trust the process

Podcast setup for a triathlon podcast show
April 4, 2024

Running with Power: Optimizing Performance with D3 Coaches Dave Sheanin and Mike Ricci

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show notes

In this conversation, Coach Dave Sheanin discusses the use of power meters in running and the benefits they provide. He shares his experiences with early power meter technology and how advancements have made power meters more reliable. Coach Dave also talks about the importance of incorporating strength and plyometric exercises to improve stride length and leg spring stiffness. The conversation highlights the balance between stride length and cadence and the impact on running efficiency. The use of power as a metric is explored, along with the importance of connecting metrics to perceived effort. Overall, power meters are seen as valuable tools for improving running performance.


  • Power meters in running provide valuable insights and can be used to pace races effectively.
  • Advancements in power meter technology have made them more reliable and trustworthy.
  • Incorporating strength and plyometric exercises can improve stride length and leg spring stiffness.
  • Balancing stride length and cadence is important for running efficiency.
  • Power can be used as a metric to assess performance and make adjustments in training.
  • Connecting metrics to perceived effort is crucial for effective use of power meters.


00:00 Introduction and Background

01:20 Early Experiences with Power Meters

03:34 Advancements in Power Meter Technology

06:14 Incorporating Strength and Plyometric Exercises

09:03 Balancing Stride Length and Cadence

13:19 The Importance of Cadence and Stride Length

14:12 Using Power as a Metric

15:40 Connecting Metrics to Perceived Effort

16:49 Conclusion


Mike (00:00.726)
All right, Hi everybody. This week we have coach Dave Sheanin on our podcast. And Dave, we're gonna talk a little bit about power. I know you've been a strong proponent of using the Stryd Power Meter for a number of years, as I have as well, but love to get your take on it. And you know, your run, even though you're aging, Dave, I see that your run times are getting faster, so you must have figured something out and maybe power has been part of that. So I'll let you speak to that a little bit.

Coach Dave (00:27.182)
Well, thanks Mike, I do. I love the power meter on the run. I think that it's really, if I could pick a single metric, that power is really a truth teller. And there's some caveats to that, but in general, I have paced quite a few races now as I've been experimenting over the years with the stride power meter, paced several races, literally just by looking at the power number and nothing else, sort of ignoring how I feel.

And ignoring heat or cold or whatever, and just running power and experimenting to see what happens. And if you can hold power, you're gonna get an associated pace with that. That's not always the best advice, but as I've kind of experimented along, I do find that the technology has come to a point right now where it's really trustworthy. And we both started with stride in the, what they call the pioneer days, right? That was the chest strap or so on. And...

I can't remember if we ran one next to each other or we just compared some times on the track or whatever, but we were finding that like wide variations in power numbers for the same kind of effort and pace in RPE.

Mike (01:29.39)
I think that's right. I think some of that had to do with some of the things they hadn't revealed yet, like some of the oscillation, and then you have the LSS, and all that stuff has just been leg spring stiffness. Some of that stuff wasn't revealed at the time. And then we were about the same height and weight at the time. You were a little taller. But stride length was about the same, but just different power for sure.

And it could just be, you know, it takes one of us more energy to get off the ground. Right. I mean, that's, that's really what, um, how, how the numbers vary. I mean, it's not like when you're on a bike, your feet are locked into the pedals and you're just pushing the cranks down. I mean, there's no variance to that. Like you just push the crank down and it comes up the others comes up the backside and you do it again. I mean, it's.

Coach Dave (02:17.934)
I think though that a lot of that's been resolved now. So some of that may have been the early technology or the early algorithm or so on, although I'm sure I'm a less efficient runner than you just based on, at a given pace and assuming, we're both fit at the same levels here. So yeah, there is gonna be some variation, right? So it is harder to say like, I can compare watts per kilogram, I suppose to you, like we do on the bike, but that's not really the important part of the power meter. It's that,

Mike (02:23.594)
Right, right, right. Right.

Mike (02:32.947)
Right, right.

Coach Dave (02:47.322)
as long as it's consistent for me from, you know, my run on Monday to Tuesday to Wednesday to Thursday. And I think that really has been solved at this point. So strides got it. The other thing that I think has been sort of interesting is that a couple of years ago, I switched my watch to Coros, the Coros brand watch. And they actually have, and it's just wrist-based. They do have a foot pod that I don't use. I usually use my stride, but at times I've run without the stride and just with the watch. And the power that they calculate, I assume it's almost all algorithm at that point.

