Garmin’s extensive range is always present in our guides to the best cycling computers and the best smartwatches for cycling. But Garmin doesn’t just excel in providing devices to record your rides, the brand also has its fantastic free training software which – if used effectively – is a handy training aid.
Garmin Connect is the brand’s free software that all Garmin users get as standard and is one of cycling’s best free apps. Not only is it easy to sync your device with Garmin Connect and transfer your activities to training apps like Training Peaks and Strava, there are a host of useful features for tracking and analyzing your training progress within the app itself.
Plus, it’s free! And with the advanced training features on Strava now hidden behind a paywall, it’s becoming an increasingly enticing option – provided you have a Garmin device, of course.
Resident training expert here at Cycling Weekly – as well as founder and head coach of ATP Performance – Andy Turner has combed through the features, picked out five of the best and walks us through how to use them effectively.
The best training features on Garmin Connect
1. My day
“My Day” allows you to enter a wealth of data to track not only what activities you do, but also your weight and fluid balance. Workout data syncs from any Garmin GPS computer or fitness watch, providing a summary of what activities you’ve done, whether it’s cycling, swimming, running or gym sessions.
Being able to track your weight is useful for those who want to lose weight cycling and want to monitor their weight over longer periods of time to show trends. Whether you want to lose some body fat, gain some muscle, or just maintain your weight, this allows you to keep track of your progress.
Taking the longer view is overall a better way to track weight more generally, given that you can have quite large fluctuations from day to day, depending on your muscle glycogen levels, hydration or inflammation.
Tracking fluid intake is another great feature and something we often neglect. Being able to quickly add 250, 500 or 750ml is useful for general tracking and you can also set an individual goal for the day. The percentage of your goal that you have reached is displayed, helping you to reach the goal during the day, rather than reaching the evening and realizing that you have to play catch-up.
2. Performance statistics
The Performance Statistics page on Garmin Connect is divided into three main categories: VO2max, Power Curve, and Functional Threshold Power (FTP).
VO2max is predicted based on your performance in workouts, such as heart rate, power or running speed, as well as your age, gender and weight. It then gives you a value and a score based on this. After doing VO2max testing on myself with a gas exchange analyzer, I can confirm that I do not have the VO2max of 76 that Garmin gave me, but it can be a useful way to track current fitness trends as, as I have exercised less the value has dropped and as I have practiced more and performed better it has increased.
The Power Curve provides both all-time records and 4-week, 3-month or 1-year bests, giving you great insight into where you are in your specific training phase as well as relative to where you’re likely to be come competition season. It’s a useful way to track where you might be strong and what you might need to work on, depending on your goals and where you are right now in your training.
The FTP section is a commonly used measurement, making it easy to understand for most athletes and it provides updates based on your power levels during different training rides to give you an estimated FTP. This can be useful for setting different cycling training zones to help you get the most out of your sessions.
3. Kcal In/Out via MyFitnessPal
You can connect your Garmin Connect account to MyFitnessPal, so you can keep track of your calorie intake and monitor both kcal in and out, as well as macro and micronutrients.
Add your Garmin Connect, you can make sure you’re also consuming enough calories to compensate for the energy you use during workouts and ensure you fuel and recover for subsequent sessions.
4. Menstrual cycle tracking
This is a feature that is missing from many fitness apps that do not directly target female athletes. Given that I can’t comment on it firsthand, I asked my partner for her thoughts.
You will first be asked if your cycle is regular, irregular, no period or pregnant. Then you move on to when your last period started, how long it lasted, how long the cycle is and then what contraceptives you use. It then gives you a prediction of when your next cycle will start.
On the day of your period, you can also track symptoms and add notes. My partner was impressed that the symptoms page was comprehensive and covered everything that could be experienced.
This is an important part of training for female athletes, as various studies have shown that depending on what phase of your cycle you are in, it can affect how well you perform certain types of exercise.
This is of course highly individual; you know your body better than anyone else and may not experience any negative effects from exercising during your period. But if you know you struggle with high intensity or strength training around your period, it’s useful to use this aspect of the app to tap into your hormones so you can tailor your training plan accordingly.
The app promises that only you will see this information and that it will not be published anywhere. But as with any app that tracks your data, it’s worth reviewing the data protection policies. For those in the US, there is concern that bike tracking apps could be used for nefarious purposes, especially with Roe v Wade overturned this year. So before using a tracking app like this, always be aware that your data might not be as safe and protected as you would like.
Challenges are a great way to give yourself a little extra motivation, especially over the winter when the competition may be less.
There are running, cycling and general activity challenges. You can also challenge your contacts either to one of Garmin’s challenges, or you can create your own and invite contacts to participate. This is good for a little friendly match.
That said, targeting a Strava KOM, or at least improving your time on a segment outdoors, or even indoors on something like Alpe du Zwift, may be more motivating for some riders. Or participating in Zwift races.
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