Deep Dive – Suunto Structured Training (Part 2)

In this post we’ll follow on from part one where I discussed what structured training is. This time we’re looking at the platform implementations of this functionality. I used a Fenix 5/Forerunner 935, Spartan Trainer Wrist HR, and a Polar M430 for these posts. I believe all platforms are now relatively similar between models which support these features but will say sorry in advance if the detailed instructions don’t match with your device. I can’t check them all! Please comment if your device is significantly different to what I say here so others can help/be helped.

Suunto

I like my Suunto, I like it a lot. But when writing this post I’ve been severely disappointed by functionality. That’s why Suunto is first, it was quicker to complete. As you’ll see in the upcoming data/information post Suunto have some really nice ways to show you your stats. And that’s great, but that isn’t much use to me if my stats are always the same because I can’t plan my training. As I mentioned in part one, having goals and executing on them is how you improve. If you go to the park and just gambol about like a bunny you’ll possibly maintain your fitness. You may even enjoy looking at the pretty displays on your watch, but you won’t be improving in a consistent manner.

Just a little note – I chose to use up/down here to match the direction you’re moving in the menu rather than finger direction. I had to make a choice one way of the other so please don’t shout at me in the comments!

Ad Hoc

To get to the ad hoc training on your Suunto, press/swipe up to the exercise menu and then enter and choose a sport. From the start screen, press/swipe down for options. Here you have two sections, one for intensity and one for general. I can’t decide whether I really love this separation or really hate it. On the one hand it makes sense that I can choose to run with a specific HR zone for a given distance. On the other, it means I have to choose between metrics, making it a little limited. Ultimately I think I’m on the side of love. Suunto have done a really nice job of making this function simple and easy to use.

Under Intensity, you can choose between Heart Rate and Pace. Here you can choose one of your HR or Pace zones to stick to (and get alerts for being out of range). You can also edit them on the watch.

Under General you have options for duration and distance, both of which are numerical entry. Here is a good place to note just how much effort has gone into the Suunto interface to make it smooth and usable. When scrolling up and down for number entry the list accelerates smoothly so you can get through big jumps fast but still have control. It’s a small detail but one which makes me want Suunto as my favourite.

Next we have intervals. Again from the start screen of an activity, go down the menu and you’ll find it near the bottom. Somehow this functionality is below “Theme” in the pecking order. That goes some way to explaining the structured training which we’ll get to shortly.

Here you have a slider to turn intervals on. When on you can then choose a number of reps, interval time/distance, and recovery time/distance. There is no concept of warm up or warm down here, just the basics.

*UPDATE*

I discovered this when writing up the Polar post. While in an activity you are able to press and hold the middle button to get back into options. This allows you to turn on ad hoc intervals while in an activity. This could allow you to change your intervals and add in warm up and cool down manually while exercising. I find the menu a little bit fiddly to do this while working out, but this is the sort of thing which would become second nature if you only use one device.

Structured Training

As I mentioned, intervals were less important than themes for ad hoc training. You know what’s more important than structured training? EVERYTHING.
https://www.deviantart.com/distasty/art/Sad-Owl-3-175383531
This is where the screenshot would go if Suunto supported workouts on the Spartan series. They don’t. Sad Owl is sad that he can’t do workouts. (image from https://www.deviantart.com/distasty/art/Sad-Owl-3-175383531). FWIW the Ambit series could do workouts but I can’t test that because that device is super-superseded so there’s no way I’m spending my moneys there.
Suunto new workout
There is a way to add and plan a workout but it’s embarrassingly basic. How long do you want to run for, Dave? No intervals, no structure at all really. This is not a training platform, it’s a tracker. Right now you’re thinking “Idiot! I can see interval on the screenshot…”. Yes, so can I. You know what happens when you select it? It puts the word “Interval” as the type of activity. There is no way to do anything more advanced than that.

Scheduling

While you may not be able to add full structured workouts, you can add basic stuff in your calendar. This will at least ensure you get out and do some training regularly so is motivational. In the app I can’t work out a way to do this, nor on the watch. On the website though, click the plus at the top and “Plan a move” which shows the screen in the above section. Add in some future moves and they’ll later sync to the watch.

On the watch, navigate down until you see your training page (almost at the bottom) and then press right to see your upcoming week.

From there you can navigate down to see each individual planned activity. The below picture shows all the info you get, there isn’t a way to drill in further, although there isn’t really any more detail to be had since it’s so basic.

To actually do an activity, navigate up to Exercise and your planned activity for the day is at the top of your list of activity types. This is a really nice way to get things started so kudos to Suunto for that.

Conclusion

There is a lot to like about the way Suunto have set up the user interface here. My strong feeling is that if they ever add in training functionality they’ll be the better platform from a usability perspective. They don’t have that functionality though, so right now I’d have to say if you plan to do structured training just don’t buy a Suunto. The bits that are there are kinda nice, and ad hoc works well. The planned activities even works nicely for what it does. It just doesn’t do enough. The mobile app is missing a lot of functionality compared to peers too. I did use Movescount for this whole post. I tried the “Suunto” app, but that’s a bit of a joke right now from a functionality perspective so I abandoned it. It’s also a third party platform which Suunto seem to have bought and not really integrated yet, so I got the strong feeling that my data was being phished by a third party throughout the whole experience. One day it may be great, today is not that day. I don’t believe in “it’s coming” in the same way that the Ferrari dealer doesn’t care that one day I’ll be a millionaire.

If the status quo changes I’ll rewrite this post and update you all. Coming later in the week I should have Polar and Garmin posts to match. Please comment below if you have questions, or want to challenge anything I’ve said here. Maybe I missed something and actually there’s a magic button somewhere? If that’s the case, my standard response applies – if I can’t find it when I’m looking for it then it doesn’t exist. This stuff should be intuitive.

Now, onwards to Part 3 to read about Garmin structured training

5 Comments

  1. A pity as I was considering Suunto to be my next one 🙁

    • Another interesting tidbit is that Suunto is the only one I have to plug into a laptop to update firmware. It was kind of a shock in 2018 if I’m honest. Both Garmin and Polar were updated in the car outside the shop via mobile phone.

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