Coach Dave (03:18.21)
is really very close to the stride. So you're starting to get into a realm where, you know, a 200 and I don't know what that bass chorus watch is that I have 200, 220 bucks or something like that, even without a foot pod and you can be running with power.

Mike (03:34.562)
That's pretty neat. That's pretty neat. So do you do, I know Stride recommends you do all the different little, you know, power tests, you know, a five second and 20 second, the minute and do you do all that or you just kind of let that work itself out organically through your cycle? Or do you do an auto update on your CP or how do you work all that?

Coach Dave (03:55.406)
I, so I have done, I've done everything over the years, I suppose, right? So I've done their testing, they've had a couple of different variations of testing. For the most part, I find that, yeah, my power, my critical power is gonna change a little bit sort of on season, off season and so on. But I do, you know, especially, I don't know, through the spring and summer months.

At some point I've got a hard 5K and you know, sometimes it's weekly, you know, stroke and strides out at the reservoir or something like that. So I've got that speed work that's fast enough that it's gonna update my critical power on a regular basis. During the winter and off season, sometimes I'll test, sometimes I'll just let it fall. And you know, it tends to fall like even if you're doing a high volume of running, but you're not doing a lot of speed work, then that critical power is gonna drop.

And whether or not it actually truly has dropped or not, I don't know because I'm not testing at that point. So throwing in a test to keep it up where you want it to be is fine. But from a practical standpoint, I have a set power that I'll drop into training peaks. And I don't change it very often, even though stride would tell me in the winter, my critical power is lower and in the summer my critical power is higher. What do you do with that? Do you change your thresholds and training peaks every time? Mm-hmm.

Mike (05:10.742)
I don't really change it unless I'm racing a lot. If I'm racing, I'll know the numbers and I'll change it. But I'm not gonna change it five watts. Like it would have to be significant, like a 10% change. That would have more to do with my weight than my fitness probably. So that's, you know, that'll change when that changes. Do you see that when you run, you know, a 5K versus a 10K versus a half marathon, like the drop off, is it 5% or is it like more like 10% in terms of...

I mean, obviously you're running a 5K at like what 98 to 100%. 10K would be somewhere in that 95, 97 maybe.

Coach Dave (05:48.334)
Yeah, 5K is probably even above 100% of, I'm just trying to think through the numbers, yeah. Yeah, you know, it's an interesting question because I don't actually know what the percentage is. I will look at, so Stride, if you've got enough data in there, Stride will give you a predictor. And I don't really care what the time is, I care what the number is. And I have found that to be in an open running race. I have found that to be super accurate for a 5K, 10K.

Mike (05:52.702)
Right, because it's 20 minutes versus a, yeah, okay.

Coach Dave (06:18.09)
You know half marathon. I've not run a marathon by straight by power that way, but But the number that predictor is really is really dead on for me the you know The time that's associated with that can depend on quite a lot of things conditions, you know up down wind You know surface all that sort of thing, but the power it says, you know, if stride says I can hold whatever 330 watts for a 5k then I'll try to run 330 watts for a 5k and

And it's been right more often than it's not been right. It's led me in the right direction. So I do trust that calculator. It's a little different in a triathlon, like coming off the bike. The calculator doesn't really, yeah, it doesn't account for that.

Mike (06:56.758)
Right, it's gonna fall off a bit.

Mike (07:01.371)
Do you ever do anything to kind of help your stride length or your leg spring stiffness, like jumping rope or box jumps or hops or anything like that actually helps you feel like you gain a little bit?

Coach Dave (07:15.158)
I should. You know, I haven't looked quite as deeply at some of those individual metrics as I know you have to say like, okay, how, you know, can I improve this and then can I see it in turn then improve my running? I certainly will do some, you know, some running drills. Most typically that's as warmup. I'll do some strides and obviously some interval work in the course of my training, running in specific zones or so on.

Mike (07:16.554)
Ha ha ha.

Mike (07:25.454)

Coach Dave (07:44.958)
the specific strength drills and so on, I have not personally correlated any of that specific work to like, oh, I'm gonna try to get my leg spring stiffness over 10 or whatever it is. Like I look at it, it's more kind of a point of interest for me, but it has not been something that has driven my training. What are you seeing?

