While I was a sprinter in high school and college, my favorite way to exercise today is long distance running. Pace has served as my primary metric for years and I seem to have plateaued with fairly consistent half marathon times over the last five years. I want to do better in 2019 and am going to train to power levels to achieve success.
A few months ago the folks at Stryd sent along the latest version of its power meter and I’ve been running with it in order to establish some baseline power levels while trying to understand how power could be used to improve my performance. Power is commonly used in cycling, but is fairly new for running. There are still differences between available power meters, but Stryd has been at it for a few years and has a system that is worth consideration.
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Running to a pace has been my approach to training for years, but the thing about pace is that the data lags a bit behind current performance due to GPS signal acquisition, update speeds, and conditions. I also train in areas with lots of hills so maintaining pace often results in working harder than I probably should while running uphill during my training runs. Regular readers know I also use many different wearables and current pace performance varies by those devices.
Some people also train to a heart rate level, which is something I have yet to try. This can be a better approach for someone like me who runs on hills, but heart rate readings also lag behind current conditions and wrist-based heart rate is not as accurate as measurements from chest straps. I hate wearing chest straps as they tend to chafe my chest and are just not comfortable enough for me to put up with them.
Price and retail package
The Stryd power meter is available now for $199, which could be half the cost of your wearable GPS sports watch or smartwatch. It does come with a 30-day trial so you can test it out to see if this price is worth it for you and your training regime. Although I haven’t yet ran a race after training to a power level, I like what I have experienced so far and plan to purchase one for my own routine.
The retail package includes the Stryd power meter, microUSB cable, two shoe clips, and a charging base. The Stryd power meter itself weighs in at just about nine grams so you cannot even tell when it is mounted to your shoe. The pod is covered in matte black soft touch material and looks a bit like a thick guitar pick. The bottom is flat, while the top appears similar to a topographic relief map of a mountain with various levels and a central flat top piece. There are small openings on the front and back to secure the Stryd to the shoe clip.
The shoe clip slides under your laces and then the Stryd snaps in at the front and back to stay in place. I’ve been running with the Stryd for more than four months and it has stayed securely in place through rain, sun, and other environmental conditions.
The charging base looks similar to the Stryd with one side being flat and the other side having the topographical map look. I couldn’t get it to charge at first because I didn’t realize that the flat part faces up while the raised part sits on a flat surface. There is actually an outline on the glossy flat part that indicates where you place the Stryd to charge up wirelessly. The microUSB cable attaches to the charging base to power the wireless charger.
One thing that a Twitter follower pointed out to me is that the right flat spot on the Samsung Wireless Charger Duo can be used to charge up the Stryd power meter, in addition to the Galaxy Watch that it is designed to charge.
Setup on Garmin and Apple Watch
When the Stryd power meter first arrived, I was using a Garmin Fenix 5 Plus GPS sportwatch. There is an offical Stryd Power data field that you can add to your running screen on your compatible Garmin watch in order to run to a power level. There is also a Stryd IQ widget that lets you view Stryd data on your Garmin watch.
After installing the Stryd Power data field and setting up my running fields with it, I simply launched it on the watch and then connected the Stryd power meter.
I recently committed myself to using the Apple Watch Series 4 as my smartwatch and was very pleased to find a Stryd app for the Apple Watch. The Stryd app is actually one of the best running apps for the Apple Watch with the ability to have up to three screens of data consisting of four to seven metrics per screen. Metrics available include time, power, pace, distance, heart rate, cadence, ground contact time, VO, and gain.
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To use the Stryd app on the Apple Watch, you first install the smartphone app and connect the Stryd to the iPhone. There is then a step to sync the Stryd to the Apple Watch after the iPhone setup is complete.
Options for averaging are also available so you can have pace and power shown in real time, 3-second, 10-second, lap, or average metrics. Distance and time options include real time or lap.
While you can select up to three screens, there is always one more screen in the Stryd app that shows you your current power in large numbers right in the middle of the screen. The target and tolerance is shown in the upper right corner. A large up or down arrow is shown above or below the current power number in order to inform you if you need to pick up the effort or slow down a bit.
Lap units can be setup while you can also choose to trigger a side button press of your Apple Watch for laps. Power alerts, target power, and alert tolerances can also be established. As you can see, the Apple Watch app is fantastic and with the Stryd capturing all sorts of running dynamics, this combo rivals a GPS sports watch.
