GARMIN SMARTWATCHES – FOR RUNNERS, CYCLISTS & TRIATHLETES

Choosing the right Garmin watch for you can be quite a task considering Garmin’s wide variety of watches and gadgets across different price ranges.

If you’ve just started your fitness journey or you’re a performance triathlete, it’s important to find the watch that meets your fitness requirements and fits your budget. You might end up overspending on the features you don’t really need or fall short.

To make it easier, We’ve categorized Garmin based on the needs of different types of athletes.

BEST GARMIN SMARTWATCHES FOR BEGINNERS

Garmin’s entry-level watches are aimed at people who want to step up from phone-based app tracking and have a few more stats on their wrist where they can see them.

It’s ideal for new runners, cyclists or swimmers on a budget or for casual users who want to track their gym/dance workouts. With in-built sports apps, wrist-based heart rate, and music options, these watches are more than sufficient to kick start your fitness journey.

IMPORTANT FEATURES FOR BEGINNERS

  • Distance tracker – Any fitness tracker will log your steps and distance over a workout. Higher-end fitness bands offer distance tracking over larger periods of time to assess your fitness progression.
  • Calorie tracker – Most fitness bands will track the number of calories you burn to let you know the precise outcome of your workouts. Some fitness bands also have calorie intake and weight trackers. These allow you to input your food intake and weigh calories burned against calories eaten.
  • Heart rate monitor – The heart rate monitor allows you to gauge and control the intensity of your workout.
  • Sleep tracking – Sleep tracking allows you to monitor the length and quality of your sleep. This option is great for anyone looking to improve general fitness and physical health.
  • Display size – Bigger displays allow you to more easily navigate through the different functions of your fitness band. The tradeoff is bulk for browsability.

ENTRY LEVEL – GARMIN VIVOSMART 4

Entry-level smartwatches worth considering for beginners are the Garmin Vivo series such as Vivoactive 4/4S, Vivosmart 4, or Vivosport. These are not as feature-packed, but offer basic fitness tracking that we’ve come to expect from fitness bands.

Garmin Vivosmart 4

Vivosmart 4 Features:

  • Pulse Ox at Your Wrist – The Pulse Ox sensor on vívosmart 4 estimates your body’s blood oxygen saturation level. Your Pulse Ox measurements are dependent upon several factors, including your overall health and fitness.
  • Advanced Sleep Monitoring – Sleep is important to your overall health, well-being, and physical performance. To give you an idea of how you’re sleeping, vívosmart 4 tracks your light, deep, and REM stages of sleep, along with movement throughout the night.
  • Optimize Your Body’s Energy – Body Battery energy monitoring on vívosmart 4 uses a combination of stress, heart rate variability (HRV), sleep, and activity data to gauge your body’s energy reserves at any moment, so you can plan your day to optimize times for activity and rest.
  • All-day Stress Tracking – You most likely experience stress at some point in your day, but how much? Your vívosmart 4 lets you know when you are having a calm, balanced or stressful day and everything in between. Tracking your HRV (the time interval between each heartbeat), vívosmart 4 calculates and displays your stress level.

MID-RANGE – GARMIN VENU SQ

The Venu Sq smartwatch is the most recently released Garmin smartwatch that combines daily style with health monitoring and fitness features that inspire you to keep moving. The watch has 20 preloaded sports apps including run, cycle, swim, yoga, strength, cardio, etc.

Garmin Venu SQ

The watch is packed with other features such as the usual advanced sleep monitoring, pulse ox sensor, and body battery meter.  With the option of having music on board and good battery life, the watch is a perfect lifestyle watch.

Venu Sq Features:

  • 24 Hour Health Monitoring – Garmin uses elevated heart rate technology to continually monitor data including heart rate, blood oxygen, respiration frequency, and stress, giving you a clear picture of your health every moment of the day.
  • Sleep Monitoring – Sleep monitoring lets you keep track of your heart rate and any tossing and turning through the night, as well as calculating oxygen saturation and REM sleep periods. Your daily sleep report will give you the info you need to improve your sleep quality!
  • Menstrual Cycle Tracking – You can mark the start and end of your menstrual cycle and record your physical, psychological, and emotional condition. You can access information about your cycle directly from your smartwatch, or get detailed data using the Garmin Connect App.
  • Safety Features – You can allow emergency contacts, family, and friends access to your location details. So if you have an accident or are worried about your safety when exercising alone at night, you can send an SOS directly from your phone.
  • App Notifications – By connecting to your smartphone’s via Bluetooth, you can read incoming alerts and messages directly on your watch, with support for all languages!
  • Music– Sync with streaming platforms such as Spotify over wireless or transfer music from your computer to play all your favorite tunes at the touch of a button!

