Using your Garmin watch to train for a race? Beware this hidden stumbling block

 Woman checking watch while running.
Woman checking watch while running.

Your Garmin watch is a fantastic tool for helping you train for big events, but there's an important limitation you should be aware of, which almost threw a spanner in my marathon training.

One of my favorite things about my Garmin watch is how seamlessly it works with all the big fitness apps. Strava, Komoot, AllTrails, TrainingPeaks – just go into your settings in Garmin Connect, enter your login details, and all the appropriate data will sync automatically.

I'm currently training for the Manchester Marathon in April, and to keep me on track, last year I picked a plan from TrainingPeaks that lined up with my goal time, and the time available to prepare for the race

It started out perfectly – I connected my TrainingPeaks account with my Garmin one, my workout schedule appeared in Garmin Connect, and when I synced my watch, each day's workout was transferred automatically. Every day, I only had to start a run activity on my watch and everything was there, with times, heart rate zones, and prompts for foundation runs, interval sessions, speed work, and long runs.

It was great – right until it wasn't.

After seeing I had an interval session scheduled one day, I headed to the gym, hopped on the treadmill, hit 'Run' on my watch – and it wasn't there. I hunted through the scheduled workouts to see if I could find something similar, and found lots more missing over the coming months. My schedule was full of holes.

So what happened?

The thing is, Garmin watches can only hold a limited number of workouts. That makes sense – the device only has a limited amount of storage – but the limit is just 25. If you're following a plan that spans several months, you're going to use those all up pretty fast – and if they're imported via TrainingPeaks you won't necessarily get a warning when it happens.

You can make more room by deleting Garmin's premade workouts for other sports (press 'start', scroll all the way down to 'workouts', select a sport, pick a workout, choose 'delete') but that's not ideal. The default workouts are handy to have, particularly the illustrated yoga and strength ones.

Until recently there was a similarly low limit for the number of points you could include on a GPX route uploaded to your watch. The 50-point limit was frustrating for runners, hikers and cyclists who wanted to head out all day, but thankfully Garmin has now lifted it from many devices, starting with the Garmin Instinct series in October last year.

I can only hope that the company will do the same thing with workouts, and lift the strangely low limit so an entire marathon training plan can be synced at once, with no holes. For the time being, it looks like I'll have to spend some time fiddling with things manually to stick within the 25 workout restriction.