Garmin Running Power – An Explainer [2022]

FTC: Affiliate Disclosure: All links pay commission

Garmin Runnig Power on Forerunner 955Garmin Running Power

Garmin Running Power has been available on the Connect IQ (CIQ) store for 5 years and now it comes pre-installed on Garmin’s new watches, starting with the Forerunner 955 and Forerunner 255.

This is an explainer for relative newcomers to running power with all you need to know about its capabilities and how to get started in the Garmin ecosystem.

What is Running Power

Running power is expressed in watts quantifying the amount of physical work by your body. If you think of it as effort it’s easier to comprehend.

What’s New?

The calculations and metrics haven’t changed in 5-years. What has changed is how they are accessed, viewed and reported on, so these are all kinda new to varying degrees.

  1. Running power is pre-installed on watches like the Forerunner 955/255, Fenix 7 & Epix 2.
  2. There are 6 numeric running power data fields and a power gauge
  3. Running Power Zones are added
  4. Running Power alerts are supported
  5. Structured running workouts support power targets for any step/interval
  6. Workout scoring based on actual power vs target power
  7. Post-workout power screens are added to the watch
  8. Several charts, metrics and power numbers are now better integrated into the workout view on Garmin Connect

 

The Benefits of Running Power as a performance metric

Running power can be a more consistent and instantaneous way to gauge your efforts over undulating terrain or in windy conditions.

For example, if you maintain a constant effort, your pace will slow when running uphill whereas running power will stay the same. Conversely, if you increase your effort levels your heart will take 30-seconds or so to react whereas power will react instantly. There are quite a few caveats to add there including how your body uses muscles differently uphill and the effects of fatigue but hopefully, you understand the principle that power is instant and reflective of effort and thus is a high-quality training metric.

Even though longstanding runners intuitively understand pace/speed and heart rate; running power eventually becomes easier to understand on its simple numeric scale and it is also more easily manipulated in algorithms to give further insights into your training.

The Problems of Running power

Running power is complicated to quantify and there are no standards for its calculation. Indeed there are two different ways to correctly calculate it and to arrive at completely different results. Thus running power is proprietary to the provider and will never match the calculations on a different manufacturer’s watch.

Worse still your friend’s 250 watts will almost certainly represent a different running pace than your 250 watts. Your friend may be lighter and have a more efficient technique, if so their 250watts will be a LOT faster than yours. Thus running power is personal.

How do I get Garmin Running Power?

From 2022 onwards, all new Garmin watches with a barometer (yep!) will probably come pre-installed with Garmin Running Power. Older watches with a barometer can install Garmin Running Power from the Garmin app store (CIQ).

Thus the Fenix 7, Garmin Epix 2, Forerunner 255 and Forerunner 955 (will) have running power installed whereas the Fenix 6 and Forerunner 945 both require you to install running power.

You must have the following to use running power

  1. A Garmin watch that has a barometer
  2. A Garmin accessory – either the RD-POD or HRM-PRO chest strap (HRM-TRI, HRM-RUN, also work)
  3. (A Running Power CIQ data field on your active sports profile for older generation watches).

Why?

The barometer determines your ascent/descent and the watch & your accessory quantify your motion in 3-dimensions. Along with your weight, these are key inputs to the running power calculation.

 

Can I Personalise My Garmin Running Power Experience?

Yes. You can change the display metrics and customise your power zones.

Add a running power metric to your running profile as you would any other data field. You can do that either on your watch or through the Garmin Connect smartphone app, like this…

There are 6 simple numeric fields to choose from and one extra gauge/dial.

Perhaps also consider adding a power alert to rein in your initial efforts during a workout or race as many runners try too hard too soon.

For any given threshold power, Garmin’s default zones are determined by lactate threshold pace,  gender, weight, and typical ability. If your runs are less than an hour it’s likely that your lower power zones overstate your abilities.

Garmin uses weather forecasts to automatically take wind into account in the power calculation. If you have connected your watch to the Connect app for 10 minutes in the last hour then the wind speed and direction will be refreshed, otherwise disabled. It’s not clear how to manually disable this fudge factor.

