Useful Ways to Use Your GPS Watch by Becca Neumeier

So you actually bought a GPS enabled activity-tracking watch. Now what do you do with it?

To be honest I will tell you that all my experience so far with activity tracking technology has been with Garmin devices. I know that there are other makes on the market that work well but these features I will be sharing are on most Garmin Forerunner watches (their running line).

I was a fairly early adopter back in 2007/8 with at 105, but I didn’t really get into all the features until I got my 305 and was completing more structured marathon training. There are a few features that I swear by and I really believe they can help make you a better runner.


You can set alerts for a variety of thing; time, distance, locations (on some watches), pace, heart rate, and even a run/walk interval. These work great if you need to be reminded about something at a specific time or distance, or if you want to run in a specific heart rate zone. I use often this as an eating alert. When completing a long distance event I set an alert to remind me to eat every 45 minutes. This setting can usually be found under the Activity Settings of your Garmin.

Auto Lap

I use this all the time! It is a setting that will alert you of each lap you complete. Of course you can set the distance of the lap. I use a 1 mile auto lap when running. When you reach the lap, the time of the lap will display on the watch. If you are using the Garmin Connect Mobile app you can even set it up to tell you your splits over your headphones. When I am running a race I pay very close attention to my mile splits.

Virtual Pacer

This feature allows you to set up a virtual running buddy that runs at a specific pace. It will tell you how far or behind you are at that specific pace. This is one of my favorite features for marathon running. I can set my goal pace and easily see how I am running over all compared to the goal pace.


Not all of us have access to a track for doing interval workouts. Never fear!!!! With the workouts you can create with your Garmin you can do interval work anywhere. Not all Garmins have this capability so you should review the specs of your device to see if your device supports this. I have used this function with a 910, 920, and 230. You can create a workout on the device directly but I have found that using Garmin Connect online makes it MUCH easier.


In Garmin Connect, open the Workouts menu item.

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From there you will want to create a new workout. You can choose the type of workout. I mostly make run workouts but I have made a bike one. You can even make swim workouts if you have a swimming watch.

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Once in the new workout, you can choose the type of interval, the duration of the interval (I often use Lap Button Press for my warm up and cool downs just so I can start and stop the workout when I am ready), you can add more steps, or add repeats (much easier than adding them over and over again).

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I have added a set of repeats that will be 6 X 0.25 miles with 2:00 min rest. If you select the “Add More…” function you can specify a goal pace or HR zone for the interval. Be sure to name your workout.

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When you are done you must SAVE the workout and then you can send it to a device.

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Next time your device syncs, it SHOULD pick up the new workout. This can be a bit clunky at times. You may have better luck sending it to your device through your phone if you use Garmin Connect Mobile. Give yourself some time to play with this step.

Once it has synced to your device you should be able to find it in a Training menu under Workouts. This will vary by device as well. Once you locate the workout you just have to start it. You can use the Lap button to skip through the steps of the workout as well.


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