Running Performance Test

The Running Performance Test is a tool especially designed for runners allowing them to track their progress and find out their unique training zones (heart rate, speed and power zones) for running sports. Regular and frequent testing helps you plan your training wisely and follow changes in your running performance

You can take the test as maximal or submaximal (at least 85 % of your maximum heart rate). The maximal test requires all-out effort, but it gives you more accurate results. Taking the maximal test is a good way to find out your current individual maximum heart rate, and get your settings up to date. The load of the maximal running test is considerably heavier compared to the submaximal test. Therefore, it's recommended that you include only light training sessions in your plan for the next 1-3 days after the maximal test.

The submaximal test, which requires that at least 85% of HRmax is exceeded, is a reproducible, safe and non-exhaustive alternative to the maximal test. You can repeat the submaximal test as often as you wish, and you can also perform it as a warmup before a training session. It's important that your maximum heart rate is set correctly in your physical settings in order to get accurate results from the submaximal test as the submaximal test uses your HRmax when calculating your results. If you don’t know your HRmax, you could benefit from doing maximal test first to find out your maximum heart rate.

The idea of the test is to run at a steadily increasing speed, following the given target speed as precisely as possible. To complete the test successfully you have to run for at least six minutes and reach at least 85 % or your maximum heart rate. If you have trouble reaching this, your current HRmax value might be too high. You can change it manually in your physical settings.

Performing the test

Before taking the test, read the Health and Training section in this user manual or in the Important information sheet that came in the product package. Do not take the test during illness, injury or if you have any doubts over your health. Take the test only when you feel recovered. Avoid exercise that causes fatigue on the day preceding the test. Wear running shoes and clothes that allow freedom of movement.

Take the test in flat terrain, track or road, and repeat it regularly under similar conditions. Run at a steadily increasing speed, following the given target speed as precisely as possible. Also, the conditions before testing should be fairly similar each time. For instance, an intense training session the day before or a heavy meal right before testing can influence your test result. You need to run for at least six minutes and reach at least 85 % or your maximum heart rate to complete the test.

By default the test uses GPS to track your speed but you can also perform the test with a Polar Stride Sensor Bluetooth® Smart or a STRYD running power meter. In this case your speed is measured with the sensor.

Check heart rate sensor is shown if your heart rate cannot be detected during the test.

Speed unavailable, GPS signal lost is shown if the satellite signals cannot be detected during the test.

Have a look at the instructions on your watch in Tests > Running test > How to once more before starting to see a detailed breakdown of the test, and instructions on performing it.

  1. First, define your initial speed for the test in Tests > Running test > Initial speed. The initial speed can be set between 4-10 min/km. Note that if you set the initial speed too high, you may have you to quit the test too soon.
  2. Then go to Tests > Running test > Start and scroll down to see an overview of the test. When you’re ready to start the test, choose Next.
  3. Check the questions concerning your health and accept to go to the pre-training mode.
  4. The sport profile is shown in a purple color in the test view. Choose an appropriate indoor or outdoor running sport profile. Stay in the pre-training mode until the watch has found your heart rate and the GPS satellite signals (GPS icon turns green).
  5. Tap the display or press the OK button to begin. The watch guides you through the test.
  6. The test begins with a warmup phase (~ 10 min). Follow the guidance on the display to complete the warmup.
  7. After a proper warmup, choose Start test. Then you need to reach the initial speed for the actual test to start.

During the test: The blue value shows the steadily increasing target speed that you should follow as precisely as possible. The white value below it shows your current speed. The watch gives you an audible alarm if you go too fast or too slow.

The blue curve with the speed values at each end illustrates the allowed range.

At the bottom, you can see your current heart rate, the minimum heart rate required for the submaximal test and your current maximum heart rate value.

Your watch will ask Was this your maximum effort? if didn't reach or exceed your maximum heart rate value. Your test is considered submaximal, if your effort wasn't maximal but you reached at least 85 % of your maximum heart rate. Your test is automatically considered maximal, if you reach or exceed your current maximum heart rate value.

Test results

The Running Performance Test gives you your maximum aerobic power (MAP), maximum aerobic speed (MAS) and maximal oxygen uptake (VO2max) as results. In addition, if you performed the maximal test you get your maximum heart rate (HRmax) value. You can view your latest result in Tests > Running test> Latest result.

  • Your maximum aerobic power (MAP) is the lowest exercise intensity where your body reaches its maximum ability to consume oxygen (VO2max). Maximum aerobic power can usually be sustained for a few minutes only.
  • Your maximum aerobic speed (MAS) is the lowest exercise intensity where your body reaches its maximum ability to consume oxygen (VO2max). Maximum aerobic speed can usually be sustained for a few minutes only.
  • Your maximal oxygen uptake (VO2max) is your body's maximum capacity to consume oxygen during maximum effort.

If you choose to update your sport profile settings with your new MAP, MAS and VO2max results, your speed, pace and power zones, as well as calorie calculation are updated to match your current condition. If you performed the maximal test you can also update your heart rate zones based on your new HRmax value.

Note that to update your training zones and HRmax value you need to sync the results to the Flow app. When opening the Flow app after syncing you'll be asked if you want to update your values. The sport profile settings for all running type sports will be updated with the new values.

Whether you should follow power zones, speed/pace zones or heart rate zones in your training, depends on your goals and training routines. Power zones work in all types of terrains – flat or hilly. Speed zones are reliable only when you run in flat terrain. Speed or power zones are also a good choice for interval training.

If you want to use the Running Performance Test to track your progress and help you choose the right training intensities, we recommend that you repeat the maximal test every three months to ensure that your training zones are always up to date. If you want to follow your progress more closely, you can repeat the submaximal test as often as you wish in between the maximal tests.

Note that you will not get a Running Index result from your Running Performance Test.

Your weight is used as one input in the Running Performance Test. Note that if you change your weight setting, it also affects the comparability of your test results.

Detailed analysis in the Flow web service and app

Remember to sync your test result to Polar Flow. To help long-term follow up, we’ve gathered all the test data in one place in the Polar Flow web service. In the Tests page you can see all the tests you’ve performed and compare their results. You can see your long-term progress and easily view changes in your performance.