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Wrist-Based Running Power with Polar & COROS GPS Watches—and the watchOS 9 Update!

We're talking the running power metric today—what it is, what are the benfits, which watches have it, and other ways to get it if you're watch doesn't support it on the wrist.

As for Polar watches, with Grit X/Grit X Pro/Pacer Pro/Vantage V/Vantage V2 running power from the wrist is calculated without any external sensors. With Pacer/Vantage M/Vantage M2, an external power sensor is required to measure running power.

All COROS watches now support running power from the wrist without the need of any accessories.

What about Garmin smartwatches? While we firmly stand behind Garmin running watches as some of the best out there, this is one are where the tech giant is lagging. However, with the release of the Forerunner 255 and 955, they made some strides. More on that later.

The big surprise in this category is that you'll be able to get wrist-based running power on your Apple Watch 7 with the upcoming watchOS 9 firmware update. And we know a guy who's had a chance to test it out.

Have a look at the video next door, where our partner Dave from Chase the Summit compares Running Power on the Apple Watch Series 7 to the Polar Pacer Pro, the COROS PACE 2, the Stryd Pod, and the Garmin Forerunner 955 + HRM-Pro chest strap.

And we're going over all of this and more below. Get ready for some inside info!




What Is Running Power?

Running power is a way to mearsure the work you're doing when you run. It is measured in Watts. When those Watts are higher, you know you're generating more power in every step.

This can clue you into efficiency. Because the more power you generate at a lower heart rate or a faster pace, the more efficient you are—making you a dangerous runner (in the best way!).

Another more common way to measure your work output while running is pace. But it's not as useful as running power when it comes to understanding your running intensity. For example, if you are running uphill, your output is higher but your pace is slower.

Tuning into power isn't new among endurance athletes. Cyclists have been doing it for decades with power meters.

Now runners have adopted this metric for their own, using external sensors like HRM chest straps and running pods with their multisport watches.

But a few brands on the market have integrated it into their running watches so you can now get wrist-based running power without the need of an external sensor. How sweet is that?!


What Are the Benefits of This New-ish Running Metric?

So, why does running power matter?

First of all, it's important to understand that there is not yet a standardized way for measuring running power.

If you check out Dave's video above, you will see that different devices report a range of Watts during his runs. This doesn't mean that any one brand is inaccurate, only that they are calculating a bit differently between them. What counts—at least until everyone can get on the same page—is that most of these running watches and accessories consistantly show similar levels and changes in intensity.

So how does this help?

When you know how efficient you are during workouts, you can tweak your training accordingly.

Small adjustments in your power can cause major changes in your heart rate. This can be key to determining your pace—especially for hot conditions and long races.

Power fills the gaps in data (pace, heart rate metrics) by responding in real time, is a more consistant reflection of your work, and can be calculated to understand the pace you can maintian without busting in a long effort.

It's a sharper tool that can give you insight beyond pace, heart rate, and RPE (running on feel).


Polar Pacer Pro and Running Power

Several Polar sport watches offer running power that is measured from the wrist:

In this article, we're focusing the Pacer Pro (as seen in Dave's review above).

We love this watch because it's a straight-up running watch with no fat on it, and you'll only have to throw down $299.95.

You'll get straight reporting with some excellent running features like VO2 Max, Running Performace Test, Running Index, Race Time Predictor, and—what we're here for—Running Power!

In his testing, Dave found the Pacer Pro to be very reliable. Again, if you check out the graph he shares in his video, you'll see that the Pacer Pro kept up with the Garmin Forerunner 955 paired with the HRM-Pro chest strap, showing accurate spikes when he put in more effort and consistant drops when he jogged and walked.

All in all, this Polar watch offers precise data when it comes to running power—and is likely the best buy for a serious running who does not have the budget for an expensive watch and external sensors.


COROS PACE 2 with Wrist-Based Running Power

All COROS watches now have wrist-based running power, which include:

In this section, we feature the COROS PACE 2—because with this runner's watch, you can collect running power data from the wrist for just $200!

This superlight, ultra-fast COROS watch (only 29 g!) is packed with sport modes, easy to use, and has a Night Mode for always-on activities.

Dave also found this to be a pretty accurate source for running power data. And what else is awesome? It seems to fall right in line with the data that a Stryd pod gives. Which means that if you are in the Stryd pod ecosystem and using their training plans, you can count on this watch to give you very similar results if you're not using the Stryd pod.


Is Apple Watch 7 Running Power Reliable?

Does the running power metric that will be bundled in with the watchOS 9 update that will drop some time late summer 2022 give good results?

We looked to our expert—Dave at Chase the Summit. He's a serious runner and received a beta version of watchOS 9 so he could test it out on his Apple Watch Series 7.

And after pitting it agains the Polar Pacer PRO, the COROS PACE 2, a Garmin Forerunner 955/HRM-Pro, and Stryd pod—the results are in.

If you have an Apple Watch 7 and get the update that includes running power, you can expect to get a very useful tool, BUT there is a downside: it doesn't record running power when you're walking.

According to Dave, "This isn't the worst thing in the world, because when you are running, the data looked pretty consistant with the Stryd pod and the COROS PACE 2."

But when you aren't moving, it's recording zero. Where this matters is at the end of your run; your average power and max/min power are going to be off.

But he has hope! Because this is the beta version, there is a chance that it could be fixed. And he commends Apple for offering such a metric natively for serious runners.


The Garmin Forerunner 255 & 955 Running Watches

With the release of the Garmin Forerunner 255 and 955 running watches in 2022, native running power finally came to the wrist on a Garmin. But this still isn't the same as wrist-based running power.

What it means is that you no longer need to download an app and mess with software for running power. But you will still need an outside sensor like a running pod or heart rate monitor chest strap.

What is convenient is that when you pair a compatible running power sensor, it’ll automatically record that data behind the scenes, even if you don’t add the data fields.

Here are the data fields you can add to get:

    • Power
    • Power Gauge
    • Avg. Power
    • Lap Power
    • Last Lap Power
    • Max. Power
    • Power Zone

External power sensors are usually the most accurate, especially with a new beast of a watch like the Forerunner 955. But as you can see from the data in Dave's video, watches with wrist-based running power are holding their own.

Still, if you're in the Garmin ecosystem, pairing your watch with an HRM chest strap is going to give you that benchmark data by which other data is often measured.


Running Accessories to Measure How Hard You're Working

If you've got a Garmin running GPS watch or a Polar watch that does not offer running power data from the wrist—you don't have to run out and get a new watch!

There are relatively inexpensive options, such as:

Heart rate monitor straps are also an excellent way to get your running power:

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