Tips for Setting Up Your New Run Watch / Cycling Computer (Without Wrecking Your Day)

by | Feb 17, 2024 | Gear

Embarrassingly, I expend a lot of emotional and mental energy being super pissed at my training equipment. Specifically, on new watch day/week. I recently bought a new running watch (the Garmin Forerunner 955 Solar) since my old watch was getting a little, well, old… and possibly had been through the wash a couple of times too many. But of course, a new watch—especially a different make and model—comes with a lot of frustration. Yes, watches and cycling computers have come a long way since their inception, and generally the setup has gotten easier. But with all the new bells and whistles that they now contain, getting them to do what you want, how you want them to, can be a little tricky. Here’s what I (re)learned getting mine started.

Use an easy, short day as Day 1

Your first day with a new watch shouldn’t be your long run or interval run day, because there will be settings you need to mess with. In fact, the pricier the watch, the longer it will likely take to set up due to the ridiculous amounts of bells and whistles. On this easy run, just run the watch with as minimal modifications as possible—basically, run with the factory settings/initial connections. Just get one run or ride done like that to see what the watch thinks is the best setup, then go from there.

Stop trying to make on-trail changes, or STOP running/riding

I realized this one pretty fast after eating $hit on the trail trying to make an on-the-fly adjustment. I have no idea where the menus and adjustment settings are on my new watch. So why the heck was I trying to maintain my pace while turning off notifications? I should have either a) ignored it until post-run or b) stopped freaking running and just fixed it then and there, pace for that mile be damned. And this is even more true on the bike, where it’s genuinely dangerous to do this!

Expect annoyances for a while

Just try to play it cool. I was really, really pissed for my first long run with the way the auto-lap was working on my watch, and I made it worse by trying to mess with the settings, then got convinced that the GPS was off and that it was timing my miles weird, when it was really just user error. I fixed it post-run, but I’ll be honest, my mood that run was not great, and I regret that. There was nothing actually wrong but I let my annoyance over the situation take over. I also think there’s a break in period on the watch band and even the size of the watch face—especially if you’re like me and have a pretty small, bony wrist. After a few runs, the plastic strap does soften up and you get used to the size of the watch, but it’s not going to be instantaneous.

Lean into new settings

You may be used to having a certain metric displayed, or having certain notifications on or off on your watch. But you may realize that the default watch settings that I mentioned above actually do have some merit! I realized I like having my notifications on for texts and calls during my run, something I’d eschewed in the past in an attempt to ‘remain present.’ But anytime I felt my phone vibrate, I’d get stressed that it was something important I was missing, and end up pulling it out to check—which is way worse than a quick glance at my phone! I’m also excited to potentially get into using it to control my podcasts/music, though I’m not there yet.

Make time to figure it out

This was where I struggled. It wasn’t on my to-do list, so fixing my settings somehow never got addressed after the first couple of runs. Once I finally made it a priority and put it on the list, all it took was 15 minutes of playing with the watch, the app, and some Googling to figure out how to make the settings work for me.

Swap between new and old

If you’re struggling to get used to the new watch after a couple of days and your old one is still functioning, or you’re OK just using Strava to record a ride or run, leave the watch at home and just get your run in sans drama if you’re having a hard time. That’s what I did on day 3 of my new watch week, since my old watch still technically works. I just needed a break from dealing with notifications and trying to adjust settings on the run. That day let me take a deep breath and just kind of reset, so I could get back to it the next day.


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