How Garmin Coach helped me reach my running goal

If youve got a race planned in the future, or you want to meet a personal running goal, the Garmin Coach feature on compatible watches can help you with your training and performance. Run Mummy Run team member Julie Bassett has used Garmin Coach to help her prepare for races, and she shares her experience here.

Garmin Coach is built into the Garmin Connect app, and it provides adaptive training plans. Once you select a plan, it is then sent to your compatible wearable, so you can follow each session with prompts on your watch. It’s a very clever feature that presents you with a variety of running sessions to suit your ability and your goal. The plan will adjust as time goes on to make them harder or easier, depending on how you’re getting on.

I currently have a Garmin Forerunner® 955 Solar (which was kindly gifted to me in order to review it, which you can read here), but I have used the Garmin Coach plans on my previous watch, the Forerunner® 245 as well. There is a list of compatible watches here. I have used both the 10K plan and the Half Marathon plan to date, and I’m a big fan of the way it works.

For now, Garmin Coach plans are available for 5K, 10K and Half Marathon goals. You will need to allow a minimum of 6 weeks for a 5K plan, 10 weeks for a 10K plan and 12 weeks for a Half Marathon plan. You won’t be able to select a goal date that is sooner than the minimum length of the plan. Plans cover beginner to intermediate runners, from run/walk plans through to a 7:00 min/mile race pace.

Setting up a new plan

To get started, open your Garmin Connect™ app on your phone. On an Android phone, select the double bars in the top left, and on an iPhone select More in the bottom right, then go to Training & Planning. Select Training Plans to access Garmin Coach. Go into the Running section (there are also Cycling plans) and pick the distance you want to work towards. This will give you an overview of the features of the plan. Hit Set Up Plan and accept the terms and conditions to get started!

You will have to answer some questions to set up your plan. First, input your weekly running distance, and then your average running pace. If at this point you select a low weekly distance in comparison to the plan distance you have chosen, it will suggest you try a lower distance plan first. You can still choose to continue with the plan, which will be automatically set to a completion goal. However, in most cases, once you’ve inputted your weekly running distance and average pace, you will be given the option to choose between ‘Completion’ and ‘Run with a time goal’. Completion will get you to the finish line, whereas running to a time goal will give you sessions designed to push you to meet your chosen finish time.

The hardest part comes next – you have to choose your coach! There are three coaches to select from, and it is best to pick the one who is right for you. One of the coaches is Jeff Galloway, and his plans are based on walking and running over three workouts a week to help you hit your goals. In the Run Mummy Run Community, we love a bit of ‘jeffing’ – a run/walk method. Not sure what we’re talking about? Check out our ‘What is jeffing?’ blog here. You can also choose Amy Parkerson-Mitchell, who gives you 4 workouts a week, or Greg McMillan, 4-5 workouts a week, both experienced running coaches with different approaches to training. There are short videos for each coach, as well as a summary of what you can expect from the plans in terms of length, to help you make your decision.

I used a Jeff Galloway plan when I was coming back from illness, as the walk/run option suited me and helped me build strength sensibly. I have also used a Greg McMillan plan when I was really trying to push myself to meet a time goal, and it is a more intense plan with harder workouts – but it does get you to where you want to be.

Next, you will tell the app how many workouts you can do per week – the options here are set by the coach you choose. So, for example, if you opted for Greg, you can only choose 4 or 5 workouts. You can then tick which days you are available to train by unticking any days you can’t run, and then select which day you want to do your long run on. Finally, you will have to set your target completion date. A suggested date will be set for you, but if you click on this you will see a calendar with all available dates that fit your plan highlighted to pick from. You will have a final chance to review all your plan options, before hitting Create Plan. Now you’re ready to start training!

Following a plan

 Your new plan will now be shown as Active in the Training Plans section of the app. When you go into this, you will see your current week, your coach and the Confidence gauge – if you’re closer to the right, the more likely you are to hit your goal. This changes as you complete runs on your plan. I loved this little visual motivator when I followed my plans.

Your next run is shown at the top; you can click on this to see what your run involves. This opens the Workout screen, broken down into Steps. This will usually include a Warm Up and Cool Down, as well as the main session. I definitely advise looking at this before you head out for your run so you can see what you have coming up. On the main screen you can also view your Workout Schedule to see what runs you have coming up that week. If you ever can’t make a run on the day it suggests, you can click on it to open the Workout and use the three dots in the top right, then hit Reschedule. I really liked this flexibility to make the plan work for me. Quite often your future Workouts will say ‘Stay Tuned for Details’ which means that you need to complete a run in your plan before this workout is generated, as per the adaptive part of Garmin Coach. Your plan is synced to your watch (make sure you have done a sync before heading out), so when you start a new Run activity, you will be asked if you want to do your day’s planned session. The you hit Start and follow the instructions.

If you’re not used to using Workouts, it can take a little practice, which is why I always suggest checking what the day’s Workout is before going for a run. Sometimes the Steps are time based, so when the time is up (for example, a 5-minute warm-up), it will move straight to the next Step. Sometimes, however, you are required to press the Lap button to move to the next step – this is usually the case if you need a chance to see what’s coming up before getting going or if you need to get into position. On a normal run, the Steps tend to flow into one another – eg, Warm Up, Run, Cool Down. However, on intervals or hills sessions, you’re more likely to have to use that Lap button option. For example, after your Warm Up, you might need to be in position at the bottom of a hill to do some hill repeats. When your Warm Up has finished, you might not be in the right place, so by adding a ‘Lap press’ Step, the plan is allowing you time to get where you need to be before beginning the hill repeats part of your session. Your watch will tell you what you need to do – my watch even has a little arrow to remind me which button is my Lap button.

This might sound complicated, but I found it really intuitive once I got started. I really enjoyed my interval sessions – I never had to look at my watch to know when it was time to sprint and time to recover, as I could feel the vibrate. You can have sounds and vibration, or just vibration; I have the latter. I loved the fact that each session was planned for me and I didn’t need to think – just do as I was told. It made me do sessions that I wouldn’t normally do on my own.

If you have to skip a run at any point, that’s fine, as the plan will adapt. You can also Pause the plan if you need to, and restart again. You can also make changes to the plan even after it’s started, switching training days or number of workouts.

Overall, I’ve been really impressed with Garmin Coach. I like having the plan linked to my watch and it’s easy to follow. I do hope that there will be a Marathon option in the future, as this would be a really great way to build up, but I will definitely use the plans again in the future to help me meet specific time goals along the way.

* This blog has been written by the Run Mummy Run team as part of a paid partnership with our Family Partner Garmin
** A note from Garmin: Garmin have recently introduced Daily Suggested Workouts that will cater to any distance up to 50k, and are designed to adjust to the needs and progress of the individual all on their own. A Marathon training plan option is being looked at

2 thoughts on this post

  1. Hi there I have an iPhone and a Garmin Lily I can’t seem to find Garmin Coach ? Is it only for Samsungs please help. Does the Garmin Lily not support Garmin Coach or is it because I don’t have Android

    1. Hi Jessica. We have had a look at the Garmin Lily specs and it doesn’t look like it supports the Garmin Coach feature unfortunately.

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