BEST GARMIN SMARTWATCHES FOR RUNNERS

Almost every smartwatch on the market is targeted at joggers and runners, so picking the right one for you is quite difficult in a sea of choices. We’ve narrowed down two options which are perfect for both beginner runners as well as for professionals.

IMPORTANT FEATURES FOR RUNNERS

  • Distance tracker – Any fitness tracker will log your steps and distance over a workout. Higher-end fitness bands offer distance tracking over larger periods of time to assess your fitness progression.
  • Calorie tracker – Most fitness bands will track the number of calories you burn to let you know the precise outcome of your workouts. Some fitness bands also have calorie intake and weight trackers. These allow you to input your food intake and weigh calories burned against calories eaten.
  • Heart rate monitor – The heart rate monitor allows you to gauge and control the intensity of your workout.
  • Sleep tracking – Sleep tracking allows you to monitor the length and quality of your sleep. This option is great for anyone looking to improve general fitness and physical health.
  • GPS Tracking with Maps – This will allow you to chart routes and execute preplanned courses straight from your watch. Giving you real-time location information about your position.
  • Music – The ability to play music directly from your phone removes the need to carry your phone with you. Which any runner will tell you is an absolute godsend as opposed to carrying a heavy phone in one’s pocket or armband.

ENTRY-LEVEL – GARMIN FORERUNNER 245 MUSIC

This GPS smartwatch doesn’t just tell you where you ran. It tracks your stats, heart rate, crunches the numbers and gets to know all about your performance, your running form, your training history and even your goals. It even tracks plenty of other sports including swimming, cycling, hike, etc.

Garmin Forerunner 245 Music

Forerunner 245 Music Features:

  • Garmin Coach – Adaptive training plans feature guidance from expert coaches and free training plans that adapt to you and your goals.
  • Training Effect – The training effect gives you a sneak peek at how each training session is expected to impact your future fitness levels. This helps you understand how your workouts influence the development of endurance, speed, and power with an aerobic and anaerobic training effect.
  • Training Load and Training status – Training Load measures your exercise volume from the last seven days and tells you if you’re training in the optimal range based on your fitness level. Training status evaluates your recent exercise history and performance indicators to let you know if you’re training productively, peaking, or overreaching.
  • VO2 Max – VO2 max is an indication of your cardiovascular fitness and should increase as your level of fitness improves. The ability to see your current fitness level and track changes over time is a game-changer. It can help you set appropriate goals, evaluate progress and determine the effectiveness of your training.
  • Recovery Time – After each workout, the built-in recovery time advisor lets you know how long to rest before another significant effort. It even accounts for all-day stress, sleep, and daily activity outside of workouts.
  • Performance condition – For a real-time assessment of your current ability to perform, look at your performance condition. During the first 6 to 20 minutes of your run, this metric analyzes pace, heart rate, and heart rate variability. The higher the number, the higher you can expect to perform.
  • Running Dynamics – With the help of external sensors like Garmin HRM-TRI strap, HRM-Run strap, or RD Pod, you can get additional data such as vertical oscillation, ground contact time, etc. which helps you to improve your running form and efficiency.
  • Music – Sync your playlists from select music streaming services — such as Amazon Music and Spotify® — right to your watch. Forerunner 245 Music can store up to 500 songs.

Check Out our Full Review of the Garmin Forerunner 245 Smartwatch!

PREMIUM – GARMIN FORERUNNER 945

But when it comes to the art of running, the Forerunner line is still the best range, and among them, the Garmin Forerunner 945 is top dog.

Garmin Forerunner 945

The 945 is a total powerhouse, with every bell and whistle a runner could ask for. From acclimation tracking, Training load, Recovery time. and everything in between. There is no feature that we’ve mentioned in this article that the 945 does not have.

