Category Archives: Coaching

First Strides with the Stryd Running Power Meter

When I first heard that there were some companies coming out with power meters for running, I couldn’t wait. I love to be able to objectively quantify my workouts. Knowing how this works for cycling, being able to add this to running would be a bonus. Then I thought about it a bit and realized it would probably be best to hold out a bit. The technology was new and Still evolving. Also, none of the training watches or software would pick it up anyway without some hacking involved.

I had played around a little bit with running power by using my Cyclops PowerCal Heart Rate Monitor which was kind of interesting. The problem was I had to run with my Garmin in biking mode all the time. Not something I really wanted to do since I would miss out on the other running-specific data. Then Garmin came out with the HRM-Runs’ running analytics which I thought was better data than just having power.

The Stryd Running Power Meter

The Stryd unit seemed to be the one that was getting the most attention and it had gone through a few iterations of its product already. It started out as a little widget that you clip on your shorts, then it turned into a heart rate strap and now it is a little foot pod. It finally seemed like they were stabilized a bit, so I decided to “pull-the-trigger” and order one. It took a few months to arrive.

I am glad I waited because the HR strap looks like it sticks out a bit and would look very strange bulging out of your shirt. One advantage of the HR strap one was that it measured power in 3 planes, vertical, horizontal and lateral, whereas the footpod only measures the first two. I don’t think this is a big deal for me since I think I am a pretty efficient runner thanks to my Chirunning practice.

I have had the Stryd footpod now for a few months now and feel I have some initial impressions of it. I say few months because I had to send it back to be replaced already since the tab where it clips to its back clip broke off. It doesn’t seem like there is much really to grab onto there. While it still held in place on my laces, I was a little leery it was going to fall off sometime. The folks at Stryd quickly replaced the unit and got me back and running again. Pun intended.

Stryd Power Footpod broken 1

Stryd Power Footpod broken 1

Collecting the Data

I started reading Jim Vance’s “Running with Power” book while I was training with the unit. I had already read Vance’s previous book “Triathlon 2.0” which I really liked, but I felt the Running with Power book was not quite as good. Most of it was just a re-hashing of the other books’ concepts on Power for cycling. While there were a few new metrics, namely Efficiency Index or EI, that are different from cycling, I feel this book is a little premature at this point since the technology is still being figured out. Hopefully the “Running with Power 2.0” will be better.

One of the recommendations in Vance’s book was to just start running with the power meter and start collecting data. For the next couple of months,  I just ran with it and checked in on the numbers post-mortem of my runs.

After finally collecting several months of data I decided it was now time to analyze it. Well despite the fact that Jim Vance’s book stressed how essential the Efficiency Index (EI) metric was, none of the training sites, except for SportTracks even implemented it! Not even Training Peaks or Stryd! This is even though they published blog posts(here and here are just a couple examples) about Vances’ book and the metric itself. WTH? Also, SportTracks implemented only for individual activities so there was no way to track this metric over time.

Analyzing the Data

So what is a data geek to do? Start tracking it myself I guess. I started by downloading my workout summary data from Training Peaks and then crunching the numbers in my favorite analysis tool, Qlikview. Below is the running results for the current training season in regard to Efficiency Index(EI). The formula is V(M/min)/rPwr(watts).

Efficiency Index EI by Month

Efficiency Index Components by Month

As you can see in the first graph, my EI has dropped a bit from December to February and then pretty much leveled out from there. Is that good or bad? Pretty hard to tell without looking at the components of it. Personally, I think EI, by itself, is pretty meaningless.

February was pretty much a wash month for me. I was pretty sick for a solid 2 weeks of it and spent the next couple weeks getting back to normal again. Looking at my average velocity for each month it has been increasing steadily, which I would say is good. My power numbers have also gone up too. April increased significantly due to having a 4-mile and a half-marathon race in there. So if both the components are increasing, then I am getting faster and stronger I guess. This leaves EI pretty much staying the same. See what I mean by EI being meaningless by itself now?

One other variable is that my weight has dropped a bit during the training months. I was surprised that this didn’t affect EI at all. I would think I would have gotten faster while using fewer watts and am not seeing that happening here either.

Looking my average heart rate versus the increase in speed and watts does show that hasn’t changed too much. This would indicate that despite those increases in output, my aerobic “engine” doesn’t appear to be increasing. So I guess I am getting more efficient.

Runner Effectiveness

Another running power metric has recently come onto the scene called Runner Effectiveness. This is outlined in a recent post by Steve Palladino on the Training Peaks Blog. This metric, while similar to Vance’s EI metric, uses Watts/kg in the denominator instead which brings the athletes weight into the mix. It also uses Meters/second for velocity in the numerator as opposed to Meters/minute in the EI metric.

Running Effectiveness = (m/s) / (w/kg)

Palladino shows how this metric can be calculated in Training Peaks’ WKO4 client software program as well. I actually have a copy of this program haven’t had a chance to really delve into it yet. Perhaps the EI metric can also be calculated here too.

