COROS EvoLab – Sports Science 2.0
COROS has announced a major update to their entire platform with EvoLab, this is a series of sports physiology insights that rival almost all the popular Firstbeat features that Garmin includes on its sports platform. I’ve been using it in beta for the last week and it’s good!
Most of the underlying science is widely used and COROS has re-purposed it to underpin their own algorithms and given us some nice visualisations of our capabilities, often using ‘plain English’ to help us better understand what it all means.
On this site, I often will write a post about one company’s new feature X…just because it’s interesting. This stuff from COROS today is on a whole new level and really represents a very significant addition to their platform which puts their running offering up there with Polar and, to an extent, with Garmin too.
Coros EvoLab – What’s New?
From past experience, most people are interested in their VO2max and predicted race times, almost to the extent where the inclusion or absence of those two metrics would influence the purchase of a sports watch. Well, COROS has included & fine-tuned those calculations and the numbers are reasonable. However, COROS has also included a whole raft of what I consider to be far more important metrics that help guide your training on a weekly or daily basis.
Here’s a quick overview of what is included for all heart rate-based training and then some run-specific metrics. Afterwards, I’ll expand on some points of interest.
|Key Metrics – General Fitness|
(all activity types)
|Key Metrics – Road Running|
OK let’s go through the individual measures, I’ve tended to use images from COROS as they display better.
All types of workouts are scored based on the amount of time you spend in each heart rate zone. If you spend more time in a higher heart rate zone then you earn proportionately more training load points. Generally, your load wants to PROGRESSIVELY increase and COROS handles the progression nicely by giving you a range within which to keep your training load. In this chart, the runner might consider easing off for a couple of days as they have broken out of the recommended range.
The accumulation of those points over 6 weeks will closely reflect your fitness or ability to train harder and for longer. This chart reflects the reality of significant ups and downs in daily stresses but you will see the dark blue line is gradually increasing as would your base fitness.
Your recent training scores over the last week will reflect your short-term tiredness and this limits your body’s ability to hit the performance levels that are theoretically possible based on your base fitness. You have probably already felt tired one or two days after a hard workout but there are a few obvious effects that last for longer and which will be accounted for in COROS’s Load Impact calculations.
I’m not sure COROS has the terminology or interface right for this.
COROS assess and re-bases the difference between Load Impact & Base Fitness on a scale of 0-100 and then inverts the way the measure is normally presented`. A low value is interpreted as the ability to take on more intensity.
This measure is usually called TSB aka a measure of readiness-to-train/perform. By re-basing it in this way COROS, might imply that a value of zero is best. It isn’t. Super low fatigue can only be achieved by stopping training and that would impact your fitness.
The chart above shows this with the orange line ending at about ’40’ and that may well be a sensible race-ready status, maybe a tad high. Who knows? If it were a TSB of 15-25 then most people who understand TSB would say that’s approximately a ready-to-race value.
Action: If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. Coros has fixed it when perhaps just a few better words were all it needed.
Training Effect gives you a way to manually evaluate how well you executed your workout compared to your intentions at the start. For example, your long Sunday run should maximise an aerobic score with a zero score for ANaerobic, whereas with intervals you are trying to maximise the ANaerobic score.
The green semi-circle in the image to the right shows an aerobic TE of 3.5 which is a probably half-decent long run.
Low-intensity training slowly accumulates long-lasting fitness. Intense speedwork quickly delivers more race speed but its benefits are quickly lost. Thus your training plan will typically ramp up volume and intensity as you get closer to race day, peaking 1-3 weeks before your event.
COROS show trends in 4-weekly chunks on the app which may coincide with a specific training block. It should help you get a general view as to whether or not your training plan is pushing you in the right direction. Personally, I think this information is best shown to coincide with the cycles of your training, usually weekly.
However, on the watch, the same data for the last single month is shown as a doughnut/pie chart. This looks nice but I’m not sure how actionable it is without trend information (that’s on the app)
The intensity and duration of your training over the last 3 days will all impact your ability to train hard as of this second. The recovery timer is a great way to get a sense check on whether or not you are likely to be sufficiently recovered from recent hard workouts to be able to properly execute another hard session right now. Garmin has this as an hourly countdown whereas COROS gives your recovery status as a red/amber or green zone also with an indication of the %age of your recovery and a short textual message to explain what to do.
In some ways, I prefer how Garmin tells me ‘recovery time = 6 hours‘. That’s much more definitive. However, I suspect that your physiological reality ties in more closely with how COROS place you on a spectrum.
Marathon Level – hard surface running
This is a simple score based on your likely ability to execute a fast marathon. The higher the score, the faster the marathon. The calculations take into account workout history, VO2 Max, threshold zones and running efficiency. This is a potentially more useful metric than VO2max for predicting long-distance performances…try running a marathon at your VO2max intensity and see what happens 😉
So your ‘Marathon Level’ is just another simple metric that will mark your progression over time towards a longer race distance objective. In itself, it’s not that useful but like VO2max the number is used in other calculations.
