runpod: more data or meaningful data?

virtual running (image © https://pixabay.com/users/efes-18331)

A new piece of tech arrived yesterday: the Zwift Runpod. The pod is not new to the market or anything like that. I just decided it was time to try out a footpod and see what it could offer me in terms of interesting data. Before I started using my Forerunner 235 for all my runs, my watch was the superior Forerunner 620. That watch supported Garmin’s ‘Run Dynamics‘ if paired with their HRM Run chest strap. Run Dynamics details your vertical oscillation, estimated ground contact time, cadence, etc. However, I always wondered if a footpod would be more accurate.

the Zwift Runpod comes in a cute little orange box
the Zwift Runpod comes in a cute little orange box

The Zwift Runpod started out life as the MilestonePod from Milestone Sports. Zwift acquired the product during the last year and rebranded it. The Runpod sells at a very attractive price point for anyone thinking of dabbling with such tech and/or seeking more accurate foot-level data.

The MilestonePod had a great reputation as being both an excellent product and great value for money. The biggest difference with the Zwift branding is that you can now use this Runpod to partake in Zwift Run events. Hop onto your treadmill, load up the Zwift app, and run away against people from all over the world. I was oddly interested to try this feature out. Strangely because the concept of virtual running on a treadmill just seems too meta for my brain to handle. Yes, you could use it outdoors but are you really going to stare at your phone screen while jogging?

the Runpod is a very nicely designed item with a clever and secure 'snap' locking mechanism
a very nicely designed item with a clever and secure ‘snap’ locking mechanism

up and running

First thing I noticed about the Runpod after I started running with it was not something you’ll see detailed elsewhere. The aglets from my shoe laces dangled just enough to flap against the pod. As a result, they made a clicking noise that would drive me insane during a run. Simple solution: just tie the loops tighter to the end of the lace and/or tuck the aglet under the lace. First world problems, eh?

I started my first ever Zwift run and ran around the virtual streets while cyclists drove through me like in The Matrix (and real life!). After a while, I ‘met’ somebody who was running around the same pace as me. We finished the last couple of miles together, upping the pace on the treadmill to make the odd charge. It was strangely fun, if a little dangerous at times. Focussing on the computer-generated foe plays tricks on the mind that do not lend well to treadmill caution. It was fun though.

After the workout, I synced up the Runpod with my phone and gathered the data. You can export the data also. The service will e-mail you a spreadsheet with details of your runs included therein. The data tracked includes: Duration, Distance, Average Cadence (spm), Average Pace (min/km), Average Stride Length (cm), ‘Runficiency’ Score, Average Ground Contact (msec), Foot Strike Heel %, Foot Strike Mid %, Foot Strike Toe %, Leg Swing Low %, Leg Swing Mid %, Leg Swing High %.

That’s an impressive list of data fields for a small pod. The foot strike breakdown and leg swing are particularly intriguing. I always knew I was a heel striker; the data confirmed that 100%. Unfortunately the data is only provided in summary for each run. There is no way of plotting how you were running at a particular point during the run. This limitation is quite disappointing. We all start and finish a run differently to how we run when warmed up, at pace, or while running intervals during a speed session. It would be great to see the raw data plotted against estimated distance.

potential

While I don’t think virtual running with Zwift is something that I will engage with very often (honestly I just prefer running on the treadmill with a good movie or music), the data from the Runpod greatly appeals to me. In addition, the service offers free tips to help you focus and improve particular aspects of your running. I’ve signed up for tips on improving my stride length as this is something that I think will help my efficiency over distance. It will be interesting to work on the suggestions over the next few months and see if I can enact change for the better in my running style as a result.

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