POLAR POWER – A NEW PERFORMANCE METRIC
TOM CRAGGS AND NICK ANDERSON FROM RUNNING WITH US EXPLAIN POLAR’S WRISTBASED POWER
POWER is a concept that is familiar to triathletes and cyclists where, in simple terms, we are measuring how much force and speed an athlete is producing at a given time. Within cycling this is measured most commonly using force gauges within the crank or pedal, with wrist-based power for runners this is measured using an algorithm using GPS and barometer readings.
With a plethora of data and information already available to runners, why add this additional metric? From a coach’s point of view there are several key benefits to being able to track running power:
Making the critical measurable
Good mechanics and an athlete’s ability to apply and control force is critical to performance. As a part of the training mix for endurance athletes we include drills, strides, hill repetitions, even elements of sprint and a-lactate training to develop anaerobic speed reserve. However, increasingly, I will see coaches focusing only on what they can measure, which commonly leaves these critical components at best as an afterthought or even totally missing. Running power adds measurability and therefore a method of tracking progression in these critical aspects of training.
Heart rate, heart rate variability and physiological measurements such as lactate tests are increasingly being used as a measurement of how hard an athlete has worked within a session – commonly called measurements of ‘internal load’ – but this is only half the picture of a workout’s ‘real load’. Running power allows another key dataset – ‘muscle load’ which is a measurement of ‘external load’. Together these provide a more complete picture of how hard an athlete worked in a session or race and can be used to inform a more accurate assessment of the effectiveness of a session, progression or appropriate recovery time.
Power is instant and responsive whereas heart rate always involves a lag. Heart rate is a useful measure, for example in a 20-30 minute tempo block at 80-85% of max HR, but it’s much less useful in short intervals such as 100-400m reps on the track, or short hills, where the lag in HR never reflects the real work you put in. This instant feedback can also be highly effective whilst pacing that first few hundred metres of a race when your legs feel good and your HR is still low, or on hilly courses where your HR can take time to catch up and ‘bite you’.
The Polar Vantage V offers advanced metrics and coaching features, including wrist-based running power
Coach Nick Anderson puts runners through their paces to test the new Vantage V