How to Get More out of Your Garmin Watch
The advertising slogan for the Garmin Forerunner 220/620 is, “There’s a coach in every watch.” Add in a bit of fancy (but often forgotten) Garmin software, and your watch really can be just about as effective as having someone standing nearby with a stopwatch, calling out instructions to you in the middle of a workout (click here to get a free half marathon training plan from the coach I am currently working with).
There is certainly nothing wrong with asking your Garmin to track miles and pace for runs like “four faster miles on Wednesday”, “some hill work on Thursday”, and “a long steady pace run on the weekend.” But once you cross over into the world of “1mi warm up, 15x200m (@53-55s) with 45s recovery, 1mi cool down”, sometimes it’s nice to have a little extra help remembering all the pieces to your workout.
Here are some tips to get more out of your Garmin.
Garmin Connect is a web-based platform that allows you to do all sorts of great stuff to program your watch. For devices which support syncing with Connect (e.g., the Forerunner 220/620, among other Garmin devices), there is pretty decent support for using one of their basic training plans, as well as creating customized workouts on your own.
Additionally, I highly recommend downloading a free desktop version of Garmin Training Center for creating and scheduling your workouts. There are a few more features, and it has the added bonus of exporting your workouts in .tcx format (for use with older Garmin devices).
We’ll cover both options as we teach you how to get your workouts from verbal/written instructions to something which your watch can understand.
Creating your First Workout
Let’s use some workouts from our free half marathon training plan as an example.
On Monday of week 1, there is a 4 mile easy run. Typically these are the sorts of runs I won’t add as a workout – but your watch can help you out here. If you have been struggling to run slow enough on easy days, setting up a one step workout (4 miles at 10:00 min/mi or slower) can be a great way to have your watch help remind you whenever you start running too fast.
- From the Garmin Connect website, click on the “hamburger” icon on the left and scroll down until you see “Workouts”.
- Choose activity type (“run”) and click the “Create a Workout” button. In our first example, there will literally be one step – so you can remove the warm up and cool down steps added by default (use the x to the right of any step to remove it).
- Choose “distance” from the second drop-down and enter 4 (leave the units drop-down as miles).
- Click “add more”, and now you are able to select an intensity target.
- Choose pace, and then set your paces to 10:00 – 20:00 (or some other high number – you are trying to say “don’t let me go faster than 10:00 min/mi without warning me”).
- Save your workout, sync your workouts to your watch, and you are all done!
Using Garmin Training Center instead, the process for this workout is very similar. I tend to group all of my workouts under the heading “My Workouts” on the left-hand menu, so I simply right click on that folder and then choose “New Workout”. By default, workouts start with one step, so there is no need to remove the two extra steps. Be sure to change the “Sport” drop-down to “Running”, and away you go.
Anytime you encounter intervals (e.g., “6x1200m w/ 1 minute recovery” from week 2’s Monday workout), you will need to set up steps.
In this case, you are repeating the same two steps 6 times, with the first step being bound by distance covered (1200m – which needs to be expressed as 0.75mi in both Training Center and Connect) and the second constrained by time (1 min).
Further, the running step is listed as being at “10K pace” – so you will want to modify the intensity for the running step to cover your planned pace. Pro tip: give yourself a bit of a buffer on the pace. If your 10K pace is 9:00 min/mi, enter your target pace for the step as 8:50-9:10, or allow a bigger window. Furthermore, make sure that you take advantage of the “rest step” indicator – if you have auto-pause turned on in your watch, setting a rest step will keep your watch from auto-pausing during the rest steps only (otherwise, you can stand around for a few minutes longer than your one minute rest, wondering why your watch hasn’t yelled at you yet).
To round out that same interval workout, we need to add a one mile warm up, as well as a one mile cool down. While you can certainly be very rigid about this, I tend to err on the side of caution.
For example, the path I use for my intervals is about 1.3 miles or 2.1 miles away from my starting point (depending on which route I take), and I don’t want to start my intervals early, so I typically set my warm up and cool down steps as “run until I hit the lap button”, which allows me to determine when I am finished warming up and ready to start my intervals by hitting the lap button on my watch (similar to what you would do if you were trying to do this same workout manually).
Pro tip: if you go the “run until I hit the lap button” route, make sure that you look at your workout before you head out the door. Nothing stinks worse than getting back from a workout which you really felt like you nailed…only to realize that your plan called for a 2 mile warm up/cool down, and you only went 1 mile on each end!
Scheduling your Workout
In both Connect and Training Center, you also have the ability to schedule workouts. I really appreciate this feature, as it lets me sit down and add my workouts for the week at once – while not having to sort through them later on my watch to figure out what I am supposed to be doing today.
In Training Center, this also has the advantage of allowing you to keep a library of workouts, and easily assign them to multiple days across the month (Connect has this feature as well, but it is a bit more convoluted to accomplish).
Once your workouts are created and synced to your device, it’s time to run.
Instead of simply hitting the run button and heading out the door, now you have to start your workout. If you have scheduled your workout, simply unlock your watch, scroll down to “Training”, then to “Training Calendar”, select your workout and away you go (just be sure to hit the run button twice once you bring up your workout – if you are not paying attention, you will go a few miles with “hit the run button to start your workout” up on your screen).
If you want to choose from your library of workouts, instead choose “My Workouts” from the training menu, then follow the same steps to start your workout (this is where naming your workouts can be key).
Having a Coach on your Wrist
Have you used Garmin workouts before? Try it and if you have questions about creating a specific workout, leave us a comment below. We would be happy to help you get more out of your Garmin!