By monitoring key aspects of your running and fitness progress, you get a better look at your current
performance level and what you need to do to keep up the good work or continue improving. Select Garmin devices
collect data while you work out in order to bring you these running metrics and physiological measurements. If
your device is showing you stats, but you want to know more about what they mean, then you’ve come to the right
place. What can you do with this calculated information? That’s up to you, but we’ve got some suggestions.
Training status is the first feature offered by Garmin that truly analyzes not only today’s run but also
your longer-term training habits. This provides you with powerful insight into how your training is really
going. If other metrics offer you a window into the process, training status knocks down the walls to let
you enjoy the panoramic view.
Is your current training intense enough, or long enough, to help improve your fitness? How do you know if
you’re working hard enough to make a difference in the long run or if you’re not pushing yourself hard
enough? Training status helps you make decisions about future training by automatically taking into account
changes in fitness level, your current acute (7-day) training load and any change in training load with
respect to previous training. In essence, it tells you the effectiveness of your current training and
provides guidance to help you improve your training decisions.
Provided by Firstbeat, the calculation utilizes several dimensions of a personalized model of your
physiology. Changes in your VO2 max fitness level in light of your recent training loads over time indicate
the effectiveness of your training.
The dynamic and interwoven nature of our physiology often makes the process of training seem more like art
than science. On the surface, what we expect isn’t always what we get, and what we get isn’t always what we
To explain in simple terms, when you stop training, your fitness level will decrease, but depending on your
previous training load, a break from normal training routines may result in an increase in fitness level.
Similarly, it’s expected that regular hard training will improve our fitness levels, but watch out — push
too hard too often, and your fitness level will start to decrease due to the overtraining phenomenon.
As an example of how this works, imagine that you’ve been training consistently for a number of weeks, and
your fitness with normal, small day-to-day ups and downs is nevertheless increasing. This trend is
automatically identified and your current training will be classified as “productive.” Similarly, you could
find yourself training very hard but with your fitness starting a pattern of decline. In this situation,
your training would be identified as “overreaching,” and additional recovery will be recommended.
The recognized training states are below.
Peaking – You are in ideal race condition! Your recently reduced training load is allowing
your body to recover and fully compensate for earlier training. Be sure to think ahead, since this peak
state can only be maintained for a short time.
Productive – Keep up the good work! Your training load is moving your fitness in the right
direction. Be sure to plan recovery periods into your training to maintain your fitness level.
Maintaining – Your current training load is enough to maintain your fitness level. To see
improvement, try adding more variety to your workouts or increasing your training volume.
Recovery – Your lighter training load is allowing your body to recover, which is essential
during extended periods of hard training. You can return to a higher training load when you feel ready.
Unproductive – Your training load is at a good level, but your fitness is decreasing. Your
body may be struggling to recover, so pay close attention to your overall health, including stress,
nutrition and rest.
Detraining – You’ve been training much less than usual for a week or more, and it’s
affecting your fitness. Try increasing your training load to see improvement.
Overreaching – Your training load is very high and has become counterproductive. Your body
needs a rest. Give yourself time to recover by adding lighter training to your schedule.
No Status – You typically need a week or two of training history, including recent
activities with VO2 max results from running or cycling, before we can determine your training status.
Your VO2 max score
is the key to seeing, understanding and, more importantly managing your personal fitness level. At a
technical level, it describes the maximum rate at which you can bring oxygen into your body, transport it to
your muscles and use it for efficient aerobic energy production. At a personal level, it is a remarkable and
versatile tool with a variety of health and performance implications.
When it comes to understanding your VO2 max score, it’s easy to remember that low VO2 max scores represent
poor fitness levels, and higher VO2 max scores indicate greater performance capacity. Like most aspects
relating to physical performance, there is a genetic dimension to how efficiently your body uses oxygen and,
by extension, your VO2 max range. That said, your VO2 max score is dynamic, and it reacts to how you live
and train. With the right approach, practically everyone can improve their VO2 max score.
The people least likely to be able to improve their VO2 max are elite athletes, because they are already in
excellent shape. This is great news for everyone else.
Studies have shown that being more active can make you happier and live longer. VO2 max is a key metric
used to study and verify this from a scientific perspective. If you’re looking to improve, your device also
offers the tools you need to get things headed in the right direction.
For those interested in performance, VO2 max can be used in a slightly different way. The more oxygen your
body can use during exercise, the more power you can generate and, therefore, the faster you can run during
is a critical, but often overlooked, portion of the training process. The recovery period is marked by
adaptation of your body in response to training and the replenishment of vital resources. In fact,
insufficient recovery can lead to missing out on gains in fitness and performance entirely. Keeping track of
your recovery levels will reveal when training hard will be beneficial and ensure your work is rewarded with
the results you expect. You gain the ability to update and optimize your training programs with confidence.
After each workout, your device reveals the number of hours before you will be back near 100% and capable
of performing a hard workout or running a race. Provided by Firstbeat, the calculation is produced and
personalized using a unique digital model of your physiology. It utilizes a combination of the session’s
training effect score, performance and fitness level assessments performed during the session and the number
of hours of recovery time remaining on your clock at the start of your workout.
Recovery time ranges up to 4 days.
For best results, it’s beneficial to first go for several runs with your watch in order for the device to
accurately learn your overall fitness level. Once this is established, subsequent recovery time results may
be more accurate.
look at the bigger picture? This is where you need to go. Training load is a measure of the total volume of
your training for the last 7 days. Furthermore, your compatible Garmin device compares this weekly training
load to your longer-term training load — also taking into account your fitness level — and shows you if this
load is in the optimal range. The volume of a workout is the EPOC it creates as estimated from heart rate
data gathered during the workout. Your current training load then is just the sum of EPOC measurements for
the last 7 days.
It’s true that pushing yourself is the way to get results, but overreaching and training too hard is a real
possibility that is counterproductive and could even lead to injury. So look carefully at your training
load, and see if you’re doing too much, too little or just the right amount.
The available training load ranges are:
High – Based on your current fitness level and recent training habits, your training load
may be too high to produce positive results.
Optimal – This range is ideal for maintaining and improving your fitness level. Keep up
the good work!
Low – Your training load is low for your current fitness level and training habits. If you
stay in this range, you are unlikely to see further improvement.
Making the Most of Training Load Focus
The training load focus data screen provides you not only with a graphical depiction of how your training
load is distributed among the three major intensity categories but with qualitative feedback as well.
Shortage: You are lacking exercise in a training intensity category.
Balanced: Your training is well distributed across different levels of intensity.
Focus: Your training variety is reasonably well structured but is particularly focused in one area.
In addition to the above three categories of load focus feedback, it is also possible to get feedback that
your overall training load is too low (“Below Targets”) or too high (“Over Targets”).
Balance Is Needed for a Strong Foundation
When your training load is both optimal and balanced, it means you are active enough to support and
gradually improve your fitness level, and the composition of your activities is diverse enough to provide a
solid foundation for future improvement. It means your activities include enough time spent at high- and
low-intensity aerobic efforts along with dynamic efforts to help enhance your explosive performance
Focus for Winning
Every athlete knows that preparation is the key to success, and to be successful you must recognize and
prepare for the unique demands of the challenge you face. With a balanced foundation in place, you can start
to focus and guide the composition of your training load toward a performance profile that matches your
ambition or phase of your periodization schedule.
