Garmin has finally introduced support for native running power with the new Forerunners. It is not quite the standalone solution many had hoped for – but it is the next best thing. Here’s what you need to know.
What is running power?
Running power is the mechanical measure of effort and intensity of your workouts. Expressed in Watts, it quantifies how much energy you are expending during a run and how fast you are expending it. The higher the figure, the more power you’re generating with every step.
Depending on the device used, the real-time metric takes into account a number of factors. This includes things such as your speed, terrain change, form, fatigue and weather.
With running power, instead of keeping tabs on heart rate, cadence and other metrics, you just follow a single, targeted power number from the start to finish. A bit like heart rate zones – but better in some respects. Heart rate isn’t always the best representation of the actual exercise load during your run.
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The best part about running power is that it gives you a consistent pacing strategy. This is regardless whether you’re going uphill or downhill. Try to push to hard going on a steep incline and you’ll lose steam quite quickly. Running power eliminates the guesswork and teaches you a consistant pacing strategy in any environment.
The metric is also useful as it is standardized way of gauging your run. Which means you can compare the effort put in with totally different routes or with other people.
Garmin debuts native running power on some of its watches
For a number of years now, the one thing on many people’s Garmin wishlists was running power. Other companies have support for the metric such as Polar and more recently Apple with its Apple Watch (when watchOS 9 becomes official in September). Their solutions are standalone – so require nothing apart from the device on your wrist to function.
Of course, you can connect external devices to a Garmin watch, such as Stryd. calculates running power for you and is quite a decent solution as demonstrated by our review a few years back. But it means purchasing another device that is not natively integrated with Garmin and is not exactly cheap.
There is also Garmin’s Running power app that can be downloaded via the Garmin Connect IQ store. As can be seen from the average user rating below, it is also not quite the ideal solution. This is because it requires a Garmin accessory such as one of its heart rate chest straps or the Running Dynamics Pod.
Garmin native running power was finally introduced with the recent launch of the Forerunner 955 and 255. We are yet to learn what other devices it will be available on. It should definitely work with the Fenix 7 range, Epix 2 and Forerunner 945 LTE. And possibly on a few other watches.
It is not a standalone solution
That’s the good news. The bad news is that it is not quite what most people were hoping for. In a sense, Garmin has just integrated its Running Power app so that it works natively and more integrated within its entire software ecosystem. It is a simpler, more seamless solution than downloading and installing the Connect IQ app. But one that still requires you to have HRM Pro/Run/Tri or the Running Dynamics Pod.
Of course, an option to take power measurement from the wrist alone would have been better. But look at this as the next step up for Garmin. Hopefully, one day it will transition to an entirely standalone solution.
I was keen to try out native running power so purchased the Garmin Running Dynamics pod along with my Forerunner 955. The Pod is not an expensive purchase, it will set you back around $60.
For that you’ll get a bunch of other metrics, too, which allow you to review your running form. This includes cadence, ground contact time, stride length, balance, vertical oscillation and vertical ratio. I had considered buying the Pod before, but it is the running power data which gave me the necessary nudge to go ahead with the purchase.
The pod itself is very tiny measuring just 37.6 mm x 23.2 mm x 19.2 mm and weighing 12 grams. You are meant to clip it onto your waistband before running. There are no on/off buttons, it automatically starts working and shuts down. And there’s no need to recharge as it uses a coin-cell battery.
The thing also clips tightly to your garment. My worry initially was that it might fall off. But it seems quite secure once in place.
How running power on Garmin works
Garmin’s running power calculations take account of pace, vertical oscillation, grade and even local wind conditions to work out the amount of power you’re applying at the ground as you run. Here’s a nice table from Garmin showing in detail what information is used and where it comes from.
Setup is quite easy. As the Garmin solution is now integrated natively with your compatible watch (only Forerunner 255 and 955 for now), the only thing you need to do is to configure your running data screens to show power calculations.
Add a new screen by going to settings and then:
Activities & Apps>Run>Run Settings>Data Screens
Choose “Add New” and then “Custom Data“. Decide on a layout and then add the Power fields. The relevant metrics are Power, Power Gauge, Average Power, Lap Power, Last Lap Power, Max Power and Power Zone. Essentially, you create and configure the running power screen as you would any other screen.
Garmin also allows you to customize power zones for training. Add this to your data screen layout and you’ll be able to keep an eye on them in the same way as with heart rate zones.
That’s pretty much it. When you head out for the run just make sure to have the accessory with you. It should connect with your watch automatically and you’ll be able to view your power metrics on the watch display.
As far as wind conditions, this is enabled by default. This data comes from local weather conditions and sensor data on the watch itself.
And while you don’t need to have your smartphone with you during the run, the watch needs to be in the range of your paired smartphone for at least 10 minutes in the hour prior to your run. This allows the app to gather the necessary local weather data. With this information, the calculations will take into account if there is a headwind, tailwind or neighter – and appropriately tweak the running power figures.
Detailed data is in Garmin Connect and the web dashboard
Once you sync post run you’ll get the relevant data in the Garmin Connect app or the web dashboard. This can be expressed in Watts and W/Kg.
The metrics shown are the same on both platforms – they include Average Power for the duration of the recorded run, Maximum Power or your highest power output during a recorded run and Wind Data (if enabled). You can also view your lap average power in your activity laps table and laps chart.
Furthermore, there are various graphical representations that allow you to overlay info on top of the power data. This is useful for more detailed analysis.
Running on a treadmill
Running power has primarily been designed for use outdoors. But you can also use it on a treadmill.
Garmin says, the figures indoors will be around 3-4% lower than those outdoors at the same pace. That’s because there is less need to overcome air resistance (drag). Wind conditions will also be disregarded by default.
When on a treadmill, it is best to run on a flat surface. If you set the treadmill to an incline, there is no way for Garmin to detect that and the power figures will not be representative, i.e they will be underestimated.
Garmin’s running power calculations are proprietary
It is worth noting that you cannot compare Garmin running power figures with those gathered from Stryd and other devices. You will be dissapointed if you are hoping to compare them cross-platform – they are not going to tally up.
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That’s because each company has its own algorithms which take into account and weigh factors that can influence running power differently. Also, the various locations of the sensors may contribute to differences in reported numbers.
What’s important is that you use the same device each time you head out for a run. This enables you to compare like-with-like and assess medium and long-term trends consistently.
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