Garmin uses a transflective display technology for that 1.2-inch screen, which has the effect of making it more visible in sunlight. There’s a backlight too, which can be turned on with a push of the top-left button, or automatically with a turn of the wrist, though by default that’s only set for workouts 

The Garmin Forerunner 945 supports more than 30 different activities, with everything from golf to rowing accounted for.

There’s a lot of data here. One of the most helpful features is Training Load, which measures your training over the last seven days and will tell you if you’re in the correct range to improve fitness – or if you need to take it up a notch. Similarly, the Training Status and Training Effect features will tell you how productive your workouts are, the effect they’re having.

One of our favorite features of the Garmin Forerunner 945 is its map routing. The watch comes with full-color maps, as well as the ability to seek and set running routes within your vicinity. You can set how far you want to go, and the map will provide some suggested routes.

BEST GARMIN CYCLOCOMPUTERS FOR CYCLISTS

Garmin is known for its cyclo-computers, which are the industry standard. Here are the basic features we think every cyclocomputer should feature

IMPORTANT FEATURES FOR CYCLISTS

  • ELEVATION DATA – Total ascent, total descent, %gradient
  • POWER DATA – Average power, Threshold Power, Max Power
  • GPS DATA – To map out the route
  • HEART RATE DATA – Average/Maximum Heart rate, Heart Rate Zones

ENTRY LEVEL – GARMIN EDGE 520 PLUS

The Garmin Edge 520 Plus packs in a color screen that’s 47 x 35mm. It’s controlled via an array of buttons – seven in total – rather than a touchscreen.

The 520 Plus has features, including displaying Garmin’s Cycle Map base map, so you get turn-by-turn navigation both on and off-road. It also comes with Strava Live Segment compatibility (though to use this you need to be a paying Strava Subscriber). 

Pair the computer up with a power meter and you can also track functional threshold power (FTP) and other performance metrics. It will also pair with SRAM and Shimano electronic groupsets to show you which ratio you are using.

Garmin Edge 520 Plus Features:

  • Navigation: Good, with turn-by-turn directions, Garmin Cycle Map, automatic rerouting color mapping, and back-to-start feature
  • Training data: Speed, altitude, power, heart rate, cadence, calories, gear selection (for electronic drivetrains), distance, time, temperature, sunset time, workout counters, and more
  • Connectivity: USB, Bluetooth
  • Compatibility: ANT+, Shimano Di2, SRAM eTap

PREMIUM – GARMIN EDGE 1030 PLUS

The Garmin Edge 1030 Plus is the latest flagship cycling computer from the outdoor tech company. The Garmin Edge 1030 Plus is an almost bewilderingly feature-filled computer offering virtually any training, performance, or navigation metrics you can dream of.

While the device is the largest that Garmin makes, its display remains the same 3.5″ as used on the previous Garmin Edge 1030. It’s a whopper, especially when resting on an out-front mount but you quickly adapt to its size – much like a smartphone, once you size up it’s very difficult to return to a smaller size.

Battery life has also grown to 24 hours, though this can be extended to an enormous 48 hours if you run the computer in a stripped-down mode. 

The SD card slot has been removed but internal storage has grown to 32Gb. TrailForks is also installed as standard on the unit.

Garmin Edge 1030 Plus Features:

  • Navigation: Every bit as good as the regular 1030 with a faster processor for quicker route recalculation
  • Training data: A bewildering number of training metrics that can be customized to your heart’s content 
  • Connectivity: ANT+, Bluetooth, WiFi, USB
  • Compatibility: ANT+, Shimano Di2, SRAM eTap, Campagnolo EPS, Garmin Varia

BEST GARMIN SMARTWATCHES FOR TRIATHLETES

Triathletes truly require the most out of their smartwatches. Especially watches that are dynamic and allow for easy switching between activities. We’ll be taking a look at what Garmin has to offer in this demanding space.

IMPORTANT FEATURES FOR TRIATHLETES

Battery Life – a triathlon race can last for anything from a couple of hours to a couple of days, but you are looking at 3-4 hours of race time on average. The good tri watch should be able to last at least 6-8 hours in GPS mode, to make sure it won’t die on your wrist just before the end of the race, losing all the data and your bragging rights for later, having no proof that you completed the race.