Confirming that your training is properly targeted through training load focus gives you confidence that
you are on the right track. When understood and utilized properly, this data can be transformed into your
personal road map for achieving your goals and performing at a high level in a wide variety of pursuits. You
can easily see when your training activities are lacking in one or more areas, and, once you have a strong
foundation in place, you are able to shoot for the stars by ensuring the composition of your training
activities match up with the specific real-world demands of the challenge you want to tackle.
Training Load: Training Effect Label of Primary Benefit
In newer compatible products, you can get an idea of how your run or ride affects your training load focus
as soon as you save your activity. A new color-coded label added to the training effect summary screen
describes the primary benefit of what you have just done and where you can mostly expect it to contribute.
Note that the background of these labels are color-coded (purple, orange and light blue) to match the
anaerobic, high aerobic and low aerobic bars used for your training load focus. When a recorded activity has
no meaningful impact in one of the intensity categories or it cannot be identified, the label background is
simply gray, and no descriptive text is displayed.
At the bottom of this screen, you can also see the training load for the activity.
Heat and Altitude Acclimation
Environmental factors can have a substantial impact on your performance. At higher altitudes and in hot,
humid conditions, your body is forced to work much harder than normal to produce the same performance as it
would in more comfortable environments.
However, exposure to these challenging conditions triggers a natural acclimation process. Acclimation is a
physiological transition that helps you perform in new, more challenging conditions.
Select Garmin devices automatically recognize when you are at higher altitudes or are being active in
hotter conditions. Heat and altitude acclimation insights are provided based on activities performed above
800 meters (2,625’) and for temperatures above 22 C (72 F). This environmental information comes from a
combination of GPS and weather reports from your paired compatible smartphone.
Your body simply can’t and won’t change overnight. Acclimation takes time and requires repeated exposure to
the environment. Once you leave challenging conditions behind, your body starts to return to normal. Your
Garmin device understands this process and combines environmental and performance data to reveal your
current acclimation status. Keeping tabs on it helps you adjust your expectations and performance goals.
Automatically recognizing and accounting for the relationship between environment and performance also
ensure the integrity of your training data. Struggling to keep your normal pace during a heat wave doesn’t
necessarily mean your cardiorespiratory fitness (VO2 max) has dropped. Similarly, needing to catch your
breath during a trip to the mountains doesn’t mean your training has been unproductive.
How long does it take to acclimate to heat and humidity?
The speed at which your body acclimates depends on several factors. One of the most significant factors is
the difference between the conditions you are acclimating to and your normal environment. The bigger the
change, the longer it takes to adapt. Another factor is the frequency and duration of your workouts.
Evidence shows that prolonged daily outdoor exposure to challenging climates can produce the necessary
adaptations in as little as 1 to 2 weeks. Athletes with a higher VO2 max typically adapt to challenging
climates at a faster rate, sometimes decreasing the acclimation period by as much as half.
Specifics of Heat Acclimation
Athletic performance involves transforming the energy stored in proteins, carbohydrates and fats. This
produces heat. During intense physical activity, your body can rival a 1,000-watt space heater in terms of
heat production. Getting rid of this excess heat is necessary for maintaining a normal, healthy body
Circulating blood close to the skin allows heat to escape. This natural cooling process becomes more
efficient as you sweat, because the evaporation of sweat has a natural cooling effect on your skin.
Not surprisingly, it’s much easier for your body to get rid of excess heat on a cool, crisp morning
compared to a hot, humid summer afternoon. Your environment matters. Acclimation triggered by hotter
climates focuses on improving the efficiency of your body’s natural cooling systems.
This includes adaptations that allow you to sweat more and start sweating faster. It also includes changes
that allow more blood to flow quickly just below the surface of your skin. Other key adaptations include
changes to your cardiovascular system and electrolyte balance that add stability and help withstand the
increased stress of hydration-dehydration cycles.
Specifics of Altitude Acclimation
At an elevation of 10,000' (3,000 meters), the amount of oxygen in the air is only about 70% compared to
sea level. This means your heart, lungs and circulatory system need to work much harder at higher altitudes
to deliver a similar amount of oxygen to your muscles for aerobic energy production.
Adaptations triggered by exposure to high-altitude environments focus on increased lung capacity and
increasing the amount of oxygen carrying red blood cells in your blood supply. Pressure increases in the
arteries running through your lungs, which forces the circulation of blood into areas of your lungs that
aren’t normally used at lower altitudes. The additional red blood cells allow more oxygen than normal to be
carried to your muscles with each heartbeat.
The fact that these performance-boosting adaptations are not immediately reversed upon return to lower
altitudes is the basis for high-altitude training for athletes.
ClimbPro is designed to help a runner manage effort in the following two ways:
It shows upcoming climbs for the course, at what distance they occur and their length and gradient. This
information is accessible in the course preview and is also available as a dedicated screen within the
timer loop during the activity.
For individual climbs, a dedicated ClimbPro screen automatically appears as a runner approaches a climb.
This screen shows the runner their position on the climb as well as the distance, ascent and average
gradient remaining for that climb. This constantly updates as the runner makes progress to the top.
How are climbs classified?
The feature is designed to help a runner during more significant climbs by not detecting every uphill
section. We expect to continue to adapt this algorithm as we get more and more feedback from runners around
the world. It will currently classify a climb based on the following criteria:
Climb distance (in meters) multiplied by the percent of the average gradient should be greater than
A climb must be a minimum of 500 meters in length.
Average gradient must be a minimum of 3%.
What do the colors mean?
The colors indicate the gradient of the climb in the following ways:
In the climb preview list, the colors indicate the overall average gradient for the climb.
On the individual climb page, the colors indicate the average gradient for the highlighted section.
What does a runner need for ClimbPro to work?
A runner needs to be following a course that includes elevation data. This course can come from Garmin
Connect or third-party platforms and should ideally be in .fit format.
Daily Suggested Workouts Feature
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, and when it comes to achieving your big-picture
fitness and performance goals, what you do today matters. The Daily Suggested Workouts feature on select
Garmin GPS watches and cycling computers combines the latest sports science with fitness, activity and
lifestyle data captured by your device to answer this important question: What should I do today?
The broad goal of these suggested workouts is to help you improve your fitness level (VO2 max), which
translates into aerobic performance capacity. Furthermore, regularly performing suggested workouts will help
you achieve an optimal training load with varied efforts ideally balanced for your development.
Each workout suggested is designed to provide an appropriate level of challenge while satisfying a specific
need or improving a particular aspect of performance. Depending on the capabilities of your Garmin device,
some or all of the following factors will be considered when generating your suggested workout: current
training load, load focus, recovery time, sleep data and the profile of recently performed workouts.
