. Metrics available include time, power, pace, distance, heart rate, cadence, ground contact time, VO, and gain.
To use the Stryd app on the Apple Watch, you first install the smartphone app and connect the Stryd to the iPhone. There is then a step to sync the Stryd to the Apple Watch after the iPhone setup is complete.
Options for averaging are also available so you can have pace and power shown in real time, 3-second, 10-second, lap, or average metrics. Distance and time options include real time or lap.
While you can select up to three screens, there is always one more screen in the Stryd app that shows you your current power in large numbers right in the middle of the screen. The target and tolerance is shown in the upper right corner. A large up or down arrow is shown above or below the current power number in order to inform you if you need to pick up the effort or slow down a bit.
Lap units can be setup while you can also choose to trigger a side button press of your Apple Watch for laps. Power alerts, target power, and alert tolerances can also be established. As you can see, the Apple Watch app is fantastic and with the Stryd capturing all sorts of running dynamics, this combo rivals a GPS sports watch.
Stryd smartphone application
When you launch the Stryd application you are first shown a dashboard view with an insight below your profile picture and then your last five synced runs below that. A map graphic, date, label, distance, time, and average power for the run are shown. Tap on one of these runs to view all of the finite details of your run in summary, graph, and lap tabs. You can even tap on a Storyline playback button to watch your run as a cool animation with live maps and power changes as your run is traced on the display.
Details and graphs for power, elevation, pace, cadence, heart rate, and leg spring stiffness are shown in the app. The lap view shows a breakdown of your run with power, distance, and more shown.
You can view calendar history of your runs and even use the smartphone app connected to the Stryd to record a run. This could be helpful if your watch is dead and you want to go on a run with your phone.
The last tab is full of settings for the Stryd, including an option to upgrade the firmware of the Stryd power meter. It has been updated a couple of times since I started testing it and gets better over time.
The Stryd data collected via a connected Garmin watch also appears in Garmin Connect so you will see several plots of this data within Garmin Connect. Unfortunately, you don't see all of the Stryd data there, but you can visit the Stryd PowerMeter website to view all of the data captured by the Stryd power meter and synced to your smartphone.
Experiences running with power
One of the first things you need to do before using the Stryd power meter is to perform the critical power test or enter the results of your latest 5K or 10K run. This data is then used to establish your critical power and critical pace, which is then used to calculate and establish your five zones for running and training.
I highly recommend reading this white paper (PDF) that goes into some detail on running power. Calculating power for running is a fairly complex undertaking since there are so many different variables that are specific to each of us as it has to do with weight, age, height, and much more. Power is a calculation of force and the force exerted by each of us is vastly different. These concepts are explained in great detail in the Stryd power user manual (PDF).
As a professional engineer, I find the analysis and use of power to be fascinating science. The white paper also provided some wonderful education on other metrics that I have seen captured by Garmin devices with little understanding of these details in the past.
As I continue to try to learn about and understand power, the relationship of the various zones to paces I run makes sense. For example, my zone 3 level has a power level from 295 to 328, which correlates to a pace of 10:48 to 9:48 minutes per mile. Zones 4 and 5 increase to 8:30 and 7:30 minute per mile paces which I can do only for very short runs.
Running to a power level has been very easy with both the Garmin and Apple Watch because there is just a single number to view on my watch. As a guy approaching 50 who needs readers at times, having a big single number to use for training is awesome.
I immediately noticed that running to a power level resulted in me running up hills slower than I typically have before when I was trying to maintain a certain pace. Maintaining a pace up hill is tough and it may have led to me running less efficiently than running to a power level, primarily due to overexertion and lack of adequate recovery.
The Stryd power meter has an advertised battery life of 20 hours. I have been able to go about two to three weeks with it during my typical running regime so that seems like an accurate estimate.
Future training plan
With the new year starting tomorrow, I have setup a 5K training plan in the Stryd PowerCenter to try active training to a power level. This was easy to setup, but unfortunately these Stryd training plans do not yet sync to the smartphone app or a wearable device. Since the training plans mix up different levels of power, I am going to have to write down the training plan and try to memorize, or read, the plan while running. I would love to see these training plans sync to my Apple Watch for active training and hope that comes in a future update from Stryd.
After this short 5K test, I need to start up a formal training regime in February since I am running the Seattle Rock 'n Roll Half Marathon in June. In order to help motivate me to achieve a personal best this year, I am participating as a St. Jude hero in an effort to help out those unfortunate children and their families who have to deal with cancer at a young age.
So far, I am pleased with the Stryd power meter and the combination with the Apple Watch is fantastic. The Stryd app and power meter may serve as a must-have for Apple Watch owners and I cannot wait to start my training tomorrow.