POWER UP

Use Tour de France-level tech to max­imise strength when you need it most

Trail Running (UK) - - Contents -

We re­veal how boost­ing your power could be the key to suc­cess, with ex­pert tips from an Olympic ath­lete

The num­ber one ques­tion trail run­ners have when it comes to im­prov­ing al­ways seems to cen­tre around hills, and how to con­quer them more ef­fec­tively. As a re­sult, it’s some­thing we’re al­ways keen to ex­plore here at TR. In­vari­ably the an­swer is al­ways fairly sim­i­lar – stride length, a fast ca­dence and head po­si­tion form the ba­sis of most the­o­ries. But we have some news for you – it’s re­ally all about power and how much of it you gen­er­ate!

We’ve dis­cov­ered one of the best ways to de­velop power, which is de­rived from core strength, is by run­ning and train­ing on hilly ter­rain. So it turns out we trail run­ners have been get­ting it right all along! Sim­ply go­ing out for a run over the stuff we love best – off-road full of

lumps and bumps – is ac­tu­ally the best way to get fit­ter, stronger and bet­ter at ev­ery­thing else. That’s one in the eye for all of the road run­ners out there.

By run­ning on trails in­stead of ur­ban jogs around the block, not only are you en­joy­ing great scenery, wildlife, kin­der run­ning sur­faces and cleaner air; but you’re also build­ing strength and gen­er­at­ing power at the same time. Now that is smart train­ing – and it doesn’t in­volve a visit to the gym.

Learn­ing from cy­clists

In­stead it in­volves us­ing de­vices like the new Po­lar Van­tage watch, which mea­sures the power you gen­er­ate on each run and en­ables you to create a train­ing pro­gramme to boost speed.

Cy­clists have used power or wattage data for many years. Dur­ing races such as the Tour de France, race tac­tics and in­struc­tions are is­sued to rid­ers from coaches and staff in sup­port ve­hi­cles who are busily track­ing the rid­ers’ stats mo­ment by mo­ment, analysing their power out­puts and com­mu­ni­cat­ing what their next move should be in terms of when and how hard they should go.

Now, the lat­est think­ing by tech ex­perts – and a pos­si­ble game changer for the run­ning world – is that run­ners too can use power mea­sure­ment as a tool, en­abling us to ben­e­fit in the same way cy­clists and row­ers do.

Un­til now, run­ners have typ­i­cally used heartrate and speed (min­utes per mile/ km) to build op­ti­mal train­ing pro­grammes and gauge how ef­fec­tive their train­ing is, but it might be that power could be more in­for­ma­tive. Heartrate is some­times slow to re­spond or mea­sure and speed is some­times dif­fi­cult to pre­dict, or can be af­fected by a strong head­wind; but power can more ac­cu­rately mea­sure the body’s out­put.

“Power isn’t some­thing run­ners think about very of­ten, let alone mea­sure, but since it’s one of the key fac­tors in de­ter­min­ing how fast we run, it’s of mas­sive im­por­tance,” says Siob­han Dock­er­ill, UK head coach for Race for Life.

“De­vel­op­ing power should be an im­por­tant part of any run­ner’s train­ing pro­gramme and trail run­ners, by the very na­ture of their run­ning, are do­ing it right – hills build power.”

Us­ing new tech­nol­ogy

The lat­est tech­nol­ogy from Po­lar is a sin­gle-piece wrist­watch, with­out any ex­ter­nal sen­sors, which in­stantly mea­sures a run­ners’ power. It cal­cu­lates max­i­mum and op­ti­mum wattage and – along with other run­ning met­rics in­clud­ing heartrate, speed and dis­tance – it dis­plays the all-re­veal­ing power mea­sure­ment on your watch face. All you have to do is run! With the pre­dicted game chang­ing ef­fect for run­ners, the abil­ity to mea­sure it could help you train smarter and get the most out of each run.

Util­is­ing power is cer­tainly not a new phe­nom­e­non to run­ners. Se­bas­tian Coe (800m & 1500m) Paula Rad­cliffe

(marathon) and Mo Farah (5,000m and 10,000m) to name a few Bri­tish suc­cesses, all at­trib­uted strength and power train­ing as one of the key fac­tors in their suc­cess.

So now that the well-kept ‘power’ se­cret has hit the head­lines, trail run­ners can en­joy the val­i­da­tion that they’re do­ing the right thing.

By sim­ply run­ning hills reg­u­larly, power will im­prove. More power means more speed. More speed means faster race times. Power to the hills – power to you!

Analysing your stats

I wore the Po­lar Van­tage V mul­ti­sport watch on my usual var­ied loop around ru­ral Hor­sham. I typ­i­cally run as many of­froad sec­tions as pos­si­ble and the loop in­cludes fields, hills, foot­paths and trails with some mod­er­ate and steep short and medium length hills. Run­ning at a steady pace, be­low my thresh­old but not jog­ging, I can usu­ally tell when an up­hill or in­cline feels a bit harder. Sure enough, the watch told me that on ev­ery rise and hill my heartrate (bpm) in­creased. But the power mea­sure­ment, dis­played in Watts, was a whole lot more sen­si­tive, show­ing a marked in­crease in power as soon as I hit a rise or hill. Dur­ing the run, glanc­ing at my watch, the Watts seemed to re­act more quickly than the bpm. When later analysing the data on the Po­lar Flow App, it did in­deed show that the power I was gen­er­at­ing on the hills was quite con­sid­er­able. This made me feel quite good, al­most pow­er­ful, which for a small build, let’s say ‘more ma­ture’, woman, is quite some­thing! Mea­sur­ing power is def­i­nitely worth it and could be more in­for­ma­tive than heartrate. What I need to do now is mea­sure it on a reg­u­lar ba­sis and see how my power im­proves over time, then see if that trans­lates into run­ning faster. I used to un­der­es­ti­mate the ben­e­fit of hills in terms of their train­ing im­pact. They now get my full sup­port and make me feel less guilty about avoid­ing ex­er­cises in the gym.

All that hill train­ing could pay off when you need a sprint fin­ish

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