Some days your suggested workout will focus on building your endurance base or facilitating recovery. Other
days will focus on developing maximum aerobic performance capacity, including your ability to tolerate
high-intensity efforts, perform and repeat dynamic intervals, or speed. The suggested workouts take
advantage of Garmin’s longstanding on-device workout capabilities that give real-time guidance, telling you
when to step up the intensity and when to take your foot off the gas. This can be especially helpful during
lower-intensity activities where it can be easy to overshoot your mark.
Like any good workout program, consistency and variety are vital to your success. These elements are built
into the workout suggestion system. Performing suggested workouts regularly will help you stay on track and
keep improving. On some devices, over time you’ll notice a mixture of lighter training weeks, harder
training weeks and some in between. These patterns conform to well-established training periodization
methods employed by top sports scientists and exercise physiologists.
If you are following a dedicated training plan with scheduled workouts aimed at a specific event, one
downloaded from Garmin Connect (either a Garmin plan or one you have created) or one downloaded from a third
party, these training plan workouts will take priority over the Daily Suggested Workouts. You will still be
able to locate the suggested workout in the workouts menu, but your training plan workouts will take
priority in the prompts given on your watch.
you’re like most people, you train because you want results. Because of how our bodies work, the type of
training you do determines the type of results you can expect and the types of performances you will be well
prepared for in the future.
Training effect is the metric that gives you a sneak peek at how each training session is expected to
impact your future fitness levels. Of course, to get the full benefits of your training, it’s important to
incorporate a proper recovery schedule.
One of the most common usages of training effect is to coordinate and balance workouts that maintain and
improve your current fitness level (see VO2 max).
Training effect builds over the course of your workout and is updated in real time. This means you can use
it as an on-the-go resource to tailor your workout to your needs. You can push yourself harder when you are
striving to improve and slow down before you wander into the overreaching range, where the results may not
be what you wanted.
Aerobic Training Effect
Develops aerobic energy production
Utilization of fat for energy
Endurance and stamina
Prolonged performance capacity
Available on select Garmin watches, this measures the aerobic benefit of exercise, which should correlate
with the fitness improvement you expect to get from it. When you crush a difficult run, you’ve likely given
yourself a bigger dose of aerobic exercise and, therefore, a bigger training effect. What good is this
information for you? Well, training effect uses your heart rate to measure the accumulated intensity of
exercise on your aerobic fitness and gives you a good indication of whether you’re maintaining your current
fitness level or improving it.
Aerobic training effect is the same as the original training effect feature offered on many earlier Garmin
watches, except the scale has been modified slightly to account for — let’s face it — those really short or
really easy activities that have no meaningful training effect. In other words, we added a “0” at the bottom
of the scale.
Technically speaking, aerobic training effect is the excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) accumulated during exercise, mapped onto a 0-to-5 scale that accounts for your
fitness level and training habits. Typically, as you get fitter, you need larger “doses” of exercise to
continue seeing improvement. So, while an exercise session generating an EPOC of 60 ml-O2/kg might have
given you a great training benefit when you were out of shape, it might not do very much for you once you
have whipped yourself into wickedly good shape. Training effect reflects this reality by giving a higher
number in the first case than in the second case.
Note: The training effect scale for both aerobic and anaerobic is: 0 – None, 1 – Minor, 2 –
Maintaining, 3 – Improving, 4 – Highly Improving, 5 – Overreaching.
Anaerobic Training Effect
Develops anaerobic energy production
Maximal performance capacity
While there isn’t a specific metric tied to it, the aspect of performance most easily associated with
anaerobic training effect is your ability to perform and repeat sprints. The flow of a soccer game is a good
point of reference here, where the activity of the game is punctuated with sudden flurries of high-intensity
Your body’s most efficient method of transforming fuel into energy requires oxygen, but sometimes your
demand for energy exceeds the rate at which enough oxygen is immediately available. Luckily, your body has a
backup process ready and waiting. While not nearly as efficient, the anaerobic energy process can jump into
action and keep you going. The downside is that it becomes depleted quickly.
Whereas aerobic training effect ties nicely with increasing your aerobic fitness level — expressed in terms
of VO2 max — things are a little more complicated with accounting for improvements on the anaerobic side of
By analyzing both heart rate and speed (or power, in the case of cycling) the anaerobic training effect
feature quantifies the anaerobic contribution to EPOC made during these periods of exertion. The higher the
anaerobic training effect, the greater expected benefit to your anaerobic athletic capability.
High-intensity intervals, for example, have been shown to improve several components related to your ability
to perform, and anaerobic training effect quantifies this for you. However, the feature goes one step
further. By analyzing the type of workout you did, it can tell you more specifically how the workout helped
you. For example, if it were detected that you completed several high-speed repeats, you might get an
anaerobic training effect of 3.5 saying, “This activity improved your anaerobic capacity and speed due to
several high-speed/power repeats.”
Training Effect Samples
The following table should give you an idea of the typical aerobic and anaerobic training effect you can
expect from a good workout.
Typical Aerobic TE
Typical Anaerobic TE
Long, slow distance
2.0 - 3.0Maintaining Aerobic Fitness
0No Anaerobic Benefit
3.5+Improving Lactate Threshold
0No Anaerobic Benefit
Lactate threshold intervals
3.0+Improving Lactate Threshold
0 - 2.0Minor Anaerobic Benefit
Sprint intervals10 x 50m @ 150-200% VO2 max
0 - 2.0Minor Aerobic Benefit
2.0 - 3.0Maintaining Speed
Speed intervals10 x 400m @ 100-105% VO2 max
2.0 - 4.0Improving Aerobic Fitness
3.0 - 4.0Improving Economy and Anaerobic Fitness
Speed intervals10 x 400m @ 110-115% VO2 max
2.0 - 4.0Improving VO2 Max
4.0+Highly Improving Anaerobic Fitness
2.0+Maintaining Aerobic Fitness
2.5+Maintaining Anaerobic Fitness
3.5+Improving VO2 Max
1.0 - 2.0Minor Anaerobic Benefit
4.0+Highly Improving VO2 Max
0.0 - 2.0Minor Anaerobic Benefit
Note that the above training effect values and phrases are illustrative examples. Your
experience may differ depending on your personal training habits. For example, if you incorporate
strides or faster fartleks into your distance runs, these can add an anaerobic training effect.
As with many Garmin Firstbeat features, it may take several training sessions for the
watch to learn your fitness parameters and produce the most accuraute results. While the device is
still learning about you, you may see uncharacteristic training effect values.
Your lactate threshold is that specific level of effort or pace when fatigue accelerates. For a
well-trained runner, this usually occurs when they’re at about 90% of their maximum heart rate corresponding
to a pace somewhere between 10K and half-marathon race pace. For a less experienced runner, the lactate
threshold is often below 90% of maximum heart rate.
Select Garmin devices can detect your lactate threshold either through a guided workout or automatically
during a normal run. Either way, by gathering heart rate data across a range of paces, the device will
estimate your lactate threshold both in terms of a running pace and a heart rate level in beats per minute.
For best results, it’s very beneficial to go for several runs after first taking the watch into use in order
for your device to accurately learn your overall fitness level. Then, once this is well established,
subsequent lactate threshold results will be more accurate than they might be initially.
