SHFT - Digital running coach: First reactions

2017 looks like its set to see some developments in the running power meter market. The SHFT digital running coach has been in development since 2013 and is gathering some momentum for its unique approach to running. The system is designed to help you learn or relearn how to run more efficiently by improving technique, reducing energy expenditure and minimising the risk of injury.

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SHFT's big point of difference is the opportunity for real time running coaching. This will resonate well with athletes that struggle with post training data analysis or deciphering where their focus on improvement should be. Post training you can also review your full body metrics, running statistics, 3D animations and complete training drills to assist in becoming a better runner based upon your results.

The Equipment

The SHFT device comprises of two running pods, one worn on the right shoe and one on the chest strap. These pods are paired with the SHFT app (available for IOS and Android) on your smartphone. The data is analysed while you run and coaching instructions given.

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SHFT has a great support section including videos on its website about how to set up your system. As a fairly new system there are always bugs being worked out and new updates available to improve the device.

 Post run reviewing my results

Post run reviewing my results

The Data

During your first run, SHFT will guide you through a warm up jog followed by an initial screening run (2 minutes). The data analysed during the screening run provides a base level of running metrics for which the SHFT will provide advice (coach you) on which running metrics to improve in your future runs.

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Below are a range of running metrics assessed during each run:

  • Landing
  • Cadence
  • Ground contact time
  • Air time
  • Landing and toe-off angle
  • Stride length
  • Watts
  • Running efficiency
  • Braking
  • Body angle

The Coaching

Looking at the data from the initial screening run the software decides which metrics are the most important to improve your efficiency and gives you coaching points on how to improve. As your running efficiency across certain metrics develops and improves it may choose to coach you on other areas of weakness. The SHFT system will coach you in short 3x 6 minute running blocks with 2 minute recovery periods, it will provide regular advice on your metrics and technical tips on how to try to achieve your goal. After each session you will be provided with a report and run drills to help work on your weaker areas of technique.

Note: One important consideration with the coached running from SHFT is the consistency of running pace when working on technical development. Scenario: I ran at 4.30/km on a flat running surface for my screening and the software assessed my technique to provide me with tips for improvement. If I decide during my coached runs to alter my pace from 4.30/km on a flat surface this is going to change my running metrics considerably. For example my cadence, stride length, ground contact time will all likely change. For this reason SHFT recommends that your coached runs are completed at consistent paces.

Example 1: My initial screening

  • I ran the warm up and initial screening period at what is described as a comfortable pace. I ran 4.30/km pace around a grass oval and ran 'relaxed' as SHFT suggests. After the screening my biggest area of weakness targeted by SHFT was my SPM (strides per minute). Not a surprise to me that this would be recognised as my proposed weakness. My average cadence for the screening was 163spm, this is pretty usual for my easy running (I am more often around 170spm for tempo running, and 180spm for fast running).
  • Over the first period of coached running after my screening the SHFT system gave me SPM targets (165-170spm) for my 3x 6 minute run blocks. The app would tell my if I was hitting my target or if I needed to increase my spm rate. It would also give me tips on using my arm swing to help generate the speed of my spm, to lean forward from my ankles to promote forward movement and to think about running with a tall posture.
  • Below is the snippet of my first run, initial screening and first 6 minute block. In the portal you can tap into each metric to see in detail how the coaching may have affected things. You can also review the coaching tips you were given at each point. I was keen to see if my improved spm had an impact on other metrics?
 My first run with SHFT

My first run with SHFT

 A short snippet from my screening

A short snippet from my screening

 A short snippet from my coached running

A short snippet from my coached running

 Coaching Report

Coaching Report

You can notice from the base metrics that as I increased my spm there was a positive impact on my time in the air, decrease in my ground contact time, my pace increased, my running efficiency remained very steady as did my watts. The biggest notable was that as I increased my cadence I ran faster - this is my usual running process, I found it difficult to run easy with high cadence without significantly changing my running style to more of a glide/ shuffle.

My initial reactions of SHFT?

The SHFT system is no doubt working, you can see the positive change in metrics, BUT there is definitely a time and a place to use it. As an athlete my biggest question (more testing needed) is whether the changes in my coached running session with SHFT are an overall positive move for my running across my paces and should I adopt these technical changes for all my running?

As a coach the coaching tips I received and changes made to my technique are things I might use in specific scenarios for some of my athletes. The SHFT system is making some good determinations about what constitutes a good running technique. The bigger question is if one of my athletes has a SHFT I need to decide where and when will this benefit most in their training.

Initial Summary

SHFT customer service and support is very good. The team behind the product are enthusiastic and practicing athletes who have used the system to good effect. They are very willing to work with buyers and want the product to keep developing for its users.

The technology is sound and any glitches are dealt with very quickly by the team. It's an easy system to set up and get running quickly, but there have been some noted interference's with some ANT+ devices you may be using that is explained by the team when purchasing.

As I've only been using the system a short while, the conclusions I draw are from initial impressions and combined with my own running knowledge and experience. I have been using SHFT in my aerobic runs (where I would suggest using them) due to its real time coaching need for consistent pacing. This can then be compared and provide coaching over a period of consistent running. My next goal with the system is to play with my technique and my pacing to see how the SHFT system will provide continued coaching support as I improve.

The coaching advice is solid and is conforming with good knowledge of running biomechanics, there is a big focus on spm. This may be a personal preference but I would expect an efficient runner to be operating at slightly different cadences depending on the pace and type of running they completed, however hopefully the running technique during the coached sessions with SHFT could be transferred to all running.

Initially I can see this system having a lot of appeal to novice runners whose knowledge of running training may be limited. Also runners who run alone a lot and have the time to focus and develop their technique without the presence of coaches or other athletes. Also runners who are doing a lot of longer distance training and are trying to become efficient at threshold pace. From a personal perspective I will continue to use SHFT on my aerobic runs to see how my metrics change and to hopefully see some additional improvement in my efficiency.

Where from here

Like I mentioned earlier the guys at SHFT are keen to keep developing the product with its users. The more people use the system and the greater the amount of data that is captured will only help progress things for everyone. Knowledge is Power. I'd personally like to see some additional information and guidance in the technical area, variety of coaching ideas for different learners at different stages of running. i also think SHFT can capitalise on the big bank of running drills they have to help educate athletes on where improvements are going to be made and how. Either way I'm looking forward to additional testing.