Balancing Safety and Potential: A Runner’s Experience with Garmin’s Personalized Daily Suggested Workouts

While I was cruising today at a tempo pace, I spent some time thinking about the fact that the systems designed to protect us from injury or overdoing are also limiting our use of potential – this was one of the themes (for me) of the highly appreciated book “Endure” by Alex Hutchinson – you can’t just become a faster driver, if you keep you hand on the break all the time, out of precaution.

During the recent months I daily used my Garmin Fenix 7X, which has a nice feature – Daily Suggestion [more details here] – which can even better be combined with the Race Event [more details here] you define to create an adaptive training plan for that specific event (in my case a marathon). The feature takes into consideration different factors like:

  • Training status
  • Training Load & Load Focus
  • VO2 Max value
  • Recovery time
  • Sleep data
  • Profile of recent performed workouts

For me, this feature has been very useful because it generated a wide array of workouts that I felt helped me to improve my fitnes level, but at the same time has shown its limits.

For example, because sleep assessment is not (yet) still there in terms of accuracy.. for me at least and it has a significant impact in the Training Readiness, the plan designed by Garmin (and updated daily) had some shortcomings – I didn’t have any Long Runs over 1:50h (which in my case for a marathon since I’m not a fast runner, it’s not enough) and a lot of time I had recommendations for recovery runs, when I felt I didn’t need that much caution.

So, in the end, Garmin was overprotective somehow – it continued to recommend short recovery runs (32 mins at 128bpm) day after day, when I did easy runs of 45 mins at 140bpm, postponing the quality sessions (tempo, VO2 Max or intervals) for later in the week .. like Fata Morgana.

After 2 days of recovery and base runs, I felt that I need a quality session so I went for the Tempo

What’s nice with Garmin Event Training is that on the newer devices (955, 965, Fenix 7 at least) you can see the scheduled workouts for the full week ahead (and not only for today like it happens with Fenix 6 for example) and you can “cheat” and pick another session scheduled down the line, instead of going with the today’s recommendation. It happened to me before to have a Recovery session (32 min @ 128 bpm) every day, since I wasn’t following Garmin’s recommendation (I just took a 45min @ 137-140 bpm which is still a short easy run for marathon)..Garmin was apparently as stubborn as I was :).

Considering that today I felt fine, the Training Readiness was High, I discarded the Recovery session and took the next workout in line – a Tempo run – which I completed without any issues – I felt well and strong. I’m sure that eventually Garmin will adjust it’s algorithms, as I offered some months of data following their Event Training recommendations, but for now they are overprotective and keep you from pushing harder to improve your limits.

Garmin’s performance condition evolution during the workout today (positive outcome)

I looked on internet for evidences of people following completely Garmin’s recommendations for an event and their experiences and my conclusion is that although they are useful and convenient, if you want to move your performance forward, Garmin is a bit conservative and may leave some of your potential unexploited. I know that Garmin didn’t claim that this feature (training for an event) will replace coaches and will be an improvement over the (single) daily recommendation (which it definitely is), but my experience says that convenience (and safety) may diminish the returns on your potential.

Overall, the adaptative aspect of the Training for Race Event from Garmin is of great help for people who don’t have a coach and can’t follow strictly a fixed training plan, offering enough variety and structure to your training – but beware of the limits it may set based on various data it collects, it may artificially create some limits of your development as well – but there is hope there as well, you can find some shortcuts to push it a but harder, if you feel like you can handle it.

PS: for the Garmin enthusiasts, I just updated to the latest beta 13.09 (more details here) which comes with a long list of changes and improvements.

With that, happy running and enjoy a healthy life!

Author: Liviu Nastasa

Passionate about software development, sociology, running...definitely a geek.

2 thoughts

  1. Interesting – I’ve started using the Suggested Workouts in the last few months, and am also concerned that the suggested long runs won’t be long enough!

    In the first half of the year, I’ve only got short races, which I’m not really that worried about how optimum my training is for, and the Suggested Workouts do provide some nice variety that I wouldn’t otherwise do.

    I have an October marathon that I intend to set as my Primary Race and use the Suggested Workouts, but I also have an ultra (30miles) that I’m running in May (that I’m not THAT bothered about being prepared for, its more of a ‘fun’ event, I know I can complete it already, and will be walking up hills etc, not chasing a time), that I’ve used as a test of Suggested Workouts, and I’ve only had it suggest one run longer than an hour so far…which doesn’t seem quite right :/

    1. In my view, the suggested workouts is a nice Garmin feature but won’t replace (yet) the work of a coach, even though it’s more advanced than Polar’s FitSpark. It’s hard for me to know if the Long Run recommendations would have been close to 2:50-3h or even more (depending on the marathon pace) and they were downshifted by my other parameters (sleep, HRV, Vo2 max, age, whatever other parameter Garmin/FirstBeat takes into consideration) evolution. Based on what I’ve seen in the Peak Phase (the phase I’m in at this moment), the volume for Long Run is low. I admit I run 50-55km/week in 5-5:30h .. but I don’t consider this should be a limiting factor. On the other hand, this was not (yet) advertised as a proper training coach, but rather a nice supplement for the regular training. It could be useful to augment a regular training plan when circumstances would require – for example, when I’m travelling maybe I don’t have enough time to run according to my regular training plan, but I’d still try a workout from the recommendations. Or start from the recommendations and add some more km/time, but that approach has some limits because you can’t adjust every daily recovery run to become a quality session.

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