Historically, athletes hoping to utilize their lactate thresholds to personalize their training regimens
needed blood testing to assess the amount of lactate accumulating during their training sessions. This
process limited the number of athletes who had access to this valuable training information.
The Firstbeat method of lactate threshold detection used in Garmin devices relies on the fact that your
respiration rate — how hard you are breathing — can be detected through analysis of your heart rate
variability. The process of inhalation and exhalation produces tiny changes in the interval between
heartbeats (HRV). When these variations are decoded and combined with other performance data, your device
can recognize the simultaneous changes in your heart rate to indicate when you are performing above your
How can this help you? Your lactate threshold is the single best determinant of your endurance performance
capacity. As your ability to cover long distances at a faster pace increases, you’ll see increases in your
lactate threshold. This metric is also a valuable resource for recognizing the personal training zones that
will boost your individual performance. That’s because your training will be based on real physiological
state transitions in your body instead of arbitrary percentages of your maximum heart rate.
Knowing your lactate threshold lets you train with more precision. Many coaches prescribe some running at
lactate threshold as part of an overall training program. The lactate threshold feature in compatible Garmin
devices helps you determine where your threshold is — without paying for an expensive lab test involving
multiple blood samples.
VO2 max is established, your device can provide a target race time based on your current state of fitness.
Projected race times can be viewed for 5K, 10K, half-marathon and marathon distances, which will get faster
or slower as your fitness goes up or down. At all race distances, but especially in longer races such as
marathons, there are many important and necessary factors for success that go beyond just aerobic fitness;
that’s why it is important to complete proper training for an event to give yourself the best shot at
reaching your predicted race times. And remember, these times are just predictions, but they give you a good
idea of the kind of performances you can reasonably expect, given your physiological data. They also provide
a terrific goal to try and reach.
Real-time stamina is designed to help guide you toward your best possible performance,
empowering you to push your limits with confidence. You gain context for interpreting feedback from your
body, and you experience valuable insight along the way. Time and distance to exhaustion estimates predict
what you can expect to achieve with your remaining stamina at your current effort.
Stamina describes your capacity for good, quality performance. Running out of stamina means reaching or
rapidly approaching the point where keeping up becomes a serious struggle. How hard you are working affects
how quickly your stamina drains during an activity.
Stamina (0–100%) reflects how much you have left
in the tank at your current level of effort. This perspective combines general fatigue with more temporary
limitations imposed by anaerobically driven efforts such as sprints, climbs and attacks.
Potential Stamina (0–100%) focuses specifically
on the effects of broader, longer-lasting fatigue contributors such as muscle cell damage, central nervous
system fatigue and carbohydrate (glycogen) depletion. Activities that result in near or total depletion of
your potential stamina typically require several days of recovery before you are back at full capacity.
If you haven’t fully recovered from your last activity, your potential will not be at 100%.
Expect your stamina and potential to align during sustained moderate-intensity efforts. Up the intensity,
exceed your lactate threshold (running) or FTP (cycling), and stamina will drain faster than your potential.
Return to a moderate, sustainable effort, and stamina will gradually replenish toward your potential as the
residual effects of high-intensity, anerobic exertion begin to wear off.
Real-time stamina tracking works by combining your physiological metrics with a multi-layered analysis of
your recent and longer-term activity history. This includes examining training durations, distances covered,
training load accumulations and load distributions for meaningful patterns that reflect fatigue resistance
and personal tolerances for aerobic and anaerobic exercise.
While general fitness levels provide some insight into your performance ability, activity-specific training
adaptations substantially influence your capacity for sustained performance. In other words, running ability
doesn’t directly translate into cycling ability and vice versa. As a result, real-time stamina estimates are
primarily guided by running history data during running activities and cycling history data during cycling
For a real-time assessment of your current ability to perform, look at your performance
condition. During the first 6 to 20 minutes of your run, this metric analyzes pace, heart rate and heart
rate variability. The resulting number is a real-time assessment of the deviation from your baseline VO2
max, with each point on the scale representing about 1% of your VO2 max. The higher the number, the higher
you can expect to perform. Keep in mind that your results may vary a bit during your first few runs with a
new device, since it’s still learning your fitness level. This will stabilize, and then checking your
performance condition will become a reliable day-to-day indicator of your capability.
In addition to the alert during the first part of your run, you can add performance condition as a data
field to your training screens, and keep an eye on it as your run unfolds. The value may move around
slightly as you encounter hills or strong winds, but it will trend down once you have been going hard for a
while if the run starts to take a toll on you. This is an objective way to keep an eye on how your ability
to perform is or isn’t declining as you go, because it’s telling you if your body is working harder than
normal to run at your current pace. So, performance condition can give you a bit of an early “wall” warning
and allow you to adjust your tactics before you hit that wall too hard.
HRV Stress Test (Stress Score in Older Products)
If you’re wondering whether your body is ready for a hard run or in need of a lighter effort, it might be
time to check your stress score. When you’re fresh and rested inside and out, you’re better able to absorb
the training effect from a tough workout. However, the same hard workout can be counterproductive if you’re
tired or on the verge of overtraining. Your stress score is calculated during a 3-minute test during which
your heart rate variability (HRV) is analyzed. The resulting stress
score is displayed as a number from 0 to 100, with a lower number indicating a lower stress state. This
measurement helps you assess what level of activity your body is ready for. More accurate results are
gathered by taking the test at the same time and under the same conditions every day (recommended prior to
the workout, not after.) This also helps you get a feel for your own day-to-day and week-to-week variations.
You are required to stand to take the HRV stress test, because that makes the test more sensitive to low
and medium levels of stress. When you are lying down, moderate levels of stress may not be revealed, but
standing puts a slight load on your cardiovascular system. That load causes a meaningful drop in HRV when
you have a moderate amount of stress compared to very low stress.
HRV (Heart Rate Variability)
Your heart does not beat in a perfectly regular rhythm as would a metronome, and, in fact, beat-to-beat
variations in your heart rate are healthy and normal. To understand more about how Garmin and Firstbeat use
heart rate variability to give you better information about the state of your body, start with why heart
rate variability exists.
Your heart is controlled by your autonomic nervous system (ANS), which is the involuntary part of your
nervous system. Furthermore, there are 2 branches of the ANS called the sympathetic and parasympathetic
branches. The sympathetic branch of your ANS is active when you’re under some kind of stress. It is the part
of your ANS that puts all systems on alert. By contrast, the parasympathetic branch is the more relaxed part
that just hums along when you are relaxed and not about to be charged by a mountain lion. When the
sympathetic branch is more active, your heart rate typically increases, and it beats in more regular rhythm
— meaning HRV decreases.
On the other hand, when the parasympathetic branch is more active, your heart rate decreases, and it beats
when it gets around to it to meet the body’s needs, but not on such a strict schedule as when the
sympathetic branch is in charge. In other words, HRV increases. Because of these characteristics, HRV is a
great indicator of the balance between the activity of the 2 branches of the autonomic nervous system, and
therefore it’s an indirect measurement of stress. Higher HRV means lower stress.
