I’d come across Stryd like most people a few months back; something to do with running more efficiently by looking at how runners are using the power they produce to the greatest effect. It kind of washed over me at first, but a discussion with someone recently around the different types of things runners use to gain an advantage peaked my interest again in this product and what exactly it was?
So I investigated with the help of some information from the powers at be at Stryd and here’s how it works.
Stryd measures more than twelve metrics quantifying athletic performance, technique, muscle strength and condition, as well as external running environment and encapsulates these metrics into a single number, power. Power is the key to monitoring training intensity (exertion) and efficiency. Power has given the cyclists who use it a tremendous competitive advantage for years.
Now Stryd has brought this technology to running.
Using power, you can see how efficiently you recycle energy from stride to stride instead of wasting it through poor form. You can pinpoint the biggest opportunities for improving performance. Then training plans prepared by world-class coaches and physiologists guide you through personalized drills and exercises to strengthen your body so you can maintain good form, and Stryd shows you which specific form changes make you more efficient so you can go faster with the same effort.
Going deeper, leg spring stiffness is a measure of efficiency. If you model your legs and body with springs and masses, the mechanical stiffness of the springs determines whether your form and conditioning are wasteful or efficient. You can increase leg spring stiffness with conscious form changes and by conditioning your muscles and tendons to supports good form. Leg spring stiffness has never been available from a wearable during running before. Now it is one of the many metrics Stryd uses as a foundation for power.
“We’re working for runners who want to know why they haven’t reached their performance goals, what changes to training, form, and race-day pacing will get them there, and how to make those changes,” according to Stryd CEO, Robert Dick. “Measuring power finally makes it possible to answer those questions.”
All sound a little far fetched? Well taking a look at the credentials of the guys who’ve built it, I think they’re onto a good thing here. Stryd was founded by Princeton-trained engineers and builds on years of academic research on ultra-low-power circuit design, wearable sensing, and machine learning. The team is headed by Li Shang, Ph.D. and former Chief Architect at Intel Embedded Systems Research Lab, and Robert Dick, Ph.D., who won the Computerworld Horizon Award for his smartphone technology.
The team also recently won the most innovative sports technology company award, pitching their technologies to a panel of judges from Nike, Under Armour, Golden St.Warriors, and other leading brands.
Is it worth it?
First thing to say is that I haven’t tried one of these, so I do not speak from experience. Just purely a judgement based upon what I see. Hopefully, now I’m back running after a five month layoff, I can grab one of these to play with.
But the big question is… Does the average runner need something like Stryd? Surely measuring power and running more efficiently is the domain of the leading runners, looking for that extra 1-2% gain to take them from podium to winner?
In many respects you could be right. The reality is that GPS watches have only really started to get serious i.e. the Ambit and Fenix have taken things to another level from the simple pace, distance and heart rate that we’ve been used to for nigh on ten years or so. I admit, despite being a bit of a technology geek to not using my Ambit to anywhere near enough its capabilities.
There’s also the debate about just running to feel and being ‘free’. Surely that’s what running trails is all about, the freedom to shy away from the day-to-day of technology and having everything measured and monitored. I’m a big advocate of that too.
But there’s a balance.
The flipside of this is that in running more efficiently and with greater form, could we help prevent longer term injuries? Could we stop overuse injuries and monitor our ability to manage training loads better? This for me is where technology in running gets interesting. Runners spend far too long injured and the burn out rate at the pointy end is getting shorter and shorter as athletes push themselves harder and harder. I myself have gone through a half-year lay off through what was essentially my own stupidity of carrying on running while I knew there was an issues. Continuing to run until I effectively ‘broke’.
Measuring power and efficiency is I feel a great step in the right direction towards helping all of use become not only better runners, but more aware runners. Which is why I’m a big fan of things like Stryd. We need innovators to help path the way to even more interesting insights about running and the impact on our bodies.
There’s this thing called the heart and the head. A lot of ultra runners will run from the heart and do what I have done, which is to push too far and bust the body. Sometimes, technology is required to act as our ‘heads’. To guide us and help us improve and perform not only better, but more optimally too.