Podium is an Apple Watch app that wants to be your pers…

Podium is an Apple Watch app that wants to be your pers...
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Performance Lab is a company that boasts more than 30 years of real-world coaching experience and has already dabbled in wearables having developed the technology behind Intel and Oakley’s Radar Pace glasses.

It believes that while powerful fitness trackers and running watches are providing runners with staggering amounts of actionable data, they lack the personal touch. They lack that coach’s insight to perfectly tailor a program for users based upon their goals, fitness levels and speed of progression.

Read this: Best Apple Watch apps to download first

Every day runners of all skill levels, ask themselves whether they’re working hard enough on a run, whether they’re pushing too hard, or giving their bodies enough time to recover. Should they be focusing in on speed, hills or distance? Podium says its Apple Watch app provides these meaningful real-time and goal-oriented coaching insights on a device millions of people are already wearing.

“What’s missing from the industry is the guidance to take runners from where they are now to when they want to be. We remove the burden of trying to work out if they’re doing it right,” Performance Lab’s CEO Waynne Dartnall told Wareable.

“We really wanted to give everyone in the world access to their own running coach that’s with them all the time, creates a personalised plan, guides them through it, but also recognises that things change, and life gets in the way. It has to adapt, it has to be very personal and has to treat you like an individual. All the things a real coach would do.”

Running smarter

After downloading the app for iPhone and the Apple Watch (Series 3 and Series 4), the process starts with a running coach wizard offering 90,000 different permutations to create a training program for the individual runner. It calibrates current fitness levels through heart rate zones and asks questions about how often people like to train.

From the first run onwards, the app will guide users with real-time coaching insights offered directly from the wrist; it’ll tell wearers if they should be pushing harder or easing off. A post-run report will inform runners how they performed, while providing advice ahead of the next run on the training sheet.

Essential reading: Best Apple Watch apps for runners

“Here’s how you did. Here’s what you need to do tomorrow,” Dartnell says. “The app can tell me ‘today is an easy run we just want to focus on cruising and think about cadence and pacing because we have a big run tomorrow’. Also, when we finish, the app can say ‘you may have pushed a bit too hard.’”

Podium continues to learn about runners as they use the product and adjusts the programme as fitness levels improve. “Once we learn that we can adapt the way we communicate and the coaching advice we give,” says Dartnall, who co-founded the Performance Lab company behind the app with Jon Ackland, a former world class Ironman triathlete, and Kerry McMaster, a two-time former world karate champion.

The subscription-based Podium app is now available on the Apple Watch and leverages the powerful sensors within Apple’s hardware. From this it can glean your heart-rate, running gradient, speed and cadence to provide those real-time coaching insights. But did the company consider launching its own hardware in an already crowded field?

“We see the hardware platforms in the running space are consolidating into a few key brands. It has become commoditised,” says Dartnell. “What’s going to change that is the software, that’s where we think we can create a user experience that matters to people.

“The best trackers all give heart rate, speed, gradient and cadence as four key metrics. If you can get those you can drive a heck of a lot. We’re focused on creating the user experience that sits on top of those devices.”

Bringing running power to the Watch

Podium app turns the Apple Watch into your personal running coach

However, the key metric underpinning Podium’s proposition is running power, something we’ve covered a lot recently. The company says it is the only solution that offers this without a dedicated device worn on the body, though Polar might have something to say about that as its new Vantage watches deliver power readings from the wrist too. The power meter is displayed right on the Apple Watch screen in real time, alongside the heart rate zone and step cadence.

“Power is the ultimate measure of effort,” says Dartnell. “When you talk to a runner, at the end of the race you ask what’s the limiting factor? Is it the legs or the lungs? In most cases it’s the legs. What power allows us to do is start training and developing that muscular system. It’s the perfect measure we can use to really track whether someone’s fitness and performance is improving or deteriorating and where they’re actually at in that cycle. It’s the perfect metric.”

While the app is free to download and use, the adaptive coaching programs and added coaching options come with the premium version. It costs $54.99 for a 14-week program or $6.99 a week. There’s a month-long free trial of the Premium users for all users.

Compared to buying a dedicated running watch or hiring a personal trainer, that’s cheap. For those seeking a new solution to assist with running goals, the price point is attractive. While it’s an Apple Watch-only game for now, other platforms are on Podium’s roadmap.

The next major step is adding voice coaching for the times when you’re not looking at the display, while the company is also focusing on ways to help runners ensure they’re complying with the running programs.

“To those people that have an Apple Watch, we’re bringing that device to life,” CEO Dartnall says. “You don’t need to go out and buy another device. What’s important is the experience it delivers.”

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