How to Make the Most of Your Garmin Watch

The watch face of the Garmin Forerunner 55

For runners, walkers, triathletes and fitness enthusiasts, a GPS smart watch like a Garmin is essential. If you want to know how far you’ve run (and who doesn’t?), a Garmin watch makes tracking your mileage and measuring your pace is now easier than ever before.

And distance tracking is really just the beginning. In fact, given what Garmin watches are capable of now, as life-changing as distance and pace tracking is for a runner, the feature is now a bit basic. Garmin offers a wide range of models with different functionality, from more basic models to those with highly advanced technology. For runners, even a fairly basic model provides valuable data that can inform and elevate your fitness routine and help you stay motivated to keep working toward your goals. This article is not geared toward one particular Garmin model, but describes features that are available on many different models. To learn more about what each model offers, check out the Garmin website.

The Garmin Connect App is essential to getting the most out of your watch

While your Garmin Watch tracks tons of data, that tiny little screen isn’t the easiest or best place to view it. To really get the most from your data, you must pair your Garmin with the Garmin Connect app on your smartphone or with the desktop app. This is the only way to view some of the data, and it’s also the only way to access and edit certain functions on your watch.

Here are some ways that Garmin watches offer valuable life hacks for runners.

1. Keep a detailed, but low-maintenance training log.

The data collected by your Garmin watch is uploaded via Garmin Connect, making it easy to keep track of your activities each day. The Garmin Connect platform will automatically add up stats like your total exercise time, the miles you have covered and the calories you burned and total them by the day, week and month. This makes it easy to see patterns and track your progress.

You can add titles and notes to your workouts and make notes about whether each effort was a workout, a race, or something different. When you’re busy, you may not remember to track everything you did each day, and Garmin does this for you so you don’t have to write down every little thing.

Garmin allows you to share your workouts with friends or keep it private. If you like to share your workouts via Strava, Garmin also makes it easy to automatically connect your data to other platforms so that you can view and share your information in the way that works best for you.

A runner looks at her Garmin watch.

2. Improve your rest and recovery

Rest is one of the most important aspects of your training, and Garmin devices have several different features that can help.

  • Sleep tracking. When you sleep in your watch, Garmin measures how much deep, light and REM sleep you get each night. You can also see information that shows how much time you spent awake or moving during the night. This can help you track patterns like if you get deeper sleep on nights when you’ve run first thing in the morning, or if you sleep better after working out at night.
  • Body battery. The Garmin Body Battery feature analyzes signals like heart rate variability, stress, activity and sleep quality to measure your energy reserves throughout the day. Based on your score, you can receive suggestions in your Garmin app for when you’re charged up and ready for a workout, or when your body is in need of more rest.
  • Stress monitor. Your Garmin device uses a measure of heart rate variability to estimate when you’re under stress versus when you’re at rest. This can give you indication of how to manage your stress through rest or activity, depending on what your body needs at the time.
  • Alarm clock. Many people use their phones as an alarm. But if you’re working on your sleep hygiene and try to keep your phone outside of the bedroom at night, it’s really handy to use your Garmin as your alarm clock in the morning.

3. Track your shoe mileage

A man runs in two different pairs of shoes to find the best fit

Tracking your shoe mileage could be a lot of work, but Garmin makes it really easy. When you get a new pair of shoes, you can add it to your tracked gear in your Garmin app. You can also add it on Strava. Pick your most-used pair of shoes as your default, and add any other shoes that you may use for workouts or races.

When you update activities, you can select the pair of shoes you wore. Specify how many miles you want to put on your shoes (typically somewhere between 300 and 500 miles) and your Garmin device will automatically apply the miles you log to your shoe tracker. You can get notified when you have reached your max mileage. Of course, your body will likely tell you if your shoes are worn out. Soreness in your knees or a more beat-up feeling are indicators. Different pairs of shoes are more durable than others, so having a mileage tracker gives you valuable information about how many miles are actually on your shoes.

4. Receive smart notifications without checking your phone

When you connect your phone and allow smart notifications, you can receive the notifications that you choose to come to your watch.

This can be handy if you want to know when you’ve received a text, an email, or other information without pulling out your phone in a meeting or at dinner.

This also works if you have directions pulled up on your phone when you’re driving, but another app is in the foreground. You can receive turn by turn directions on your wrist without having to hold your phone as you drive.

5. Safety Features

A runner looks at her Garmin watch during a run.

Your device safety features can notify others if you need help. To activate your safety features, open the Garmin Connect app on your phone, press the “More” button on the lower right corner, and press “Safety & Tracking.” From there, you can see which safety features your device has.

You’ll need to add at least one emergency contact for notifications. It’s a good idea to add more than one in case your contact is unavailable or doesn’t see the message.

Most Garmin watches have “assistance” and “incident detection” features. The “assistance” feature allows you to press a certain button on your device, notifying your emergency contacts via email or text.

The “incident detection” feature uses sensors to automatically detect when an incident, such as a collision or fall, may have occurred. Your emergency contacts will be notified with your location.

In order to use the incident detection feature, your GPS must be enabled.

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