2 Workout Creators – Stryd & Coros
In some ways, I can’t believe I’m writing this.
I’ve written about my experiences with sports tech for many years now and I have a fuzzy memory of my angst from days when only Garmin Training Centre was able to create complex, structured workouts for my Forerunner 305…or was it the early Garmin Connect. Either way, that was a long time ago.
It seemed that creating & executing complex workouts was forbidden fruit. Or at least forbidden to anyone not called either Garmin or Polar.
Now, finally, creating these complex workouts is much more widespread in sports tech, to the extent that there have recently been announcements from both Coros and Stryd who have boosted their support in this area. Of course, these are both companies that didn’t even exist 10 years ago when Garmin was able to do it all.
A very potted history
Workout creation features evolved from ‘only within the Garmin ecosystem‘ to some platforms integrating workouts from specialist training plan platforms like Final Surge/TrainingPeaks and other platforms doing the whole thing themselves like Polar.
Intervals have evolved from simple, repeated intervals; to complex, structured intervals; and to plans that contain workouts with these advanced features. Plans can be calendarised into your electronic diary and link and sync with 3rd party watch platform, whilst also providing deep, native analysis of your progress.
So here today we have Stryd broadly falling into a category as a specialist training plan platform and Coros offering their own native, creation-to-execution capability for their watches. Of course, the complete offering of any watch company becomes complicated as they might support multiple sources of external plans/workouts and, in Stryd’s case, they have to support their own specialist app that runs on Apple Watch and Garmin Connect.
A web of complexities for something that has always been hard to do and, even then, only for a relatively small number of runners. But as every company knows, there IS some money to be made by selling plans.
A Random Test
I wanted to test this month’s new Coros Training Hub features but I didn’t want to spend days doing it. So I created this moderately complex workout in both the Coros and Stryd platforms just to see how they could handle it…or not.
- Warm-up until I press the ‘go’ button. I will jog to the park and I might meet someone on the way so I can’t be prescriptive to say ’15 minutes warmup’
- 3x 1-mile @5k pace/power, 2 minutes rest
- 2-minutes Zone 1-2 easy jog recovery
- 2x 1-km @5k pace/power, recovery to zone 1
- 10 minutes cooldown
Let’s say my 5k power is a nice round 350w but hopefully, I’ll improve in 6 months time and it will be nice to use the workout again as a favourite without having to workout the new zones based on a higher CP of >350w.
That challenge doesn’t sound too unreasonable. Let’s see if Stryd and Coros can do it.
I used the Stryd app interface and it was nice to use and the workflow was intuitive and smooth.
- For the warmup, I had to set a duration longer than I expect to use. That’s OK as I can use LAP to end the step and progress to the workout proper.
- For the 3x 1-mile, I had to set the effort as 100-110% of Critical Power, which is probably a more correct way of doing it than I planned but it does require me to know what my Z5/Z5a range is….I assume most of you don’t.
- I chose “RPE 3. Smooth” as the criteria for Stryd’s 2-minute ‘Active Block’. #Sweet.
- I was able to choose KM on the 4th block, even though I’d chosen MILE for the earlier repeated intervals. So that’s great. However Stryd denies the concept of training by PACE or by HR, so my recovery was set at 3 minutes with no target.
- Yep, I created a cooldown of 10 minutes with no target.
That’s kinda what I wanted.
the Coros web interface is less pretty than Stryd and reminds me of Garmin’s efforts. Superficially at least it feels like it should do the job.
- For the warmup, I had to set a duration longer than I expect it to be but I can start the workout once I press LAP. That’s OK.
- For the 3x 1-mile, I couldn’t choose ‘miles’ as my default was km and I entered a manual power range as I couldn’t choose a power zone The manual power range is fine for now but not if my critical power improves.
- For the 2-minute recovery run, I was happy that I could choose my Aerobic Endurance Zone by HR.
- I was able to choose KM for the second set of intervals. And this time I thought I would add my Anaerobic pace zone which was perfect. Also good was that I could set a dynamic recovery interval based on my HR returning to zone 1, admittedly this would be better used with a higher number of shorter and more intense intervals.
- Yep, I created a cooldown of 10 minutes with no target.
Note: The workout was sync’d to the watch seamlessly. I didn’t have to do anything. That said, I did have the app open on my iPhone and that was probably required as a staging post for the workout.
I didn’t try to replicate this on Garmin as, with the exception of running power, I’m pretty sure that Garmin would be able to do all that I wanted.
Your needs and my needs in the realm of complex structured workouts are likely to be very different.
At the moment I can easily get by on my runs with my memory, using autolaps and the occasional creation of simple intervals on a watch. However, in the past, I dallied with more complex blocks and pyramids – had I then relied on my memory I would have made mistakes. I never performed super-complex workouts and Garmin was always good enough for my needs.
Today, if you do have super complex workout needs then neither Coros nor Stryd quite has all the bases covered. Stryd is almost there if you are a power devotee and Coros has some nice touches but some notable omissions too.
I suspect the future for complex structured workouts will be guided by how they fit within paid-for training plans.
There are relatively few self-trained athletes who create & structure their own plans and even if there are more than I suspect…how will supporting them make the watch company anything but peripheral amounts of money?
Perhaps general areas of refinement for all companies in this space might include
- A more complete of pacing metrics – be it native power or muscle oxygen, maybe even core temperature now that it is about to have its own ANT+ profile
- More openness with watches: Support for standards, support for Garmin, support for Apple, Wahoo and others too
- More openness with training plan & analysis platforms – make it as seamless, quick and smooth as Garmin already does.
- More consideration of track intervals and hill intervals and how to incorporate them in pre-planned workouts. eg how can you measure 300m on a track and how can you predict how long it takes to get down a new hill before ascending again.
- Compliance & Scoring – how well do you do vs plan. In layman’s terms and physiologically achievements/intent. Did you hit the power-durations? Did you really perform a VO2 workout?
Although many of those possible areas of development and improvement are highly specialist and erring toward the realm of the pros. Again, which of these can make the platform owner some money?
Workout compliance has been implemented by a few companies for a few years, Stages and Stryd both spring to mind. In some ways, understanding how close to plan you were in the harder intervals is more important than being able to support lots of weird and wonderful complex workout steps. In longer runs using power, you can pretty much check a single power-duration figure on a CP curve to understand how well you’ve done. But with shorter, repeated intervals that’s not easy as you are probably making multiple, similar power duration efforts and need to get a feel for how well bunched all your performances were.
Golden Cheetah and other software platforms can do that. However, I feel that complex structured workouts, their scoring and how that feeds back into your progress in a plan are perhaps the next major set of mini features that several mainstream companies need to bolster over the next couple of years. Surely if you are paying for ANY training plan you’d like to know how well you did and how you are progressing toward the goal?
Or maybe it’s inevitable that athletes migrate toward the existing, expansive features set in Final Surge, Training Peaks and Today’s Plan once they become serious in their sport?