Garmin has long tried to differentiate it GPS training watches by incorporating more and more data. Of course, with that, Garmin has steadily raised prices, but it still allots us vastly more information about our training than in years past. In this post we’re going to discuss the (1) physiological features (mostly provided by Firstbeat Technoligies) and (2) advanced running dynamics.
What is VO2 Max?
Simply put, VO2 Max is a measure of your fitness level. The higher the number, the more fit your are in terms of your cardiovascular and respiratory system. Officially, your VO2 Max is the maximum amount of oxygen (measured in milliliters) that you can intake at your peak heart rate, divided by your bodyweight per minute. An elite level athlete will have a VO2 Max of 60+.
There are plenty of wearables from various brands that will estimate your VO2 Max.
What is Garmin Training Effect?
On certain high-end Garmin devices, after you finish a workout, the watch will tell you which system (aerobic or anaerobic) the workout benefitted. Run sprints and you’ll be working on your anaerobic system. Swim for 30 minutes and you’ll be improving your aerobic system.
What is Training Load?
This is a calculation that actually incorporates a week’s work of fitness data. Training Load is measured over a rolling 7-day period and is based on your EPOC (excess post exercise oxygen consumption). EPOC is commonly referred to as your ‘after burn’ as it tries to calculate the effect of a workout even after that workout has finished.
Here’s how Firstbeat Technologies defines Training Load: “A single metric to evaluate the totality of your training efforts regardless of activity.” Here’s video that discusses EPOC and Training Load in more detail.
What is Training Status?
Training Status is a really helpful metric that seeks to simplify the effect of your workout into a simple category. As an example, let’s say you play basketball for an hour, well how did that workout affect your fitness level? Did it improve it? Did it remain the same? Did you overreach with the workout? That’s what Training Status tells you. Here’s a graphic showing more about Training Status.
While this seems like a pretty self-evident stat, I really like the simplicity of it. You get one output as to how your workout went and it takes the guessing out of interpreting a workout’s effect. You think you had a hard workout? Perhaps not. The data doesn’t lie. Here’s a video with more detail on Training Status.
What is Real-Time Performance Condition?
Here’s another stat that seams somewhat unnecessary, but I’ve actually found it to be helpful and accurate. After running for 6 minutes, your watch will tell you how your body is doing and essentially predict how the workout will go. It uses VO2 Max and does require a month’s worth of data in order to be accurate. Once the watch knows your baseline VO2 Max, it can tell how you’re doing relative to that baseline number.
What is Lactate Threshold?
Lactate Threshold tells you the point at which your body starts to fatigue quickly. This calculation is based on your heart rate variability. Here’s a graph that shows heart rate versus HRV.
As you can see, there’s a clear deflection point that demonstrates your Lactate Threshold. According to Firstbeat, Lactate Threshold comes at 90% of your max heart rate for experienced runners, while it’s somewhere under 90% for less avid runners. You can use this Lactate Threshold number to improve heart rate training since you’ll have a pretty good measure of the point at which your output will drop significantly.
Most of these will require the Garmin HRM-Tri or HRM-Run heart rate monitors in order to gather the data. That said, most modern Garmin watches will estimate your cadence by themselves. Cadence is the fundamental running metric that novice and experienced runners should equally pay attention to. Cadence is the number of steps you take per minute. Efficient runners will be up above 180, whereas average runners like myself are around 150-170. The more steps that your take per minute, the less each one of those steps impacts your body and therefore you can theoretically run longer with less fatigue.
What is Ground Contact Time and GCT Balance?
This is the amount of time your foot is in contact with the ground when you’re running. Fast runners will have contact for under 300 milliseconds. Basically, the fewer milliseconds you spend on the ground, the faster you’re moving your feet and the less impact on your body.
Ground Contact Time Balance tells you which side of your body you favor. If the gauge leans left, it means your right foot is in contact for longer. In general, more symmetry is better here.
What is Vertical Oscillation and Vertical Ratio?
Vertical Oscillation is your bounce when you run. The higher your bounce, the less efficient you are as a runner. You’re wasting energy bouncing upward when you should be springing forward.
Vertical Ratio is simply your VO divided by your stride length. It is presented as a percentage and in general, the lower the number the more efficient you’re being. Here’s a video with more info on Vertical Ratio.