The feature that makes the Suunto 3 Fitness stand out is its adaptive training program:

Uniquely among the current offerings from Suunto, this small and stylish watch does not require you to know what you’re doing, it looks to guide you to improving fitness.

As mentioned in my overview/review, this adaptive training guidance is not currently recommendable for people who already have a high fitness level/VO2max – but then, if you are that much of an athlete, you should know how to train or even have a coach to get you to improve (or maintain your level).

Firstbeat, from whom the training program functionality comes, would actually offer a “maintaining” or “highly improving” program as well, but that’s not what Suunto went for in this watch.

Getting Started with Adaptive Training Guidance

To begin training with a Suunto 3 Fitness, I would recommend just setting it up (including with your maxHR, if you know it; recommended HR zones, if you know those), connecting it with the Suunto app, and turning on adaptive training guidance (if it isn’t turned on anyways).

Go for a first run, with the app connected to get GPS, and get your fitness level estimate/measurement.

Then, go with the training program/plan and weekly goal from there.

The Training Insights Screen

To start a training session or see what you did in earlier ones, you need to go up in the menu/displays (with the upper right button, logically) to “Exercise” or “Logbook,” respectively.

Interesting because it’s new and special on the Suunto 3 Fitness, though, is the Training screen among the Insights, reached by going down four screens.

Here, you get an overview of the training time this week and (switching with the upper left “view” button) the remaining recovery time you should take.

One right (with the middle button), you get the overview of suggested (or actual) training sessions during the current week, with the detailed suggestions for the next (four) sessions shown when going down from that screen.

There is also a third screen showing the average training time in all activities during the last three weeks.

Training Plan Examples

Without a training history or a fitness level, the suggested training plan is, e.g., for
– a “hard” (HR zone 3) training of 25 minutes on day 1
– an “easy” (HR zone 1) 35 minutes on day 3
– a “hard” 25 minutes on day 5, and another
– “easy” 35 minutes on day 7

Add some technique training, maybe a session of strengthening exercises, and that’s a beginner’s plan I might also start you out with if you wanted some coaching.

For me, with my training history (of few training sessions, but then long runs) and fitness level/VO2max (around 47-48, usually), the plan is a bit less promising in usefulness, for example:
– 40mins “maximal” on day 1,
– 50mins “hard” on day 3,
– 40mins “maximal” on day 5, and
– 50mins “hard” on day 7
is one example I’ve seen.

With the intention being to improve VO2max yet further, based on high loads in the training history… Well, I train like that quite a bit too much but would really much rather avoid it (and go for 80/20 Running with more low-intensity long runs and a few maximal intervals instead).
Still, approaching it from the view that a) strong inputs are needed if you are already at a high level and b) periodization leads to improvement as well, even this plan does make some sense.

I have had the Suunto 3 Fitness for a while, but still with too many changes and experiments interrupting it.

So, I cannot really judge if periodization and adaptation come into play in the training plan, when it has been running over a longer period of time, as they should.

Probably, I will want to get back to that and update this post with more such example data when it has run for at least a month. (If that month again includes hikes in the mountains overnight, I probably will again not bring the S3F to those, though, and the Suunto app doesn’t yet play with more than one watch…)

Real-Time Guidance

Start your (automatically) planned training session in the “Exercise” mode (where the planned session is shown first, anyways), and you will be guided into the zone and for the duration you should be in.

Heart Rate Guidance

For the zone, there is the heart rate zones ring on the outside of the display, with the right zone highlighted in color.

When you are in a display with heart rate shown, which the first screen in running mode does, for example, then the heart rate will also be highlighted in the same color when you are in that zone.

“Speed up” or “slow down” messages further guide you up / down / back into that HR zone (and are given almost immediately after getting out of the planned zone, once you have been in that. (During warm-up, you are likely to get a “Speed up” message some time into the training, before you got into the zone – or that’s just my impression…)

The guidance is not only like that, however, it even adapts in real time:

Duration Guidance

If you run at a lower intensity than you should according to plan, then you will be led into running for longer – as you’d notice because the progress bar between the middle and the lower data field, e.g. heart rate and duration on the first screen, will not get filled as fast.

You’ll also get your “50% done” notification only when the Suunto 3 Fitness’s training guidance has decided that you have done 50% of the suggested intensity of training – half the planned/suggested time in the correct zone, longer in zones below, or shorter in zones above.

The End (of a Training Session)

Same, of course, with higher intensity and with the “100% done” notification and the end of the training guidance.

The “guidance ended, remember to cool down” screen remains until you dismiss it, then the exercise still gets recorded. Only now there is no guidance, of course; heart rate zones are shown in colors corresponding with the zones, both in the HR zone ring and on the display.

End the training/recording, and you’ll finally get a display of how good the S3F judges your exercise session to have been: “Excellent job” if it was 100% to a bit above that, “Good job” if it was somewhere around 120%+ of the plan.

Want to have a close look at it all? – Watch here: