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Physiological Measurements
Running Dynamics
Running Power

Running Power

For years, elite cyclists have used power data as the most reliable way to measure the actual exercise load of their ride. Now you, too, can train with power on your runs by downloading the Running Power app – from the Connect IQ™ Store – onto your compatible watch. The Running Power app accounts for multiple factors to provide a more accurate and responsive exercise load calculation.

Developed by Garmin Labs, the Running Power app taps into metrics — such as pace, vertical oscillation, grade and even local wind conditions — to calculate the amount of power you’re applying at the ground as you run. When you know how much power you’re expending from minute to minute and mile to mile, you’re better able to pace yourself, which can help keep you from tiring out too quickly.

Think of your body’s energy as the battery of your smartphone. You can turn up the screen’s brightness all the way, but, as a result, the battery won’t last as long. Or you can conserve battery by dimming the screen and getting a longer battery life. Likewise, by getting to know your body and its power output while running in different conditions, you can monitor this data to conserve your energy. For marathons and other long-distance runs, this can help you fine-tune your training and performance on race day.

This running power model from Garmin determines the propulsive power applied at the road by considering the major components of the work done during running. These components, how they change and the data used to compute them are listed in the table below.

Component of Running Power What is it? Source of Data Used to Compute
Kinetic Power Power required to change your pace Speed from the watch
Potential Power Power required to run up or down a hill Elevation data from the barometer on the watch
Horizontal Oscillation Power Power required for horizontal oscillation on each step (you brake a bit when you hit the ground, then accelerate again as you push off)
  • Speed from the watch
  • Running dynamics from an HRM-Run, HRM-Tri or Running Dynamics Pod
Wind/Air Power Power to overcome air resistance — greater if running into a headwind and less if you are running with the wind at your back
  • Speed from the watch
  • Heading from the watch
  • Reported wind conditions from weather services
  • Barometric data to detect local conditions

Note: The equations to compute these components of running power also require some constant values such as your weight, acceleration due to gravity and the density of air.

Following are examples of the contributions of the components of running power from a tester with cadence in the range of 162 to 182, vertical oscillation 6.2 to 8.9 cm and GCT in the range of 262 to 296 ms.

So what does this mean for you? As you run, you will see that running power responds quickly when you speed up or slow down. You’ll also find that running power is higher when you’re running up hills than when you’re running at the same pace on flat ground. Similarly, running power will decrease when you run down a hill — though not by as much. In this way, you can use running power in addition to pace to help manage your effort over varying terrain.

With the wind power feature enabled, the Running Power app can even help you gauge your effort when running on a windy day. Wind can have a large effect on the effort required to maintain your usual pace, which shouldn’t surprise you if you’ve ever run into a stiff headwind. The Running Power app uses your heading from GPS and reported wind conditions for your area, augmented by data from the barometer on your watch, to determine how much wind you’re likely experiencing. Try running back and forth on a windy stretch of road, and you will see how much higher your power is when you run into the wind. If you typically run in sheltered areas, or you just don’t want the app to account for wind, simply disable this feature within the app settings in the Garmin Connect app.

Many runners ask how running power correlates with heart rate. The two factors are certainly related as your muscles require more oxygen when they are generating more power. When viewing your charts post-run, you will see that when power goes up, heart rate follows a little while after. Avoiding this delay in response to changes (such as pace, hills or wind) is one of the advantages of using power rather than heart rate to gauge your effort when you’re running. Also, running power doesn’t depend on physiological factors — such as hydration level or how well-rested you are — the way heart rate does.

Many runners are also surprised that their running power is so much higher than their bike power. In fact, running power is expected to be higher than bike power because metabolic efficiency is much higher for running (around 40 to 45%) than for cycling (around 20 to 25%). This means that athletes can convert the same amount of oxygen into more power when running than we can do when cycling. Or, thinking in terms of heart rate, we can produce more power for the same heart rate. This is primarily because when we run, we benefit from passive recoil of elastic elements such as tendons. Simply put, energy is stored when we land and returned as we push off. The same is not true for cycling. For more information on this, refer to our FAQs.

To help you train with running power, you can choose to download apps to show Current Running Power, Lap Running Power, Last Lap Running Power, Average Power or all four of those at once. Some runners also use zones or alerts to monitor their running power. The app settings enable you to set up five custom running power zones and/or high and low running power alerts to help you keep your running power within a target range.

If you already own the right Garmin devices, adding power to your run is free. All you need is a compatible Garmin watch and one of these four accessories: HRM-Pro, HRM-Run, HRM-Tri or the Running Dynamics Pod. Download the Running Power app now to get access to real-time power data.