Everything you need to know about the Garmin Coach 5K, 10K and half marathon training plan for running. When I started training with the Garmin Coach 5K Plan in January 2019 I was trying to find information on how the plans work, but I couldn’t find much useful information. This article is meant to change that. Since I finished the 5K plan, Garmin has added support for the 10K and half marathon distance.
You should also join the Garmin Coach Community on Facebook. It’s a growing community filled with other runners around the world working through their training plan. Here you can ask and share everything Garmin Coach, setup or coaches, specific workouts, brag about results or confidence levels or simply to connect with other Garmin Coachers!
What is Garmin Coach
Garmin Coach is an adaptive training plan introduced by Garmin in 2018. Based on your personal input and preferences it creates an adaptive training plan with workouts that can be synched to your Garmin watch. Garmin Coach will provide you with real feedback while you’re working through your training plan based on your performance. According to Garmin the workouts will be adapted based on your performance as well, hence the adaptive part. It’s not really clear how this works though as you’ll only see workouts up to one week in advance. This means you won’t see which part of the training has been adapted. The training plans vary from 6 to 20 weeks and includes plans with 3 to 5 workouts per week.
Before you get started, make sure you have a Garmin watch compatible with Garmin Coach. Garmin currently lists the following watches/series as compatible: Fenix 5 Series, Fenix 5 Plus Series, Fenix Chronos, Forerunner 45/45S, Forerunner 245/245 Music, Forerunner 645/645 Music, Forerunner 935, Forerunner 945, MARQ Series, Vivoactive 3, Vivoactive 3 Music, Vivoactive 3 Music (Verizon).
The Garmin Instinct is not officially mentioned by Garmin as supported (yet?), but several users have reported it to be working.
Setting up Garmin Coach
Setting up the Garmin Coach plan is done through several steps. You start in the Garmin Connect app on your phone or webbrowser, go to Menu > Training > Training Plans and the above screen will be shown.
1. Choose your distance: 5K, 10K or half marathon.
2. Your current weekly distance:
- I don’t run
- 1 – 8 kilometers
- 9 – 16 kilometers
- 17 – 24 kilometers
- 25 – 32 kilometers
- 33 – 40 kilometers
- 40 kilometers or more
3. Your current average running pace, options are between 3:45 min/km and 9:30 min/km. Unlike most other settings, this can’t be changed later during the program. It’s used to determine the likelihood you’ll be able to reach your goal by the end of the training plan. You’ll get a pop-up asking you if you’re sure you want to proceed if your current pace isn’t near enough to your goal pace.
4. Your goal: completion or run with a time goal. There are limits set by Garmin for each distance regardless of your current average running pace.
- 5K limit: 22:00 – 37:50
- 10K limit: 44:00 – 1:15:00
- Half marathon limit: 1:32:00 – 2:40:00
5. Choose your coach. Garmin has lined up three different coaches that can be chosen to virtually guide you towards your goal. These coaches all have their own plan to help you reach your goal. Based on your earlier input each coach will provide a training plan with a different number of workouts per week and a different total weeks. You can watch an introductory video for each coach in which they’ll explain their approach and I also highly recommend checking out this article I wrote on which coach to choose. The range of the length of your training plan will differ based on the input you did previously, but this will give you an impression. The number of workouts are set.
Greg McMillan: 12 – 16 weeks, 4-5 workouts per week » you’ll need to choose in the next option if you want to run 4 or 5 times a week. Training based on time.
Amy Parkerson-Mitchel: 16 – 21 weeks, 4-5 workouts per week. Training based on distance.
Jeff Galloway, 12 – 14 weeks, 3 workouts per week. Run/walk method. Just keep in mind that given the many different run/walk intervals you can use, the plan doesn’t setup the run/walk intervals during the planned long runs. You’ll need to keep track of when to run and when to walk yourself.
6. Select available days for running
7. Long run day. This option is a very welcome new addition to Garmin Coach and lets you decide on which day you’d prefer to do your long runs.
