If you own a Garmin GPS running watch, fitness tracker or even a golf watch, you've got a wearable on your wrist – but that's only half the story. You can't get the most out of that Forerunner, Fenix or Vivosmart without a seriously good app, and that comes in the form of Garmin Connect.
Garmin Connect comes in two forms: a web service and a smartphone app, and each enables you to unlock a whole range of extra tools that can hone your training and help you become a better runner, cyclist, or just more healthy in general.
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Garmin Connect is compatible with all Garmin sport devices and while it's by no means the perfect companion training tool, it offers a competitive range of features for planning, tracking and reviewing your workouts.
From preparing for a marathon and setting monthly goals, to joining team step challenges and beating other runners' best times around your local routes, these tools bring the hardware on your wrist to life, giving you more control over your training.
If you're a Garmin user, here are some simple things that can help you become a better runner with Garmin Connect.
Garmin Connect Mobile app
In the mobile app, Snapshots will be the first set of data you see – and for many, this might not be what you're expecting, especially if you've just completed a run, bike ride or round of golf. It's supposed to be an easy digest of your day, but often the data you want is hidden away.
To view Snapshots just swipe left across the screen to switch between the metrics you want. It starts off with steps, a day evaluation and sleep before you get to runs, cycles and workouts.
You can crop Snapshots you don't need by tapping the option in the top right (the four squares) and unticking any that don't apply.
Garmin has now added automatic sleep detection into its fitness tracking devices (basically all Garmin devices these days), and the information is collected when you go to sleep. You can set your normal bedtime hours in the app, and the graph will show you how much you slept inside or outside your preferred hours.
Change Garmin Connect step goal
Garmin actually adapts your goals to your lifestyle, pushing you to take more steps and get more sleep. But sometimes the long process of finding your level, and the random goal numbers (current step goal: 8973) can be irritating, so you can always flick it back to manual. Head to the Steps Snapshot, tap the steps number to access more detail and choose Edit. Toggle off Auto Goal and type in your desired number.
Use the calendar
Garmin Connect collects so much data that it can be hard to find the exact session you're looking for. Just head to the Calendar tab to see collected data for the day. Connect splits up steps, sleep, heart rate data (if you have a compatible device), as well as runs, cycles and golf. You can tap a day and then the type of data you want to review.
Review your runs
For runners who want to explore their data in the app, it can be a little tough to find what you need. Any individual run is best found via the calendar (explained above). But if you want to get more of an overview about your performance, head to the Running Snapshot. From there tap the graph at the bottom and you can then filter runs over 7-day, 4-week or 12-month timescales. You can then see averages and totals plus personal records for traditional race distances.
Another great place to find running stats is in your profile, which is hidden. Head to Settings > Profile & Privacy and scroll to the bottom to see your actvity class designated by Garmin and, more interestingly, your average VO2 max score, which any of the latest Forerunners will provide.
Edit the data
Garmin makes your runs a bit boring, calling them things like Woodside Ward Run, which means nothing to anyone. You can edit any activity, however, by heading to the item in the Calendar, tapping the three dots in the top right and choosing Edit Activity. From here you can name the activity, add notes and even change the type of exercise, if it's been mislabelled.
How to upload Garmin data to Strava
Garmin Connect is a great service, especially for those who love different types of sports, but when it comes to viewing and sharing, you can't beat Strava. Luckily, you can absolutely output sessions to Strava quickly and easily.
First, go to the Strava app on your phone (or strava.com/upload/device on your PC) and make sure the Garmin app is installed as well (Garmin Express for PC/Mac users). You can then choose Settings > Link Other Services, and choose Garmin from the list. Enter your details and as soon as you pair your Garmin watch with Connect, it will automatically send the workout to Strava.
Join a running group via Connect
The Garmin Connect smartphone app works mainly as a tool for reviewing your activity, but it also lets you search for groups to join. The groups come in various flavours from running clubs to distance challenges all over the world.
Once you're in a group you can see how other members are tracking towards their goals, whether that's miles run, calories burned or total steps taken. The info comes in the form of a league table for an added dose of motivating competition.
