Garmin Coach – Which Coach do you choose?

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. During the setup of Garmin Coach you’ll need to choose a coach. Which coach you choose determines what your training plan will look like, so it’s an important part of the process. I’m here to help you guide you through your decision. 

I’ve already written a lot about Garmin Coach, so check it out:

I would not have been able to write this article without the input from the members of the Garmin Coach Runners Community, who are sharing their experiences regularly and were willing to answer my questions. Thank you fellow Garmin Coachers!

The coaches

Garmin has selected three coaches for you to choose from, each with their own unique view of training for a certain distance. Below the descriptions Garmin provides about them:

Greg McMillan / Coach Greg: This runner, physiologist and online coach has the unique ability to combine the science of endurance performance with the art of real-world coaching.

“As an exercise physiologist I enjoy the science of running, whether it’s the proper form to prevent injury or the right food to fuel your training.”

Amy Parkerson-Mitchel / Coach Amy: An avid runner, physical therapist and certified coach, Amy focuses on the principles of biomechanics to prevent injury while running.

I love watching runners catch the bug and become passionate about the sport”

Jeff Galloway / Coach Jeff: Olympian and best-selling author. More than a million runners and walkers have read Galloway’s books or joined his training programs. His methods help beginners start running with walk breaks to control fatigue.

“Running is my life and my passion and I love to teach others how endurance achievement doesn’t have to hurt”

The training plan 

Below I’ll provide an as complete as possible overview of the different workouts you may encounter during your training plan with each coach. Some of these workouts may only appear if you’re training for a specific distance. The plans also differ depending on if your goal is to complete the distance or if you have a time goal set. 
Coach Greg

Greg will require you to do 4 to 5 workouts per week. He will give you timed runs and specific drills that will help you work on your speed and form and increase your distance. If you have a time goal, the workouts in which you’ll be doing some form of speed work can add up to three out of four per week. Many of his one block workouts have an optional part you can skip without guilty feelings! Coach Greg’s plan is the only one with optional parts in the workouts. 

  • Goal pace runs, short or long intervals at goal pace followed by a recovery period or one longer interval, usually directly followed by an optional interval. Several variations in duration possible. 
  • Steady state run, multiple longer intervals at a slightly slower pace as your goal pace. These workouts are only included in the 5K and 10K plan. 
  • Stride repeats, multiple short intervals followed by a short recovery. This workout is focused on cadence and aimed at getting your legs used to moving at a quicker pace. The plan will repeat this workout several times with increasing cadence goals based on your earlier performance. 
  • Tempo run, short run ran at a medium to hard pace, in between your 10K and half marathon pace. 
  • Hill repeats, multiple short intervals up a hill.
  • Speed repeats, multiple short intervals followed by a jog break focused on improving speed. Several variations in duration possible. 
  • Easy run, short or long runs intended to add mileage and endurance. 
  • Progressions run, similar to easy runs (short and long), but adds one or two 5-15 minute faster segments at the end of your run. 
Depending on how well you perform and your goal, this program might have you running your goal distance before your 5K, 10K or half marathon race. 

Coach Amy

Amy provides your with 4 to 5 workouts per week. Her training runs are based on distance. Coach Amy’s focus is injury prevention through crosstraining, that might involve some strengthening or mobility exercises in addition to the running part of the plan. This workouts will be introduced through videos and are a recommended, but not mandatory, part of the plan. 

The plan starts with gradually increasing the distance of your runs. Specific workouts to build speed, endurance and the ability to run while tired will be introduced as you progress through the plan. 

    • Tempo run, 1 mile intervals at fast pace followed by a jog break. 
    • Goal pace repeats, intervals at goal pace that increase in speed and decrease in recovery time while you progress in your plan. 
    • Speed repeats, short intervals at a pace slightly faster as goal pace, increasing in duration as your training progresses while the recovery period stays the same. 
    • Steady state run, long run increasing in distance with a large goal pace segment.
    • Negative splits, long run increasing in speed in multiple segments. 
    • Easy run, short or long run intended to add mileage and endurance. 
    • Tired run, short or longer run with no pace goal to get your legs used to running on tired legs. Only shows up on the half marathon plan. 
    • Hill repeats, short intervals up a hill to build strength and to help you tackle the hills on your race course. 
    • Superset workout, to teach your body to run at goal pace when fatigued. It starts with a 200 meter sprint, 600 meter at fast pace and ends with 1 mile at goal pace. As your training progresses, repeated sets are possible. 
    • Time trials, to check your current level of fitness at any given point during training. This data will be used to calculate your personalized training paces. Run hard, but at a pace you can maintain for the duration of the trial. 
Depending on how well you perform, this program can have you running your any of your goal distances before the race. 

Coach Jeff

Jeff will have you doing 3 workouts per week. The Galloway Method or Run-Walk-Run is a well known technique that uses walk breaks to improve performance. As expected this method of training and running is an important part of Coach Jeff’s training plan. You can follow the plan without using the run-walk-run method, but that’s not how the plan is intended. 

It’s also important to realize that the run-walk-run segments aren’t actually supported by alerts in the training plan. Even if your watch supports run/walk alerts or any type of alerts, these alerts are all turned off automatically during the Garmin Coach training. You’ll need to keep track of when to run and when to walk yourself. I hope that Garmin can find a solution for this as it’s a definite handicap. 

    • Speed workouts, intended to push your pace for a set distance.
    • Hill workouts, to improve strength while learning efficient hill running technique. Find a hill with a gentle grade. Short uphill intervals, followed by a downhill run and a walk recovery. Focus on your stride and running form. The number of hill repeats increase while you advance in the training plan. 
    • Cadence drills focus on proper form, to help you run smoother and injury free. This workout is focused on cadence and aimed at getting your legs used to moving at a quicker pace. The plan will repeat this workout several times with increasing cadence goals. 
    • Acceleration glider drills, teach you how to transition smoothly between running and walking while maintaining your speed form components at highest level. Seamlessly move from a walk into a run and glide back into another walk break. 
    • Magic Mile or Magic Half-Mile, a time trial used to predict your running pace at longer distances. You start with a warm-up and some drills after which you run hard, but at a pace you can maintain for a (half) mile. 
    • Long run, intended to increase endurance and meant to be done using a run/walk ratio that is a bit slower as your goal pace. 
    • Goal pace run, similar to the long runs as the distance of these workouts increase, but you should run these at your race goal’s run/walk ratio. 
With Coach Jeff you’ll only be doing 3 workouts a week of which 2 of them will be relatively short. Keep in mind that the long runs can become very long, very early. You are likely to be covering the race distance or more before your race, even with the half marathon plan. 
Which Garmin Coach do you choose?

Which coach will work best for you will come down to personal preference, the amount of workouts you’re able to do per week and how long you want your training plan to be. Read the above, watch the introduction video’s provided by Garmin and make your choice. Your choice is not definitive, you can change your coach throughout your training plan if you need to. 

Whatever coach you choose, listen closely to your body and while you should trust to process and the training plan, keep in mind that this is just a tool to help you reach your goal. You have to do it on your own and if your body is telling you to rest or do a few less intervals or cut the run short in any other way, that’s okay. Take the rest you need. 

Check out my personal experience with Coach Greg’s Garmin Coach 5K plan or Garmin Coach half marathon plan.

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