Garmin's bank of Running Dynamics metrics may offer unparalleled insight into the granular details of your form, but using them effectively isn't necessarily straightforward.
Unless you clue yourself up on what each feature actually means - and understand how keeping an eye on it during your training can help you improve - the Running Dynamics section of your Garmin watch can go to waste.
Below, then, we've provided a quick round-up of what each feature is and what they might indicate.
Which watches offer Garmin Running Dynamics?
Garmin still offers its Running Dynamics Pod (and HRM chest straps) for those who just want to add these metrics to their current watch - and the list of devices that are compatible with these accessories is virtually endless.
However, there is also now a growing number of Garmin watches that don't require an accessory, giving users Running Dynamics directly from the wrist. Here's the current selection:
- Enduro 2
- Epix (Gen 2) & Epix Pro (Gen 2) series
- Fenix 7 & Fenix 7 Pro series
- Forerunner 965
- Forerunner 955 series
- Forerunner 265 series
- Forerunner 255 series
- Instinct 2 series
- MARQ (Gen 2) series
Explained: Garmin Running Dynamics
In total, Running Dynamics comprises six different metrics - though Garmin does also class its Running Power feature and Hill Score as part of the gang, too. Below, we'll run through what you can expect from each.
Ground Contact Time
Put simply, ground contact time (GCT) is the amount of time you spend on the ground with each step.
Garmin averages this out at the end of a workout, but you're also given a detailed graph in Connect of the points at which it varied.
This will show different colors depending on how your GCT relates to different percentiles of fellow runners, which you can view by pressing 'Help' next to the graph.
Elite runners tend to have contact times closer to 200ms than 300ms, though it's important to keep in mind that this metric does vary quite a lot when you factor in different paces, stride lengths and stride techniques.
Ground Contact Time Balance
A really handy insight for those who want to ensure effort is evenly spread between each leg, ground contact time balance (GCTB) monitors the symmetry of your steps.
For obvious reasons, it's not one that's available without an external Garmin sensor, but, once you have one hooked up, you're able to add a real-time gauge to your watch and assess this balance.
We find this particularly helpful for managing our balance during hills, intervals and when managing niggling injuries, when our GCTB often tends to go awry.
A metric plenty more users will be familiar with, cadence is the measure of how many steps are taken per minute.
A cadence of 180 steps per minute is often cited as the standard for runners, though this will likely deviate if you're taller than average - or if you're running below or above a typical 6/10 or 7/10 effort.
Like with other Running Dynamics metrics, Garmin will assess your average cadence and maximum cadence from a session and color-code the graph based on how it compares to other runners.
With these colors not really taking into account your own personal pace or effort, however, make sure to take this cross-examination with a pinch of salt; we tend to only really pay attention to our cadence on race-ish pace runs when we're trying to maximize efficiency.
Another key insight into your running form, stride length is exactly what you would imagine - the distance between each left and right step.
This figure averages out at the end of a session just like other metrics, though, if you're an overstrider like us, adding a data field to your watch can really help you manage this during runs.
Out of all the insights in the Running Dynamics family, stride length is possibly the most personal. It's greatly affected by your height, weight, strength and flexibility, and doesn't tend to deviate too much from within your own range.
Vertical oscillation really just refers to how much bounce you have in each step, with this measured in centimetres.
Garmin notes that more experienced runners tend to have lower vertical oscillation, though this figure is also affected considerably by pace.
A faster pace almost always comes with lower vertical oscillation, which is where the Running Dynamics metric Vertical Ratio (below) can help put this into a bit more context.
This is a superb way of getting an idea of how efficient your form is, with it essentially measuring how well you propel yourself forward with each stride.
Vertical ratio is the sum of your vertical oscillation divided by your stride length, delivered as a percentage. A lower vertical ratio percentage indicates a lower effort and a more efficient form.
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