Upgrade your Garmin with Connect IQ
With the recent arrival Garmin Connect IQ, developers can now create custom apps that should, in theory at least, bring even more capability to a selection of IQ compatible Garmin devices like the Forerunner 920XT.
The Connect IQ app store already features a host of Garmin-made and developer-uploaded apps offering things like smarter stopwatches and watch face layouts that display more run stats, along with resting heart rate trackers and pace alerts.
Know when it's time to change gear
Gear tracker lets you keep tabs on the wear and tear of your running shoes over time. You can track how many miles you've run in those nice new Asics and assign a total distance that'll flag up when it's time to change your shoes. Cyclists can do the same for bikes and get a nudge when it's time to stick the wheels in for a service.
It might not be the first place you think of going to get moral support but, just like Nike+ Running and apps like Endomondo and Strava, Garmin Connect is actually a seriously social beast. You can connect with other runners, join challenges and see how people in your network are getting on with their training.
For added motivation, add a few Garmin users who are training for the same goal as you and you'll be able to see their weekly progress versus your own from your Connections tab.
Sharing your workouts is a simple way to keep people committed to training plans longer, and having moral support from people going through the same pain is really powerful.
And when you're done you can upload your stats and have them super-imposed onto a picture of your run (see above) – perfect for your social networks.
Bring training to life with Live Track
With Live Track, friends, family, running buddies and even your coach can see exactly where you are (and how you're doing) during a run. A bit like the live trackers you now see at a lot of organised marathons, Connect Live Track will plot your location on a map and let those you've decided to share this with see how your race is going.
To use LiveTrack you'll need to have your phone with you. Simply go into Live Track in the Garmin Connect app, choose how you'd like to share the link to your session and give permission to track your mobile device for this workout.
Those you invite via email, Facebook or Twitter will receive a link to a webpage that includes the position of your phone. They'll also be able to track your time elapsed, distance, speed and elevation in real time. And if you have any ANT+ sensors, they also can see that data, such as heart rate or cadence.
Work on your competitive edge
Garmin has learnt from the success of Strava, which lets you turn any stretch of road into a race.
You can use Connect on the web to create segments – essentially courses of any distance – run them and set a fastest time. Other Garmin users can then run the same stretch of park or pavement and attempt to beat your time. You can do the same, finding segments to race from all the others that have already been created.
The Garmin Connect Mobile app takes this one step further, piggy backing your GPS location to enable you to scan a map and then take on the segments nearest to where you are.
It's a great way to add a little extra competition to a training run and turns your runs into a game.
Garmin Connect Online
The Android/iOS app is a great portal into your workouts and daily data, but it's just a drop in the ocean of what Garmin Connect is capable of. Head over to http://connect.garmin.com and log in for even more tools. Read on to see what's possible.
Tweak your heart rate zones
The more accurate your heart rate information, the more effective you can make your training sessions. The difference between an endurance building run and aerobic capacity training can be as little as two beats per minute, so if you want to get the right training effect from every session, it's smart to set you heart rate zones.
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Customising your heart rate zones is simple. On Garmin Connect go to Settings and select Training Zones. From here you can enter your own heart rate values (if you know them) rather than relying on the default settings. You can choose either BPM or %max at the top of each column, and then enter the lowest value for each field. You can also do it on the Garmin Connect app in the Personal information section.
Once you've done that your Garmin devices will give you readouts that are tailored perfectly to you. Unfortunately most Garmin watches don't automatically update these stats based on your last run so it's worth doing that yourself as often as possible to keep you training sessions producing the right effect.
Design your own workouts
Taking control of your own training sessions can be a powerful motivator and with Garmin Connect you can create workouts tailored specifically to you and your goals without too much fuss.
With the workout builder tool you can combine different sections of any workout (warm up, run recover, rest and cool down) with time, distance, heart rate, calories and heart rate and also intensity levels based on heart rate, pace, speed and even cadence.
You can add as many intervals as you like and there's a handy Add a Repeat function that means you can reduce the faff when creating multiple sets. Once you've built your own workout you can send this to your chosen device and it'll be waiting for you when it's time to work out.
