How to Use Garmin Training Status as a Cyclist

By Jiri Kaloc

Garmin’s Cycling Training Status is a feature that many cyclists with Garmin devices like the Edge series are familiar with. It provides a concise summary of how effective your recent rides and training sessions have been over the past month. But have you ever wondered what exactly “unproductive,” “overreaching,” “productive,” “maintaining,” or “peaking” actually mean? Let’s take a look.

Understanding every training status type

There are 10 possible training status types you can see on your Garmin device. Some are very clear, but others need a little bit of clarification to fully understand what to take away from them.

Peaking: This training status suggests you’re at the pinnacle of your training. Ideally, you should see it after a tapering period leading up to a race. It’s when you’re at your short-term fitness peak, without the fatigue that regular training brings.

Productive: This status means your fitness level is on the rise as a result of effective training. Pay attention to it, especially when you’re pushing hard. If your body is able to keep up with the training load well, you should see progress even when the going gets tough.

Maintaining: As the name suggests, you’re maintaining your current fitness level. You need to add more interval training or increase overall volume if you want to move over to the “productive” status.

Strained: This status indicates that your body isn’t recovering well. You should dial back the intensity or duration of your rides to bounce back and keep seeing progress.

Unproductive: This status suggests your training is not yielding any results and you may be losing fitness. Try to adjust your training plan and also look at external factors like stress, diet, and sleep to help you recover better.

Overreaching: This is similar to being strained but is usually a result of excessive training in the short-term.

Recovery: When you see this status, your fitness might remain stable or slightly decrease due to recent lighter training sessions. If you’re seeing this as a result of a planned recovery period, good work.

Detraining: This status suggests there is a decline in your fitness due to prolonged periods of reduced or no training.

No Status: This means that more data is needed to determine your status.

Paused: This only appears if you pause your training status.

Which metrics determine your training status?

Garmin uses three key metrics to evaluate your training status.

  • Training Load. This metric takes the duration and intensity of all of your training and estimates its physiological impact on your body and resulting recovery demands.
  • Heart Rate Variability (HRV). This measures how well your body is dealing with exercise as well as other types of stress. For best results, you have to wear your Garmin watch overnight too, because HRV is measured as a nightly average.
  • VO2max. This is a measure of your aerobic capacity. Garmin estimates it by comparing your pace with your heart rate. It’s also influenced by HRV status, acute load, and heat and altitude acclimation.

For Garmin to accurately gauge your training status, it’s crucial to feed it accurate data. This means using reliable heart-rate monitors and power meters and wearing the watch at night too. Setting the correct heart-rate zones and power zones is essential too.

What’s the ideal training status?

Most cyclists aim for a “productive” status, especially when preparing for a race. However, depending on your goals, “maintaining” or “recovery” are also desirable. Seasoned cyclists will also aim to see “peaking” in the week they taper before a race and a short-term “overreaching” can be a part of a training plan too. Whenever you see “detraining”, “unproductive”, or “strained” it’s a clear sign that something needs to change.

When is training status useful?

Training status can be a useful tool whenever you’re wondering if your training plan is working or not. For example, in the beginning of cycling season, there’s an initial period where you’re ramping up how many kilometres you ride each week. It can be hard to judge exactly how many your body can handle. Similarly, if you’re starting to add intensity to your volume-base training, Garmin training status can warn you if you’re adding too much too soon, or not enough to produce the training effect you want.

Just make sure you don’t follow the training status blindly. Your Garmin watch doesn’t know what you’re training for. Your training should be very different when you’re preparing for a short intense criterium or a century ride. You may need a bit more or a bit less anaerobic training than the average that the Garmin algorithm is working with. Always look at the status you see in the context of your current goals.