From the M400 to the V800, Polar’s new breed of GPS sport watches and activity trackers are smarter than ever, but the watches are just the start. Behind the devices is Polar Flow, a hugely powerful app that holds the key to better running.
Master the web tools that support these devices and you can unlock another level of insights to help you fine-tune your training and improve your running.
Essential reading: How to use your running watch to be a better runner
Polar Flow is compatible with the latest Polar fitness and sports devices. Sadly, if you’re the owner of older Polar devices like the RC3 GPS the new service won’t work for you.
Just like Garmin Connect and Adidas miCoach, the Flow web platform offers a vast range of planning, analysis and social tools to help make training easier to manage. You can build a training plan, monitor your progress, see what friends have been up to and even relive recent runs.
Here are ten simple things you can do harness the power of Polar Flow to become a better runner.
Build a training plan
Unlike Adidas miCoach, Garmin Connect and running apps like Endomondo, there are no off-the-shelf training plans in Polar Flow but it is relatively quick and easy to build your own. Choose from three training session options: Quick, Race Pace or Phased (interval).
Quick offers single target training sessions with the choice of time, distance or calories. With Race Pace you can set combinations of distance and duration, distance and pace or duration and pace. Meanwhile Phased lets you build interval sessions combining periods of exertion with recovery. These can be based on time, pace, distance and heart rate.
Top tip: Use the Favourites button to store workouts you’ll do regularly and these can be added to the calendar quickly to build long term training plans.
Check your vitals
Just as we recommend with Garmin Connect, customising your age, height, gender and heart rate zones will help get you the most accurate training data next time you hit the road. From overall calorie burn, to what type of calories (fat or carbs) you’re using to fuel you sessions, if you have tested your actual thresholds, such as anaerobic and aerobic thresholds, or upper and lower lactate thresholds, it’s better to use those stats.
That way you can be sure you're training with zones based on your individual thresholds rather than defaults or estimates. It also improves the accuracy of the Training Benefit notifications you get after each session as this is also then based on these zones.
Polar recommends that you set your anaerobic threshold as the minimum heart rate of zone 5. If you also use aerobic threshold, set that as the minimum of zone 3. The minimum of zone 4 is halfway between zones 3 and 5.
Heart rate guide: Check out our guide to heart rate zones
Set your sport profiles
A lot of Polar’s fitness gear has multi-sport smarts and the web tools are built to back that up. You can create multiple sport profiles, tailoring everything from heart rate zones to whether you view your heart activity as BPM, percentage of maximum heart rate and percentage of heart rate reserve.
You can also change which stats display on your watch depending on whether you’re running the road track, trail or treadmill. Just click your username in the top right of the screen and select Sport Profiles from the dropdown menu to add, edit or delete.
Relive your session
Relive is a brilliant feature on Polar Flow that lets you retrace the steps and stats of any of your recent sessions. Click on the Relive button from any workout page and you get a Google map and Street View mash up of your run, complete with all of the vital info like pace, heart rate, time and distance. While you don’t get to see every twist and turn in Street View it is a brilliant way to visualise how your run went in a way that brings your data to life.
You can spot where your heart rate soared or your pace slowed. Use this tool to review your monthly benchmark run and you’ll be able to build a picture of how your performance is improving for example when that hill at mile eight you’ve struggled with for the past three months is no longer a problem.
Follow someone else’s footsteps
It’s not just your own training you can Relive either, Polar Flow lets you delve into the training runs of anyone who has their settings on share mode. Why is this useful? Not only can you use it to find new routes to run almost anywhere on the planet but you can also see how other athletes have performed on that route.
Find someone who’s done the distance you’re attempting, in a time you’re aiming for, and you can see how they ran it. With access to heart rate and pacing, you get insights like where they slowed down or sped up and how they approach the beginning middle and end of their run. If you’ve got the time to do a bit of digging, there are lots of lessons to learn from other runners already out there putting in the miles. If you want to take it one step further you follow our next tip too.
Get support from the Polar Flow community
Just like Nike+ Running and apps like Endomondo and Strava, Polar Flow has a social side. You can follow other runners and see how people in your network are getting on with their training. From here you can also show support with a Like button or leave comments. Seen someone run a 10km in the time you’re chasing and want to find out how they paced it? Drop them a comment next to their activity and ask for advice.
As an added bonus, sharing your workouts has been proven to keep people committed to training plans for longer and having moral support from people going through the same pain and getting the same rewards is really powerful.
Get yourself hooked on benefits
Combined with the Training Benefit feature on many Polar devices, Flow makes it really easy to understand the training effect of each of your training sessions and the cumulative benefit of a week or a month.
On your session screen - and on your watch - Polar gives you post-workout feedback on what kind of session you’ve just had, whether it's Steady State, Maximum Training Benefit or Tempo, based on how much time you spent and how many calories you burnt in each heart rate zone.
Keeping a close eye on these will help you get an idea of the types of runs and routes you can string together to build a fully-rounded training plan.
No need to HIIT the track
Whether your starting out with run-walk or you’re a seasoned runner knocking out Yasso 800s, building interval sessions into your training is a great way to improve speed and endurance. Polar Flow makes constructing high intensity interval sessions easy. You can choose the time, distance and pace of each segment and duplicate segments to put together quick sets of exertion and recovery.
Once created, your interval sessions can be synced to your Polar watch with audio and vibrating alerts telling you when to speed up or rest. The good news here is that you no longer have to be on the track to do 400m or 800m intervals. You’re free to recreate those wherever you can find the best view.
Keep an eye on your training load
In the Diary section, Polar Flow gives you an at-a-glance, one to five, indicator of the physical cost of every run, along with recommendations on how long it’ll take to recover from that training load. While it’s by no means the absolute truth about whether or when you should next train, because it’s based on your heart rate profile that you’ve built over time, it’s a reasonable barometer of how hard you’re pushing yourself. It’s a great tool to use for constructing a balanced training plan that should help you get the most out of each session.
Get in touch with your feelings
Most successful athletes keep training diaries and while it might sound a bit old school to add notes to each of your run in the Polar Flow web tool, it’s a brilliant way to keep track of what workouts suit you best. Sometimes the data only reveals half the story and adding some emotional context will help you spot how certain types of training session impact one another.
Perhaps you need three rather than two days after a long run to hit the hill training or you feel that niggle return each time you hit a certain number of miles in a week. Heart rate and pacing stats don’t necessarily give this insight when you return to them after a month.