The Challenge of Advanced Running Metrics — How We Closed the Gap Between Runner and Technology
Are you a runner? Do you trust technology to help you improve?
Wearable technology has become an essential part of our running experience. It’s undeniable that technology has had a far-reaching impact on the evolution of the sport. Take, for example, Eliud Kipchoge’s sub-two-hour marathon, an achievement that was beyond imagining a generation ago, made possible with high-tech shoes and a tracker to help him keep his optimal pace.
How did we get here? It all started with the simple stopwatch. Over the last decades, it kept evolving — from chest straps used as heart rate monitors or foot pedometers attached to the running shoe, to other built-in sensors that enable the accurate measurement of pace and elevation. Today, you have an array of options and accessories that measure your advanced biomechanics.
But choosing the right option to improve your running experience and performance implies many factors — is the device comfortable to run with? Which metrics are useful? Are they accurate? What do they mean with regards to my running style and how can I use them to reach my goals?
Our World View
As runners and outdoor sports enthusiasts ourselves, we think running should remain simple. We believe in the power of biomechanics to help runners learn more about how they run, improve their running form and ultimately stay injury-free. These are the core principles that drive our work at Myotest.
Challenging the Status Quo
Disrupting the running experience is not easy. Many believe that the more accessories you carry, the better runner you will be. Moreover, we are dealing with years of old, well-established running habits, be they good or bad. Improving the way you run thus takes time and dedication. Understanding your running style, tracking your progress and following a training plan that fits your needs are crucial to setting realistic goals and progressing towards them without injury.
Closing the Running Loop
Building upon the experience of helping professional athletes, our team at Myotest has focused over the last 3 years on bringing the value of advanced biomechanics to non-professional and casual runners, all while keeping the running experience enjoyable and simple.
We faced many challenges in this pursuit. Each challenge brought its own set of requirements and the necessity to understand both technology and people. Most crucially, we needed to better understand the running experience, from beginning to end, from the lacing of the running shoes to the post-run cooldown. This is why we created the Running Loop framework.
The Running Loop serves to better understand, design and develop a complete running experience. This activity-centered design approach helps us understand the runner’s perspective and the challenges faced at each step.
The Loop includes three major parts: running, discovering your inner runner, and evolving your running form. Let’s break them down.
There are several contextual constraints to consider when designing technology that enhances the running experience. Most importantly, the runner is focused on the physical activity itself and doesn’t have the time to read a screen or to be distracted by complex instructions. Thus, the information conveyed needs to be clear, concise and relevant.
To meet this requirement, we use a combination of visual elements, a consistent color code and contextual audio feedback. The goal is to help the runner when needed, without taking away from the running itself.
At the end of the workout, the runner is likely to be tired and looks forward to resting and hydrating. It is important at this stage to provide a quick summary and feedback with the key highlights.
Based on the last workout and long-term progress, we give a positive highlight about the running form. In contrast, because we want to challenge the runner to keep improving, we also give a quick tip about a running metric that could be further improved.
2. Discovering Your Inner Runner
There is no universally right way to run. The challenge lies in celebrating the uniqueness of each individual. As every person runs in their own way, it’s essential to first establish a baseline for learning and improving.
Many factors come into play. Some runners are terrestrial, spending more time on the ground, as opposed to aerial runners who spend more time in the air. Adding to this aspects such as symmetry, stiffness or cadence provides a picture of a person’s specific way of running. From there, they can strive towards the running form that best suits them.
Running Form Feedback
During a run workout, Myotest’s software captures advanced biomechanics data for multiple running metrics, for example cadence, left/right symmetry, contact time, stiffness or undulation. This data needs to be analyzed and summarized to provide the runner with relevant information that sparks curiosity and makes the metrics useful.
The running form feedback, presented after the workout, is a qualitative evaluation and depends on the runner’s age, weight, height and the pace. Based on these variables, we are able to give personalized feedback during (live) or after the run (post). The feedback — “good” or “improve” — gives the runner clues and insights about the optimal running form. Also, if the feedback is not positive, we show the necessary action to take in order to improve the metric (i.e. increase cadence).
3. Evolving Your Running Form
What’s the point of having advanced running metrics if you can’t understand them or use them to improve your running form?
As the runner accumulates miles, the challenge is getting them to understand what each metric means not just in theory, but in practice. Once they gain a sense of what each metric feels like in their run and in their movement, the runner can take steps towards improvement.
The Running Drills
Based on the post-run feedback, we provide a set of selected running drills that target a specific parameter to be improved. These help the runner evolve their running form and get a better feel for what each parameter means while running.
This is the last and most crucial element of the running loop. It is important to give the runner positive feedback about the evolution of the running form. This positive reinforcement serves to keep the runner in the loop and informed of their progress over time. Conversely, if the runner has a setback with metrics moving away from their target, then they will be made aware of what to look out for on their next run. Adding this long-term feedback to the short-term, single-run reports gives the runner a valuable “big picture” perspective.
Beyond Running: Reaching New Heights
We have reached a new milestone in running. Three years ago, Myotest took on the challenge of bringing the value of advanced biomechanics to runners of all levels, all while maintaining a simple, enjoyable running experience. Today, we have a complete solution for running.
We now have a developed and mature platform that allows us to expand to new sports and apply the same principles. So where do we go from here? We are striving to make our smart coach even smarter and we can extend our running experience to be used with audio only (i.e. earpods). Beyond that, we aim to explore the possibilities of other sports and bring the value of biomechanics to athletes across the board.
The achievment of the sub-two-hour marathon gave us a glimpse of how technology will impact the story of sports. It offers us new ways to go beyond the limits and to reach new heights. We want to be a part of that story, to share our passion for sports, and to bring new opportunities to athletes of all levels.
We’re Myotest, a Swiss company working with the wearables and sporting goods industry, sharing our passion for biomechanics and technology to improve athletic user experience. Contact us to learn more about our platform or demo our solutions.