Garmin Vivoactive HR: Tips and tricks

How to get more from Garmin's sporty smartwatch
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Just snapped up a Garmin Vivoactive HR? Good choice, you've just secured yourself a solid fitness-tracking GPS sports watch that also works as a pretty decent smartwatch as well.

A device that's as comfortable tracking your runs as it is your cycle, swim or round of golf, the Vivoactive HR is an accomplished all-rounder that's brimmed with high-end features, with integrated GPS tracking lining up alongside an built-in heart rate sensor and touchscreen display.

Read this: Which Garmin watch is best for you?

There's more to it than simple sports tracking though. Scratch beneath the surface and this accomplished wearable plays host to a mass of features that you'll probably have to dig around to find out.

All you need to know is how to unearth this treasure trove of bonus abilities. Fortunately, we've done the leg work for you.

Want more from your Vivoactive HR? These are the tricks you need to try.

Add new sports to track

Garmin Vivoactive HR: Tips and tricks

Running, cycling, swimming, golf. Whatever your exercise of choice, the Garmin Vivoactive HR has an activity mode and specially attuned algorithm to transform your sensor-captured data into useful, accurate performance information.

You're not limited to basic sporting activity either. Rowing, skiing, and standup paddle-boarding modes also come pre-installed on this all-rounder of a wearable. If your specific sport of choice still isn't visible though, you can simply add more. To do this you're need to press the right of the two physical buttons to jump into the activity window, use the touchscreen to scroll all the way down to the bottom and hit 'Add New' to well, you get it.

Set your stride length for accurate treadmill runs

Offering more accurate data than a standard accelerometer-based activity tracker, the Vivoactive HR boasts integrated GPS skills. While this will monitor your runs or cycles to the exact meter outdoors, in the gym the high-end addition is all but useless. There is a way to precisely monitor your treadmill sessions, however.

That way is by setting your stride length. First you'll need to measure how many strides it takes to cover a precise distance. The easiest way to do that is by heading down to your local running track and counting your footfalls during a 400 metre loop. Now, by heading to More > Settings > User Settings > Custom Stride Length within the Garmin Connect app, you can set your individual running and walking stride lengths, ensuring your next GPS-lacking session is accurately monitored.

Customise your visible running data

Garmin Vivoactive HR: Tips and tricks

Everyone likes to be presented with different data when out on a run. Some prefer real-time distance data while others would rather track their pace or max speed. Whatever metric tickles your tastebuds, the Vivoactive HR can be tweaked to offer it up front and centre.

While in the running mode, giving a firm press on any of the three real-time data windows will bring up a menu of customisable alternatives. Prefer lap splits over time elapsed or total ascent over average pace? You got it.

Set an alarm

Getting up for your early morning training runs isn't easy. The Vivoactive HR can help kick you into gear though, no matter what the time. That's because the watch's vibration motor can be tied to its alarm functionality you literally get you buzzed for your morning run.

To set, hold the right physical button to launch the menu an select Clocks > Alarms > Add New. Now you can select not only what time you'll be nudged into the realms of the living, but what days you want the alarm to be active, ensuring you don't have any unwanted surprises come your much needed weekend lie-in.

Sync in your other fitness data

Garmin Vivoactive HR: Tips and tricks

OK, so the Garmin Vivoactive HR is your primary fitness tracker, but let's face it, there are going to be times when you either forget your watch or it's battery dies just as you're getting to the gym. Don't worry though, you needn't lose out on all that seemingly lost data. If you've got your phone with you, you can use other fitness apps to monitor your activity and pull it in to your daily Connect metrics,

To do this, within the Connect app you'll want to click More > Settings > 3rd Party Apps. Here you can sync up your Connect account to work with a variety of other services from Apple Health and Google Fit (depending on your smartphone platform of choice), to MyFitnessPal and Strava. Click on any of these options, sync up your accounts so that they play nice with each other, and away you go.

Add your local golf course

This might be a run, cycle and swim friendly fitness tracker first and foremost, but its sport-tracking skills run deeper than that. The GPS abilities can also be used to enhance your rounds of golf. As well as letting you count your shots, the watch also knows exactly where you are on the course, giving you to-pin yardages and showing how far your last drive was.

To do this it must first known where you're playing before your tee off. Although the watch knows where you are, there are just too many golf courses out there for all courses to be installed on the device. You can download your favourite courses though. To do this you'll need to open the Connect app, click More > Download Golf Courses, hunt out your local cub and sync your watch to update. Now you can go swinging without worry.

Compare your stats to past activity

Garmin Vivoactive HR: Tips and tricks

When your fitness kick first starts, it feels like you'll improve and shave seconds off your PB every time you run. Eventually though, you get to a point when cutting down that 10K time becomes increasingly difficult. When a run feels good though, there's no need to rack your brain for your last run time, you can compare your stats across all past sessions directly on the watch itself.

Swiping down to the 'Last Sport' window and giving the screen a tap will let you jump in to any of your past activities, be it a run, cycle or round of golf. Now you can compare whatever metric you like and see how your progression is coming along.

Join the Garmin Steps Challenge

Need a little extra motivation to keep up your daily fitness regime? Well, your new watch can bring it by connecting you in to the rest of the world's Garmin device users and let you go head-to-head with strangers at a similar level of fitness. To get involved you need to join Garmin's steps challenge.

To get involved in this weekly fitness competition, in the Connect app select Leaderboard > Join the Weekly Steps Challenge > Join Now. Once signed up, your Vivoactive HR-recorded step count will be added to your weekly figures and help place you against the masses. To keep you motivate and striving to improve, week-to-week as your fitness levels improve, the app will pair you with more advanced groups to keep you pushing for new levels.

Add your un-tracked actions

Garmin Vivoactive HR: Tips and tricks

Like Forrest Gump, sometimes the urge to run just takes you. Even if you've not got your watch or phone with you at these times it doesn't mean that those untracked sessions need to be forgotten. You can still get the credit you deserve by manually entering your untracked activities.

You can do this by breaking out the Garmin Connect app, and tapping More > Activities > Create Manual Activity and input what the watch missed. Yes you'll know how far you've run or cycled and in what time - tricky without the watch - but even a rough estimate can help give your weekly activity a more accurate reading. Now, no activity need ever go untracked again, just no cheating, yeah.

Add custom widgets

Getting all your heart rate data, run metrics and smartphone-synced notifications by scrolling through your watches numerous home screens is all well and good, but what if you're after something less generic? Well, that's where the Vivoactive HR's impressive customisation options come in.

To customise the watch's set-up, long press the right physical button to launch the menu, and click Settings > Widgets > Add Widgets. Here you'll find a range of additional features, from a calorie counters and calendar to music controls light controls for your Garmin Varia cycling lights. Still can't see what you're after? No problem, just head to the Garmin Connect IQ store for more downloadable widgets.

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Luke has years of experience of writing, subbing and editing across both online and print media, and now works for Apple.

He has written for the likes of MailOnline, Daily Star, Express, Tech Radar, Pocket-Lint, Digital Spy, Wareable, Gizmodo, T3, Trusted Reviews, Photo Technique, MOTO Magazine, EK One and the Liverpool Daily Post to date.

Luke also produced content for sports, and regional and national publications, as well as making appearances on a variety of televised and radio broadcasts, including ITV and BBC news.

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