If you're looking for a way to ease into running or grab a new race personal best, Garmin Coach and its dynamic training plans can lend a helping hand.
So, how does it work, and what do you need to get started?
We've completed plenty of Garmin Coach plans here at Wareable over the last few years, so we're well-versed with all of the platform's ins and outs. Below, we'll cover all the key elements, including which Garmin watches are compatible with Garmin Coach and how to get your plan set up.
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What is Garmin Coach?
Garmin Coach is a free feature that lives inside Garmin Connect - and it's all about helping you train for a run or race you've got locked into your calendar.
Once you've picked out a plan, you'll be delivered workouts based on your running ability to make sure you can complete that run or race. These plans adapt based on your progress and the runs you track.
If you've struggled with a workout in your plan, it will make adjustments to upcoming workouts in your schedule, too.
Aside from providing running workouts, it will also give you videos to better explain drills and offer tips on aspects like race preparation or nutrition to make sure you're properly fuelled for taking on one of these plans.
Those plans are developed by real-life coaches and currently cover 5k, 10k, and half marathon distances, meaning they're primarily for beginners and intermediate runners.
With that said, though, the plans can support anybody looking to run at a 7:00 minute-per-mile pace or slower, so plenty of seasoned runners should also be catered for.
Accessing your progress on your plan is mainly done from the Garmin Connect app, but it will also throw elements of the plan over to a compatible Garmin watch.
This means you don't need to constantly refer to your phone to know what's next up on the running schedule.
Garmin Coach plans
This is the shortest distance available on Garmin Coach. Like other plans, the way this looks depends on how many days you are able to train. So you could be looking at 3-4 workouts a week across 12 weeks, as an example.
Each plan will try to create a time period that will enable you to hit your target goal. The kind of runs you'll do will be a mix of easy and long easy runs, adding things like hill repeats and goal pace repeats as you progress later into the plan.
If you think it's time to step up from a 5k, the 10k plan starts to mix things up with the training and looks to add elements to improve endurance and speed. You'll start to see things like cadence drills to improve running form and speed.
So, on the watch, there'll be a gauge to ensure you are hitting the required cadence for that session.
Your coach will offer suggestions on the workouts in your plan to make sure you get the most out of them. If words like cadence mean nothing to you, there will be videos accompanying workouts to explain what these new running terms mean.
Ready to get into double-digit miles? The half marathon plan can range from 12-16 weeks depending on which plan you choose to go with - and how much time you can free yourself up for training each week.
Once you've completed that benchmark run, you can expect to see a lot of similar runs that you'd get on the 5k plan. So - easy runs, magic mile sessions, speed repeats, and goal pace repeats, with the distance stretching a bit longer on the odd long run.
Garmin Coach doesn't actually have a marathon schedule included, unfortunately.
Garmin Coach: Compatible watches
When the company first launched Garmin Coach, the compatible watches veered towards the expensive end of Garmin's collection of wearables.
Thankfully, that's now changed and there's now a bigger range of devices that will open the door to adaptive training plans.
Here's the full list of compatible devices with Garmin Coach:
- Garmin Epix (Gen 2)
- Garmin Enduro 2
- Garmin Forerunner 45
- Garmin Forerunner 55
- Garmin Forerunner 245 Series
- Garmin Forerunner 255 Series
- Garmin Forerunner 265 Series
- Garmin Forerunner 645 Series
- Garmin Forerunner 745
- Garmin Forerunner 935
- Garmin Forerunner 945
- Garmin Forerunner 955 Series
- Garmin Forerunner 965
- Garmin Fenix 5 series
- Garmin Fenix 6 Series
- Garmin Fenix 7 Series
- Garmin Instinct Series
- Garmin Marq (Gen 2)
- Garmin Venu Series
- Garmin Vivoactive 3 Series
- Garmin Vivoactive 4 Series
What exactly does that compatibility mean or look like? Well, it works in a couple of ways.
If you have a workout to do that day, it will show on the display when you go to track a run or treadmill run. You can choose to do the workout, view the workout or skip it.
It also syncs with Morning Report, a feature available on some newer Garmin watches.
The other way Garmin Coach looks on your watch is dependent on what device you're using.
You can view the next workout on the plan to see what's in store for you. The picture above shows this feature on the Garmin Fenix 6 displayed on the Garmin Coach and Calendar widgets.
If it doesn't show up once you've synced over a plan to the watch, you should be able to do the following on most watches:
1. Use the 'Up' or 'Down' button to cycle through the list of widgets.
2. Scroll down to the bottom and look for 'Add new'.
3. You should be able to add the 'Garmin Coach' and 'Calendar' widgets and re-order the list.
Garmin Coach: Getting set up
If you have a supported watch, it’s easy enough to get up and going. Open up the Garmin Connect phone app and look for Training in the dropdown menu. Select Training Plans and you'll find Garmin Coach.
Once you've decided on whether you're going 5k, 10k, or a half marathon plan, you'll be asked how much weekly running distance you cover currently.
This is to help customize the best plan. Next, you'll need to tell it your average running pace. If you don't know it, the simple calculation of taking your running time and dividing it by the distance covered will roughly give you your answer.
Then you'll need to select whether you want to train with a time goal in mind or you just want to be able to complete that distance. Next, it will be time to choose who you'll go on this training journey with.
Setting a date and picking a method
The next task is picking your real-life running coach. There's Jeff Galloway, Olympian, and best-selling author; Greg McMillan, physiologist and online running coach; and Amy Parkerson-Mitchell, physical therapist and running expert.