For now, I calculated this one too in my Qlikview app. As you can see below it pretty much shows a similar trend, just not quite as drastic as EI above.

Runner Effectiveness

Summary

Running with power is still new territory and there is still some data gathering and analysis that needs to be done to get anything valuable out of it. One thing that is valuable now is that it is a good way to quantify your individual workouts for calculating TSS. Is it necessary though? I don’t think so. It is a lot of money for something that is just a “nice to have”. I think training with pace, heart rate and time is still just as good and will save you a couple hundred dollars. If you have one of the watches that track the new running dynamics metrics, I think that they are more worthwhile for those looking to improve their efficiency. High cadence, minimal ground contact time and vertical oscillation will help you track that.

 

Ironman University Certified Coach

For anyone still reading this blog, I have to apologize for having been a bit out of communication here over the last few months. Besides the busy holiday season, I had been heads down working through the Ironman University online coaching certification since September. This course pretty much consumed the majority of my free time from September until I submitted my final assessment a few days before the Thanksgiving holiday.

I have to say that the course was very well done, despite all the negative comments it generated from people in the triathlon community. The Ironman folks and the top-level coaches involved in it surely put a lot of time and effort into this online curriculum. The course was very thorough and it covered topics such as Exercise science, kinesiology of each sport, training plans, strength training, nutrition and even touched on the business side of coaching. My wife, who works in the Physical Therapy field, had walked past while I was taking the exercise science module   and said “you are going to know more than me!”. I don’t know about that but, it was very definitive and provided solid core fundamentals about what your body is doing when you are performing.

Ironman University Curriculum Menu

Ironman University Curriculum Menu

I was also very impressed by the lack of sponsor influence in the nutrition module. Ironman is part of a corporation that has many corporate sponsors, so I figured the nutrition part of the course would be heavily influenced by these sponsors. Much to my surprise, it was not at all. The nutrition advice they gave was very sensible and based on the most current common sense nutrition concepts. I surely thought they would be pushing Chocolate Milk and Gatorade down my throat, but they did no such thing.

Another area that impressed me was the strength training module. I thought that they would be prescribing the traditional bodybuilding-style weight training which isolates specific muscles. Instead, they provide some good functional and stabilization movements that work the entire body, which I now know is most effective for endurance sports. Thanks to my strength coach Fernando Paredes. Several of the exercises they listed in their database were ones that my strength coach prescribes.

Overall, the course drove home many standard concepts that are used by many of the top coaches in the business. The coaches driving the course content were Troy Jacobson, Lance Watson, Matt Dixon, and Paula Newby-Fraser. Basically, the best in the business! They also identified some of the different philosophies that the master coaches so that you can have some alternative approaches to add to your coaching toolbox. In addition to the great course content, they also provided numerous handouts and worksheets that you can use and refer to later on as you work through developing training plans for your athletes.

The online program also worked pretty well the entire time. The only exception was the one time when it crashed on me, which just happened to be on question 35 of 50 during Part 1 of the final assessment test. AAAHHH!!! I was flipping out when that happened!  I was quickly in touch with a support person for IMU and she gracefully calmed me down and helped me through it. Fortunately, the questions were pretty much the same the second time I went through it and I remembered my original answers. If you are thinking of taking this class, you may want to jot down your answers while taking the during the assessment portion.

The final assessment consists of a 50 question multiple choice online test for Part 1 and an offline, subjective, long answer style test in a MS Word Document for Part 2. The multiple choice portion was not an easy off-the-top-of-the-head type test. Many of the questions required me to dig back into my handouts and notes to derive the proper answers.  The Part 2 assessment basically has you build the majority of a season training plan for a given athlete profile provided in a completed athlete questionnaire. This second part took me a relatively long time to complete due to looking things up and analyzing the athletes profile. You will surely need to know your stuff to complete this part. I was exhausted by the time I was done here. They do give you a second attempt at it if you don’t do well on the first try. I surely didn’t want to have to do that again. So, I was relieved when a week or so later I received an email indicating that I had passed!

ronman University Coaching Certificate

Ironman University Coaching Certificate

I don’t know if I will ever actually coach anyone other than myself, but I believe the course was worth the $599 I paid just for all the knowledge I gained and the materials that I received. Hiring a coach can cost from $130/month and up. Multiply that by 6 months and you are already over $600. So if I only coach myself for another season I would have already broke even. Maybe if a friend decided to do a triathlon and they ask me to coach them I will, but I don’t know if I will put it out there to the general public. For now, I want to continue to learn and gain more information from other experienced coaches in the field.

If you are self-coached triathlete reading this and considering taking the Ironman Univeristy I would highly recommend this course just for the vast amount of knowledge it provides. I have to say it was not as easy as I thought it would be either. Although they do not require it, You really need to have some experience training and racing in triathlon to draw on for this class. If you don’t you will struggle a bit. This really came into play during Part II of the final assessment when you have to create the majority of a full season training plan for a given athlete. I spent an entire week on this alone and handed it in a few hours before my course deadline was reached.

IRONMAN Certified Coach

IRONMAN Certified Coach