Stryd smartphone application
When you launch the Stryd application you are first shown a dashboard view with an insight below your profile picture and then your last five synced runs below that. A map graphic, date, label, distance, time, and average power for the run are shown. Tap on one of these runs to view all of the finite details of your run in summary, graph, and lap tabs. You can even tap on a Storyline playback button to watch your run as a cool animation with live maps and power changes as your run is traced on the display.
Details and graphs for power, elevation, pace, cadence, heart rate, and leg spring stiffness are shown in the app. The lap view shows a breakdown of your run with power, distance, and more shown.
You can view calendar history of your runs and even use the smartphone app connected to the Stryd to record a run. This could be helpful if your watch is dead and you want to go on a run with your phone.
The last tab is full of settings for the Stryd, including an option to upgrade the firmware of the Stryd power meter. It has been updated a couple of times since I started testing it and gets better over time.
The Stryd data collected via a connected Garmin watch also appears in Garmin Connect so you will see several plots of this data within Garmin Connect. Unfortunately, you don’t see all of the Stryd data there, but you can visit the Stryd PowerMeter website to view all of the data captured by the Stryd power meter and synced to your smartphone.
Experiences running with power
One of the first things you need to do before using the Stryd power meter is to perform the critical power test or enter the results of your latest 5K or 10K run. This data is then used to establish your critical power and critical pace, which is then used to calculate and establish your five zones for running and training.
I highly recommend reading this white paper (PDF) that goes into some detail on running power. Calculating power for running is a fairly complex undertaking since there are so many different variables that are specific to each of us as it has to do with weight, age, height, and much more. Power is a calculation of force and the force exerted by each of us is vastly different. These concepts are explained in great detail in the Stryd power user manual (PDF).
As a professional engineer, I find the analysis and use of power to be fascinating science. The white paper also provided some wonderful education on other metrics that I have seen captured by Garmin devices with little understanding of these details in the past.
As I continue to try to learn about and understand power, the relationship of the various zones to paces I run makes sense. For example, my zone 3 level has a power level from 295 to 328, which correlates to a pace of 10:48 to 9:48 minutes per mile. Zones 4 and 5 increase to 8:30 and 7:30 minute per mile paces which I can do only for very short runs.
Running to a power level has been very easy with both the Garmin and Apple Watch because there is just a single number to view on my watch. As a guy approaching 50 who needs readers at times, having a big single number to use for training is awesome.
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I immediately noticed that running to a power level resulted in me running up hills slower than I typically have before when I was trying to maintain a certain pace. Maintaining a pace up hill is tough and it may have led to me running less efficiently than running to a power level, primarily due to overexertion and lack of adequate recovery.
The Stryd power meter has an advertised battery life of 20 hours. I have been able to go about two to three weeks with it during my typical running regime so that seems like an accurate estimate.
Future training plan
With the new year starting tomorrow, I have setup a 5K training plan in the Stryd PowerCenter to try active training to a power level. This was easy to setup, but unfortunately these Stryd training plans do not yet sync to the smartphone app or a wearable device. Since the training plans mix up different levels of power, I am going to have to write down the training plan and try to memorize, or read, the plan while running. I would love to see these training plans sync to my Apple Watch for active training and hope that comes in a future update from Stryd.
After this short 5K test, I need to start up a formal training regime in February since I am running the Seattle Rock ‘n Roll Half Marathon in June. In order to help motivate me to achieve a personal best this year, I am participating as a St. Jude hero in an effort to help out those unfortunate children and their families who have to deal with cancer at a young age.
So far, I am pleased with the Stryd power meter and the combination with the Apple Watch is fantastic. The Stryd app and power meter may serve as a must-have for Apple Watch owners and I cannot wait to start my training tomorrow.
Facebook tests a new ‘Professional’ mode for creator profiles – TechCrunch
Meta (formerly Facebook) today is introducing a new “Professional” mode for user profiles, designed to be used by creators looking to monetize their followings on the social network. The new mode, which is initially available to select creators in the U.S., will present creators with additional money-making opportunities and expanded insights that had been previously only available to Facebook Pages.
Among these will be the ability for creators to participate in the new Reels Play bonus program, where some creators are able to earn up to $35,000 per month based on the views for their short-form video content. However, access to this program, for the time being, is invite-only — meaning Meta will determine which creators qualify to earn bonuses.
