A guide to Running Power from the wrist with the Polar Vantage V

All you need to know about improving running performance with Polar’s new watch
Running Power with Polar Vantage V
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If you’re a serious cyclist or a triathlete, then you'll probably be familiar with power meters and the concept of measuring power. For runners, the idea of running with power, or running power, is a relatively new phenomenon. But the metric is starting to be embraced by the running community in a bid to run faster and crucially, smarter.

While running with power has previously required harnessing the crucial data to produce that power metric with an additional wearable device that you’d need to wear on your shoes or even on your shorts, Polar is making it a whole lot easier to get that extra data hit. With the Polar Vantage V, you can record running power from your watch - and it’s currently the only watch that lets you do that from the wrist. No extra device needed.

So how does running power work on the Vantage V and how can you put that data to good use? Here’s a rundown of how it all works.

What exactly is running power?

A guide to Running Power from the wrist with the Polar Vantage V

Before we get into running power on the Vantage V, we should probably get into what exactly we mean by running with power. To put it in is most simplest terms, power is another metric to measure your work rate, offering additional insights into the effectiveness of your training and to help optimise performance when it's race time. It’s similar to training with heart rate, but it can complement that more familiar form of training.

Unlike heart rate monitoring though, it aims to offer a more representative overview of your training sessions in a way that heart rate based training sometimes can’t. So reacting to changes in intensity where heart rate sensors can sometimes a bit more time to reflect those changes.

Like cycling, power is measured in watts; and the goal is that by having a better idea of your optimal power number, you can start to think about sticking to that power number to secure that PB you’ve been chasing in your next race.

How Polar measures power (and puts it to good use)

A guide to Running Power from the wrist with the Polar Vantage V

Right now the Polar Vantage V is the only watch that measures and calculates running power from the wrist. It does that by measuring speed and how fast speed is changing using its onboard GPS sensor. That data is combined with current altitude data provided by the Vantage V’s built-in barometer, along with Polar’s proprietary algorithm, to give you that power data.

With that power data, Polar can calculate something called 'muscle load', presenting data that relates to how much your muscles and joints were strained during a training session. This is particularly useful for training sessions based around high intensity running (like intervals or hill sessions). That muscle load data also forms part of Polar’s new Training Load Pro feature that can give users a better sense of the level of strain that training sessions have on your body.

Running power on the Vantage V

A guide to Running Power from the wrist with the Polar Vantage V

The good news is that when you’re ready to jump aboard the power bandwagon, it’s really easy get started and start viewing your power data. There’s no menu screens or settings that you need to play around with. Simply get ready to track a run and select a run profile that uses GPS and you’re good to go.

Once you start moving you’ll be able to use the physical buttons or the touchscreen display on your watch to navigate to your power data screen. You’ll know you’re in the right place when you see the screen with the little lightning bolts.

There are six pieces of power related data you can view: maximum power, average power, lap power, maximum lap power, automatic lap power average and automatic lap power maximum. You can choose what power data is most prominent when you’re running by customising it in the Polar Flow web service. Your power numbers will change during your session and that’s because when your speed changes, so will your power number. The bigger the muscle contractions, the bigger the power output essentially.

When your session is done, and you’ve saved your workout, you’ll find a nice breakdown summary, including the usual standard running metrics including heart rate as well as power. You’ll be able to see average power in watts, maximum power in watts, muscle load and time spent in power zones.

Power zones look very similar to heart rate training zones giving you a much clearer understanding of your training intensity. Zone 1, for instance, relates to using 70% of your maximum aerobic power and is good zone to be in for easy runs or recovery sessions. Zone 4 means you’re working at 100%-115% of your maximum aerobic power and is a good zone to be in for intense training sessions.

Diving into the data

A guide to Running Power from the wrist with the Polar Vantage V

To get a better sense of power and how it can relate to other data the Vantage V can record during a run, you’ll need to head to the Polar Flow web app. From here you can check in on your diary or training history, pick out your most recent run and pore over the numbers.

That Power data is displayed in graph similar to what you expect to see for heart rate. You’ll also find pace, cadence and altitude data to analyse. You can then start to get a better idea of what pace you were running at when you hit your maximum power output for instance. Or how inclines, declines and running at different speeds impacted on your power output. One insight you might find is that you’re outputting more power at a lower heart rate, which is a strong indicator of increased running efficiency.

Ultimately, having this additional layer of data on top of the standard metrics that Polar’s watch already offering gives you, and even your coaches, more to play with that can help fine-tune training, and even play its part in analysing running form and technique to get the most out of your sessions. It’s a positive thing to have more running metrics at your disposal and thankfully you don’t need another device to make that happen.


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