Forget Pace, Ignore HR, 10 Reasons To Use Running Power

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10 Reasons To Use Running Power

I hear ya. Pace is king.

The thing is, I’ve used POWER for bike training for many years now, more recently I’ve used POWER for running too. Yet, like most of you, I initially started maxxing my sporting stats’ attention on pace and HR to varying degrees. After a while, I came to know their limitations and they were pretty good metrics to train with, so I was initially VERY sceptical of Running Power both in terms of how it’s calculated and how actionable it was. To cut a 3-year long story short, if I’m running anything longer than 3-minute intervals then I will use power to some degree ie when I’m planning a run, when I’m running and also to some degree when I look at my stats afterwards. It mostly works. I’m a convert.

HEADS UP: There are two broad ways of working out RUNNING POWER and there is no accepted ‘correct’ figure, although STRYD has produced whitepapers showing that their product does tie to the metabolic cost calculation method. I don’t know if the running power products measure Watts or Whatevers but, in my experience, STRYD power appears to be a good proxy for effort, it’s actionable.

Before we get onto the Top 10 reasons to use running power, let’s look at the more general areas where running power can help and if you’re a cyclist with a power meter you can stop reading now as the benefits of running with power are pretty much identical those from cycling with power. These are the 3 general areas:

  • Preparing for and planning a run – So here we are looking at creating a structured workout or following a 3rd party plan. This is the area where more developments are needed.
  • Executing a training run or race – There are a few aspects that can be improved here, generally, you’re good to go with most of the features you have for HR/Pace also available for Running Power. Generally, the functionality all exists, it just needs standardising.
  • Quantifying and analysing your runs and the insights that can be derived from that – Power is power and so most of the cycling power tools will mostly work with running power and STRYD’s Power Center is awesome too.

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10 Resons to use Running Power

Try These

  1. Run at the correct levels on non-flat ground
  2. Run at the correct levels on surfaces of varying types
  3. Run at the correct levels in wind (STRYD does this, Garmin Running Power partly so)
  4. More correctly model your short- and long-term abilities based on a modelled CP curve that takes into account your abilities over sprint, threshold and long durations.
  5. As the drafting effect is minimal, your best race time will likely come from an evenly powered effort.
  6. Ego-boosting numbers you can brag about to your mates – “my FTP/CP is higher than yours” or “my w/kg is higher than yours“. (I’d never do this, but apparently, some people do 😉 )
  7. Your training zones will hopefully change for the better. Quantifying and automatically adjusting for this is much easier with power than pace and certainly easier than with HR zones. I use automatically updating power zones for both running (Stryd) and cycling (Garmin).
  8. Understand your training load (1) – quantify the work you have done in each session. Equally, you can use HR or Power for this.
  9. Understand your training load (2) – Understanding the impact of your work on your ability to run fast NOW and in the future AND on the ever-changing balance between CTL/fatigue and ATL/fitness. This one thing can be an eye-opener to explain your good and not-so-good performances. Once you understand when YOU perform best you can plan for it next time around. This is equally as possible with HR or power, much less so with PACE-based training.
  10. More easily quantify and control tapering strategies.

OK, I thought of some more.

  1. Identify plateauing performances (then train differently)
  2. Easily p
  3. Control uphill/downhill variation – for a variety of reasons you will likely want to use slightly more power going uphill. Quantify with NP:Power ratio.
  4. Using a model like Xert MAP or W’ when you are racing, you should be able to understand your anaerobic reserves at any point in a race ie how much juice is left in your physiological tank (I’ve not looked at this for me for running with power)
  5. Quantify the effects of drafting (albeit minimal, only STRYD)
  6. Running Power is not exclusive. You can use it alongside pace and/or HR. It’s another tool for your training and racing kit bag.

There are some controversial points there, I’m happy to elaborate in the comments.


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14 thoughts on “Forget Pace, Ignore HR, 10 Reasons To Use Running Power

  1. I find that HR is a lagging indicator of my effort, whereas the power number from the Stryd pod is a much more direct/instantaneous indicator of my effort.

  2. Power is king for road running and maybe light trails with no steep ascent. I’ve been training on a bike with power meter for a long time so I was quite surprised I can’t use Stryd and CP for ultra running races with significant vertical gain on steep ascents. The numbers are completely off when you have to power walk or hike a steep hill. Unfortunately to pace these races one have to circle back to HR or RPE. Stryd is cool for flat and rolling terrain and I still use it a lot. Just wish it could be useful everywhere like cycling power is nowadays.

    1. hmm. i have no personal experience to contradict what you say but STRYD specifically do say that they support the scenarios you describe. Indeed there were specific firmware updates to handle steeper hike/slow run scenarios

  3. From what I’ve read by Stryd, walking is biomechanically more efficient than running, hence lower power numbers for same perceived effort. Therefore your road CP can not be simply transferred to trails. It would be better to establish an upper limit for trail power and just use Stryd to limit periods where you exceed it. But generally trails are more about feel than pure metrics.