While Meta didn’t share what other monetization options will be available in the days ahead, it did note that it will also make professional-level insights available to these creators, which are similar to what Page owners have access to. This includes access to post, audience and profile insights. For example, creators will be able to now see the total number of shares, reactions and comments that their posts have and be able to view their follower growth over time. This allows them to make better, more informed decisions about the content they post and how it resonates with their audience.
While many creators are already using Facebook profiles instead of Pages to attract fans and followers, Meta warns that others who decide to opt into this new experience will be opening themselves up to being more of a public figure on the social network. That means anyone can follow them and see the public content posted to their feed, but they’ll be able to mark posts as either public or friends-only, as you could otherwise on a private profile.
Meanwhile, creators who are using Facebook Pages will be opted into the new Pages experience instead. This will provide access to a Professional Dashboard that will serve as a central destination for admins to review the Page’s performance and access professional tools and insights, the company notes. Facebook is also testing a two-step composer on Pages. which allows creators to schedule posts and cross-post into a group.
The changes come at a time when Meta is heavily investing in its creator user base, as it sees the potential in a new revenue stream that comes from things like creator subscriptions and virtual tips, aka “Stars” — the latter which it just made available yesterday outside the app stores through a new website where it no longer has to pay commissions to Apple and Google. The company earlier said it was planning to lure in creators with $1 billion in payments, like the Reels bonuses among other things, as the competition for creator talent heats up with TikTik and other top social apps, like YouTube, Twitter, Snapchat and others.
Meta notes that the new Professional mode is still in testing with select creators in the U.S. for now, but will roll out more broadly in the future, including to the EMEA region.
Reddit to roll out personalized end-of-year recaps with stats about users’ habits – TechCrunch
Reddit is launching a new personalized Spotify Wrapped-like recap feature for all users tomorrow. The new recaps will include a variety of stats, including a summary of the time you spent on the platform, a look at the content that you interacted with or contributed, topics you engaged with and communities you’ve viewed or joined. Reddit notes that users will be able to hide their username and avatar if they want when sharing the recap across other social media apps.
“In previous years, Reddit Recap focused on aggregated trends across the platform. This year we wanted to add a fun, personalized in-product experience to remind users of their contributions and belonging on the platform,” Reddit said in a statement. “Every Redditor has a unique role to play on Reddit, and so we referenced user browsing and engagement data from January 1st, 2021 to November 30th, 2021 to help shape the stories about how they fit in.”
End-of-year recaps have become increasingly popular thanks to Spotify’s annual Wrapped feature that is widely shared across social media each year. Given its success, it’s no surprise that other companies like Apple, YouTube, Snapchat and now Reddit are looking to mimic the popular feature with their own versions.
In addition to the launch of recaps, Reddit has released data about the most popular themes on the platform in 2021. The company notes that cryptocurrency, gaming, sports, weddings, health and fitness, food and drink, and movies and television were the most popular categories. In terms of cryptocurrency, the top five most-viewed crypto communities this year were r/dogecoin, r/superstonk. r/cryptocurrency, r/amcstock and r/bitcoin. So far this year, Reddit has seen 6.6 million mentions of “crypto” across its platform.
As for gaming, the top five most viewed communities in 2021 were r/genshinimpact, r/leagueoflegends, r/gaming, r/rpclipsgta and r/ffxiv. For the sports category, the top five communities were r/nba, r/soccer, r/nfl, r/squaredcircle and r/mma. In terms of the weddings category, the top five communities were r/weddingplanning, r/engagementrings, r/bridezillas, r/wedding and r/weddingsunder10k.
Regarding health and fitness, the top five communities were r/lifeprotips, r/sports, r/progresspics, r/fitness and r/loseit. As for the food and drink category, the top five were r/food, r/cooking, r/keto, r/kitchenconfidential and r/starbucks. Lastly, the top five communities in the movies and television category were r/movies, r/marvelstudios, r/starwars, r/moviedetails and r/dc_cinematic.
Reddit also revealed that users created 366 million posts in 2021, which is a 19% year-over-year increase. The company has seen 2.3 billion total comments, a 12 percent increase year-over-year and 46 billion total upvotes, a 1% increase year-over-year so far this year.
Instagram announces plans for parental controls and other safety features ahead of congressional hearing – TechCrunch
On Wednesday, Instagram head Adam Mosseri is set to testify before the Senate for the first time on the issue of how the app is impacting teens’ mental health, following the recent testimonies from Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen, which have positioned the company as caring more about profits than user safety. Just ahead of that hearing, Instagram has announced a new set of safety features, including its first set of parental controls.