Power Workouts

You can create & schedule structured power workouts in Garmin Connect or even sync and follow entire power-based plans from the likes of Training Peaks or Final Surge.

The power components of the workout can either be a high/low range or a power zone. The advantage of using a Power Zone is that you will be able to use the workout as you get fitter.

 

What Power Data is stored and displayed afterwards?

A power value is stored every second. When you finish your workout you will see rudimentary power stats on your watch and a time-in-zone chart is also squirrelled away in the All Stats section.

Garmin Connect shows richer data including a power graph of your run, your lap power and time-in-zone for power.

When you follow a running power workout on the watch, you will see the power details of each step and power alerts appear should you stray from your target zones. I’ve only tried one power workout and unexpectedly got an execution score. Every stage of my workout only had power targets and I executed the workout pretty badly (for testing purposes, obviously 😉 ). So a 14% score seems correct.

 

Once uploaded to the Garmin Connect app or web platform, there are some nice insights into your power. For example, this chart shows actual vs. target watts and there are also some split and w/kg metrics.

 

 

 

Garmin Running Power – Accuracy

Here are some test results from many moons ago with the original Garmin Running Power algorithm. It’s unchanged. I’m going to refresh these tests in a month or so’s time once Apple Running Power is publically available.

I have seen dcrainmaker’s tests which will be in line with these, however, he adds the developer/alpha Apple Running Power numbers which are broadly in the region of Stryd’s numbers. However, the takeout from all of these comparisons is that no two manufacturers’ power numbers can be meaningfully compared.

 

 

External Platforms

Garmin Running Power is widely supported across other sports data platforms.

At the moment it looks like Garmin Running Power does not fully make its way into Strava on the web but it seems OK on my app. Training Peaks and Final Surge both support Garmin’s native running power in the sense that they show Garmin running power from workouts produced by the Forerunner 955 and the Forerunner 955 can execute power-based workouts synced from those 2 platforms. Xert and Golden Cheetah also support Garmin Running Power.

Strava Running Power – All The Details – All major watch brands now support it (after a fashion)

Opinion

Despite the initial disappointment that Garmin failed to create an open running power standard, it has certainly delivered a usable running power platform albeit a proprietary one.

Garmin Running Power – What Next?

If you are new to running power my suggestion is to run with it displayed alongside metrics that you are more familiar with. Try at first to get a handle on what your 1-mile/1-km power, 5k/10k power and forever power levels might be. Then progress to zone-baed power training and eventually try to get to grips with the concept of your CP-Curve/Power Curve.

In terms of what is next for Garmin, there is more work to be done. Most obviously is the need to calculate power without an external sensor – every competitor including Apple (2022) does this. Next would be the need to add a wider range of live data metrics, lap screen metrics, workout summary metrics and then to incorporate power into the more advanced features like PacePro Pacing, Power Guide Strategies and the physiology features. The ability to see progressions in your CP Curve over weeks and months would be great.

Garmin might even decide to be nice to Stryd and allow its power metric to work natively with their features…but don’t hold your breath.

Finally, all 3rd party analysis platforms and coaching platforms need to integrate Garmin running power if they haven’t already done so.

Expect sparks to fly with Running Power well into 2023. With Apple and Garmin both now playing the power game, awareness and usage levels of running power will significantly increase and hopefully, that will drag along new features for us to use at the same time.

 

Garmin Running Power FAQ

Q: What is a good running power level?

A: It depends on your weight, running economy as well as the duration you run.

Q: Is Garmin Running Power Accurate

A: It’s hard to say as there is no easy standard to compare it against. Garmin introduces a fudge factor of wind which simply cannot be correct and the further use of GNSS/GPS will also introduce inaccuracy. However, if you use the Multi-Band abilities of the new Garmin watches then positional accuracy is significantly increased.

Q: Does Garmin Running Power work on a treadmill

A: Yes. There will be discrepancies in treadmill power values compared to running outdoors linked to incline, lack of air resistance and the mechanics of the rotation of your treadmill’s belt.