      1. This is a profile from Powercenter with highlighted parts when I was running and power hiking. I added HR as well to show the effort was constant (or gradually increasing) yet the power dropped to recovery run values during those power hiking segments.

        I appreciate their explanation that running and hiking is not the same and can’t be compared with single CP value. However they could do better job providing feedback for power hiking effort. Doing these longer power hiking segments throws off all post workout stats like TSS, RSS.

        Stryd sensor can determine running vs. hiking by Ground Contact Time and together with elevation change should be able to quantify the effort.

      2. Sorry but this does not answer the fundamentals of running power.

        1- Running power doesn’t answer the required power to run uphill (if running power is X and you cannot produce it then there is no point of that figure – same if you can’t run uphill on specific pace)

        2- Same as above if you can’t hit certain power values on different terrains then no point of using it.

        3- Same again, what’s the point of saying run power X on windy days if you can’t hit this value?

        4- not needed

        5- Or try Pace Pro by Garmin.

        6- You can brag about your lactate threshold pace.

        7- use pace zones

        8, 9 and 10 use strava effort or elevate app.

        Sorry again but pace can do all of the above

        1. thank you for rasing your points in a nice way, sorry I’m going to have to disagree with you 😉

          1/2/3 not sure I understand. if you are running at an even effort, let’s say tempo, then why couldn’t you maintain that effort up a hill or different terrains or into the wind? [power is like effort, pace is not like effort unless indoors on the flat, hr can be like lagged effort]
          4. point i’m making is analagous to a ‘race predictor’, as you know predicting a marathon pace from a 5k pace is difficult. same applies to power, of course, over the same distances. But there is easier modelling that can be done with power from standard consumer-available models (IMO)
          5. yes but you don’t address how that would model wind. with stryd, to a degree, wind is irrelevant, it IS taken into account LIVE, as it changes as you run
          6. you can, but few would understand you 😉 (I would) and others would question whether your lthr was arrived at in a lab, under what fatigued state and using how much caffeine. power is power…either you achieved it or you didn’t. FYI: if you re-take an LTHR (lab) test on the same day several times you should fine your LTHR goes up with each test…simplistically-thinking, that doesn’t make sense but, IIRC, that’s what happens. which test would be correct..the highest or the earliest? (A: the earliest)
          7. which pace zone would you use up the hill just around the corner from me? i know what power zone to use up any hill around the corner from you…wherever you are.
          8.9.10. strava effort is TRIMP and Marco Altini (who wrote it) based it on hr not pace. stravistix/elevate is good…they use HR rather than pace for modelling load (I could be wrong)

          i don’t agree that you can do all of the above with pace, i would AGREE that you CAN do most of it (with caveats) with a combination of hr and pace (which is what i did for years). It’s just easier with power number, even the maths is easier eg what is 90% of 250w vs what’s 90% of 3:46/km

          1. That’s exactly my point, the assumption is that you can maintain the same effort/power (regardless of the “environment”) is flawed at best. I’m not sure how to explain this better!

            For race prediction, why it is hard to predict marathon time from a 5K? There are many tools that does this job, some even don’t need a race pace to predict and are really accurate.

            You brought the hill argument again, maybe I didn’t explain it well. Why would you need to pace a hill near me or any hill for that matter?

            – How many training plans that have hill training that use pace in hills? Zero, they all use 30, 60, 90 sec etc.
            – How many training plans that do not use hill training at all? Many and some are very popular and trusted.
            – How many elite runners that do not train hills at all? Again many.

            Hills are not an essential component (even if we still disagree if power is helpful or not).

            HR, power (and who knows what comes next) are just tools, and the important point that they cannot be used without pace. Not like pace where you can use it alone. Need a proof?

            – How many elite runners (by elite I mean sub 2:10 marathoners – not those sub 2:20 who try day and night to promote products), again how many elite runners that use power? Zero.

            – Do you think those elite runners who take the advantages of technologies (such as Alphafly), to lower their PBs by a fraction of second, do you think those are wrong of not using power? (many don’t use HR even).

            – How many elite coaches that use power? I’d say there is only 1 who actually lead a team in Boulder where Stryd company is located, his team is probably advertising Stryd (which is nothing wrong with that).

            So I emailed him asking his advice and if he can coach, I asked him specifically about pace vs power in his plans, his reply was he can work with pace, power or both. In other words, it is not essential.

          2. Hey FG, cyclist here

            Can you explain to me why runners are different from me? Just about every pro cyclist and most keen cyclists will use a power meter to train or race. Wind?

          3. hey back. not sure if you are making the point “why is power perfect for pro cyclists but not for pro runners”. If so, it’s a good question

            as Egan Bernal said today, “‘I did some of my best numbers ever but the others are better’”. The best of the best cyclists use power for training and racing ALL THE TIME.
            Everyone is free to train and race how they want to.
            Hopefully everyone keeps an open mind and I certainly welcome @FG’s considered and polite comments

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