Mike (08:04.446)
Okay. Yes, for sure. Like I think, and I have a lot of my athletes that have power meters, running power meters with, we do box jumps, we do hurt little, low hurdles, we'll do jump rope, anything there that we can increase the ground contact time or decrease the ground contact time. Yeah, so that's a big thing. And yeah, definitely have seen stuff in a positive way. Definitely have seen stride length opening up a little bit, just more economy, right? That's really what it's about.

Coach Dave (08:21.234)
Decrease, yeah, yeah.

Mike (08:35.611)
And some of these are beginner runners that, you know, they like the technology so they have the stride, but they don't really know what to do with it. But once we get them on the right path, they'll see some good improvement. You know, is it a matter of they're running more, or is it a matter of they're actually doing, you know, these types of workouts? We don't really know that, but I don't think there's anything wrong with it. I think it's a good thing to do in terms of the bounding and, you know, all the hopping and stuff like that. It definitely helps, you know, the economy for running.

Coach Dave (09:03.218)
So Mike, like here's an interesting question. I think you'll tell me if it's an interesting question. But so you take, like we've got a lot of athletes, I think triathlon just sort of draws people who love the data. And so they wanna look at it. So they'll look at an individual metric like stride length, and they'll say, okay, I wanna increase my stride length. And so they increase their stride length, but there are cadence drops, you know, like you've got to, it's a dynamic system. So we can't just look at one thing. So if their goal is to...

Hey, Mike, I'm going to really make my goal for the next month, you know, getting an extra tenth of a meter on my stride length or whatever. And then their cadence goes from 90 to 80 or whatever. So now we know that they're overstriding and they're, you know, they're at some sort of injury risk. How do you, when you look at the breakdown of individual metrics with a specific athlete, how are you balancing it?

Mike (09:52.918)
Yeah, great question. And we see the same thing on the bike too, right? So we'll see guys that are like, oh, I, you know, if I want them to push 90 cadence and they're really not good at 90 cadence, and they're really more efficient at 80, 85, whatever it is, we let them stay there. So I'm really about them keeping the organic cadence. So if someone is a runner that, you know, they're at 90 cadence, I'm not going to say to them, let's increase the stride length. And then the cadence goes down. Like, let's just, let's just work on all the factors like the strength in the weight room and then the strength with, you know,

all the jumping and the hopping and the plyos, all that stuff is what's gonna help them increase that stride length. So we're not gonna like say, hey, push off harder, right? Cause then that's a disaster. And that's, you know, an injury waiting to happen for most people that are, you know, obviously, if you look at triathlon, I mean, it's an older age group at this point, right? And you do stuff like that, then you're on the sidelines for six months. So yeah, don't worry about that as much as just letting it happen organically. No, you know, no different than you telling me, hey, I want you to swim 12 strokes of length in the pool. And I do that.

And now my 25s are now 25 seconds versus the 18. I was swimming for 19 strokes, right? So it's fine in that sweet spot. Like you said, uh, I think that's the important piece, but yeah, you can, you will, you will get people that do that. And I certainly get emails from people that say, Hey, you know, I was average. I was able to average 250 Watts on my FTP tests, you know, and on a bike. Um, but my cadence was 50 and I'm like, well, how did you get off? How did you get off the bike and walk? I mean,

Coach Dave (11:15.95)
Yeah, have fun running off of that, yeah. Yeah, yeah. Yeah.

Mike (11:20.362)
Nevermind the running, right? So, I mean, that's like doing, you know, 50 steps up a minute, upstairs and weight on your back. And then, you know, cause that's, I mean, you know, pushing down at that torque is really hard as we know. So we've all gone up old stage and we know what 50 to 65 cadence feels like.

Coach Dave (11:37.35)
Yeah, it's interesting. So in my own personal journey, I can share as a runner, I was originally a runner, I guess, now I'm a little bit more of a runner. But my natural cadence turnover was in the high 70s, and so I spent the better part of a season really focused on moving my cadence up without being focused on anything else. So my stride rate was dropping for sure as this was happening. But I had read an article that basically said like,

the difference between an elite marathoner off the bike or an elite runner off the bike and kind of a mid pack runner is stride length, not cadence, right? So if your elite runner is running around 90, turnover, something like that, I wanna move my cadence up to about 90. And then once I get it there and I'm running comfortably, then I work on getting stronger and increasing that stride length. That's what's gonna make me faster. And it was really interesting.

by focusing on that single metric, it was interesting that my form got substantially better. And then once I got comfortable sort of aerobically turning over that much, being a normal amount, right? Then I was able to focus on getting faster, but my form kind of stayed. And I still find myself today like, oh, you're gonna start a 200 or a 400 under the track or whatever. And I'll start with like three or four really long strides to get started in the...

