I love that Garmins and other GPS devices are now so common for many athletes. It wasn’t that long ago that global positioning satellite devices were only something you heard about in James Bond movies. Now, they’re extremely powerful training tools that you see most athletes using and many of us don’t know how anyone ever trained before them. With such a powerful device, it is important to know how to use it. These basic tips will help you get started.
One of the first things to customize on your Garmin are the data fields that display during a workout. These are the displays that I like to use for the different sports. For each sport, the primary metric to display at the top and in the biggest font is your pace or work effort. For swimming it’s pace/100. For biking – depending on whether or not you have a power meter – it’s either power or heart rate. I show the 3 sec power avg. If you don’t have a power meter, show your current heart rate. For running, it’s min/mile pace (change that to heart rate if you’re doing trail runs up and down the mountains). As a bonus in cycling, I also like to display cadence – think of that as how efficiently you are working.
These are the most important primary metrics to display because it tells you how hard you are working right now. Going into any training session or race, you should have a target pace or power and you need to try and hit that. That is the most important thing you should focus on.
The secondary metrics I display are always distance and time. Sometimes during different workouts you can change those to lap distance or lap time if it makes sense for the workout you’re doing. These are helpful to give yourself an idea of where you are in the workout or race.
What Not to Display
Don’t display too much! When we start exerting ourselves physically, our brains actually start to function worse. I’ve seen many athletes who display way too many metrics – especially cycling. Simplify! During the workout, you need to make it as easy for yourself as possible. All that data is still being collected and you can analyze it later.
Use the Laps
Every Garmin also has the ability to set laps. You can either do this manually by pressing the lap button (back button on the 920) or automatically by setting a new lap by distance or time. During a conversation pace run for example, I usually have mine set to auto-lap every mile. It is especially helpful during an interval type of workout where you might have 10 minutes at a higher intensity, a 10 min recovery, and then 10 minutes at higher intensity again. Auto-lapping every 10 minutes alerts you when each new part of the workout starts. It also is extremely helpful to analyze workouts afterwards because you can easily see where each lap is in the workout.
An advanced feature is to program more elaborate workouts. Some Garmin devices allow you to do that right on the watch or computer and some you have to program it online and send it to the watch. If you have a workout where the intervals are not all the same length, try programming your workout. It’s a really cool feature!
Keep these tips in mind and give them a try.