Late last year I picked up a Garmin 910XT to track run, bike, and swim workouts. It offers a lot of advantages over smartphone-based workout trackers, not the least of which is its ability to handle rain, sweat, sunblock, and other nasty crap with ease. But it’s also handy as hell for lifting workouts, too. Here’s how I have mine setup to get the most out of it at the gym.
First, I disable GPS. If you leave GPS enabled, the watch either complains about an inability to receive signal, or if there are lots of windows in the gym, it happily records a billion little squiggles around the gym’s address while racking up distance that doesn’t mean anything. So it’s much easily to just turn it off via GPS Status > Enabled > No.
You’ll also want to switch sports to the catch-all “Other.” Note that anywhere in the Garmin interface, you’ll see an icon of a little guy on skis representing “other” mode. Don’t worry. You can select more specific sports later.
Next you’ll want to configure the 910’s data fields to something useful for lifting workouts. Here’s how mine is set up:
The top left field represents total workout time — time since I hit the start button. This is handy for keeping track of how long you’ve been at the gym. It’s especially useful when you’re deciding whether or not to add an additional set or two or to cut out a bit early. The top left field represents “lap time,” which is the time since I last hit the lap button. I trigger a lap every time I start and stop a set, so this field represents rest time. The bottom right field is time of day — so I’m not late for dinner! — and the bottom left field is heart rate. (I’m not actually wearing the HR strap in this picture, though.) I like this layout because it gives you all the information you want with just a quick glance at my wrist, and it makes timing rest periods really, really easy.
When I’m done, I hit stop and reset the watch just like I would after a run, ride, or swim.
Another benefit to all this is that when you sync the watch to Garmin Connect, your lifting workout comes through as an “other” record.
Unless you’re wearing the HR strap, there’s not a lot of useful information here besides all your rest times. But what the record does contain is the start and stop time of your workout. This makes it easy to see on your calendar when you did strength workouts, and it adds the time to your total time for the week, which is useful for tracking total training load.
All you need to do is edit the workout (you can use GC’s “quick edit” function), select “Strength Training,” and give the activity a name that makes sense.
Returning to GC’s calendar, you can see that the activity now shows a little dumbbell icon. Awesome.
If you work with a run, bike, or tri coach via TrainingPeaks, you can also export the activity from Garmin Connect and upload it directly into the TrainingPeaks interface, saving you the trouble of hand entering your start time and duration for the workout.
By no means am I suggesting that anyone should run out and buy a 910 solely for the purpose of tracking lifting workouts, but hey — if you already have one, I don’t see any reason not to leverage it in any way you can. After all, you’ve gotta recoup that $400 purchase price somehow.