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Until now, cyclists had a weapon in their training and races that we racers didn't. Thanks to power meters, they can constantly adjust their effort to improve their results, just as they can make a gradual effort in any competition, regardless of whether the road goes up or down.
Meanwhile, we runners can only train with a target pace or heart rate, but not a metric that effectively tells us how hard we're working. The pulse is a good measure, but it's not 100% correct. Days with humidity, heat, intense workouts in the past... all these factors can cause our heart to need to pump more times per minute at the same pace.
So what can a power meter give a runner? Just like in cycling, a runner's effort can be quantified in a simple metric. That's what Stryd promises, a new device that wants to guide you in your runs in a totally objective way.
How does Stryd work?
Stryd is worn with a clip on the trousers. It has movement sensors that will obtain data on cadence, impact and other biomechanical measurements. In addition, a barometer helps to know the slope of the road.
The secret lies in the algorithm that processes motion and slope data along with an anatomical model of the runner's body to create a unique 3D environment that defines how you are running and determines your running power.
Once we have the instantaneous power data, where do we see it and capture it? Yes, you've guessed it, on the phone (it's usually recurrent on all new devices). But it doesn't end here, as you'll also be able to see the data on your training watch, and I'm sure you'll be more interested in this. And since the connectivity is ANT+ and Bluetooth Smart simultaneously, the range of possibilities is quite wide.
On watches that have potentiometer support, Stryd will send the power figure through its specific channel. For those that do not have power support, Stryd can send the information "camouflaged" as if it were the heart rate or cadence data. That is, you can pass it through another type of sensor and enter the data through its channel, the only thing you will need to know is that the cadence information it is giving you is not steps per minute, but watts.
It's a very ingenious way to work, because as companies adapt (and according to the Colorado company, they've already been in contact with manufacturers and training platforms), in addition to having Stryd data in real time, it will be recorded and you'll be able to examine it on graphs to learn how to train based, now, on power. And yes, Connect IQ is also on his road map.
Why run with a potentiometer?
The reasons for training and competing with power data are the same as for cycling. First of all, power is isolated from the environment and your physical condition. In nervous situations, with environmental humidity or being more tired, when running our heart rate will be higher. Using a power meter we will obtain a totally objective value, which will not be affected by any situation, no matter how nervous you are before the start.
In long races it will be much easier to perform our dosage, especially in long races with many slopes, such as marathons or mountain ultras.
If we run up the pulse rate, we can accelerate at a higher rate, but the heart will gradually increase until it stabilizes. Our heart is not capable of going from 120 beats to 180 in a single second. So when we are doing series or intervals, it will be much easier to limit the exercise to a certain range rather than having to regulate the pace until we find the point where our heart rate stays on target, without going over or under.
The data obtained during our training can be transferred to the day of the competition, precisely because it is totally isolated from external values; and it is also comparable between different athletes, since weight or hydration have no influence here. And finally, it may help you to find efficiency and improve your running technique, since Stryd goes one step further than solutions from other manufacturers, such as Garmin's running dynamics.
Are these the exact figures?
In the initial phase of development, Stryd's team compared the data obtained with their small device against laboratory equipment (force plate treadmill, if anyone knows the Spanish translation, I can't find it). At that stage, Stryd's error was less than 10%, and as Jamie Williamson (Stryd's co-founder, whom I briefly interviewed and will offer in a couple of days) assured me, they continue to compare their product in the laboratory to refine the data and continue to improve accuracy.
But there is one variable they cannot compute correctly, and that is wind. They plan to incorporate it, but they do not yet have enough data.
Don't have any doubt. Power meters, just like cycling, are here to stay. In the world of cycling there has always been a major barrier to entry: its high price (until recently, more than a thousand euros, although new equipment is coming onto the market at a lower price). But this will not be the case for Stryd, as its selling price will be $149.
What is left for Stryd to do is to standardize power as a training variable - not only for the runner to accept (and use), but also for different platforms and watch manufacturers to adapt their products to display this new information. In the case of Garmin it seems to be somewhat easier, thanks to Connect IQ, while Suunto has the power channel open in the race profile; but the data also needs to be saved to a file so that it can be exported later to web platforms (both manufacturer's and third party's).
What's Stryd's schedule?
Stryd is now on sale through the crowdfunding platform KickstarterThe first units will start arriving in July 2015, while the original buyers will receive them in September. The public sale will arrive in a year's time, in spring 2016, and the stipulated price will be around $149.
So if you are interested in the product, you can purchase it while the sale is still available at KickstarterAnd if you're late, keep an eye on their website, www.stryd.comIn the meantime, I will try to get a test unit to keep you informed at all times about this product, which promises to revolutionize the way we train.