Q: Does Garmin running power take into account treadmill incline

A: No. Not as far as I know.

Q: How do I enable Forecast Wind to be factored into live power

A: Think carefully if you really want to do this. If the wind is deflected then the resulting power will be unpredictable. Wind will be automatically enabled if you have a connection with Garmin Connect for about 10 minutes and within one hour of starting your run. It used to be disabled in the CIQ apps but I now can’t see where to do that in the Connect app.

Q: Does Garmin Running Power act as an input for any of the Garmin Firstbeat physiology algorithms

A: Cycling power is certainly used in the physiology algorithms but I don’t think running power is used (yet)

Q: What if my Garmin watch doesn’t have a barometer?

A: Garmin Running Power will never work on your watch. You could try a Stryd pod.

Q: What if my weight changes?

A: Weight changes will definitely affect your power. It’s generally recommended not to change your recorded weight unless you are either progressively losing/gaining weight or carrying a backpack. That’s counterintuitive but go with it! Furthermore, I don’t know how to stop Garmin Running Power from using a daily weight measurement taken with smartscales.

Q: How do I improve the accuracy of Garmin Running Power?

A: The quality of the inputs matter so

    • use the maximum-quality GPS setting (multi-band if you have it)
    • get a correct & consistent weight setting in Garmin Connect
    • use a properly calibrated footpod which is paired as a footpod and where the footpod is set as the source of speed and distance.
    • A properly calibrated initial elevation might help avoid errors later in the run once your watch has a 3D-GPS fix
    • Perhaps avoid the wind adjustment and never run when it’s windy 😉

Q: What is ‘forever power’? FTP? and CP?

A: These are the maximum power levels you can hold for 10s of minutes or hours and they are used to determine your training and racing abilities for other durations of training. As a novice runner, you can work on the assumption that they might mean similar things.

    • Critical Power (CP) is sometimes referred to as your forever power. Perhaps something similar to your marathon pace, although it depends on your endurance abilities to determine what ‘forever’ means
    • Critical Power is sometimes used to refer to the maximum power you can hold for an hour, though for many people that’s not a true description.
    • Critical is sometimes suffixed with a number of minutes, thus CP120 is your maximum 2-hour power. This tends to be used more in cycling than running.
    • FTP is your Functional Threshold Power and that refers to the power level at which your body can clear lactate. Again it’s often said to be 60 minutes but for many of us, it’s a shorter duration.

Q: What is my threshold power? & How Do I estimate it.

A: Again threshold power is similar to FTP and CP. This can be estimated with sufficient accuracy by using your average power for a 10K race or slightly less than your 5K average power. This power level roughly corresponds to the Zone 4/5 boundary and can be used to set custom power zones. Various protocols and tests exist but I wouldn’t worry about them unless you are a very good runner. You can also find several tools that continually update your FTP/CP/threshold power based on training results – these work with the knowledge that CP can be predicted with varying accuracy from many other shorter efforts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reader-Powered Content

This content is not sponsored. It’s mostly me behind the labour of love which is this site and I appreciate everyone who follows, subscribes or Buys Me A Coffee ❤️ Alternatively please buy the reviewed product from my partners at their regular price. Thank you! This really is reader-powered content.
FTC: Affiliate Disclosure: All links pay commission. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
40 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Knatte

Will a watch that is worn fairly loose affect the accuracy/consistency of power calculated from a watch in a significant way?

Knatte

That is my thought as well, and is one of the reasons why I use Stryd (apart from better distance and speed in general) even though I’ve a Polar Vantage V. For similar reasons I use Polar H10 and not the built-in optical, and my Vantage V is generally only worn during training.

But Stryd also has some inconsistencies (from run to run) due to use of different shoes, so nothing is perfect.

That said, I can see why many would opt for a single solution in a watch.

