Every Garmin metric explained: Understand the stats

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When it comes to multisport GPS watches, Garmin is one of the best in the business. From basic to advanced running performance data, intensity, stress, recovery and VO2 Max to cycling power, cadence and swimming efficiency – there’s a lot of data.

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But the problem can be two-fold. Garmin watches, like the Fenix 6, can be prosumer tools, which means there’s loads of complex metrics that can be hard to understand. And knowing what they mean can actually be a huge benefit to your training.

Secondly because there are so many Garmins covering multiple price points, (such as the Forerunner 45, Forerunner 245 and Forerunner 645) it can be tough to work out which device has the features you need. Let alone the likes of the Vivoactive 4, which covers a lot of different sports in minimal detail.

Understanding Garmin metrics will ensure you don’t overspend on data you don’t need.

Essentially, this feature is designed to help you get your money’s worth.

Running

Every Garmin metric explained

Pace, Distance, Time

The staple data for any runner, many beginners will find these are all they need. Data is split down to give a little more detail, offering pace across each split (usually mile or kilometre) and enabling you to examine performance over long distances.

Find it on: All Garmin Forerunner, Vivoactive/Venu, Fenix

VO2 Max estimate

An estimate of the maximum volume of oxygen your body can process at peak exercise via heart rate, this number is a universal measure of fitness. Watch this number rise to check your training is working. If it doesn’t, then rethink your regime.

Find it on: Forerunner 45, 245, 645, 945, Fenix, Vivoactive 4/Venu

Recovery Advisor

Getting the right amount of rest is essential to avoid injury and maintain performance. Recovery Advisor guides you on how long you should rest up based on your heart rate performance. Make sure the setting is turned on in My Stats on your device, then go for a run. You’ll get a recovery check in the first few minutes of the run, and an advisory time when you save and complete your session. The minimum is six hours, the maximum is four days.

Find it on: Forerunner 245, 645, 945, Fenix 5/6

Race Predictor

The Garmin race predictor will estimate finishing times of common race distances based on your VO2 Max. You’ll need to pair a HR strap or use a device with optical HR, and ensure your profile information is up to date.

Find it on: Forerunner 245, 645, 945, Fenix 5/6

Stress Score*

The Garmin Stress Score predicts how ready your body is for a workout session before you head out running. It’s calculated from a three-minute standing test, rating your readiness for a session between 1 (very ready) and 100 (in a high-stress state). You will need an ANT+ chest strap to do the test. For all day stress tracking, scroll down to our activity tracking section.

Find it on: Forerunner 945, Fenix 5/6

Heart Rate Zones

Your heart rate can be banded into levels, reflecting the extent of your exertion. A well-rounded training plan will incorporate sessions at a range of levels, and you can ensure you’re hitting heart rate targets using Garmin’s zonal read-outs. On high-end devices, these levels will be auto-tweaked to your individual physiology.

Find it on: Forerunner 35, 45, 245, 645, 945, Fenix, Vivoactive 4/Venu

Lactate Threshold

Every runner has that level of exertion beyond which lies tiredness and pain – that’s your lactate threshold. It usually strikes at upwards of 90% of your maximum HR. Run below threshold and you could have pushed harder, run above it and you will fade before the finish, so working out your level can be critical to race times.

Find it on: Forerunner 645, 945, Fenix

Vertical Oscillation*

Vertical oscillation is the amount of bounce you have while running: less bounce means you’re travelling more efficiently forwards, which makes for a faster, less tiring run.

Find it on: Forerunner 245, 645, 945, Fenix

Vertical Ratio*

Another running efficiency metric, your vertical ratio is your vertical oscillation to stride length displayed as a percentage. It gauges how much energy you’re wasting not travelling forward, and a focus on this metric can improve speed and maximise energy.

Find it on: Forerunner 245, 645, 945, Fenix

Ground Contact Time and Balance*

Ground contact time is the amount of time in each step that you spend on the ground while running. Your Garmin will also measure the balance of your contact time, gauging whether you lean onto one foot or the other as you run. A green reading will show an even contact time, where amber or red status shows a lean onto one foot, which can cause efficiency problems as well as a heightened injury risk.

