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Performing your best with vertical speed

SuuntoRun — 29 January 2016

The new Suunto Ambit3 Vertical was designed for athletes who travel light and fast up tough ascents. Here’s how the watch’s vertical speed mode can help you rise to the top!

While road runners focus on pace – minutes per km or mile – mountain athletes like champion trail runner and ski mountaineer Kilian Jornet keep a close eye on their vertical speed.

VIDEO: Kilian Jornet and Remi Bonnet were 1st and 2nd at the first Ski Mountaineering World Cup of the season in Andorra.

“I use vertical speed in my everyday training to calculate an average of how long it will take me to do an ascent, or to know if I’m going faster or slower than average during a familiar ascent,” says Killian. “In a vertical kilometer running race, my vertical speed is around 2000m/h and in a vertical kilometer skimo race it’s about 1700 to 1800m/h.”

"It’s comparable to running pace on a flat surface" 

Those are both vertical speeds that few can match. However, Suunto’s Ambit family product manager Markus Kemetter says many people are interested in using vertical speed as a tool to improve their performance.

“It’s a really useful performance indicator because it’s a direct measurement of how fast you’re going uphill,” Markus says. “Basically, it’s comparable to running pace on a flat surface, but vertical speed takes into account only the altitude as a means of measurement.

“The new Ambit3 Vertical calculates meters or feet the user is ascending per minute and it makes this measurement with a pressure sensor, rather than GPS, because it provides the most accurate altitude reading." 

“GPS is good over longer distances, but is less accurate for measuring shorter, faster ascents.”

Vertical speed can be added to selected sports modes in Suunto App. Vertical speed is under the Altitude section in the Display Screen options. 

Markus says trail runners and ski mountaineers often use vertical speed alongside the lap function in their watch for interval training and so they can analyze their performance later. 

“Press the lap button at the start of your ascent and then again at the end of the ascent and then after you’ve uploaded that move you can isolate each lap on the graph to see the vertical speed. Below the graph, you can also see your average vertical speed, your maximum vertical speed and your minimum speed, which is useful for checking your downhill speed. You can use this information as a guide or as something to beat during your next training session.”


Learn more about Suunto Ambit3 Vertical