Webvan

Good summary and refresher, thanks! I used RP on my FR935 out of curiosity and found it rather useless. Moved on to Stryd and was impressed by the ecosystem, the CP curve especially, but gave up on it after seeing how variable the results could be from one run to the other and from one shoe to the other, +/- 2%. Doesn’t sound like much but it’s huge when you’re pacing a marathon! Back to pace and HR!

Will

2% variation in distance or power?

webvan

As you point out “running power” cannot be related to anything “real”, distance can and in my testing (a 1km officially measure straight line) I found that distance could vary by +/- 2% even with the same shoes. Stryd deny that it’s possible of course and go after anyone who finds any variation of more than 1% (pushed to their limit they will finally admit that their “can” be 1% variations which is “still much better than a bike power meter costing up to Yx more”). In my experience (and despite what they claim too) “Stryd power” IS dependent on pace/distance, so distance variations will have an impact on power and there could be other factors of course for unexplained variations but that’s probably the main one. In spite of all the aggravation and insulting attitude by “Gus from Stryd” I tried to make it work for a year, until a 10k when the distance was 4% short and I tried to hold a power (based on my CP) that was way too high. The last Km was…ugly obviously ! Stryd never acknowledged that there could be something wrong with my device (“it’s impossible”, “user error”, “course not measured properly”,… Read more »

webvan

Yes manual calibration of course, many, many adjustments done over the course of a year, on a track, on a measured road, etc… It seems I was not clear but THE issue is that you can nail down the calibration perfectly one day and then one day out of the blue you can have a +/- 2% variation, even with the same shoes. So yes 99% of users will take Stryd’s word for it but when I’m told something is accurate I’m going to be checking that claim especially after repeatedly noticing that autolap points varied on my usual runs. The main Stryd FB group has few to no complaints because Gus just moderates them (you get a PM telling you to contact support because you’re likely doing something wrong). There’s an independent FB group where a guy who’s even more OCD keeps running accuracy tests with multiple units and and he’s also finding differences, as one would expect, he’s around +/- 1.6% I think. If they sold it with a 1.5% accuracy claim, or even 1%, it would be fine, it’s just dishonest from them. But you can see why they’re doing that, if you’re trying to pace a… Read more »

Knatte

I’ve manually calibrated my Stryd and on a common run I make the distance varies from 11.20 km to 11.13 km, so about 0.6% difference. Difference is likely due to how I cut corners, which side of the road I run and so on. I also use two different pairs of shoes, so that can cause difference as well. On top of that even Stryd itself has errors in it’s own measurements.

I find Stryd pretty accurate and consistent when not using the GPS auto calibration of my Polar Vantage V.

Will

I think you’ve got it. I’ve never done a track circuit calibration. Falls in to the category of “life too short” for me 🙂

Will

Pity you didn’t get the tech support you were after. The power target for a 10k or 10.4k race is only 1W difference (weight dependant). So if you tried to hold target power and faded badly in the final 1km then it was more likely that the target was wrong, rather than distance calibration being the over riding factor. Stryd’s race power targets rely on an accurate Auto CP. That can be quite a minefield to establish. For a 10k race I’d cross check Stryd’s target with doing a 5k test a few weeks before. Then take which ever gives the lowest estimate. Come race day, it’s nicer to start off conservatively then progressively build on the final stages, than the other way around. The other method is to look at your Power Duration Curve, turn on Modelled Ability. Look what power you have for the estimated race time. Ask yourself; was that target a previous race, a tempo training session etc. Then for the race you can hopefully go a little bit higher than in training. I race quite often, so maybe it’s easier for me, since a past race is a decent predictor of a future race. If… Read more »

webvan

No one reporting accuracy issues is getting honest tech support from Stryd, either you’re happy with their product or you’re doing something wrong. To their credit some people are likely doing something wrong, like auto-calibration, not running properly on a track, think GPS is perfectly accurate, etc… As for race strategies, yes I’ve probably run 100 races over the past 10 years including many marathons so I know what works and what doesn’t 😉 What Stryd sell you is that they’ll help you optimize your training and race strategies and while their ecosystem is certainly well designed and the power curve concept well executed it’s stil the same old “garbage in, garbage out” problem. It may be that there’s a 1W difference in the target watts for a 10k and a 10.4k (or 9.6k) race but that’s not the info you’re getting on race day if you find yourself facing a 4% variation, the watch/Stryd don’t know they’re 4% off so you’re not going be told to adjust your goal by 1w, you’re going to be told you’re running at say 307 watts instead of your 320 watts objective so you’re going to be pushing way too hard to reach… Read more »

Will

I’ve never seen a 4% variation in power with my various shoes, so can’t help on that front.