Build a plan
Whether your goal is to get in shape, run a marathon or set a PR in your next triathlon, Garmin Connect has an off-the-shelf training plan to guide you.
Each plan features tested workouts and expert advice from the top coaches; with options that take into account target times, how many days a week you're able to train and how long you've got to achieve your goal.
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If your Garmin watch has heart rate smarts, we recommend choosing a plan that uses heart rate training. It's a great way to train in a way that's more tailored to you even though you're working with a one-size-fits-all training plan.
When you find a plan that fits, it's simple to add it to your Garmin Connect calendar and then send the workouts to your compatible Garmin device and use it as your virtual coach.
If you're confident enough to build your own training plan then it's fairly simple. You just create your own workouts and then you can drop them into the calendar from your dashboard with a couple of clicks. Warning: expect to put in a good couple of hours to build your first marathon plan.
Race and benchmark yourself
Repeating the exact same mile, 5km or 10km course once a month is a great way to check your progress. With Garmin Connect you can add favourite courses to the web tools and the app and do direct comparisons of all the stats captured.
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Try to make sure you use a course covering the same distance where it's easy to recreate the same conditions (so avoid roads where you might have to stop at crossings or traffic lights).
What you'll hopefully find is that the run is getting easier, you're getting faster and you're running with better form.
Find new routes to run
Anyone who's ever trained for a marathon will tell you that one of the toughest things is finding a way to keep runs fresh, particularly when you can be putting in over 50 miles per week. Running in a new place is one way to ward off monotony but finding good routes isn't always easy.
Garmin Connect has a rather handy remedy in the form of a heat map feature that lets you see the most popular running routes in your area, based on how many other Garmin users have been running that path. If other runners are voting with their feet it's a sure-fire sign of a good place to run, taking some of the gamble out of venturing into the unknown.
Create your own routes
As a runner, covering longer distances comes with more problems than just whether your endurance is up to it. For a start turning your usual 10km loop into a 12 mile training run means mapping out a new path. Granted it's fun to lace up and see where the wind carries you but if you want to be sure you're hitting the distance then the Garmin Courses feature is a big help. The tool lets you create a run by overlaying your route onto Google Maps.
As as you add your lefts and rights and pick your roads and paths, you not only get details of distance but you also get things like predicted time at a pace of your choice, an elevation map and some quick edit tools like Out and Back that auto fills your return journey, or Loop Run which creates a quick circuit.
Sadly it's not quite advanced enough to let you tap in a set distance and have an automatic route created for you, and the whole thing isn't fuss and fiddle free. However each route can be stored and shared, and you can even see existing Strava-style segments and get them into your run route to mix things up.
If you want to download runs or hikes from the internet, that's no problem too. First you will need to download Garmin Basecamp from the Garmin website. Import a downloaded GPX or TCX file and export it directly to your device. It will only work on top-end Fenix, Forerunner 630, 935 and 725XT devices.
Understand your heart rate stats
Knowing that your heart rate is currently at 167 while you're busting around your local park is only really useful if you know what that means for you in the context of that run and as part of your overall training plan. Getting stuck into Garmin Connect's post-run stats is a brilliant way to start to learn how your body responds to certain situations like running up hills, or hitting the roads the day after a long or particularly intense run.
Crucially, you can also start to see when you're making progress. At the start of your training your BPM might soar when you hit a certain pace or a certain distance but as your fitness improves you should see that you can hit the same levels while maintaining a much lower heart rate.
Add food intake
What you do on the roads and the running track is important, but if you're eating a bad diet you're limiting your running prowess. Getting in great shape is as much about what you cook in the kitchen as what you smash out in the gym. We're not just talking about cutting down on snacks either; making sure you're giving your body the right fuel to power your runs and speed your recovery is essential.
Garmin Connect lets you hook up food-tracking app MyFitnessPal and monitor your food intake alongside your running stats. This makes it much easier to spot how what you eat might be affecting how you feel on your runs; like feeling sluggish on a morning run after a big bowl of pasta the night before, or running out of steam on a lunchtime run because you skipped breakfast. You can then adapt your diet to something that suits you.