That’s it, you’re done. Garmin Coach will now setup your training plan, but you’ll still need to do a benchmark run to complete the whole process. The benchmark run is a 2 minute warm-up, 5 minute run and a 2 minute cooling down, regardless of the chosen distance. After the benchmark your virtual coach will determine the workouts for the coming week based on the 5 minute run. Your upcoming workouts will be visible only one week in advance.
Starting your training plan
Each training plan will start with a benchmark run to determine your capabilities. You can select the benchmark run either from the run app or via the Garmin Coach widget. If you start the run app on a day where you have a workout scheduled it will automatically ask you if you want to do this workout now.
The benchmark run is set up as a 2 minute warm-up, 5 minute run and a 2 minute cooling down. After the benchmark your virtual coach will determine the workouts for the coming week based on the 5 minute run, so run your best! Depending on your fitness level, you may want to consider bringing your phone on your benchmark run so Garmin Connect can determine your next workout and you can continue running. Be aware that you’ll need to sync your watch with your phone twice in this case. Once to upload the benchmark run from your watch to your phone and once to download the new workouts to your watch.
After this is done your next trainings will depend on which settings and which coach you’ve selected. I’m personally doing the plan with the following settings: I run regularly, run with a time goal, Greg McMillan, 4 days a week in 12 weeks. I’m writing a weekly update on my progress starting at week 1 here.
Type of trainings
Each workout in your training plan will have it’s own purpose and each coach has a different view on what’s most important for your progress. Each plan has one or more easy run per week plus one long easy run. The other runs are speed or interval workouts.
Below a few examples of the workouts you could encounter.
- Goal pace repeats, short to long intervals at goal pace. This workout will be repeated with different intervals time
- Steady state run, multiple longer intervals at approximately 30 seconds per kilometer slower as goal pace
- Stride repeats, multiple short intervals at approximately 30 seconds per kilometer fast as goal pace
- Hill repeats, multiple short intervals up a hill
- Speed repeats, multiple short intervals focused on improving your cadence
- Tired run, no pace or time, just run
- Time trial
According to Garmin the confidence colors are defined as follows:
- Purple: Extremely Confident. You’re exceeding plan expectations and may be capable of taking on a more challenging goal.
- Green: Confident. You’re right on track for meeting your goal. Keep up the good work!
- Orange: Somewhat Confident. You’re close to falling behind pace. Follow your plan closely to get on target.
- Red: Not Confident. You’re struggling with your current plan and may want to consider a different goal.
Garmin Coach general tips
- You can preview your workouts in the Garmin Connect app on your phone or in the Garmin Coach widget on your watch up to one week in advance. I highly recommend checking this out for at least your interval trainings as in my training plan the way the next interval starts was not always in line with my expectation, which led to some unnecessary extra runs in my first week. Most of the time the next part of the workout starts automatically, but some of the intervals had to be started manually on the watch.
- After each workout your watch will ask you how you experienced the workout: very easy, easy, moderate, hard or very hard. The rating you give has no impact on your future workouts.
- You can reschedule your workouts if needed in the Garmin Connect app. Go to Garmin Coach, select Workout Schedule and select the workout you’d like to reschedule, select the options menu and choose Reschedule. Be careful though, because you can’t schedule two workouts on one day, if you do so it’ll delete the old one. So if you want to swap two workouts you first need to schedule a workout on an empty day. I used this function to reschedule my long runs to the weekends.
- Workout feedback. After each workout your virtual coach will provide you with feedback on the workout. There are only to options: Good job and Room to grow, where the last one only pops up when you really mess up.
- In between you’re workouts Garmin Coach will provide you with videos from your selected coach and articles which references all coaches. I’ve seen subjects as weight loss, the importance of warm-ups and cool downs and explanations on the different type of workouts you’ll come accross in the training plan. They are an interesting addition to the training plan.
There are a lot of variables within the Garmin Coach plans and this article will be updated as I learn more. If you have any insights I may have missed, be sure to let me know in the comments below.