I agree, a 4% power change is large as that’s in the region of 5k target vs 10k target.

I have read of people not reporting air power correctly with Nike shoes that have offset laces. 4% airpower is very common at race pace. Is that relevant to you?

Another issue I’ve read is people forgetting to switch the Workout app to outdoor mode after indoor use. Indoor mode turns off air power. Just a thought.

Barrie

I find it strange that anyone would ever take one data point (Power in this case) as their only reference during an important race. If you have Stryd, and a FR935, then you have Power, HR Zones and pace zones all to check at the same time, along with cadence and running feel.

If you know one of them isn’t working, then why wouldn’t you just switch in the first few hundred meters to the next best?

During a race I would know on the flat what my pace should roughly be compared with my power so if one was wrong, (which it was on occasion with VaporFly) I just switched to use one that wasn’t as wrong.
Seems odd that an experienced racer would let technology rule an important race or any race.

Of course, S customer service has no excuse.

That said, I never had any problems and ran all of my PB’s with Stryd (and a great third party running plan) so what do I know!

Webvan

Right and it seems I wasn’t clear but that’s exactly what I did after 1k at 5k pace (rush of the start/flow power target) but I could only really find out for sure when I hit the 1k marker.
That’s the problem with Stryd, you’re told it’s perfectly accurate so use it for distance/pace, calibrate it perfectly and then it shifts for no reason.
So yes I could have not used it for distance as a safety net but if you can’t trust it what’s the point? And it would have taken 1k too. Like I wrote earlier garbage in/garbage out.
Again, maybe it’s my Stryd that shifted for no good reason but they never gave me a chance to find out as they refused to swap it (why wouldn’t they since they’re dealing with someone’s who’s spent hours collecting and sending feedback? Odd…) and there’s a lot of similar feedback in the non Stryd moderated FB Stryd test page. And the “crazy” tester on that page found some +/- 1.6% variations, so pretty close to an overall 4%.

Will

I think Stephen Cousins who you’re referring to, only talks about distance variation with Stryd, not power.

With time, I think Stryd as good as admit they consider +/-2% OK for distance accuracy.

But this doesn’t explain your power variation. Have you checked air power across your runs?

Webvan

Yes SC found some distance variations in his videos (and was aggressively attacked by Stryd in comments) but some far more detailed testing is being done in that FB Stryd testing group. Stryd has (and based on my experience) will never publicly admit to anything else than perfect accuracy and zero variation. Again the only thing they’ll admit to when faced with unexplained variations is that even 5x priced power meters are rated for a percentage of error. Strangely no one at Stryd has deemed it appropriate to put that info in their manuals/box 😉

As for power variations, we’ve got nothing to measure them against so it’s impossible to prove but I’ve seen them with the same shoe from one race to the other run in the same conditions and it’s common sense that they’re using some forum of pace input to calculate it and if it’s off by 4‰ well…

Will

Yeah – I’m not a fan of how Stryd challenge users when they give negative feedback. Interestingly, Kun (co-founder) when he does reply is very much more pragmatic. So I think it’s just style, more than substance.

Stryd are quite coy about how accurate it is and just say “accurate out of the box”. But without quantifying how accurate, it kind of means nothing. I’ve read quite a few polls and many users find it 1-2% accurate.

Stryd comparing % accuracy to power meters is comparing apples to oranges. Stryd is discussing distance accuracy whilst power meters are power/force accuracy, for which there are agreed laws of physics, unlike run power. But any rate, you can now buy a single sided crank power meter for a similar price to a Stryd pod. It’s a senseless debate – one I’m sure I’ve been guilty of in the past.

