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Garmin Daily Workout Suggestions for Runners
Cyclists were the first to receive the Garmin daily workout suggestions on the Garmin Edge 1030 Plus, we soon saw them again on the Garmin Forerunner 745 at launch and now they are starting to roll out to other hi-end Garmin running watches including the Fenix 6 and Forerunner 945. To what extent these Firstbeat-powered workouts will be further rolled out through firmware to the entire Garmin ecosystem is not known but it’s likely to be at least to mid- to high-end feature for cyclists and runners with watch models younger than two years
Before we delve into the details, just what exactly are these workout suggestions? The Firstbeat Engine understands the intensity and effect of your workouts within the context of your recovery state, training history and fitness level (VO2max). The engine then knows if you need time to adapt to what you have already accomplished or which aspects of your physiology need tweaking today – it’s widely understood what kind of workouts tweak the various aspects of your physiology. Certainly, you can expect a mixture of rest, interval workouts and endurance-building fun.
Importantly, the engine builds in periodisation which is normally 3 progressively harder week followed by an easy week…repeated. I reported an interesting twist on that only last week, discovered by the analysis of ‘Big Data’ for marathon training.
The Run Types of the Garmin-Firstbeat Engine for Daily Workout Suggestions
If you are being coached, following a plan or trusting Garmin, you don’t really need to know any of this. If, however, you are a self-coacher to any degree then the basics I mention in this post should be understood. Let’s start off with the 7 workout types that you can expect to encounter and these can be grouped according to broader kinds of training, namely: low-intensity aerobic training; high-intensity aerobic training; and anaerobic training.
The following information is aimed at an ‘introductory level’ or runner, although some more advanced athletes might find Coggan’s chart interesting and there’s an interesting ‘advanced’ running pace spreadsheet at the end to keep everyone happy! Also towards the end are some further insights into how the algorithms work (skip past the following zones 1-7 stuff)
Anaerobic Training Runs
Sprint (Zone 7)
Tell your friends that you’re working on your neuromuscular power today and they will be impressed. These are even shorter and harder ‘all-out’ efforts. The adaptations from this type of training include the better sequencing of muscle contractions and ultimately higher race-day speeds.
Expect to be prescribed these sessions relatively infrequently and only when you are rested.
Anaerobic Capacity (Zone 6)
These are typically 40-60 second intervals that draw much of their energy needs from ANaerobic energy pathways. There are other benefits too, as the following table shows, but expect these workouts to leave you with burning legs as the Lactic acid builds up.
Aerobic Training Runs High-intensity
Tempo (Zone 3)
Tempo runs are many people’s marathon pace, perhaps even straying into the sweetspot zone in the table above. Expect to find variety even in this type of run ranging from consistently paced workouts through to longer, more gently intervals at slightly higher intensities
Threshold (Zone 4)
We usually think of threshold as the point where lactate starts to accumulate faster than it can be burnt. If you run faster then the speed at which happens then you reach a point of failure and that will almost certainly be before an hour. If you can train this physiological point to occur at higher heart rates then, put simply, it is possible for you to run faster for longer. I’m not sure exactly what Garmin will prescribe here but it will probably equate to running at your current 10k pace for shorter than 10k durations – 2x5k@threshold with a rest in between would be reasonable.
Anaerobic Capacity (VO2max, Zone 5)
These high-intensity runs are above your lactate threshold and typically for extended periods interspersed with rest. Perhaps they might be km repeats.
Aerobic Training Runs -Low-intensity
Endurance “Base” Runs (Zone 2)
Depending on your ability level these runs are normally between 30 and 90 minutes in the Garmin program and shouldn’t exceed 80% of you HRmax.
Normally classed as ‘fat burners’ these runs are also sometimes stated to train your body’s ability to burn fat. As you can see in the earlier chart there are many more benefits than that to make you a more efficient runner. After you’ve been training for a number of years you might start to decline with age or simply peak, at those times it can be easier to get faster by becoming a more efficient runner.
Active “Recovery” Runs (Zone 1)
If in doubt just think ‘I’m going to fast’ and you probably are, as most people run their recovery runs too quickly. Your recovery runs are aimed to flush the gunk out of your muscles…go too fast and you add more gunk.
Garmin Daily Workout Suggestions: Notes
Garbage In – Garbage Out. As always, I recommend a footpod like STRYD and a chest strap like the HRM-PRO. If you don’t have the right tools to capture pace and hr data then you will not be able to to give Firstbeat the correct inputs it needs nor will you be able to properly execute the training guidance given.
Ideally, you should wear your Garmin 24×7 to enable the recovery algorithm to properly update these daily workout suggestions when needed.
You might not agree with the HR zones and thresholds that Garmin/Firstbeat come up with but I suspect (IDK for sure) that the default ones will work best to give the Daily Workout Suggestions their best shot at being accurate – unless you are absolutely sure that your manual zones and threshold are right as of today.
I asked Garmin the question “What range of abilities are catered for?“. Interestingly, there was no definitive answer to that question although it was possible to say that anecdotally the suggestions have been fine for runners of a 30:00/5k all the way up to a Sub3:00 marathon standard. On a further point, also related to ability, I asked about weekly training volumes and was assured that the algorithm considers your training volume history and your current aerobic fitness level and, as such, has your current capacity levels are dynamically catered for.
Finally, don’t forget that after you are shown the workout suggestion at the start, you can page down to also see the benefits it intends to deliver. It’s all very clever stuff!!
I’m generally impressed with this so far. I might query a few of the recommendations but have not yet had anything which is a clearly wrong recommendation and I’ve been using daily suggested workout since they were first released quite some time ago on the Garmin Edges.