How to Program a Workout into Your Garmin Watch

A woman gets her Garmin watch ready for her run workout.

Running is hard enough without having to keep track of paces, splits and reps. If you’re ready to ditch the mental math and just focus on your workout, Garmin has you covered.

Not only will Garmin watches tell you how far you ran, many watch models can keep track of your reps and paces during a tough interval workout. The ability to program workouts directly into your Garmin watch helps you focus on the task at hand and let your watch do the rest. So how can you make the most of your Garmin watch? Read on to learn how to program a workout into your device.

A man gets his Garmin watch ready to record a running workout.

Step 1: Set Your Running Goals

Before diving into programming workouts, it's crucial to define your running goals. Whether you want to increase your endurance, quicken your pace (or both!), knowing what you want to achieve will help you know which workouts to look out for.

If you’re creating your own training plan, make sure you’re performing workouts that will help you reach your goals. For example, if you’re signed up for your first marathon, you’ll want to focus on long runs and tempo workouts. But if you’re training to run your fastest mile, you’ll want to keep the focus on short, fast intervals. If you’re working with a coach, you can let them worry about the workouts and just focus on showing up!

Pro tip: Many Fleet Feet locations have training programs that work towards local races. Contact your local Fleet Feet to learn more.

Step 2: Choose the Right Garmin Watch

Garmin offers a range of watches that feature different levels of technology and data tracking. Choosing the right Garmin watch will depend on how much data you want and need. If you’re tracking an interval workout on the road, any Garmin from the Forerunner line can be used to track your workout and alert you to each rep along the way. If you’re looking to include more advanced data, like your heat acclimation score, you’ll need a watch with more advanced capabilities, like one from the Garmin fenix line.

Step 3: Download Garmin Connect

The Garmin Connect app is your home base. It allows you to manage and sync your Garmin watch data. This is also where you’ll create the workouts that you upload to your Garmin watch. You can access Garmin Connect online or by downloading the Garmin Connect app on your smartphone.

The Garmin Connect app is also a handy place to check out your running stats. You can look at your heart rate, pace and distance covered, and even track the mileage on your running shoes, making it easy to know when it’s time to get a fresh pair.

Step 4: Create and Customize Your Workout

A series of screenshots depict how to program a workout into the Garmin Connect app.

In Garmin Connect, click on the three buttons on the lower right-hand side of your screen. Then, click “Training and Planning” and navigate to the "Workouts" section. Click "Create a Workout." Here, you can customize your workout plan based on your goals and preferences. You can choose between distance-based workouts, time-based workouts and even heart rate-targeted workouts.

Once you've selected the type of workout, it's time to specify the details. For example, if you're designing a distance-based workout, enter the desired distance you wish to cover. You can even choose between miles, meters, and kilometers. If it's a time-based workout, set the duration accordingly. Don’t forget to incorporate warm-up and cool-down periods as well as rest intervals between each rep.

Step 6: Add Intervals and Targets

If you’re trying to hit a certain pace for your reps, you can add targets within your intervals. For example, let’s say you want to do two sets of five minutes at your goal 5K pace. You can set your goal pace to a certain range (say, 7:30 to 7:45), and your watch will let you know during the rep whether you’re behind, on target or ahead of your goal pace. Pretty neat, huh? This means you can focus on details like your cadence, breathing and form and let your watch handle the rest.

Step 7: Sync Your Garmin Watch

A woman syncs her Garmin watch before heading onto the trail.

Once you've finalized your workout (don’t forget to name it!), sync your Garmin watch with Garmin Connect to transfer the workout data. The easiest way to do this is by syncing your watch with the Garmin Connect app on your smartphone by hitting the blue circle with arrows on the upper right-hand corner of the screen. This can also be done by connecting your watch to your computer using its USB charging cord.

Step 8: Execute Your Workout

After syncing, your programmed workout will appear on your Garmin watch's screen. Click on the run screen, but don’t hit the start button just yet. Click on the button that says “options,” which will then take you to a menu that includes “training.” This is where you’ll find the “workouts” option. Click on that and you’ll find your preloaded workouts! Follow the prompts and notifications on your watch as it guides you through the workout, indicating intervals, targets, and rest periods. The watch will provide real-time metrics and feedback, keeping you informed about your progress and performance.

Step 9: Analyze Your Performance

A group of runners look at their Garmin watches after a run.

If you’re a data nerd (many runners are), this is the fun part. After you’ve crushed your workout, sync your watch with Garmin Connect to upload your run to the app. Here, you can analyze the metrics we mentioned before, such as heart rate, pace, distance, and calories burned. These insights allow you to assess your progress, identify areas for improvement, and make necessary adjustments to future workouts.

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