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.
I’ve already written a lot about Garmin Coach, so check it out:
- Garmin Coach Tips on setting up the Garmin Coach plan (you are here!)
- A guide to help you decide which Garmin Coach to choose
- Weekly updates on my 5K plan (finished) and my half marathon plan (October 2019)
- The end result of my Garmin Coach 5K plan
- Garmin Coach review
- Garmin Coach FAQ
I also highly recommend joining 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: Descent MK1, Fenix 5 Series, Fenix 5 Plus Series, Fenix 6 Series, Fenix Chronos, Forerunner 45/45S, Forerunner 245/245 Music, Forerunner 645/645 Music, Forerunner 935, Forerunner 945, Instinct series, MARQ Series, Vivoactive 3, Vivoactive 3 Music, Vivoactive 3 Music (Verizon).
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 workouts will depend on which settings and which coach you’ve selected.
Type of workouts
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.
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.