From the ageing but still great Polar V800 to the more affordable M400 or the Android Wear-packing M600, Polar's current crop of GPS sport watches and fitness trackers are smarter than ever, but the watches are just the start. Behind the devices is Polar Flow, a hugely powerful app that holds the key to better running.
Master the web tools that support these devices and you can unlock another level of insights to help you fine-tune your training and improve your running.
Essential reading: How to use your running watch to be a better runner
Polar Flow is compatible with the latest Polar fitness and sports devices. Sadly, if you're the owner of older Polar devices like the RC3 GPS, the new service won't work for you. Sorry folks.
Just like Garmin Connect, the Flow web platform offers a vast range of planning, analysis and social tools to help make training easier to manage. You can build a training plan, monitor your progress, see what friends have been up to and even relive recent runs.
Here are thirteen simple things you can do harness the power of Polar Flow to become a better runner.
Build a running program
Polar has finally added a dedicated running program that's designed to build plans for 5k, 10k, half marathon and full marathon races.
To set one up, you'll need to head to the Programs tab in the web app and pick out a plan along with the date of the race. It'll then devise a plan including a variety of different types of running sessions including intervals and tempo runs. It also adds a series of timed circuit workouts and adapts the running program when you've missed a session.
Top tip: Run with a heart rate monitor and you'll get a better insight into the heart rate zones you commonly train with and get valuable information regarding run recovery. Basically, when you need to give your legs a day off.
Check your vitals
Just as we recommend with Garmin Connect, customising your age, height, gender and heart rate zones will help get you the most accurate training data next time you hit the road. From overall calorie burn, to what type of calories (fat or carbs) you're using to fuel you sessions, if you have tested your actual thresholds, such as anaerobic and aerobic thresholds, or upper and lower lactate thresholds, it's better to use those stats.
Heart rate guide: Check out our guide to heart rate zones
That way you can be sure you're training with zones based on your individual thresholds rather than defaults or estimates. It also improves the accuracy of the Training Benefit notifications you get after each session as this is also then based on these zones.
Polar recommends that you set your anaerobic threshold as the minimum heart rate of zone 5. If you also use aerobic threshold, set that as the minimum of zone 3. The minimum of zone 4 is halfway between zones 3 and 5.
Set your sport profiles
A lot of Polar's fitness gear has multi-sport smarts and the web tools are built to back that up. You can create multiple sport profiles, tailoring everything from heart rate zones to whether you view your heart activity as BPM, percentage of maximum heart rate and percentage of heart rate reserve.
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You can also change which stats display on your watch depending on whether you're running the road track, trail or treadmill. Just click your username in the top right of the screen and select Sport Profiles from the dropdown menu to add, edit or delete.
Find some friends
A little bit of competition can provide some motivation to go out running when you're tempted to give it a miss and go for a drink instead. Polar Flow lets you follow or check in on friends to view their progress.
To do this, click on the feed tab where you'll find all of your most recent logged activities. On the right hand side you can search for users that have their privacy set to public. Here you'll be able to view training sessions, see a break down of tracked sports and a host of other metrics.
Relive your session
Relive is a brilliant feature on Polar Flow that lets you retrace the steps and stats of any of your recent sessions. Click on the Relive button from any workout page and you get a Google map and Street View mash-up of your run, complete with all of the vital info like pace, heart rate, time and distance. While you don't get to see every twist and turn in Street View it is a brilliant way to visualise how your run went in a way that brings your data to life.
You can spot where your heart rate soared or your pace slowed. Use this tool to review your monthly benchmark run and you'll be able to build a picture of how your performance is improving for example when that hill at mile eight you've struggled with for the past three months is no longer a problem.
Follow someone else's footsteps
It's not just your own training you can Relive either, Polar Flow lets you delve into the training runs of anyone who has their settings on share mode. Why is this useful? Not only can you use it to find new routes to run almost anywhere on the planet but you can also see how other athletes have performed on that route.
Find someone who's done the distance you're attempting, in a time you're aiming for, and you can see how they ran it. With access to heart rate and pacing, you get insights like where they slowed down or sped up and how they approach the beginning middle and end of their run. If you've got the time to do a bit of digging, there are lots of lessons to learn from other runners already out there putting in the miles. If you want to take it one step further you follow our next tip too.
Get support from Polar Flow community
Just like apps like Endomondo and Strava, Polar Flow has a social side. You can follow other runners and see how people in your network are getting on with their training. From here you can also show support with a Like button or leave comments. Seen someone run a 10km in the time you're chasing and want to find out how they paced it? Drop them a comment next to their activity and ask for advice.
As an added bonus, sharing your workouts has been proven to keep people committed to training plans for longer and having moral support from people going through the same pain and getting the same rewards is really powerful.
Get yourself hooked on benefits
Combined with the Training Benefit feature on many Polar devices, Flow makes it really easy to understand the training effect of each of your training sessions and the cumulative benefit of a week or a month.
On your session screen - and on your watch - Polar gives you post-workout feedback on what kind of session you've just had, whether it's Steady State, Maximum Training Benefit or Tempo, based on how much time you spent and how many calories you burnt in each heart rate zone.
Keeping a close eye on these will help you get an idea of the types of runs and routes you can string together to build a fully-rounded training plan.
Check in on your Running Index
Tucked away in the Progress tab is section called the Running Index report. This essentially gives you an insight into your maximal running performance, every time you track a session with heart rate and speed both recorded.
Keep on running
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By tracking this information this over a long period of time, you'll then be able to see how you rank against other runners in your gender. What's actually more useful is that it can also create predictions for certain running distances, which can provide a guide as to whether you will nail that sub 1 hour 10k or you'll complete that marathon race in a respectable time.
No need to
HIIT the track
Whether your starting out with run-walk or you're a seasoned runner knocking out Yasso 800s, building interval sessions into your training is a great way to improve speed and endurance. Polar Flow makes constructing high intensity interval sessions easy. You can choose the time, distance and pace of each segment and duplicate segments to put together quick sets of exertion and recovery.
Once created, your interval sessions can be synced to your Polar watch with audio and vibrating alerts telling you when to speed up or rest. The good news here is that you no longer have to be on the track to do 400m or 800m intervals. You're free to recreate those wherever you can find the best view.
Keep an eye on your training load
In the Diary section, Polar Flow gives you an at-a-glance, indicator of the physical cost of every run, along with recommendations on how long it'll take to recover from that training load. While it's by no means the absolute truth about whether or when you should next train, because it's based on your heart rate profile that you've built over time, it's a reasonable barometer of how hard you're pushing yourself. It's a great tool to use for constructing a balanced training plan that should help you get the most out of each session.
Make friends with other apps
Polar Flow is feature-packed but it doesn't cover everything that's vital to keep you fit and healthy. Thankfully, Flow is compatible with a handful of third party apps. Head to the mobile app and go to General Settings and you'll be able to switch on Apple Health, Strava, Training Peaks and MyFitnessPal to share data and provide a more comprehensive picture of your fitness levels.
Get in touch with your feelings
Most successful athletes keep training diaries and while it might sound a bit old school to add notes to each of your run in the Polar Flow web tool, it's a brilliant way to keep track of what workouts suit you best. Sometimes the data only reveals half the story and adding some emotional context will help you spot how certain types of training session impact one another.
Perhaps you need three rather than two days after a long run to hit the hill training or you feel that niggle return each time you hit a certain number of miles in a week. Heart rate and pacing stats don't necessarily give this insight when you return to them after a month.