Features | Training Aids

Interval Workouts

Found mostly on mid- and high-end GPS watches, interval workouts allow you to program a set of intervals based on time or distance.

We love this feature because it’s great way to do intervals away from the track. GPS watches give you freedom to do distance-based intervals anywhere. Sure, they may not be as accurate as a track – and hills, stoplights, and turns can impact your time – but it’s a hassle we’ll gladly deal with to take a break from the track.

Advanced Workouts

A step beyond interval workouts is advanced workouts. These are generally found in high-end watches. They allow you to create more complex workouts. An example might look like: 15 minute warm-up, 2 mile tempo run, 5 minutes at 9:00 min/mile, 4 x 400 meter intervals, 15 minute cool-down.

Most watches with this feature allow you to program advanced workouts on your watch, but doing it that way tends to be fairly complicated and time consuming. You’re better off creating them on a computer and uploading to your watch.

Garmin’s Virtual Training Aids

This set of features was created and trademarked by Garmin. Competitor brands have come up with their own version, but as you’ll see Garmin continues to lead the way in innovation.

Virtual Pacer

It’s a beautiful spring day. You are religiously following a 5k training plan and it says run 4 miles at 9:30 min/mile. Running 4 miles is one part of the equation. But how do you maintain a 9:30 min/mile pace without constantly checking your watch? Meet the Virtual Pacer. This handy feature allows you to set a pace and the watch beeps at you whenever you speed up or slow down more than 5 seconds from your pace. Of course, one negative aspect is that it doesn’t know when you are going up or down a hill. So while your pace will naturally adjust to the terrain, the watch won’t.

Virtual Partner

Taking the concept of the virtual pacer one step further, the virtual partner is similar in that you program a set pace (and a set distance), but instead of beeping when you deviate from that pace, the watch displays a digital person (partner, get it?) who runs at that exact pace. As you run faster or slower than your virtual friend, you visually see how far ahead or behind you are.

We find this feature useful when doing tempo runs. It keeps us on track to maintain a fast pace and it always feels great to beat the little man.


While lacking a virtual moniker, Courses fall into this category as well. Here, you race against past workouts. Combined with the virtual partner, you can see how far ahead or behind you are. Say you ran five miles last week – you can re-run that same route and try to beat your time (where the virtual partner is “you” on your first run). The catch is that it must be along the exact same route (i.e. the same GPS coordinates). No short-cuts through a neighbor’s yard!

Virtual Racer

Only available on a couple of Garmin watches, this is like the Courses feature on steroids. Like Courses, you can race against yourself in past workouts, but you’re not limited to sticking to the exact route. You can run anywhere. Additionally, you can download workouts from Garmin Connect and run against anyone else’s workout.


This feature allows you to quickly switch between activities on your GPS watch. With a single press of a button, the watch screen will change the fields associated with each activity. For example, if you are competing in a triathlon and are transitioning from biking to running, using multi-sport will update the speed information from miles per hour (speed) to minutes per mile (pace). The data fields that are changed can be customized to display the exact information you want to see.

VO2 Max Estimator (Garmin Feature)

Without going into a laboratory, paying an exorbitant fee, and running on a treadmill at an insane pace with breathing tubes covering your mouth, VO2 Max is a difficult metric to track.


(image by Cosmed)

The Forerunner 620 uses Firstbeat technology and the new HRM-Run monitor to estimate VO2 Max without extensive laboratory testing.

Race Predictor (Garmin Feature)

Using the VO2 estimate, the Garmin Forerunner 620 will predict race times for common distances (5k, 10k, marathon, etc.). What it can’t do is know if you’ve trained for that particular event. So if you’ve only run 5ks and your longest run is 8 miles, don’t expect to run a marathon in Garmin’s predicted time.

Recovery Advisor (Garmin Feature)

Garmin’s latest watch, the Forerunner 620, attempts to fuse Garmins features with a running coach to help you train and perform better.

The recovery advisor does two things:

  1. Analyzes your workout immediately after it ends and advises a set amount of time (between 6 and 96 hours) to recover before exercising again.
  2. During the first few minutes of your next run, it provides an instant check to determine whether you recovered enough from your last run.