If you're looking for a way to ease into running, or grab a PB for 5K,10K or half marathon races, Garmin Coach and its smart training plans can lend a helping hand.
So how does it work and what do you need to get the coaching ball rolling? We've spent some time getting to know Garmin Coach to learn the ins and outs.
Got any questions? Let us know in the comments section below.
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What is Garmin Coach?
Garmin Coach is a free feature that lives inside of Garmin Connect. it's all about helping you train for a run or race you've got locked into your calendar.
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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 runs tracked. So, a bit like what you get from Polar's Running Program. If you've struggled on a workout in your plan, it will make adjustments to upcoming workouts in your schedule.
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 marathons primarily for beginners and intermediate runners. If you think it's something not aimed at experienced runners, Garmin has now supported the ability to train for quicker times (20 minute 5k, 1hr 32 half marathon), so it should have appeal to already comfortable runners too.
Accessing those plans are mainly done from Garmin's Connect platform, but it will also throw elements of the plan over to a compatible Garmin watch. So 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 runs, 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 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 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 which plan you choose to go with and how much time you can free yourself up for training each week. Once you've done 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, speed repeats, but those distances will invariably be a bit longer.
Garmin Coach doesn't actually have a marathon schedule included – as you'll find this in the Garmin Connect app as standard.
Garmin Coach: Compatible watches
When Garmin first launched 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 the adaptive training plans.
Here's the full list of Garmin Coach compatible watches:
- Garmin Forerunner 45 series
- Garmin Forerunner 245
- Garmin Forerunner 245 Music
- Vivoactive 3
- Vivoactive 3 Music
- Vivoactive 4
- Forerunner 645
- Forerunner 645 Music
- Garmin Forerunner 935
- Garmin Forerunner 945
- Garmin Instinct
- Fenix 5 series
- Fenix 5 plus series
- Fenix 6 series
So what exactly does that compatibility mean or look like? Well, it works in a couple of ways. The first is that if you have a workout to do for that day, when you go to track a run or treadmill run, it will display that you have a workout to do. You can choose to do the workout, view the workout or skip it.
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 Pro 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. Press and hold the menu button on your watch
2. Scroll down and look for Widgets
3. Select Edit and you should be able to add the Garmin Coach and Calendar widgets
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 customise the best plan. Then 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 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.
Pick your coach
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'.
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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 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 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 coaches 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 mixing running with walking and will factor that into the plans.
Amy Parkerson-Mitchell 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.
With Jeff Galloway he utilises his own devised (and well-known) Galloway method of run walk run. Galloway believes 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 plan
Once you've completed all of the steps above, your plan will be created. You'll be informed of of your plan 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:
How to sync Garmin Coach workouts to watch
1. In the Garmin Connect app, go to the My Day tab
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. Tap that icon
4. Wait until the blue syncing bar turns to green and that will confirm that the sync is complete
How to view your plan
You can view upcoming workouts in your plan on your watch from the Garmin Coach widget. If you want to see a bit further ahead, you'll need to jump back into Garmin Connect phone 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.
Change the 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 you plan to make adjustments.
What does a 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 recognise some of the terminology, delving into the Connect app to see a breakdown of individual workouts will help.
There'll be intervals, tempo, threshold, recovery and those long runs to help provide you with the different types of runs 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.
When you get to starting 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 one 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.
What that means is that the plan will change to take into account that skipped workout. If you want to reschedule that workout, you can do that from the Garmin Connect app. Go to Garmin Coach, then tap on an upcoming workout. In the top right hand corner there is a dropdown menu where you will be able to reschedule that workout.
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?
So if you were out 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 of 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 recognises you're struggling to keep up with the pace, it should adjust the plan accordingly.