Decoding Garmin’s Cycling Metrics

by | Jun 16, 2023 | Gear

I don’t know about all of you, but personally, I found some of the scores/metrics (like training score, recovery, and so on) to be a bit mysterious, if not negative. I mean, 72 hours to recover and unproductive training sound like all our effort is for nothing and then to top it off your VO2 Max gets lowered along with your Threshold Power!?! The metrics can be frustrating but they are apart of some of our favorite devices so we will look at them, provide some guidance and let you know how to turn off Garmin Fitness notices and metrics if you do find they are negative or not motivating.

The TL;DR is that many people do not collect enough data consistently with Garmin devices to make these metrics useful. If you do not (accurately) record power data often on your device then the calculations do not know how fast/hard you can go (Vo2, FTP) and they can not know what your usual training load is and how consistent you are (e.g. unproductive training)

Do Garmin Metrics Matter?

Molly has chatted with the product managers and many coaches on this topic over the years (You can also check out her article for Bicycling magazine digging into all things Garmin metrics here.). As with any technology, wearable or ‘metric’ it is important to understand what the number/metric is trying to measure, how the number are calculated, and if you are collecting the data accurately and as it was intended.

The more in-depth answer

If you use newer Garmin devices and collect a lot of data you can use the metrics to understand your training a bit more. Let’s look at a few examples of the most common Garmin Metrics that pop up on Garmin Watches like ForeRunners and Bike Computers like the Edge Series.

Turn the Garmin Metrics On or Off using MY STATS under Settings – if you are someone who feels demotivated by these updates especially as you start a workout or try to exercise daily we suggest turning these off.

Training Status (Load) on Garmin Devices – Unproductive training is actually a sign your fitness is ‘good’ but that it might be declining (not training as much or as consistently) as you may have in the past. Remember this could mean you didn’t record on that device or stopped using a heart rate or power meter (e.g. data quality decreased). Garmin explains these in this post

Training Effect – this is presented with Training status (above) after you complete and save a workout. This tells you about the ‘impact’ of your workout on your aerobic and/or anaerobic system. Scores above 2 are generally benefitial to increasing those ‘fitness’ levels. Devices that offer this will look at your personal information, workout intensity and duration

Recovery Advisor – If you record heart rate and use a compatible Garmin device you can offer a recovery check early in your workout and a recovery time after you save the workout (from 4 hours to 4 days). If your heart rate goes high, like when you race or do intervals then your recovery time will be extended. Similarly, if your heart rate is higher as you warmup then you might have a lower recovery ‘check’. Remember the point of training is to apply a load and then require recovery. Here, recovery is until you are ready to do a intensity at that level again, not when you can do endurance or continue with your training as planned. So don’t freak out if you have five days til recovery on the screen!

Vo2 Max Calculation – Vo2 Max will be updated when you do a really hard effort for 5-20 minutes. This requires a heart rate monitor to calculate and accurate personal information entered into the device (e.g. weight). If you don’t record hard efforts or than you won’t get a higher Vo2 Max ‘setting’ and you may even see it decline as older efforts become outdated.
Threshold Auto-Calculation will be updated when you do a really hard effort for 20-60 minutes. This requires power to calculate. If you don’t (accurately) record power data then you won’t get a higher Threshold ‘setting’ and you may even see it decline as older efforts become outdated.

Acclimation to Altitude and Heat on Garmin Devices – some devices will produce notifications of acclimation when you train at temperatures over 72ºFor 22ºC and when altitude is above 2600 ft or ~800m

Body Battery – if you use Garmin watches and devices this is an aggregate score/calculation that takes into account your heart rate variability, recent physical activity recorded and sleep data (from Garmin wearable). The metric is a percentage with higher percentages suggesting you are more prepared to take on load/stress (e.g. a hard workout). Garmin explains Body Battery

Especially for cyclists who only use a Garmin cycling computer and don’t wear a Garmin watch all day, remember that your metrics are being collected in a vacuum. Especially stats like Body Battery—these are much more accurate for runners who wear their Garmin watch at all times! So don’t pay much attention to those more overall metrics if you only use a cycling computer—they won’t be accurate.


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