At the end of last year, the 200-pound fitness gorilla which is Garmin decided to get into the running power game. In typical Garmin style, they haven’t done it in the simplest of ways. Garmin Running Dynamics Pod is perhaps the most straightforward way to access Garmin’s power data. Let’s take a look!
Garmin Running Dynamics Pod Review
Perhaps one of the biggest developments over the last few years in the field of running has been that of the running power meter. First brought to market by Stryd in 2016 with the Stryd Pioneer. Following which Stryd have pretty much remained the only company in this field.
Garmin likes to have its fingers in as many pies as possible, and while runners have been able to use Garmin IQ apps to get access to Stryd’s power data on their Garmin watches, Garmin’s lack of an in-house running power meter seemed a bit glaring.As a result, Garmin have approached the concept of running with power from a relatively convoluted perspective, by incorporating it into the Running Dynamics protocol and rolling it BACKWARDS to existing compatible products
If you are already deep within the Garmin ecosystem, you’ll hopefully have the compatible kit, i.e. a Running Dynamics device, in which case you’ll have recently unlocked a free running power meter. Many people will have that from an RD heart rate strap, however, with the increasing move towards optical HRM on most sports watches, Garmin has also released the Running Dynamics pod, to give those who have gone entirely optical access their new Power data.
As mentioned, Garmin has taken a slightly convoluted approach to their running power metric, in that none of the devices, the Garmin Running Dynamics Pod included, are stand alone devices – a’la Stryd – all need to connect to a select series of Garmin devices.Those select devices, in turn, all have one very specific requirement: A Garmin smartwatch compatible the latest Connect IQ 2 software.
So basically we are talking about:
- Fenix 5,
- Forerunner 635,735, 935
- VivoActive 3
That’s not exactly a huge range of devices, as a result of the Connect 2 system being the limiting factor
Ok, you could also use an Edge 520 or 820, but not many runners want to be carrying extra cargo, and we are talking about a focused running metric here.
At only £60, the Garmin Running Dynamics Pod is one of the companies cheapest products, and as such may potentially be a product which could lure athletes away from competing brands to access the new metric. However, I think that if the pod had been designed as a stand-alone device, that draw would have been stronger
Garmin Running Dynamics Pod – Device Design
The Garmin Running Dynamics Pod is rather small. Hence it is a good job it’s bright green. I’ve misplaced it a few times as a result. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves we need to unbox the unit yet!In truth, there is actually very little within the box! Given the size of the box against the Pod itself, it almost looks like Garmin is trying to compensate for something!
The pod is comprised of a black puck, held inside a green silicon jacket. You won’t need to be popping this out very often, as the only reason to do that would be to change the battery, which is expected at about 1-year battery life!
The Pod has a tiny clip on the back to attach it to your running clothes, and that is it.
Small gadget certainly part of the reason for the small size is that the Pod is merely transmitting raw data from your run. You need the connection with the Garmin Connect 2 device to be able to analyse and display that data
Garmin Running Dynamics Pod – Specifications
- Unit dimensions: 37.6 mm x 23.2 mm x 19.2 mm
- Weight: 12.0 g
- Battery life: 1 year (assuming one hr/day of use)
- Battery type: CR1632 (user-replaceable)
- Waterproofing: IPX6
- Communications: ANT+ only
Garmin Running Dynamics Pod – Manual
The link to the manual can be found here
Garmin Power – The App
As mentioned there are multiple parts to this running dynamics jigsaw. The Garmin Running Dynamics pod isn’t plug and play, you need to download another data field – hence the need for Garmin Connect IQ V2 software on the device.
That seems like a bit of a faff at first, then when you remember that Garmin Running Dynamics devices have been around since 2016, in the form of various Running Dynamics heart rate meters. Suddenly a LARGE number of people with existing devices (assuming relatively new watches) just gained a power meter for free!
So how do things compare with Stryd?? Well CURRENTLY Stryd have the edge for the simple reason: After the run, you can review the Stryd Running with power data on the device you are running with.
For the Garmin Running Dynamics Pod, and any of the Running Dynamics kits actually, that power data has to be viewed within the Garmin Connect app… and then right at the bottom of the activity
Garmin Running Dynamics Pod – Using the Device
Using the Garmin Running Dynamics pod is exceptionally simple. Download the above data field, and then search for the pod on your device. From there you are off to the races.
Obviously, when running along, you’ve got all of the usual Garmin Running Dynamics to use as well as power. On a side note, one thing that I’m aware of about my perennial ITB is that I’m less troubled if I can keep my GCT balance stable, and conversely notice that when the pain is onsetting, that I tend to have a more substantial imbalance
Speaking of imbalances, I wa rather surprised by the differences displayed on my watch by the Stryd and the Running Dynamics pod. Occasionally they would be close, but more of the time there appeared to be several hundred watts of difference.
On the run, I didn’t put a considerable amount of importance on this, as the lack of ability to display 3 or 5-second power, as you would with a typical cycling power meter, meant that I’m likely going to see considerable variations anyway – although perhaps not in the hundreds of watts.