There are many different statistical methods used to characterize HRV, but the HRV stress test (formerly
called stress score) feature makes life a lot easier by putting your stress on an easy-to-understand
0-to-100 scale specifically designed to be another tool for you to assess how your body is doing and how
it’s handling training stress and life stress.
Although HRV decreases as you begin to exercise and continues to decline as you go harder, it still yields
useful information even when you’re running fast. Available on some Garmin devices, the lactate threshold
feature uses a Firstbeat feature that looks for a point of increasing HRV that corresponds closely to your
lactate threshold heart rate.
Excess post-exercise oxygen consumption is the phenomenon where for a period of time after exercise, your
body will continue to use oxygen at a higher rate than it would otherwise at rest. This makes sense. When
you exercise, you disturb your body’s usual state, and this disturbance requires your body to do some extra
work to put things back to normal. In fact, the point of training is that after exercise, your body will
build itself back up to normal and then some. It is the “and then some” — also called “supercompensation” —
that makes you a little fitter and faster than you were before.
Since the oxygen used by your body is related directly to the amount of energy it uses, the EPOC
measurement is perfect for quantifying how much your body’s normal state (homeostasis) is disturbed by a
session of exercise. In other words, EPOC is a great measure for exercise volume or dose, since it
quantifies how much work your body had to do to get back to normal — and then some.
Directly measuring EPOC requires fancy laboratory equipment and a lot of time. However, Firstbeat created a
patented method for estimating EPOC from your heart rate data during exercise. These EPOC estimates are at
the core of how we determine your training effects, weekly training load and training status.
What is Heart Rate Variability?
Heart rate variability (HRV) is a physiological phenomenon that can be recorded, analyzed, and interpreted
to help understand how your body is navigating the challenges of life and environment.
Specifically, HRV refers to the ever-changing length of time between consecutive heartbeats. When your
heart is beating at 60 beats per minute, the beats are not evenly spaced one second apart. Look closely and
you will see that some beats are slightly less than one second apart and others are a little bit more than
one second apart. This irregularity is perfectly normal and healthy.
These slight changes between heartbeats can be easily documented with an accurate recording device and are
typically measured in milliseconds. Without physiological knowledge and analytic methods, however, the HRV
phenomenon would simply be a list of numbers.
Statistical analysis can reveal meaningful patterns in large amounts of data. RMSSD is a standard
statistical measure of HRV. It represents the root mean square of successive differences between normal
heartbeats for a given set of heartbeat data. This way of looking at HRV data is widely used by
physiologists and exercise scientists to investigate topics like the impact of training loads and recovery
Luckily, you do not need to be an expert in physiology or statistical analysis to benefit from HRV-based
insight. A wealth of information exists on the subject, however, if you do want to explore further.
Why does HRV provide such valuable insight? The activity of your heart is regulated by your autonomic
nervous system, which adjusts a wide variety of physiological systems in response to situational demands.
This means that changes in how your heart beats from one moment to the next can be used as a window through
which activity occurring within your autonomic nervous system can be seen.
In general, higher HRV is associated with parasympathetic dominance within your autonomic nervous system, a
sign that your body is in rest-and-digest mode. On the other hand, a lower HRV is typically associated with
elevated sympathetic activity within your autonomic nervous system, an indication of stress or
How Your Compatible Garmin Watch Measures HRV
Data used to calculate your HRV is recorded by the Elevate HR sensor located on the back of your watch.
This sensor uses reflected light to detect pulse wave blood flow as it is pumped by your heart and pushed
through your veins. This means that technically your device is looking at pulse rate variability which
effectively reflects heart rate variability in the context of this analysis and usage scenario.
Compatible Garmin devices calculate HRV continuously while you are sleeping. When you wake up, you can view
your average HRV calculated using data from the entire sleep period. You can also review a chart that shows
how your HRV changed while you were asleep based on analysis of 5-minute time windows.
This offers a significant advantage compared to other methods that measure HRV during only part of the
night, during specific sleep stages, or involve testing at specific times of the day.
Because HRV is a statistical measure, differences in the timing and duration of the measurement affect the
results. This makes it a challenge to make apples-to-apple comparisons between HRV measurements produced
with alternative protocols and different devices.
Interpreting HRV and Why Your Personal Baseline Matters
You will be able to see your average HRV and overnight trends as soon as you start using your device.
Simply wear your device to bed and the analysis automatically occurs. What you will missing at first is
meaningful context for interpreting your results.
When it comes to making sense of any HRV metric, everything starts from you. A normal, healthy degree of
variability for you is not necessarily the same as for someone else. Some people have naturally higher
ranges of variation while others tend to exhibit less variability. And that is not all, what is normal for
you also changes over time.
Your own personal history, then, is the single-most meaningful frame of reference for interpreting HRV
data. Given this fact, documenting your personally normal range of HRV values is a necessary first step in
making your HRV data actionable.
This takes time. In practice, it means that you need to routinely wear your Garmin device overnight for
around three weeks before HRV status becomes fully active. While three weeks is the minimum amount of time
needed to gauge your personal baseline, the analysis can utilize a few months of data to strengthen and
validate your baseline range when that amount of data is available.
Key concept: Your HRV baseline is a range of values (e.g., 33-45 milliseconds) derived
from your measurement history that represent a normal degree of variability for you personally. Your
baseline is the lens through which future HRV measurements can be meaningfully interpreted.
Once your baseline range is identified, your overnight HRV is used to enhance insight from other Garmin
features. These other features include your current Training Status and daily Training Readiness assessments
on compatible devices.
Your baseline HRV range is not static and will shift over time. You may notice, for example, that your
normal range of variability is lower after an extended training period compared to when you are in peak
condition. Normal HRV ranges also typically decline with age.
Navigating the HRV Status Widget
As mentioned, the HRV status widget on your device offers more than just one perspective for monitoring
your situation. The primary view reveals your current HRV status. Your status can be balanced, unbalanced,
low or poor. At the bottom of the first screen, you can see your average HRV measured during the previous
Scroll down and you will again be able to see last night’s average HRV, but with additional context. This
is where you will find your highest HRV recorded for any 5-minute period during the night. You will also
discover a chart that shows how your HRV changed during the night.
The final screen shows your current 7-day average HRV and a plot of average overnight HRV values recorded
over the past 7-day period.
HRV Status: Balanced, Unbalanced, Low, and Poor
When your HRV status is balanced, it means that your 7-day average HRV is within your personal baseline
range. A balanced HRV status typically indicates your body maintaining homeostasis, a dynamic biological
equilibrium associated with optional functioning.
An unbalanced HRV status means your current 7-day-average HRV is outside of your personal baseline range.
Note that an unbalanced HRV status can be either higher or slightly lower than your baseline.
Given that higher HRV values are typically associated with parasympathetic dominance within your autonomic
nervous system, it is easy to assume that higher is always better from the perspective of good recovery.
This is not always the case. Mounting evidence shows a relationship between abnormally high HRV values
relative to your personal baseline and functional overreach (overtraining), especially when that overreach
is achieved through large amounts of low-intensity physical activity. In these situations, your
parasympathetic system is working hyperactively towards the goal of reestablishing homeostasis.
If your 7-day average HRV drops significantly below your baseline, your HRV status is reclassified from
unbalanced to low.