Water-Tight Construction – as mentioned above, it would be rather difficult to track swimming with a watch that is not water-rated to at least 50 meters. The best triathlon watches are not only swimming proof, they can also measure heart rate on the wrist under water and track advanced swimming metrics, too, like stroke count, pace and SWOLF.

Multisport Transition – it is also important to be able to switch between sports modes without excessive button pressing. You will be quite preoccupied with taking your wetsuit off and putting your cycling gear on after getting out of the water, let alone trying to find the right menu setting for switching from tracking swimming to tracking cycling. Most top tier smartwatches offer one-button multisport transition and even have a dedicated triathlon mode, for added convenience.

Fit and Comfort – races last for a few hours and you don’t want to feel uncomfortable, adjusting the watch on your wrist every two minutes because it’s giving you all the wrong HR readings. In order to achieve a comfortable fit, you would need a flexible silicone strap as well as a smooth case material.

Ruggedness – you don’t want your new tri watch to break after accidentally falling off your wrist or get scratched after bumping it into your bike’s handlebar.

ENTRY LEVEL – GARMIN FORERUNNER 745 & GARMIN FORERUNNER 945

Since these two watches are so closely priced, we thought we’d instead compare them head to head, to help you choose which one is best suited to your needs

Both watches are considered advanced running and triathlon watches with almost similar features monitoring your performance with features such as training status, training load, training effect, recovery time, etc. which will help you train smarter, not harder.

Garmin Forerunner 745

However, the Forerunner 945 is considered a premium smartwatch with the main differences shown below:

Forerunner 745Forerunner 945
Smartwatch mode- 7 days; GPS mode with music- 6 hrs; GPS mode without music- 16 hrs UltraTrac mode-21 hrs.Smartwatch mode-14 days; GPS mode-32 hrs; GPS mode with music-10 hrs; UltraTrac mode-50 hrs.
Does not track GolfTracks Golf
No mapsBuilt-in maps

From a cyclist’s perspective, both the watches have outdoor as well as indoor tracking options with Bluetooth connectivity for your external power meter, speed & cadence sensor, or external HRM sensors.

Garmin Forerunner 945

Although Forerunner 745 and 945 are great for multisport tracking, the Fenix models are the most premium and high spec watches that Garmin offer, packing industry-leading technology into a stylish but rugged design.

A big appeal with these watches is their battery life, which will see you through any adventure including ultra running, cross country skiing, and trail running. The Forerunner 745 is suitable for people doing a half Ironman, or a sprint triathlon, while the Forerunner 945 is capable of lasting a full Ironman.

The other options for cyclists could be to invest in Garmin’s GPS cycling computer devices such as Edge 1030 or the Garmin Vector 3/3S power meter for tracking your metrics.

PREMIUM – GARMIN FENIX 6X

The Garmin Fenix line offers the same features as the Forerunner 945, but in a slightly more premium and rugged design. It sports a larger display than the 945 making viewing of Maps much easier.

Garmin Fenix 6X

The Fenix line is also better suited to Triathletes as it allows foe swimming in depths up to 10 ATM (up to 100 meters), as opposed to the 5 ATM rating on the 945.

The 6X Sapphire is built to last. The model has a bezel made of titanium coated in diamond-like carbon (DLC) and a sapphire crystal. Both materials are highly durable and will guarantee the watch keeps in pristine condition with long-term wear.

The case is a fiber-reinforced polymer and the case back is metal. Measuring at 51 mm in diameter and 14.5 mm in depth, the model is definitely not small. For its weight and measurements, the 6X Sapphire is very comfortable and lightweight compared to some other timepieces of the same size. 

The watch is not touchscreen and is operated by five buttons on the side of the case. Each button is subtly labeled on the bezel which I found extremely helpful. Tips will appear on the display of the watch if you’re entering a menu or have gone into specific settings for the first time, which greatly helps with the initial navigation.

Recording laps when running or swimming is quick and easy with the press of a button, meaning you don’t even need to glance at the watch to operate it when training. 


That’s it, folks! A few of our pointers and suggestions on some of the best Garmin wearable devices that suit your sporting requirements.

Most sports-oriented smartwatches these days, especially those by Garmin are capable of multisport tracking so there’s never a watch that doesn’t suit you. A few specific features may differ here and there – usually targeted at the serious athletes who need the most amount of data from their smartwatches.

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