Coach Tip Tuesday: Your Garmin Does More Than Tell Time

Posted On:
Tuesday, September 18, 2018
Updated On:
Tuesday, July 18, 2023
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A close-up of a Garmin Forerunner 920XT telling time.

Welcome back to Coach Tip Tuesday!

Who out there owns a Garmin fitness device? (I expect that a large number of you are raising your hands right now.) Now, who out there uses their Garmin fitness device for more than just telling the time, hitting your step metric for the day, or looking at pacing for your workouts? (I expect that fewer of you are now raising your hands.)

I’ve been in the endurance sports world for many years now, and additionally, I’ve been employed by a Garmin dealer (Fleet Feet Syracuse) for several years now.  I cannot begin to tell you all the shockingly high number of folks who are willing to spend $400+ on a Garmin fitness device who also don’t use the features on it that make it worth $400+.  So this week, my tip is this: 

Learn how to use your Garmin for more than just looking at your pacing.  It is capable of so.much.more.  Honestly, if that’s all you use it for, then I suggest selling it off, buying an entry level watch, and pocketing the difference. :)  The ability to connect to additional metrics such as cadence, heart rate, and power and to use those metrics to gauge your training are what make Garmin devices so valuable.  And while that information is valuable, there are two features of Garmin products that I think make them worth their weight in gold:

  1. The ability to set planned workouts within the device.
  2. The ability to set turn-by-turn directions on Garmin Edge devices.

Setting up planned workouts in advance on your Garmin device is my absolute favorite feature of these products. It takes the guesswork out of what you need to do. You can specify intervals in time or distance, and you can set other parameters such as cadence, heart rate, pace, or power to monitor during those intervals to make sure you’re hitting the goal for the workout.

For swim workouts, you can specify what gear you need for intervals (i.e. fins or a pull buoy) and you can even track your drills. For all workouts, you can add notes so you can remind yourself exactly what you’re supposed to be doing in a given interval. No more trying to remember all of those little details in a multi-step workout! As the athletes who I work for can attest to, many of the workouts I write are tougher to memorize. Once I’ve gotten them on board this train, they’ve found it MUCH easier to hit the goal of the workout.

Most Garmin Edge devices have a feature that allows you to add a route that you can ride, and it’ll tell you when it’s time to turn, what the street name is, etc. Imagine that! A GPS device that acts like the rest of the GPS devices that we’re used to in our vehicles. ;)

Seriously though, this feature is invaluable. It allows athletes to tackle new routes without fear of getting lost. It removes the need to check cue sheets, which can be an exceptionally dangerous thing to do mid-ride. It can reduce the amount of stop time on a ride, which is actually a very undervalued skill to have (since the clock does not stop during a race, it’s important to practice continuously going in training workouts - that’s a whole separate Coach Tip Tuesday post I’ll need to write someday ;) ). This feature can be used simultaneously with the aforementioned planned workout feature, which means that you can tackle a particular course AND a particular workout at the same time and not fear getting lost or off-track mid-workout.

As with anything else in endurance sports, you get out what you put in.  With a Garmin device, it’s important for you to use the features that are available on it so it can actually enhance your training.  Just wearing the Garmin itself won’t make you a stronger or more self-aware athlete.  Using the features available to you on it will.

Questions about coaching and/or how you can get the most out of your fitness device? You know where I am. :)


Coach Laura Henry

Laura Henry is a Syracuse, NY-based coach who is a USA Triathlon Level II Long Course and Level II Paratriathlon Certified Coach, USA Cycling Level 2 Certified Coach, VFS Certified Bike Fitter, and has successfully completed NASM's Certified Personal Trainer course. Coach Laura is passionate about helping athletes of all ability levels reach their goals and has coached many athletes to success.

She can be reached at

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