Garmin Coach: A Pro Running Coach on Your Wrist?
A few months ago I was playing around with my Garmin Connect app, and found their Garmin Coach platform. This offering through the Garmin Connect app describes itself as “Having a pro running coach on your wrist”. With it, you can set a race goal, whether to just complete your race or finish with a specific time goal. From there it creates a running program to get you to your goal. This includes a weekly schedule different types of training runs, suggestions for pace, and additional content in the form of written articles and videos.
As a running coach myself I’ve made my fair share of training programs. I know how time-consuming it can be to create a truly personalized program for a client. So, the idea that an app like Garmin Coach can tackle this task was something I had to check out! I decided to follow a few training programs and write this Garmin Coach Review.
This summer I actually did not have any formal races planned, and I had completed my last 1/2 marathon earlier in the spring. But, I thought it would still be a great time to try the Garmin Coach program and share my thoughts on the experience.
My step by step Garmin Coach review
Step 1: I Set My Goals
The first step to using the Garmin app is to set your race distance and goals. I decided set my first goal as a 1/2 marathon. And in terms of time I wanted to shave 2 minutes off of my previous PR.
For my second Garmin Coach trial I decided to enter a 10K race and use the program to train for this shorter distance. I set my time goal to 1 minute faster than my current 10K PR.
This process was super simple to complete, but be sure to give yourself adequate time to complete their training plan. The minimum times shown below are for completing the race, not including a time goal.
- For a 5K race, you need 6-20 weeks
- 10K races require 10-21 weeks
- Half Marathons require 12-26 weeks
As far as I could see there was no full marathon option- sorry to all my 26.2 mile folks who were getting excited!
Step 2: Choose a Coach
The next step in my Garmin Coach Review was to select one of 3 running pros as my ‘coach’. For my 1/2 marathon I selected Amy Parkerson-Mitchell, and for the 10K I chose Greg McMillan.
According to the Garmin Coach app, each of these trainers uses a slightly different strategy to get you ready for race day. I don’t know exactly what that would look like since I did two different distances. But, it would be interesting to see how the different coach’s plans compare for the same race distance.
The other difference you notice when selecting a different coach are the extra videos that complement the training program as they feature the coach of your choosing.
Step 3: Train!
The next step in using my Garmin Coach review was to go through the process of completing the training program. I think I’m like most runners in that I really enjoy having a clear plan to follow, and it keeps me much more motivated. Even though I’m only accountable to myself anyway something about a training plan boosts my commitment 10-fold.
Next, I’ll share my insights and experience with using the App – both the good and bad!
The Pros: What did I like about using Garmin Coach?
It was easy to follow
Overall I found the training plans super easy to follow. I mean, what could be easier than having your workouts sync directly to your watch? It was also helpful and informative having pacing goals for my training runs. Although it did mean my watch was sometimes vibrating annoyingly often during my run to let me know if I was in or out of my goal pace zone.
It included recognizable types of training runs
Another positive feature of the Garmin Coach app was that it utilized types of training runs that were already familiar to me as a relatively experienced runner. Meaning, it felt doable and reasonable based on what I already know about race prep. Nothing wild, wacky, or questionable!
Valuable bonus content
Another feature of the program that I found interesting was the articles and videos that were dripped out over the course of the plan. Each week a new piece of content would be shared highlighting a different aspect of race prep. These included strength training, stretching, nutrition, clothing, and mindset. As a Dietitian and running coach myself most of the information wasn’t new, but it would certainly add a lot of value for new runners to learn as they go.
It allows for some flexibility
Can’t complete a training run on a certain day? Not a problem as you can make slight changes to your weekly schedule. You can also pause the program as needed for a vacation or to recover from an injury. But, these pauses might impact your overall ‘confidence’ rating if you set a time goal for your race.
So, those were the things I did like about the Garmin Coach app, but what aspects do I wish I could change?
The Cons: Some Garmin Coach challenges
Treadmill users beware
The biggest frustration I encountered was how poorly my Garmin watch tracks treadmill runs. It typically tracks me about a full minute faster per mile than my actual treadmill pace, which makes a lot of my data very inaccurate. If you’re running almost exclusively outdoors or on a track you won’t encounter this issue, but if you’re only doing treadmill runs be aware! The faster pace tracked by the watch will cause the Garmin Coach program to think you’re absolutely crushing those workouts. This may lead to a more advanced training program than you’re really ready for.
Can’t view the entire program
This is just a ‘my personality’ thing, but I wish I had the ability to see my entire training program calendar. The reason they don’t do this is because the upcoming workouts are adjusted based on your previous performance. I’d be ok with it updating after I’d seen it though, and it actually would be interesting to see exactly how it changes based on my training data.
While there is some capacity to move workouts around, you really do need to commit more or less to what is scheduled. This does add a challenge for anyone who doesn’t ‘only run’. Some of the video content discusses the importance of strength training. They provides sample exercises, though strength workouts are not scheduled into the program.
For example during my ultimate frisbee season, I have an extra ‘speed workout’ each week during our games. Unfortunately there is no way to take this extra workout into account so I either need to skip a workout somewhere, or complete them all plus my game, which might not allow for optimal recovery between sessions.
The limited flexibility also extended into the training runs themselves as the weather heated up from spring to summer. Running coaches know that hot weather increases effort, and runners need to slow down to stay in their easy effort zone. Our bodies don’t know ‘speed’, only ‘effort’ and if we’re pushing to stay at our cooler weather easy pace we can easily wind up in our far out of our aerobic training zone.
No hot weather adaptability
For some of the hot weather training runs I was definitely slower than my previous paces, but there is no way to factor in the heat. All Garmin coach sees is that you’re doing ‘worse’ than you were before. This will probably lead some runners to ultimately not reach their full potential because they’re not spending enough time building their aerobic base. Not to mention the frustration of working so hard and then suddenly not being able to complete your runs.
To read more about the importance of easy running, click here!
So, those are some of the pros and cons I encountered during my experience with the Garmin Coach app! Keep reading for my final thoughts…
My Garmin Coach Review: Final Thoughts
Overall I think the Garmin Coach app is a great, valuable add-on the Garmin Connect app. It is functional, customizable, and the tech worked well as I followed the plans. That being said the idea that you have “a running pro on your wrist” is a bit of an exaggeration. The flexibility is too limited and there is no method of getting assistance with your questions.
Real, human coaches are so much more than just ‘program makers’ in that we provide advice, guidance, and support along the way. The tech here is pretty cool, but doesn’t provide anywhere near the level of interaction some runners might be looking for.
For a completely free service though I do think Garmin Coach has a ton of great features and can certainly help almost any runner improve their performance. But, I don’t think this platform will be replacing me anytime soon!
Are you ready to level up your fueling, training, and recovery strategy to become the best runner you can be? Click here to learn more about how you can work with me!