That's my natural instinct. And of course I know I should be taking shorter strokes to kind of get myself going there. So just one example of where you can pick a single metric and have it work for you versus if you try to work on the other side, that stride length first that it could potentially work against you.

Mike (13:19.306)
Right, no, that's great. And you know, there is a correlation. Many years ago, I read a study about 90 cadence on the bike and 90 cadence on the run, they actually correlate. So you don't need to ride 90 cadence, but something close to that is gonna help you. And I guarantee you there's nobody out there running, six minute miles that's running slower than 90 cadence. I mean, if you look at some of the fastest people in the world, they're closer to a hundred even, which is amazing, right? So.

Coach Dave (13:40.551)
I'm not.

Mike (13:45.666)
that higher cadence is important. And definitely that's the first step in improving that stride for sure. But yeah, okay. Well, it was good to talk about the power meter a little bit. I just wanted to get your thoughts on that. And I think that, you know, it's a device, like you said, it's the data coming out of there now is reliable. And, you know, you can go out there and do a run and you know, you can race to that power now just like you can on the bike, which is pretty neat.

Pretty neat. Like I don't know that I trusted it that much in the beginning. I usually use it as a metric to say, okay, I averaged 300 Watts for this 5K. What does that really mean? And, but I like digging into the other stuff. I like the, you know, I like the ground contact time and the leg's spring stiffness. Those are huge numbers. One thing for me is when I see that legs, and I can tell you before I even check the file, if I feel like lousy out there, I can tell you the leg's stiffness is under a certain number. But when I feel good, it's definitely in that upper range.

It's a great tool, I think, and the more people that use it, they're gonna get something out of it for sure.

Coach Dave (14:49.83)
Totally agree. And maybe we'll talk about in another segment, perhaps, you know, power on the bike, but sort of playing the game of saying to yourself, I'm running along, I'm not looking at my watch, but it feels like I'm running at this sort of pace. And then you'll check your watch and see if you're running at this pace or power or a cadence or whatever it is. So you can kind of connect your brain to what the metrics are, get calibrated there, is really critical because then,

You know, if you're used to whatever we train up here at over 5000 feet, and then you go do a race at sea level and the power numbers are going to be different. And it's hard to know exactly, you know, what that changes. You would expect or the pace number is going to be different or something's going to be different, you know, depending on what's going on there. So having a sense of like what this level of effort feels like and what that translates to.

is I think really critical. I love power, I love the metrics and so on, but I think RPE is always the gold standard on this. It's just not as easy to compare from one run to the next or one athlete to the next, but having some correlation in your brain to feel what you're doing is gonna be really critical for the use of any metric that you're gonna rely on to race.

Mike (16:04.758)
No, I agree. I agree. And that is one place I think that the power does help me. I may feel lousy on a run. I'm not looking at power during the run. And I come back, maybe the heart rate's normal, right? And maybe the pace is only off by five or 10 seconds, but then I see the power is way down and I'm like, Oh, I don't have the legs today. I literally don't have that spring stiffness to get that stride. And, you know, I look at it and it's under a meter for me. So that's, that's low for me. Right. So I know it needs to be over one meter and all that stuff. So yeah, I mean, you're, you're exactly right. It's, it's, um,

Coach Dave (16:22.074)
Right. Yeah.

Mike (16:33.682)
RPE is the gold standard. It is hard to measure at times, but when you can back it up with something like Power, it makes it a lot easier to make adjustments and say, okay, maybe I don't need to do a hard run, the day after I do X workout or whatever, because I'm not gonna have that turn around like I'd like. So yeah, well, that was great. Thanks, that's informative stuff. I appreciate it.

Coach Dave (16:49.862)
Yep, agreed.

Thanks, Mike. Good times.

Coach Mike Ricci is the Founder and Head Coach for D3 Multisport.  His coaching style is ‘process-focused’ vs. ‘results-focused.’ When working with an athlete, their understanding of how and why they are improving is always going to take precedence over any race result. Yes, there is an end goal, but in over 2 decades of coaching, experience has shown him that if you do the right work, and for the right reasons, the results will follow.

Coach Mike is a USAT Level III Elite Certified Coach, Ironman University Certified Coach, and Training Peaks Level II Certified Coach. He was honored as the USAT Coach of the Year.

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