Got a Garmin smartwatch? Here are 5 features you may be using wrong and how to fix that

From hotkeys to custom alerts, make the most of your Garmin watch with these expert tips

person looking at their Garmin running watch checking their hydration reminder while holding a water bottle in their other hand
(Image credit: Garmin)

Garmin watch owners, listen up! Even if you had a Garmin watch for a while, chances are, you aren't using it to its full potential; worse still, you could be using some of the watch's features wrong, which can possibly hinder your progress. Here are five Garmin watch features you're definitely not using right (and how to use them correctly).

And where else would you go to find out how to use Garmin watches correctly than right to the source, of course! We asked Vangellis Stamatiadis, Junior Product Manager at Garmin, to explain some of the Garmin features people might not know about or know but use incorrectly.

If you're on the market for a new Garmin watch, you should definitely check out T3's best running watch guide (curated by yours truly) as well as the cheapest Garmin watch deals so you can get a decent fitness wearable without breaking the bank. There are some Garmin products on our best triathlon watch guide, as well as the best fitness tracker guide. Garmin does it all.

Custom alerts for hydration and food intake

“Not many people know that you can actually set an alert on your Garmin device that will vibrate to remind you at regular intervals to do something", Vangellis starts off the conversation, "We often hear customers complain that they struggle to drink enough, or get up from their desk to move."

Indeed, custom alerts are a great way of setting new habits or breaking ones you want to change. "You can set an alert to remind you to drink or eat, for example, which can encourage better longer-term habits in the future. Plus, you can set alerts for heart rate abnormalities”, Vangellis adds.

Here is a quick tutorial on how to set up custom alerts on your Garmin.

Person using the garmin venu sq's NFC feature for payment

(Image credit: Garmin)

Hot keys (create shortcuts to set features)

“The buttons on the side of any Garmin watch can be set up as shortcuts to your favourite or most used features", Vangellis explains, "With lots of different possibilities (the number varies depending on the watch), you can customise your watch and have your favourite features available at the touch of a button."

According to him, popular hotkey setups include the START & DOWN buttons, holding START and holding BACK. These setups can lead you to features such as your Ordnance Survey grid reference or music controls, handy for adjusting the volume without having to look at your watch. And really, you might want to pay attention to the road instead of fiddling with your watch when you're out for a run/cycle.

Here are some of the most popular hotkey shortcuts, and here you can find out how to customise hotkeys.

Person doing bicycle crunches in a gym wearing the Garmin Venu 2

(Image credit: Garmin)

Custom workouts

“Most people are unaware that Garmin Connect users have access to custom workouts that include goals for each workout step and for varied distances, times, and calories", Vangellis explains, "You can create and find workouts using Garmin Connect or select a training plan that has built-in workouts, and transfer them to your device."

You can also schedule your workouts using Garmin Connect and plan workouts in advance. 

Here is how to create a custom workout on Garmin Connect.


Looking for a running buddy? Why not try a virtual partner and give PacePro a go? PacePro is a handy tool that calculates when to increase or decrease your pace along a course to help you achieve your best overall pace.

"PacePro offers pacing guidance to help you stay on track during those all-important sessions", Vangellis says, "When applied to a course loaded to your watch it will analyse elevation changes to calculate a pacing strategy."

Here is a little guidance on how to use PacePro on Garmin watches.

Athlete running on a track wearing the Garmin Forerunner 945

(Image credit: Garmin)

Training status – what "productive" and "unproductive" status mean

The Training Status feature gives you an overview of your longer-term training habits to provide insights into how your training is going. Garmin watches generally display either a "productive" or an "unproductive" status. 

"Productive status means your current training load is moving your fitness level and performance in the right direction, and you should plan recovery periods into your training to maintain your fitness level", says Vangellis.

However, even if you're "unproductive" according to your Garmin, this doesn't necessarily mean you're slacking off. "An unproductive status means your training load is at a good level, but your fitness is decreasing", he adds, "Your body may be struggling to recover, so you should pay attention to your overall health including stress, nutrition, and rest.”

So it is possible for you to train loads and still be unproductive. Overtraining can fatigue the body and cause injuries which is admittedly not great for your fitness.

It's worth mentioning that Training Status on any compatible Garmin watch works best if you wear them all the time, even for sleeping, so the watch knows how well rested your body is.

And, most importantly, pay attention to your body, as no watch can ever replace your own built-in sensors for fatigue and performance. If you feel like your training is getting out of hand, have some rest, regardless of what your watch says.

Matt Kollat
Section Editor | Active

Matt Kollat is a journalist and content creator who works for and its magazine counterpart as an Active Editor. His areas of expertise include wearables, drones, fitness equipment, nutrition and outdoor gear. He joined T3 in 2019. His byline appears in several publications, including Techradar and Fit&Well, and more. Matt also collaborated with other content creators (e.g. Garage Gym Reviews) and judged many awards, such as the European Specialist Sports Nutrition Alliance's ESSNawards. When he isn't working out, running or cycling, you'll find him roaming the countryside and trying out new podcasting and content creation equipment.