Running Performance – hard surface running
This scores your last workout against your Marathon Level. Approximately 100% is expected and scoring over 105% indicates good performance.
Race Predictor – hard surface running
Historically race predictors tended to work well for high-level athletes or work well only if you had correctly focussed training for your target race. That EXCLUDED most people! More recent race predictors, including this one by COROS, seem to better reflect the reality of most runners. I would assume the newer models look at performance points over many different durations plus your competence at executing at those levels.
VO2max – hard surface running
Uses standard calculations ultimately based on the HR and PACE levels you achieve. However, the COROS algorithm is tweaked to reflect the reality that our real VO2max abilities change slowly and thus the algorithm has safeguards to avoid sudden changes to the reported VO2max.
Again, the number is not so useful to you the runner but it is used in several algorithms. Of course, we all know that a high VO2max infers bragging rights to the owner 😉
Your run is labelled as Easy, Base, Tempo, Threshold, VO2 Max or Anaerobic based on the intensity accumulated in the run.
In the Garmin ecosystem, this is one of the metrics I find most useful after I’ve finished a workout, it just gives me the comfort factor to know that what I achieved was probably the same as I intended at the start of the workout…or not!
Threshold Pace Zones – hard surface running
These are essentially equivalent speed/pace zones to the heart rate zones you might be more familiar with. The two sets of zones are used to moderate the scoring & classification of your workouts, ensuring outlier performances are excluded.
I wanted to include these rather cool images. These show the wealth of insights that are stored and calculated about you. I especially like the second one which shows you an example of the post-workout data that you can scroll through to get a feel for your achievements.
Then these 4 give you views how other parts of the COROS app bring together the EvoLab data.
What Needs to Change?
This seems a pretty good beta and COROS has covered many bases here. I think they need to fine-tune and tidy up what they have as most of the sensible training principles are already covered here for runners.
Does COROS want to be a trail runners watch? (YES), does COROS want to be a cyclists’ watch? (MAYBE). In either case, they need to further tweak these metrics and add a few more without going crazy.
The main omission is the cross-over of HRV data from sports to sleep and health. So we’re talking about moving towards what WHOOP does; something like HRV4Training‘s morning readiness and Garmin’s Body Battery morphed together to get a hybrid readiness-to-train score (fatigue score in the COROS terminology)…things like that.
COROS EvoLab is a superior implementation of sports physiology for the masses. It’s highly Impressive but needs a bit of tweaking before leaving its current Beta state.
If you are a committed road runner looking for some running insights then COROS EvoLab could easily sway you away from Garmin and Polar and into the hands of the excellent COROS Pace 2.
Q: Is EvoLab better than Garmin-Firstbeat?
A: Maybe not, but it’s at a similar level.
Q: Is EvoLab a copy of Garmin?
A: As I said at the outset many of the calculations are widely known although some used by Garmin/Firstbeat are less widely known and some are ‘secret’. Garmin/Firstbeat use EPOC-based measurements and it’s very unlikely that COROS will produce their sports stats in that way. So, no, the calculations are probably nowhere near copies.
Q: Is the interface/terminology/feel a copy of Garmin?
A: Ha! Well, some of it does seem very similar. Just because Garmin does X, it doesn’t mean it was the original inventor. I’m involved in some app developments at the moment and the logic of the names of these metrics and where some of these types of measurements sit in the user interface means that, for example, workout scoring just naturally goes in the workout summary data. So perhaps COROS is as logical as Garmin 😉 That said, some of the details of what COROS has done are clearly different.
Q: Is EvoLab data more accurate than Garmin-Firstbeat?
A: Well, Garmin certainly isn’t accurate in some cases and I’m sure there will be glitches and nuances to what COROS has delivered here. I have VERY significant differences between VO2max on Apple, Garmin and Coros watches, heck my VO2max even varies depending on which Garmin watch I use (go figure). That said, the COROS data seems plausible to me. Once again I could bemoan the accuracy of GPS and optical heart rate as those are two of the key inputs to this whole sub-industry. Once again I’d recommend a chest strap and STRYD, both of which COROS support, but very many people want all their tech inside one single watch and they probably don’t really care too much about accuracy. The reality is that most people don’t care about accuracy (I DO and I know many readers here do too)
If I had to pick a fault EvoLab, it would be with some of the phrases used yet they can obviously be very easily changed. So, my main criticism remains as the overall look and feel of the app, which knocks the COROS experience down a peg or two more than is deserved. Rather than remedy that, COROS has dug deeper with the strategy of more features and more watches. Garmin did that…it kinda worked, right?
These features are released in mid-June, sign up now for beta access: coros.com