In this respect Stryd has the advantages over the Garmin Running Dynamics Pod in that you can calibrate the Stryd for yourself on a treadmill, you can find your FTP using the app. Even if there is no validation of the Stryd numbers, Stryd has been shown to be reliable and has produced a comprehensive training suite. As the Garmin doesn’t have an ability to calibrate, that does put the data accuracy under a degree of doubt, while more data is needed to comment on reliability.
But the real debate naturally started when you finish the run, and get back to the computer. Speaking of which, at the end of a run, you get a nice heads up to say remove your Garmin Running Dynamics pod. At first I thought that this was a touch daft… then I unhooked the Garmin Running Dynamics Pod from a pair of running shorts I was taking out of the wash!
Garmin Running Dynamics Pod – Power Meter Data
I have been using the Garmin Running Dynamics pod for a few months now. It’s a power meter, that means GRAPHS. The data is derived from a 10km run, covering a mixture of road and fields.
Here I’m comparing between the Stryd foot pod in green and Garmin Running Dynamics in black… which in hindsight is probably the wrong way round for the graph colours! While the data is recorded over a slowly placed 10km, here I’m showing the first half as it gives an idea of the differences between the two power meters, without losing too much detail.
As you can see, but graphs are all over the place, and crucially with a vast power difference between the two devices. The variation may be a result of the placement of the Stryd Pod vs the Garmin Dynamics pod
Stryd specifically moved their monitor from a heart rate device to a foot pod to improve accuracy.
ALL of the Garmin Running Dynamics devices are either chest mounted, or in the case of the Running pod, waist-mounted, so this may have an impact on the data. But as there is no standard to compare things to, we honestly did know which is truer!
While the powers are out of alignment. Stryd was looking to be about 100-150 watts down compared to Garmin if we zoom into a section of the graph, it gives a better idea as to how the products are readingCrucially you can see that the powers do have a reasonable relationship, rising and falling with each other. The question being which is the more accurate power numbers – we dont know.
There are quite a few “dropouts”, but these are mainly due to running around roads, and stopping for crossings, and the occasional photo. This certainly wasn’t a race pace event!
Ultimately we are talking about a new sensor technology, which when compared to bike power meters is still very much in its infancy. It wouldn’t surprise me if a manufacturer brought out a shoe which had a power meter inside so that we knew the location of the sensor in all tests between all runs. UnderArmour and Nike have approached this is in the past, although not quite to the degree of a power meter
Stryd has the benefit that it is merely broadcasting the power data with the algorithm being run on the device, potentially giving a broader user base, especially for people with Bluetooth only devices. With the Garmin Running Dynamics Pod, the secret sauce is in the app. Due to limitations on the Garmin Connect system, Stryd also has a much easier time updating firmware and adding new features as we have seen quite a bit since the latest Stryd release.
From a hardware perspective. The Garmin Dynamics Pod MAY prove to be a little more hardware over the years – My Stryd unit is looking at little more banged up with it regularly being on my shoes and transferred from pair to pair.But in comparison to that, while it might be easier to move the Garmin Running Dynamics pod around, even though it’s bright green, I’ve found that I’ve lost the Run Pod much more often! Although that is more of a reflection on me rather than Garmin!
Garmin Running Dynamics Pod – Conclusion
When it comes to running pods, there is quite a market out there. The Polar Foot pod covering the standard cadence data, Milestone bringing advance running metrics, but in an easy to understand package, (although for Milestone no watch integration of those higher functions) and Stryd, who currently is setting the pace for running with power (see what I did there :p)
One issue of consumers is the price. The Milestone pod comes in at an astonishing £30, whereas Stryd does slightly more damage to your wallet for £200. Now both of those devices also have the advantage that you can use them to get running on Zwift, which is to my mind a massive omission on Garmin’s part – They went to the trouble of designing new hardware, would it have been that difficult to make it compatible with Zwift Run?? Even if only limited to ANT+?Given that Milestone can produce a Bluetooth enabled foot pod for £30, which is Zwift Run compatible, I would have thought that a company with Garmin’s resources would easily have been able to make the Running Dynamics broadcast compatible with Zwift.
Coming in at £60 the Garmin Running Dynamics Pod is a mixed bag. It restores Running Dynamics to Garmin users who have drifted away from chest straps to optical heart rate monitors but doesn’t have the broader level of background app support which you see from Stryd and to some degree Milestone. The current Garmin power data merely is that data, to do with what you will with, and without structure or useful interpretation, any data is useless.
Now there is a caveat here, that while Stryd may have the edge when it comes to the user data collection over the last few years, meaning the production of training plans and calculating thresholds – There is currently little consensus about accuracy when it comes to outdoor running power meters. So in the future, we may find the that the underlying algorithms in these units become superceded.
Ultimately at £60, the Garmin Running Dynamics Pod is a very easy and effective way to get running dynamics data – cadence, GCT, vertical oscillation – on to your wrist without breaking the bank. The running with power aspect is a nice touch, but the validity remains to be seen, especially in the light of well-documented limitation of Garmin Connect 2
Overall, good device, but make sure you know your use case before buying – I’ll give 3 TG stars!