Find it on: Forerunner245, 645, 945, Fenix

Stride Length*

Just as it sounds, this is a measure of the length of a runner’s stride, which will have a high correlation to pace.

Find it on: Forerunner 245, 645, 945, Fenix

*Required external sensor such as Garmin chest strap of Running Dynamics Pod

Performance Condition

Much like Stress Score, Performance Condition is a mid-workout ‘fuel gauge’ that offers insight into whether to up your pace or slow things down as you run. It monitors heart rate variability to measure your body’s fatigue, so if you’re still full at the end of a session, you know what to do.

Find it on: Forerunner 245, 645, 945, Fenix

Cadence

Effectively your steps per minute, cadence is a measure of your running efficiency. Drop below 160spm and you’re wasting energy without gaining speed – just look to the likes of Mo Farah who run at upwards of 200spm to see that more steps propel you much faster.

Find it on: Forerunner 45, 245, 645, 945, Fenix, Vivoactive 4/Venu

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Cycling

Every Garmin metric explained

Speed, Distance, Time, Laps

The basic of cycling tracking, you can monitor your speed as well as distance travelled from your Garmin device. There’s also a laps feature, for those cycling on track or hitting regular routes.

Find it on: All Edge models, Forerunner 735XT

Cadence

Essentially your RPM (revolutions per minute), cadence is a huge metric for indoor and outdoor cyclists alike, ensuring you’re pedalling at the optimum rate.

Find it on: Garmin Edge 530, 830, 1030, Forerunner 735XT, 920XT, Vivoactive, Fenix

Power/Total power in watts/Overall kilojoules (requires additional power meter)

The measure of the total power forced through your foot into the pedal. The more power you’re pushing through the pedal, the faster you go. Le Tour riders obsess over it and once you know your power output you can train to improve it. In other words, it’s the underlying stat for all your rides.

Find it on: Garmin Edge 530, 830, 1030, Forerunner 735XT, Fenix

Training Stress Score (TSS) (requires additional power meter)

A measure of the stress placed on the body during a session, TSS will guide experienced riders on the balance between intensity and volume of workout sessions. Technically an estimate of the amount of glycogen burned by a ride, a score of less than 150 shows that no recovery is needed, while over 450 will require several days’ rest.

Find it on: Garmin Edge 530, 830, 1030, Forerunner 735XT, Fenix

Normalized Power (NP) (requires additional power meter)

When you’re out on the roads it’s naive to think you’ll be pushing those pedals to the max at all times – not with pesky traffic, people and roads to navigate. Normalized Power flattens out your ride, taking into account periods of coasting, and offering a better look at your exertion than a simple average of your power output across the ride.

Find it on: Garmin Edge 530, 830, 1030, Forerunner 735XT, Fenix

Intensity Factor (IF) (requires additional power meter)

The ratio between your normalized power and your threshold power, a larger gap here shows greater intensity and can be a gauge on interval rides. It can also be used to reveal changes and improvements in your threshold power output.

Find it on: Garmin Edge 530, 830, 1030, Forerunner 735XT, Fenix

Torque effectiveness (PS, dual-sensing Vector only)

This works out how much of the power being transferred to the pedal is working to propel the crank forwards, ensuring that there’s no wasted energy as you’re grinding those hills.

Find it on: Garmin Edge 530, 830, 1030, Forerunner 735XT, Fenix

Pedal smoothness (PS, dual-sensing Vector only)

The pedal smoothness is a measure of how consistently power is applied through the rotation of the crank, helping you to ensure that it’s applied evenly.

Find it on: Garmin Edge 530, 830, 1030, Forerunner 735XT, Fenix

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Swimming

Every Garmin metric explained

Lengths, Distance, Pace

Garmin’s basic swimming metrics will track the number of lengths you swim and the distance covered. Just begin the workout and everything will be tracked automatically.

