How To Get the Most From Your Garmin Smartwatch

© Martinmark | Dreamstime.com

© Martinmark | Dreamstime.com

Garmin is easily one of the leading brands in GPS watches for runners. There are plenty of alternatives through Nike, Suunto, Timex, etc. and plenty of phone apps that can track runs, but Garmin continues to be a favorite.

They are easy to use, relatively affordable, and range from very basic to very advanced to fit the needs of the runner.

Why I Got a Smartwatch

I got my first Garmin in 2009 and have purchased 2 additional models since then. The first one was solely to track time, pace, and distance. It was useful to wear in areas that didn’t allow car traffic as I could more accurately measure distance.

Plus, speedwork meant that I wasn’t relegated to using the track. I could easily look at my watch and see if I was on pace for a mile repeat or a tempo run without trying to do math mid-run.

My second Garmin allowed for training programs to be inputted. This is a great feature on most current models except for the most basic models. Runners can create programs for themselves based on time, pace, distance.

For instance, if you wanted to run a 10 minute warm-up, 30 minutes at tempo pace, and 10 minute cool down, you can customize a program to notify you as you run.

I purchased the Fenix 3 HR earlier this summer as I was seeking something with a more extensive battery life. My prior Garmin maxed out around 6 hours and as I was looking to race more and more ultras, I wanted a watch that could keep going.


In addition to having the benefit of a few more years of technology, there are a lot of great updates with the Garmin Connect app that makes this a really useful tool for analyzing runs.

Plenty of runners enjoy running with a GPS watch, but for those of us who love data, there are dozens of ways to breakdown a run. Here are my favorite features:

How It Helps My Running

  • Instant feedback. Pace per mile? Overall run pace? Current distance? Elevation gain? Heart rate? The list goes on and on. Each screen is customizable to pick the data that is most important to the runner. Being able to see it on the spot means that small changes can be made throughout the run if you looking to meet training goals.
  • Training. In speaking with other runners, I believe this is one of the most under-utilized features. For road or track runners especially, the ability to program workouts is such a great tool. The watch will notify the runner through a sound and/or vibration to stay within the targeted workout.
  • Post-run data. Runners can view the data post-run a few different ways. The watch provides the basic data associated with the run, i.e. distance, pace, calories, cadence, etc. When reviewing the data in the app or on a desktop via Garmin Connect, runners can decipher every little detail. From the variation of weather to extensive graphs of data, numbers geeks can have a field day.
  • Personal records. Hitting a personal best time in a distance is not the goal of every runner, but most will find joy in doing the best they’ve ever done before. I personally like small hurrahs each time I hit a new personal record.
  • Gear. Though this has less to do with the watch and more to do with the app, it is still a very useful feature. Tracking miles on my shoes used to be a pen and paper exercise, but the gear tracker makes it easy to see just how many miles I’ve logged on any given pair.
  • Data I didn’t even know I wanted to know. Honestly, I never would have given my cadence much thought had it not been a feature on my Garmin. However, once I started to look over my runs and doing a bit of research, I discovered that a faster turnover with a slightly shorter stride could help me improve my running.

Garmin wearers know that the watch itself is not going to make improvements in their running. However, the information collected during the run can assist in training. Additionally, the ability to pace and measure distance while racing can help runners meet their goals.

Carissa is an avid runner and frequent contributor to HalfMarathons.Net. Follow her on Instagram @quadracool.

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