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A deluge of data

October 4, 2015

Back when I started taking running more seriously, I invested in a Garmin 405cx. This was back around the time the iPhone was first launched, so everything had suddenly started having some kind of touch sensitive element. The ‘innovative’ touch-sensitive bezel was a pain, and the crocodile clip charging cable was easily knocked out of contact (resulting in ‘surprise – no battery!’ moments).

But being able to see my running route, the elevation, pace-per-mile, moving time and relatively accurate distance covered was a revelation. It meant I could get monitor improvements, see areas of weakness, and generally keep a decent log of my running data.

After around a year of having no running watch (after the dodgy old Garmin charging connectors gave up the game), it was time to invest in a sparkly new bit of kit. I opted for the Garmin Fenix 3, with HRM chest strap. Gone is the slightly weird space-helmet aesthetic of the 405. The Fenix is a chunky beast of a watch, but can be worn day-to-day without looking like you’re wearing one of those Swatch wall watches off the 90s.

I’m finding the range of data it collects fascinating.

Heart rate data

Average heart rate per activity

Wearing a heart rate monitor, heart rate data is a pretty obvious thing to pull out. But it quite clearly highlighted that my runs were pretty much all at the same level of intensity, which was a bit unexpected. I had thought that I was running two fairly hard tempo runs a week, and one easy long slow run. Yet, my heart rate was high for the longer run, which meant I was over-egging it, and going into my first tempo run of the next week without having really recovered.

The lower average recording was from a short treadmill session where I tracked myself on heart rate zone to target recovery.

Average pace data

Average pace per activity

My average pace is slow at the moment, but it’s gradually improving as I get a bit more targeted. The penultimate activity was a recovery run, and the most recent was a ruck-sack commuter run, so both are a bit slower than average. However, this probably reiterates what the HR data indicated – all quite mono-pace!

Average cadence data

Cadence data

And this is where we get into some of the more interesting data… Garmin has a set of performance bands for measures such as cadence to make them a bit easier to interpret. So, my average steps per minute are pretty meh, but this report’s perhaps more useful when used by activity.

Cadence by activity

Cadence for a recent tempo run

The colour banding shows the different zones used by Garmin. But this chart shows quite clearly how my running style changes from warming up (about the first 8 minutes or so of the run) to getting into my stride. Short quick steps at first, then slower leg turnover for the rest of the activity.

But, for the same run, my ground contact time achieves a much higher score…

Ground contact time data

Ground contact time for the same tempo run

If I’m spending comparatively little time in contact with the ground, but not stepping particularly quickly, surely it follows that I’m expending a lot of energy somewhere?

Vertical oscillation data

Average vertical oscillation data

Yep. So, my average of 10.7cm vertical movement per stride is in the poor end of the spectrum – I appear to be improved by having a rucksack weighing me down! In essence, I’ve got some way to improve my running efficiency.

After each run I’ve found myself spending the evening poking around the stats and data it has produced. I’m just going to have to work at being less bouncy as I run.


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