Find it on: Garmin Swim, Forerunner 245, 645, 945, Fenix, Vivoactive/Venu

Stroke Count/Rate

Your stroke rate is a big marker of your swimming efficiency, and this metric reports how quickly you pound the water per length or lap.

Find it on: Garmin Swim, Forerunner 245, 645, 945, Fenix, Vivoactive/Venu

Stroke type

Not only can your watch keep count of strokes, but it can identify the type of stroke as well. Garmin watches can detect the four competitive classes of swimming stroke: backstroke, breast stroke, butterfly and freestyle.

Find it on: Garmin Swim, Forerunner 245, 645, 945, Fenix, Vivoactive/Venu

SWOLF

SWOLF is a unique metric to Garmin swimming devices, and as the name suggests is based on an amalgamation of swimming and golf. It works out your strokes per length, and whether that’s above or below par, much like running cadence.

Find it on: Garmin Swim, Forerunner 245, 645, 945, Fenix, Vivoactive/Venu

Golf

Every Garmin metric explained

Putts Per Round, Greens and Fairways Hit

By using the built-in scoring and shot-tracking on your Garmin Approach golf watch, you can calculate your averages by hole and round for number of putts made, fairways hit and greens in regulation.

Find it on: All Approach, Fenix, Vivoactive

SwingTempo

Getting a decent tempo to your swing is essential to high-quality, consistent ball striking and your Garmin watch can help. Not only will it measure the ratio of your backswing and downswing, but will also coach you using audible tones to help perfect your technique.

Find it on: Approach S60/S62

Swing Speed

Longer distances require a faster swing speed; luckily that can also be measured by your Garmin swing analyser.

Find it on: TruSwing

Club Path

Hooks, slices and other directional woes can normally be explained away by screwy club path. Look for your club path angle to determine whether your swing path is ‘in-out’ (tendency to hook), or ‘out-in’ (tendency to slice) and work on bringing the angle to zero.

Find it on: TruSwing

Face to Target

Closing or opening the club face makes the ball go in the wrong direction. The Face to Target is displayed as an angle, and working to get this to 0 degrees will lead to straighter striking.

Find it on: TruSwing

Shaft Angle/Lean

Tracks the angle of the club shaft at impact, to check whether you’re leaning too much forwards or backwards, either of which can have a dramatic effect on ball striking.

Find it on: TruSwing

Activity tracking

Every Garmin metric explained

Steps

The number of steps taken. This number is estimated from the movement of your arm, much like traditional fitness trackers. Fitness tracking has become a staple across Garmin wearables.

Find it on: All current Garmin wearables

All day stress

Added to Garmin devices in 2017, this feature looks at heart rate variability to estimate the physiological stress your body is under. This studies the gaps between heart rate to look at how your body is responding. A stress score is between 1 and 100 – and can be used as an indicator of whether it’s the time to take a break, either from a work/life situation or a break in your training if you’re putting your body under too much pressure.

Find it on: Forerunner 45, 245, 645, 945, Fenix, Vivoactive, Venu, Vivomove

Sleep

Estimated via heart rate (if available) and arm movement, quality of sleep is as important as the time spent in bed. Levels of deep and light sleep are reported in the Garmin Connect app.

Find it on: All current Garmin wearables

Resting Heart Rate

As well as tracking your active bpm during workouts, Garmin puts a focus on resting heart rate, which can work as a gauge of your improving fitness. Heart rate over the past four hours is shown on your device, with RHR over longer periods displayed in Garmin Connect.

Find it on: All current Garmin wearables with HR.

Calories

The calorific burn for your day is shown on your device. Non-heart-rate enabled devices will base this on your weight/height/age plus steps, but ones with optical HR will use this data for greater accuracy.

Find it on: All current Garmin wearables

Intensity Minutes

Recommended guidelines state that 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week is the key to a healthy life. Luckily anything above a brisk walk counts, and your Garmin will track this from step and heart rate data, if available.

Find it on: All current Garmin wearables

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