You'll then be asked what days you are available to train to ensure the plan is built around the time you have to run. If you opt for 10k or half marathon training plans, you'll need to say what day you'd like to do your 'long run'.
Next, you need to set a date for the big race/run day. Garmin will suggest a recommended date based on the amount of training needed. You can also manually choose your own date, too.
Now Garmin has all the information it needs, it will build that plan and will inform you that the first training workout will be available on your device after syncing.
Once the plan is built, you do have the option to add Garmin Coach as a tab at the bottom of the Connect app. You can then quickly see how far you are into the plan, see upcoming training runs, and view your entire workout schedule.
Which Garmin coach should you pick?
Do you go with Coach Gregg, Amy, or Jeff? The first thing you need to know is that all three coaches are well-qualified to do the job; they just have their methods and approaches of getting you to achieve your goal of completing your target distance or race.
To give you a better insight into their methods, it pays off to watch the intro videos for each coach to get a sense of what you can expect from their plans.
Greg McMillan builds his plans to take into consideration if you want to complete a 10k running continuously or mix running with walking and will factor that into the plans.
Amy Parkerson-Mitchell's method is to gradually build up running distance and pace through her plans. She also factors in the importance of cross-training to help you work on strength and conditioning to give you a better base to improve your runs.
Jeff Galloway utilizes his own (and well-known) method of 'Run-Walk-Run'. Galloway believes that, when done correctly, it can help prevent injury and fatigue.
All of these coaches offer something a little different, but with the aim goal of getting you where you need to be to smash that run.
How to start a Garmin Coach plan
Once you've completed all of the steps above, your plan will be created. You'll be informed of your plan's start date and that your first training workout will be available on your Garmin device after syncing.
To get that plan on your watch, you need to do the following:
Sync Garmin Coach workouts to your watch
1. Open the Garmin Connect app on your iOS/Android device.
2. Look for your paired device, which should be at the top of the screen with a small green circle.
3. Tap the device and you should see your device listed. Across from that, there should be a 'Sync Now' icon.
4. Once tapped, wait until the blue syncing bar turns green and that will confirm that the sync is complete.
Viewing your Garmin Coach plan
You can view upcoming workouts in your plan on your watch from the Garmin Coach widget, as we've already mentioned.
However, if you want to see a bit further ahead, you'll need to jump back into the Garmin Connect app and go to the 'Garmin Coach' section.
From here, you can see your next workout and your workout schedule.
While you can see your schedule plotted out on a calendar, you can only see specific details of workouts one week ahead. That's because these plans are shaped by how you perform in the sessions and how many you complete the previous week.
Changing your Garmin Coach plan
For whatever reason, you might have second thoughts about the days you promised you could train on, or even you want to try using a different coach.
Garmin does allow you to make changes to your plan. To do that, go to the Garmin Coach menu screen in the Connect phone app and tap the three little dots in the top right-hand corner.
From here, you can edit your plan to make adjustments.
What does a Garmin Coach workout look like?
Once you've completed that initial benchmark run, your schedule for the training plan will start to take shape.
If you've not run a lot and don't recognize some of the terminologies, delving into the Connect app to see a breakdown of individual workouts will help.
There'll be intervals, tempo sessions, threshold runs, recovery jogs and those infamous long runs to help provide you with the different types of activity that will best prepare you for the kind of demands your feet and legs will be put under come the big day.
This will obviously differ depending on the distance you are training for, as well.
When you start a workout on the watch, the session is broken down into parts and displayed on the watch. So, you could start with a short warm-up of walking or jogging.
A countdown will let you know when you're nearing the end of that part of the session before the next part starts up. That continues throughout until the workout is completed and you can hit 'Save' to store the session.
What happens when you skip a workout?
Inevitably, this does happen. You might not have time on that day - or your legs are just not feeling up to it.
Garmin Coach takes this into consideration and does allow you to skip scheduled workouts. In the same place on the watch where you can select the day's workout, you can also choose to skip it for that day.
The plan will change to take into account that you skipped the workout.
If you want to reschedule it, you can, of course, do that from the Garmin Connect app.
Go to Garmin Coach, then tap on an upcoming workout. In the right-hand corner, there is a dropdown menu where you will be able to reschedule that workout.
Just keep in mind that you can't reschedule a workout on the same day as it's supposed to take place, so try and plan ahead if you still want to do it on a different day that week.
If you end up skipping too many workouts, it's likely you'll be asked whether you want to pause the plan.
It will make some allowances for the odd missed workout, but, if it means you're not going to get enough training in before race day, this is Garmin's way of saying that.
What kind of feedback do you get from your coach?
If you were out in the real world training with a coach, you'd probably expect some kind of feedback in terms of how you performed.
So, how well does Garmin Coach do that?
As a reminder, while these plans are developed by real-life coaches, they aren't really with you every step of the way in the traditional sense.
After completing a workout, you won't find Greg, Amy, or Jeff breaking down your session.
In fact, there's very little feedback aside from a 'Confidence' gauge that indicates confidence in your ability to hit your target pace or distance.
This rating is influenced by performances in sessions. You might see a 'good job' tagged onto your workout, just don't expect much more than that.
If the plan recognizes you're struggling to keep up with the pace, it should adjust the plan accordingly, but you won't ever really see what's going on behind the scenes - you'll have to trust Garmin on that one.
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