Can you post links to two activities that have 4% power variation?

Knatte

It’s very obvious that the Stryd device have errors due both to the hardware itself and the algorithms used. This is true for all devices of whatever type, so the relevant point is: Are the numbers reported consistent enough for training and racing guidance?

Yes, they are, for guidance, but you seems to want rely in it 100% at racing, and that quite simply is a misunderstanding of the limitations of the technology.

That said, decide on a test protocol with Stryd Company and send your device back for testing.

I, for one, would love to know how that went.

fl33tStA

it works on Epix 2 now as on FR955 or a future firmware?

Anthony Salotto

It will just appear, soon, on Epix 2 (and offshoots like Quatix 7) with an automatic update? No need for the CIQ app, right?

paul

Garmin has some description how running power is calculated.
https://www.garmin.com/en-US/garmin-technology/running-science/running-dynamics/running-power/
What is interesting, Wind/Air Power component comes not only from a weather forecast, but also barometer.

Will

It’s quite non-specific what the barometer sensor is doing.

 The Running Power app uses your heading from GPS and reported wind conditions for your area, augmented by data from the barometer on your watch, to determine how much wind you’re likely experiencing.”

Knatte

I’m sceptical to the general usefulness of weather forecasts for wind power calculations, and there should be an option to disable that. Even Stryd can be iffy at times.

Will

Reference your comment on weight: I imagine many new Garmin and Apple run power uses who have smart scales will turn on auto sync by default. It’ll make intuitive sense to them.

Will

thread drift – which garmin scales do you have?
I had the 1st generation from 5yrs ago. They did a firmware update which basically “killed” the fat % part. Many users complained of this on the fourum.
I wonder if the Mk2 is better now?

Yanick

Hi,

Maybe I missed it, is there a built-in running power guided test to determine your power zone like the lactate threshold guided test?

Eric Gottlieb

I don’t know if there is a built in test, but running coach Steve Palladino has a suggested protocol in this paper he wrote about CP:

https://docs.google.com/document/u/1/d/e/2PACX-1vSz0ryPMD4vVJLi2HGjkqoUKRzRPhN78TUNlCmuYcrLTjeLPx-ZaiROk9NG96iatJ4zYKAQcbjEEot0/pub

tfk, the5krunner

yes, a 30-minute or 10k maximal effort should be enough to trigger whatever Garmin is doing behind the scenes. Steve’s protocols would likely also trigger something similar but it’s a bit complex to read all of that for runners new to power.

tfk, the5krunner

this is quite interesting. it’s for cyclists power zones but running is similar https://www.cyclingapps.net/blog/new-take-on-the-classic-power-zone-calculator/
(The TTE part wont be similar). often it’s just easier for you to put in whatever maximal value you already have than to do a test.

Anthony Salotto

Maybe I’m missing something, but it seems the only advantage of running power over heart rate is it’s more instantaneous, right? But to me, when I hit a hill my heart rate climbs pretty darn quickly. What am I missing just staying with heart rate?

Will

Lag and drift are known issues with HR. Power will respond quick than HR. HR takes a mile or so to get up to steady state, then will drift upwards during the run, for the same intensity. HR also has day to day variation.

It’s not that power is without its own issues, but generally offers a better metric for gauging intensity

tfk, the5krunner

there is drift over long workouts
there is the impact of starting fatigue
there is the impact of caffeine and other factors that elevate hr
initial delay of 10-15 minutes at the start then the 30 second or so lag as you shift efforts during the workout

as Will has said elsewhere you should still look at hr and pace. it’s just an extra tool and maybe it can be your primary one. perhaps the one issuette i have with stryd is that their ethos comes from the ‘only use power’ viewpoint, although that’s changing

Dan

I’m sorry to question the facts written above, but the HRM-Dual isn’t just a typo?
I’m quite sure it doesn’t have running metrics and it wasn’t supported in the iq app before.
I would be happy to see it added though.

tfk, the5krunner

yes you are right, ty