Your personal baseline is dynamic and changes slowly over time following trends in your normal overnight
HRV values. If your personal baseline drops below age-based standards associated with good health, then your
HRV status is classified as poor. When this happens, your baseline range is no longer displayed. This is to
avoid scenarios where your HRV might be considered both balanced and below healthy norms.
Training readiness is a top-line insight designed to help you maximize training efficiency. You work hard
because you want results but pushing your limits before you are ready can be counterproductive. See when you
are most likely to benefit from a hard workout and when to consider dialing down to let your body catch up.
This insight is achieved with the help of a multi-layered analysis that considers combinations of activity
and lifestyle data. Your training readiness is classified from poor to prime with low, moderate, and high in
between. Checking the widget will reveal your current readiness score and how underlying factors contributed
to your current situation. You can also view this information as part of your morning report.
How Training Readiness is Calculated
The primary drivers behind your training readiness assessment are how well you slept last night and
residual recovery demands of recent activities. This information comes from your recovery time and advanced
sleep tracking. Beyond that, training load trends, HRV (Heart Rate Variability) status, recent stress levels
and how well you have been sleeping prior to last night also influence your results.
Sleep Score – Your sleep score (0-100) reflects
how well you slept based on how long you slept, sleep stage distribution, and evidence of recovery
activity occurring in your autonomic nervous system derived from heart rate variability data. Sleep
quantity and quality evaluations compare your sleep to standards established by expert organizations.
Recovery Time – This countdown reveals when you can expect your body to be fully
recovered from your last activity. How much time is on your clock varies according to the strenuousness of
your last activity and hours, if any, remaining on your Recovery Time at the start of that activity.
Significant changes in your sleep quality, stress levels and daily physical activity levels can speed up
or slow down your recovery countdown.
Acute Training Load – An optimal acute load indicates that the combined impact of your
recent activities is enough to maintain and improve your current fitness levels. Unchecked over time,
excessive loads can compromise your functional performance capacity and increase injury risks. When you
record an activity the full impact of that activity is added to your current acute load. The effects of
that activity then gradually expire over the next 10-day period.
HRV Status – A balanced HRV means your 7-day average HRV is within your personal
baseline range. This is a good indication that your body is successfully navigating the challenges of your
life. An unbalanced HRV status may point towards a lack of adequate recovery, excessive workloads, alcohol
consumption or your immune system working to fight an illness.
Sleep History – Your sleep score reveals how well you slept last night, but one good
night does not fully erase the lingering effects of a significant sleep deficit. Sleep history factors in
how well you have been sleeping prior to last night.
An exceptionally long awake period (e.g., 20 hours)
before your most recent night’s sleep can also reduce training readiness.
Stress History – All-day stress tracking can reveal when your body’s resources are
deployed to help you navigate life challenges unrelated to training activities. Stress is a normal part of
life but experiencing higher stress levels for extended periods can reduce resiliency and minimize
training benefits. Your stress history considers stress levels from the past three days while you are
How Training Readiness Changes Around the Clock
Checking your training readiness first thing in the morning helps set reasonable expectations for the day.
The biggest adjustment to your readiness level happens right when you wake up in the morning. This is when
last night’s sleep score, HRV status, and longer sleep history are updated along with big-picture insight
from your acute training load and stress history.
Your training readiness then updates throughout the day according to changes in your situation. If you have
hours remaining on your Recovery Time countdown, expect your readiness to increase as that time expires.
Record an activity and you will notice a decrease in readiness afterwards that reflects your current
recovery needs. Light efforts have minimal impact while hard workouts can significantly reduce your
Can I still train when my training readiness is low?
As any good coach or experienced athlete can tell you, there are times when looking beyond the daily
horizon is the right thing to do. Training camps and high-volume training blocks are valid methods of
training prescription and can be remarkably effective when properly utilized. A typical block training model
often involves several consecutive days of deliberate overload offset by an extended recovery period.
If you are using a block-based training model, then a lower training readiness score during a deliberate
overload period likely echoes that work. Against that background, you should still check to see which
factors are driving that lower score. Higher than normal acute training loads and longer recovery time
estimates can be expected during block training. Reduced readiness caused by other factors (e.g., sleep
history or high stress) might be reason to re-evaluate your approach.
The insight you gain from the training readiness widget is only one of the perspectives you should use to
guide your training efforts. As always, listen to your body, consider the data together with how you feel
and adjust your plans and expectations accordingly.
Training readiness versus performance readiness
It is worth wondering. Are training readiness and performance readiness the same thing? Does your training
readiness score the morning of a big race predict (or worse, determine) how well you will do? Does a less
than prime readiness score mean it is time to scuttle your pacing strategy and lower your expectations?
There will be times when you may notice a link between training readiness and performance, but strictly
speaking the training readiness analysis is not designed to predict performance. Many athletes report
sleeping poorly the night before a big event and go on to achieve impressive results and set personal bests.
Stress levels can also increase due to the anticipation and excitement of your big day.
Training readiness focuses on relationships between elements of strain, stress, recovery, good sleep
hygiene and your ability to maintain homeostatic balance. Guidance is geared towards laying the groundwork
for success, getting the most out of your workouts and improving performance abilities over time.
Race-day performance is about executing and putting those abilities to work.
UNDERSTANDING YOUR GARMIN ENDURANCE SCORE
Endurance score is a feature on select Garmin devices designed to connect the dots between fitness,
training and your ability to sustain performances over long periods. Your endurance score is a dynamic
number that increases and decreases to reflect changes in your endurance. Higher scores reflect more
capacity for longer performances.
Built from the ground up to deliver a true multisport perspective, every activity you record with heart
rate contributes and enhances understanding of your endurance. A flexible approach allows you to
benefit from new insight while enjoying whatever activities keep you going and going.
Which activities contributed the most to the development of your current endurance capacity? You can see
them listed as icons at the bottom of the screen.
WHY ENDURANCE SCORE MATTERS
VO2 max is the defining measure of aerobic fitness. It is a single number that captures your heart, lungs,
circulatory system and muscles working together to aerobically power your performance. Aerobic energy
production is highly efficient and holds the key to sustainable performance, which means your VO2 max and
endurance are closely related.
However, as any experienced coach or athlete can tell you, individuals with the same VO2 max often have
very different results when it comes to performance outcomes. You may have personally experienced a plateau
in aerobic fitness development but continued to see and feel improvements in your endurance.
To fully account for more variations in endurance performance, additional insight is needed.
Many training-induced physiological adaptations that enhance fatigue resistance, for example, are not fully
reflected by changes in your aerobic performance capacity. These adaptations can be categorized as
metabolic, neural and muscular. While challenging to measure directly, the influences of these adaptations
can be observed or estimated through an analysis of your training data.
Combining fitness and training perspectives holds the key to understanding endurance. Unleash the
motivation when you track changes as they occur when you see your hard work translate into measurable
CALCULATING YOUR ENDURANCE SCORE
Your aerobic fitness, measured in terms of VO2 max, provides the starting point for calculating your
endurance score. The well-studied and established relationship between aerobic fitness and endurance means
this perspective represents the most significant contributor to your endurance score.
