The Garmin Fenix line of watches have been my go-to for rucking since 2016. I started off with the Fenix 3HR, moved onto the Fenix 5X (there was no Fenix 4 released), moved back to the Fenix 3HR, and am now on the Fenix 5X Plus.
Everything considered I’ve been using Garmin Fenix watches for rucking for over two years. This includes a handful of GORUCK events, hundreds of runs, hundreds of rucks, and hundreds of workouts. With my training schedule I’ve probably logged nearly 1,000 exercises on Garmin Fenix watches since I started using them.
There are a few things I do when I’m setting up a Garmin Fenix watch to get the most out of it for rucking. This guide follows the Garmin Fenix series of watches however it may also be applicable to the Forerunner and Vivoactive series as well. I really don’t know because I don’t own any of those watches. Side note: I purchase all of my GPS watches from Clever Training because their VIP program gives 10% back. I’ve never found a better discount on new Garmin products so that plus free shipping gets them my business.
Whenever I end up with a new Garmin Fenix watch (currently the 5X Plus) I create three custom activities: Ruck, GORUCK, BW/SB/Ruck WO.
Garmin Data Fields to Download
There are three third-party data fields that I always install on the watch when setting it up:
- Dozen Walk: Features changeable data fields designed for walking. They fit a lot of data on one screen which makes it one of the top contenders for rucking.
- Beers Earned Plus: Tracks how many beers you earned during a workout (and logs it to the activity) so that you can track the most important metric while training.
With these two apps downloaded we’ll be able to set up our three new activities.
Note on Dozen Walk: From the comments it sounds like this app might have caused one user to have their watch restart. Although this has never happened to me it’s definitely worth noting. If you want the most stable experience stick to what Garmin has built into the watch.
Garmin Fenix Ruck Activity
The first activity I set up is simply called Ruck.
When you’re adding a new activity you can either find Walk in the list (if it’s there) or you can choose Copy Activity and then select Walk.
You can name this new activity anything you want but I usually stick with Ruck.
For data screens I’ll set the first screen to a 1 field layout….
…and that one field will be set to Dozen Walk.
The second screen will be set to a 4 field layout. Those fields will be Distance, Timer, Lap Pace, and BeersEarnedPlus. With those two screens set up you’re good for rucking.
If you want you can optionally add some additional fields to give you more info. If I’m trying to beat a certain pace I’ll add a Virtual Runner with the pace you’re trying to beat.
If you use the route tools on the Garmin website then it can be nice to create a “Navigation” screen that has details about your next stop. Not a bad plan if you’re barhopping!
Garmin Fenix GORUCK Activity
For GORUCK events I’ll add a new activity called GORUCK. Since we already created Ruck I’ll just make a copy of that.
I’ll call this new activity GORUCK in all caps because that’s how it should be.
We all know you can’t wear a watch to a traditional GORUCK (Light/Tough/Heavy) event so we’ll make some modifications around that. First, we’ll disable the “Lap Key” because it won’t be available to press.
Then we’ll head into Data Screens. If you copied Ruck from above then leave the first screen as Dozen Walk.
Set the second screen to a three screen set-up with Distance, Timer, and Beers Earned.
Remove all of the other screens… there’s always the chance the watch will switch to one of them and they tend to burn more battery (especially that map screen) than the rest.
If that set your GORUCK activity is good to go. If you have a watch that has a OHRM (optical heart-rate monitor aka wrist heart rate monitor) then before your event make sure to turn that off. It won’t be on your wrist so that will just burn battery.
In addition, if you have Bluetooth or Wifi turned on the watch make sure to turn those off as well. We want this watch to last as long as possible at the GORUCK event so all those bells and whistles can go.
Garmin Fenix BW/SB/Ruck WO Activity
The final activity I’ll create is called “BW/SB/Ruck WO” and set it to the “Other” activity. Garmin is far behind Suunto when it comes to activity types which is rather unfortunate. Usually after a workout I’ll go into the Garmin app and give it a nice name then change the activity to Fitness Equipment.
Usually after a workout I’ll switch the activity on the Garmin website or App to Fitness Equipment. I never set the activity up as “Strength” because, on the new watches at least, that means when you press the Lap button you’re prompted with a screen to edit your reps.
If you’re lifting weights in the gym then this is awesome. You get to track how many reps you completed and you can even change the amount of weight logged. Not only that but the newer Fenix watches will be able to tell what workout you’re doing. Very cool for weight training… horrible for AMRAP style workouts. I don’t want to have to pause to edit these values I just want to push through and continue working out.
This is the activity I’ll use when I’m going after Brute Force Sandbag WODs, the Crush Your Soul Workout Generator, or Heavy Drop Training workouts. Basically, anytime I’m training in a place with a sandbag, ruck, or just body weight and am not trying to track distance.
I’ll set up the first screen with a four column layout. That will include Time of Day, Timer, Heart Rate, and Beers Earned. This is the screen I hangout on the most.
The second screen is a Last Lap Time, Lap Time, and Laps. I keep this one going if I’m doing a workout where you cycle through the same set of movements over and over. It helps me keep track of where I’m in during the whole workout because my brain will try and play tricks on me once I get deep into a solid workout.
I remove the rest of the screens so we’re sitting here with just those two. Next up I add an Alert so that I don’t get too lost in the workout.
My alert is set to Time Every 5:00. What this means is every five minutes my watch will beep at me reminding me I’ve been working out for five minutes.
I chose five minutes because the majority of the workouts I do that are timed are in increments of 5 minutes (either 20, 25, or 30 minutes) so this helps me measure where I’m at for those.
If I’m doing a workout that requires holds for example plank for 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off, for 4 minutes then I’ll set up a metronome. Although this is an amazing feature Garmin makes it a little tricky to implement. For a 20 second on, 10 second off I’d set the metronome to beep every 10 seconds. That way I’d know to hold for two beeps and rest for one. The problem here is that you can see above that you can’t have less than 10 beats per minute. For a beep every 10 seconds we’re trying to achieve 6 beats per minute.
To accomplish this Garmin forces us to do some math. We’ll start out with 12 beats per minute which is one beat every five seconds.
We’ll then head on over to the frequency screen and change the frequency to every other beat. What this means is that we’ll have a metronome set to go off every five seconds but we only want to be notified every other beat. That’s how we get a metronome that beeps every 10 seconds. Not exactly fun but it works!
When it comes to the notification setting when I’m at the gym I’ll have it on vibrate only and when I’m at home I’ll have it on vibrate and tone. It’s easier to notice when you have the tone as well but that’s not always ideal for a gym setting.
Garmin Connect Changes
Making these changes to your Garmin Connect account will make your default activity names better. One issue people had with the previous steps was that by default the events were named walk.
When logged in to Garmin Connect head over to Account Settings. If Display Preferences is not selected by default then select that. Finally change the Activity Name to Location & Device Activity Name. With these settings if you use your “Ruck” activity in Seattle the default activity name will be Seattle Ruck!
Ideas & Suggestions?
That’s how I set up my Garmin Fenix watchces for rucking! Do you have a Garmin watch as well? I’d love to hear how you set it up for rucking and sandbag/body weight/ruck workouts. These things allow for so much customization and this post is only one way you can use them to hit your goals! Although the watch featured here is the Fenix 5X Plus this setup should work on the Fenix 3, Fenix 3HR, Fenix 5 (5S, 5, 5X) series, and Fenix 5 Plus (5S Plus, 5 Plus, 5X Plus) series of watches as well.