The changes were introduced through a company blog post, authored by Mosseri.
Not all the features are brand new, and some are smaller expansions on earlier safety features the company already had in the works.
However, the bigger news today is Instagram’s plan to launch its first set of parental control features in March. These features will allow parents and guardians to see how much time teens spend on Instagram and will allow them to set screen time limits. Teens will also be given an option to alert parents if they report someone. These tools are an opt-in experience — teens can choose not to send alerts, and there’s no requirement that teens and parents have to use parental controls.
The parental controls, as described, are also less powerful than those on rival TikTok, where parents can lock children’s accounts into restricted experience, block access to search, as well as control their child’s visibility on the platform and who can view their content, comment or message them. Screen time limits, meanwhile, are already offered by the platforms themselves — that is, Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android mobile operating systems offer similar controls. In other words, Instagram isn’t doing much here in terms of innovative parental controls, but notes it will “add more options over time.”
Another new feature was previously announced. Instagram earlier this month launched a test of its new “Take a Break” feature, which allows users to remind themselves to take a break from using the app after either 10, 20 or 30 minutes, depending on their preference. This feature will now officially launch in the U.S., U.K., Ireland, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
Unlike on rival TikTok, where videos that push users to get off the app appear in the main feed after a certain amount of time, Instagram’s “Take a Break” feature is opt-in only. The company will begin to suggest to users that they set these reminders, but it will not require they do so. That gives Instagram the appearance of doing something to combat app addiction, without going so far as to actually make “Take a Break” enabled by default for its users, or like TikTok, regularly remind users to get off the app.
Another feature is an expansion of earlier efforts around distancing teens from having contact with adults. Already, Instagram began to default teens’ accounts to private, and restrict target advertising and unwanted adult contact — the latter by using technology to identify “potentially suspicious behavior” from adult users, then preventing them from being able to interact with teens’ accounts. It has also restricted other adult users from being able to contact teens who didn’t already follow them, and sends the teen notifications if the adult is engaging in suspicious behavior, while giving them tools for blocking and reporting.
Now it will expand this set of features to also switch off the ability for adults to tag or mention teens who don’t follow them, and to include their content in Reels Remixes (video content), or Guides. These will be the new default settings, and will roll out next year.
Instagram says it will also be stricter about what’s recommended to teens in sections of the app like Search, Explore, Hashtags and Suggested Accounts.
But in describing the action it’s taking, the company seems to have not yet made a hard decision on what will be changed. Instead, Instagram says it’s “exploring” the idea of limiting content in Explore, using a newer set of sensitive content control features launched in July. The company says it’s considering expanding the “Limit Even More” — the strictest setting — to include not just Explore, but also Search, Hashtags, Reels and Suggested Accounts.
It also says if it sees people are dwelling on a topic for a while it may nudge them to other topics, but doesn’t share details on this feature, as it’s under development. Presumably, this is meant to address the issues raised about teens who are exploring potentially harmful content, like those that could trigger eating disorders, anxiety or depression. In practice, the feature could also be used to direct users to more profitable content for the app — like posts from influencers who drive traffic to monetizable products, like Instagram Shopping, LIVE videos, Reels and others.
Instagram will also roll out tools this January that allow users to bulk delete photos and videos from their account to clean up their digital footprint. The feature will be offered as part of a new hub where users can view and manage their activity on the app.
This addition is being positioned as a safety feature, as older users may be able to better understand what it means to share personal content online; and they may have regrets over their older posts. However, a bulk deletion option is really the sort of feature that any content management system (that’s behaving ethically) should offer its users — meaning not just Instagram, but also Facebook, Twitter and other social networks.
The company said these are only some of the features it has in development and noted it’s still working on its new solution to verify people’s ages on Instagram using technology.
“As always, I’m grateful to the experts and researchers who lend us their expertise in critical areas like child development, teen mental health and online safety,” Mosseri wrote, “and I continue to welcome productive collaboration with lawmakers and policymakers on our shared goal of creating an online world that both benefits and protects many generations to come,” he added.
In response to Meta’s announcement, Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) issued the following statement:
Meta is attempting to shift attention from their mistakes by rolling out parental guides, use timers, and content control features that consumers should have had all along. This is a hollow “product announcement” in the dead of night that will do little to substantively make their products safer for kids and teens. But my colleagues and I see right through what they are doing. We know that Meta and their Silicon Valley allies will continue pushing the envelope out of selfishness and greed until they can no longer do so.
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