Most Garmin devices automatically estimate VO2 max during outdoor runs and during cycling activities
recorded with a power meter. If you don’t have a recent VO2 max estimate from either of these activities,
the analytics engine estimates your current aerobic fitness based on a combination of your age, gender, BMI
and recent activity levels. This helps ensure support for the widest possible range of individuals.
Insight beyond VO2 max comes from analyzing and interpreting your activity history from the perspective of
endurance development and support. The goal of this analysis is to account for both how challenging your
training has been and the degree to which your activities likely contributed to the development of fatigue
resistance and the capacity to perform sustained efforts.
Endurance isn’t built overnight. It takes time and regular, consistent effort to develop and reinforce your
endurance base. The peak benefits of endurance training, however, can be lost in a relatively short period
of inactivity. As a result, both longer- and shorter-term training perspectives are factored into your
endurance score calculation to reliably reflect your current situation. The longer-term perspective
considers between 2 to 3 months of data, while the shorter-term perspective is limited to the most recent 2
Naturally, your longest activities carry special consideration when it comes to calculating your endurance
ENDURANCE SCORE AND SETTING SMART
It’s worth asking. Can my endurance score predict performance in an upcoming event? It might seem obvious,
but the answer depends on the type of event and how you prepared for it. Endurance doesn’t transfer
perfectly from one activity type to another. Activity-specific adaptations do matter when it comes to
If you run a lot and rarely swim, your endurance score will likely be a strong indicator of running
abilities but may not tell you much about what you can expect to achieve in the pool. Similarly, if you are
an avid swimmer who rarely skis, your endurance score will reflect your swimming performance more than how
ready you are to tackle a 50K cross-country event.
Taking these commonsense considerations into account is essential for understanding the relationship
between your endurance score, performance and the right expectations.
In summary, your endurance score is a new opportunity for insight and can help you track progress as you
work to become a better endurance athlete, regardless of your current ability and sport preference. The
nature of the analysis combined with how your body works means that your endurance score will always best
reflect your endurance capacity for the activities you enjoy and perform the most.
Ground Contact Time
This is the amount of time in each step that you spend on the ground while running. Ground contact time is
typically pretty short, so it is measured in milliseconds. In fact, ground contact time tends to be
especially short for elite runners, they will often have ground contact times of less than 200 ms. Virtually
all experienced runners have ground contact times under 300 ms, likely because they have learned to “pick
up” their feet quickly and not to over-stride as they are landing. Over-striding describes a running style
where the foot lands too far in front of the body leading to braking forces at impact and, typically, longer
ground contact times.
Ground Contact Time Balance
By monitoring the balance
between your left and right foot ground contact time (GCT), this measures your symmetry as you run. On your
Garmin watch, it’s always displayed as a percentage greater than 50% with an arrow to the left or right, to
show which foot is on the ground longer. For most people, a more symmetrical running form is preferable.
Color gauges on Garmin watches and Garmin Connect™ show how balanced you are compared to other runners. Many
runners report that GCT balance tends to deviate farther from 50/50 when they run up or down hills, when
they do speed work or when they are fatigued. Anecdotally, some runners also notice that injuries are
reflected in greater imbalance.
Simply put, this is how many steps you take per minute, counting both feet. It’s a commonly measured
running metric and can tell you a lot about your form. For example, at a given pace, quicker cadence and
shorter stride length result in smaller forces at many places throughout the body, such as at the ankles,
knees and hips. The reduced magnitude of these forces is widely believed by experts to also reduce injury
risk. It’s clear that running cadence can be increased only so far, but for more injury prone runners in
particular, working on increased cadence could be beneficial. An often-cited target for running cadence is
180 steps per minute, though taller runners tend to have somewhat slower cadence. Interestingly, higher
cadence is also associated with lower vertical oscillation and shorter ground contact time.
Another key part of measuring your running form — stride length — is how far you travel with each left and
right step. It’s shown at the end of your run or as an in-activity data field you can view as you run.
Later, you can view this data in more detail on Garmin Connect™ to see how your stride length varies with
your pace, cadence, elevation or other metrics. Your stride length is dependent on a number of factors,
including body morphology, muscular strength and flexibility.
This reflects the amount of “bounce” in each step while you run. Measured at the torso, it tells you, in
centimeters, how much distance you are travelling up and down with each step. Many running coaches believe
that lower vertical oscillation is more economical, because less energy is wasted going up and down. Garmin
has researched many runners of all different levels. In general, more experienced runners tend to have lower
vertical oscillation. However, faster paces often come at a cost of somewhat higher vertical oscillation.
Vertical ratio (see below) takes this into account. Another advantage of lower vertical oscillation is that
it typically means less stress on the lower body at impact.
reflects your running efficiency based on how well you propel yourself forward with each stride. Vertical
ratio is the amount of “bounce” in your stride, divided by your stride length, then expressed as a percent.
Since stride length is the horizontal movement of running, it’s the benefit of the action, whereas vertical
oscillation is one of the energy costs of running. A low vertical ratio number indicates a small cost for a
large benefit. That means more efficient running.
For years, elite cyclists have used power data as the most reliable way to measure the actual exercise load
of their ride. Now you, too, can train with power on your runs by downloading the Running Power app from
the Connect IQ™ store onto your compatible watch. The Running Power app accounts for multiple factors to
provide a more accurate and responsive exercise load calculation.
Developed by Garmin Labs, the Running Power app taps into metrics — such as pace, vertical oscillation,
grade and even local wind conditions — to calculate the amount of power you’re applying at the ground as you
run. When you know how much power you’re expending from minute to minute and mile to mile, you’re better
able to pace yourself, which can help keep you from tiring out too quickly.
Think of your body’s energy as the battery of your smartphone. You can turn up the screen’s brightness all
the way, but, as a result, the battery won’t last as long. Or you can conserve battery by dimming the screen
and getting a longer battery life. Likewise, by getting to know your body and its power output while running
in different conditions, you can monitor this data to conserve your energy. For marathons and other
long-distance runs, this can help you fine-tune your training and performance on race day.
This running power model from Garmin determines the propulsive power applied at the road by considering the
major components of the work done during running. These components, how they change and the data used to
compute them are listed in the table below.
Component of Running Power
What is it?
Source of Data Used to Compute
Power required to change your pace
Speed from the watch
Power required to run up or down a hill
Elevation data from the barometer on the watch
Vertical Oscillation Power
Power required for vertical oscillation on each step
Running dynamics from an HRM-Run™, HRM-Tri™ or Running Dynamics Pod
Horizontal Oscillation Power
Power required for horizontal oscillation on each step (you brake a bit when you hit the ground,
then accelerate again as you push off)
Speed from the watch Running dynamics from an HRM-Run, HRM-Tri or Running Dynamics Pod
Power to overcome air resistance — greater if running into a headwind and less if you are running
with the wind at your back
Speed from the watch
Heading from the watch
Reported wind conditions from weather services
Barometric data to detect local conditions
Note: The equations to compute these components of running power also require some
constant values such as your weight, acceleration due to gravity and the density of air.
