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Garmin 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.
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.
- Running power is pre-installed on watches like the Forerunner 955/255, Fenix 7 & Epix 2.
- There are 6 numeric running power data fields and a power gauge
- Running Power Zones are added
- Running Power alerts are supported
- Structured running workouts support power targets for any step/interval
- Workout scoring based on actual power vs target power
- Post-workout power screens are added to the watch
- 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).
You must have the following to use running power
- A Garmin watch that has a barometer
- A Garmin accessory – either the RD-POD or HRM-PRO chest strap (HRM-TRI, HRM-RUN, also work)
- (A Running Power CIQ data field on your active sports profile for older generation watches).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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