The new “Polar Running Performance Test” provides the user a convenient system of physical fitness assessment right from the Polar smart watch – the Vantage V2 ($499.95) in this case.
Upon completion of this running performance test, you will see up to 4 metrics but if you complete the maximal test:
- Maximum heart rate
- Maximum aerobic pace (MAP)
- Maximum aerobic power (MAS)
- VO2 max estimation
As to what each metric is for, here’s the extract lifted directly from Polar.
- Use MAS when you need training or race guidance and you run on flat terrain and only have access to speed as guidance.
- Use MAP when you are running in hilly terrain and have access to running power.
- Use VO2max as your general non-sport specific performance indicator.
The running performance test can be done both indoors and outdoors.
In outdoors test mode, you would get the best accurate test outcome by attempting the test on flat plains or a running track where you can go as hard as you can without thinking of traffic or stop points. In outdoors running test mode, the watch will avail the running and the trail running profiles.
When paired with a compatible running foot pod such as Polar Stride Sensor Bluetooth® Smart or a STRYD running power meter, the treadmill profile will appear for the running performance test. So, you can do the test indoors where variables like temperature and humidity are within your control
According to Polar, if a Stryd sensor is used, you won’t get running power measurements. That’s not entirely true in my case.
I obtained power readings with Stryd when doing the test indoors using the treadmill profile. You can see both running power graph and maximum aerobic power (MAP) in the screengrabs below; test was done with a gen 1 Stryd foot power meter sensor.
Before you start, make sure you set the start speed right. I didn’t do this the first time round so the smartwatch had me brisk walking at 10km/hr when the test started. And it took a while before I reached my regular running pace. Also, if you start off too too fast, you may not last the entire duration of the test.
Interestingly, the watch displayed a health advisory every time the test was attempted – I have done the Polar running performance test twice and received the advisory on both occasions.
During the run, your key focus should be to stay within the pace zone. The watch buzzes when you go too fast or when you need to slow down so that’s simple to follow.
You will be informed when the test has reached 85% effort. If you stop then, this is considered a sub-maximal test which will get you 3 readings – MAP, MAS, VO2 max, but NOT max HR.
If you decide to continue and head for maximal effort, #respect. Then you will be rewarded with your max HR numbers.
Polar suggests you do the maximal effort running performance test once every 3 months and the sub-maximal version as often as you like.
Once the running performance test is synced to Polar Flow, you’ll be asked if you would like to update your sport profile setting by updating all the readings or only specific measurements. This is a convenient feature.
I think the running performance test is a good training workout. I’ve been so used to running at a particular pace or HR zone that the feeling of going full maximal is a positive one for me. And I see value in attempting the test on a fortnight or monthly basis to chart performance improvements and also to add some excitement to training.
With the results from the running performance test, owners of the Polar Vantage V2 will now have feedback about their VO2max from 3 aspects:
- Running performance test
- Running Index
- Fitness test from the wrist
Is there a need for 3 separate avenues to estimate VO2 max? I can’t say for sure. I think it would be very helpful if Polar came forward and list which of their 3 readings is closest to that of a VO2 max test done in a lab.
Having used Apple Watch, Garmin, and Suunto, I liked the convenience of having one single number to track. Honestly, I don’t need more measurements, I just need more accurate measurements.
For the longest time, I have grappled with the relevance of running index vs actual VO2max from Polar’s own fitness test. Now with this new running performance test’s estimated VO2 max, I don’t have a clue what to make of it.
Well, if anyone of you have the hard facts that can shed light on this issue, I would love to hear from you.