Following are examples of the contributions of the components of running power from a tester with cadence
in the range of 162-182, vertical oscillation 6.2 – 8.9 cm, and GCT in the range of 262 – 296 ms.
So what does this mean for you? As you run, you will see that running power responds quickly when you speed
up or slow down. You’ll also find that running power is higher when you’re running up hills than when you’re
running at the same pace on flat ground. Similarly, running power will decrease when you run down a hill —
though not by as much. In this way, you can use running power in addition to pace to help manage your effort
over varying terrain.
With the wind power feature enabled, the Running Power app can even help you gauge your effort when running
on a windy day. Wind can have a large effect on the effort required to maintain your usual pace, which
shouldn’t surprise you if you’ve ever run into a stiff headwind. The Running Power app uses your heading
from GPS and reported wind conditions for your area, augmented by data from the barometer on your watch, to
determine how much wind you’re likely experiencing. Try running back and forth on a windy stretch of road
and you will see how much higher your power is when you run into the wind. If you typically run in sheltered
areas, or you just don’t want the app to account for wind, simply disable this feature within the app
settings in the Garmin Connect™ Mobile app.
Many runners ask how running power correlates with heart rate. The 2 factors are certainly related as your
muscles require more oxygen when they are generating more power. When viewing your charts post-run, you will
see that when power goes up, heart rate follows a little while after. Avoiding this delay in response to
changes (such as pace, hills or wind) is one of the advantages of using power rather than heart rate to
gauge your effort when you’re running. Also, running power doesn’t depend on physiological factors — such as
hydration level or how well-rested you are — the way heart rate does.
Many runners are also surprised that their running power is so much higher than their bike power. In fact,
running power is expected to be higher than bike power because metabolic efficiency is much higher for
running (around 40-45%) than for cycling (around 20-25%). This means that athletes can convert the same
amount of oxygen into more power when running than we can do when cycling. Or, thinking in terms of heart
rate, we can produce more power for the same heart rate. This is primarily because when we run, we benefit
from passive recoil of elastics elements such as tendons. Simply put, energy is stored when we land and
returned as we push off. The same is not true for cycling. For more information on this, refer to our FAQs.
To help you train with running power, you can choose to download apps to show Current Running Power, Lap
Running Power, Last Lap Running Power, Average Power or all 4 of those at once. Some runners also use zones
or alerts to monitor their running power. The app settings enable you to set up 5 custom running power zones
and/or high and low running power alerts to help you keep your running power within a target range.
If you already own the right Garmin devices, adding power to your run is free. All you need is a compatible
Garmin watch¹ and 1 of these 3 accessories: HRM-Run,
HRM-Tri or the Running Dynamics Pod. Download the
Running Power app now to get access to real-time power data.
UNDERSTANDING YOUR GARMIN HILL SCORE
Hills are a natural place to focus when planning a course or strategizing for a race. Uphill battles are
where memories are made — where your courage and abilities are put to the test. The hill score feature on
select Garmin devices can help you understand and improve your own uphill running abilities. Gain insight
into how the hills you run in training enhance your performance and monitor progress over time.
WHY YOUR HILL SCORE MATTERS
Uphill running is fundamentally different from running on flat ground. You can even consider it a special
skill, which means it can be either a strength or a weakness. The time and energy you invest in becoming a
better uphill runner can transform challenging climbs into a personal advantage. More than that, you can
expect hill work to enhance your overall running abilities.
But what is it exactly that makes uphill running so different?
Simply put, it takes more power and more energy to get yourself uphill. You are simultaneously propelling
your entire body weight forward and upward at the same time. Working against gravity in this way provides
additional resistance for your muscles to overcome. As a result, you will see significantly higher power
outputs when sprinting uphill compared to sprinting over level ground. To help satisfy the increased power
demand, your body recruits a higher percentage of thigh and calf muscle mass when running uphill.
There are also key biomechanical differences compared to running on flat surfaces. Uphill running is
typically associated with faster step rates, shorter swing phase durations, increased internal mechanical
work and power output in all joints.
Increased power demands, muscle recruitment patterns and biomechanical differences all point to the fact
that uphill running requires special attention for success. That means it is worth dedicating at least some
of your active time to hill training. Practice and repetition hold the key to skillful, fluid and efficient
uphill performances. And true mastery can only come from extensive hill-specific training.
CALCULATING YOUR HILL SCORE
Your hill score (0–100) is calculated by using a combination of fitness and performance data. Higher scores
indicate more skillful ascent running. Your score is also classified from recreational to elite, relative to
others of the same age and gender, ensuring the progress you see is personally meaningful.
When you record a running, walking or hiking activity with your compatible Garmin device, uphill segments
with a grade of more than 2% are automatically detected and analyzed. Your most recent activities have the
greatest influence on your current hill score, but several months of data are considered in the analysis.
The goal of this training analysis is to examine how your efforts contribute to the development of hill
strength and hill endurance. These two aspects of your performance are complementary, each supporting the
other, and both attributes contribute to effective hill running. Your hill score is also partially based on
your current VO2 max, which is automatically estimated during any outdoor run.
MASTERING EACH ELEMENT OF YOUR HILL SCORE
Hill endurance reflects training your muscles to perform the repetitive work of climbing over longer
periods of time. It is about developing fatigue resistance and capacity for sustained performance. Time
spent climbing and elevation gain are both key factors in building endurance. Low-intensity efforts offer a
strategic advantage for building endurance. If you need to walk up a hill during your run, go ahead. You are
still building your hill endurance, slowly but surely. Work to gradually increase the quantity of uphill
work while avoiding the larger recovery demands associated with higher intensity efforts.
Hill strength expresses your ability to run uphill with power. It is about your capacity to attack uphill
segments with a mix of high-intensity aerobic and anaerobic efforts. Building hill strength requires regular
hard, high-intensity uphill efforts. Keep the relationship between grade and speed in mind as you work to
enhance hill strength. Maintaining a slower pace on a steeper hill can require the same effort as a faster
pace on a more gradual incline. Focus on consistent hard effort rather than pace. Hard uphill running can be
extremely taxing on your body, so be sure to incorporate plenty of recovery time between efforts.
Aerobic fitness, measured in terms of VO2 max, is a strong predictor of running performance. This is
especially true when it comes to uphill running. A major reason is because of how body mass factors into
your VO2 max estimate. VO2 max displayed on your Garmin device describes the maximum amount of oxygen your
body can utilize during intense physical activity per kilogram of body weight in a single minute
(mL/kg/min). A larger runner may be capable of using more oxygen in absolute terms than a lighter runner,
but oxygen utilization rates relative to body weight are what matters when it comes to performance. Because
uphill running is a continuous battle against gravity, a lighter body weight translates into a major
advantage over time.
HOW CAN I IMPROVE MY HILL SCORE?
Your watch itself is an excellent place for advice on how to become a better, stronger uphill runner. The
analytics engine used to calculate your score also provides personalized insight to help you improve.
Expect your hill score to increase as you incorporate more uphill running into your training activities. A
higher VO2 max starting out can give you an initial boost on your journey to becoming a masterful hill
runner, but you still need to get out there and tackle some hills to reach your potential.