Wednesday, October 02, 2019

Garmin Training Status Explained

I been getting a few queries about “Training Status” on the Garmin device, and why after the weekend KLSCM (Kuala Lumpur Standard Chartered Marathon), their “Training Status” went into “Unproductive”. The conversation triggered as I showed my “Unproductive” status after sharing my 42km run results. It raised a lot of questions. Many asked how can one be unproductive (as a negative verb) when you just, well, ran a freaking 42km? I realized this can be discontenting for some, while for me, having understand how this work, not too worried and fully understand the message that is being sent by the device, to me.
Should you be worried?
Training status is a feature by Garmin that analyses your historical training load and habit and put them into an easy-to-understand bigger picture. If you do not use your device when you go for your exercise, or loan your device to another person, this will screw up your overall reading. This is because many of the user settings are set based on your ability; your Maximum Heart Rate, Lactate Threshold, Resting Heartrate, sleep, VO2Max, and even your sleeping time. These metrics has significant impact to how the “Training Status” are derived.

What Training Status does is to help provide a guidance and help your training plan in future – should you consider putting more intensity, train longer, and if you are working hard enough to see changes. Your effectiveness of your current training is being considered (in the form of the past 7-days training load) and your fitness level changes.
Training Status vs VO2Max vs Training Load - All related!
If you look at the logic, if you reduce your training, your fitness level will decrease. But if your previous training load is too high (meaning you need rest), a break or slow down or “recovery” may actually result in increase of fitness level – hence sometimes you get a surprised “new VO2max detected” after a day or two or rest, followed by a hard workout such as interval and speed work.

Along the same way, logically, if you train everyday and have the training load (in past 7-days) to be high, and you are happy with your progress – only to see your fitness slip into unproductive (like in my case), you know you may be bordering on “overtraining” if you are not too careful.

So, if you been training consistently for weeks, and your fitness level has been good. You make small day-to-day improvement in terms of load (optimal), the device will identify this as “productive”. Similarly, if you keep putting in hard training (intervals, hill work, speed work) day after day, the device will detect this as overreaching and you may have to cut back down on the intensity, or even take days off from training to recover.

In the device, these are the typical indicator to help you understand. These definitions is available in your Garmin Connect and also on Garmin website.

Peaking – You are in ideal race condition! Your recently reduced training load is allowing your body to recover and fully compensate for earlier training. Be sure to think ahead, since this peak state can only be maintained for a short time.

Productive – Keep up the good work! Your training load is moving your fitness in the right direction. Be sure to plan recovery periods into your training to maintain your fitness level.

Maintaining – Your current training load is enough to maintain your fitness level. To see improvement, try adding more variety to your workouts or increasing your training volume.

Recovery – Your lighter training load is allowing your body to recover, which is essential during extended periods of hard training. You can return to a higher training load when you feel ready.

Unproductive – Your training load is at a good level, but your fitness is decreasing. Your body may be struggling to recover, so pay close attention to your overall health, including stress, nutrition and rest.

Detraining – You’ve been training much less than usual for a week or more, and it’s affecting your fitness. Try increasing your training load to see improvement.

Overreaching – Your training load is very high and has become counterproductive. Your body needs a rest. Give yourself time to recover by adding lighter training to your schedule.

No Status – You typically need a week or two of training history, including recent activities with VO2 max results from running or cycling, before we can determine your training status.

So you been “unproductive”
The mystery of this can easily be explained this way. If you been running and exercising and you get this beep on your device that says “Performance Condition +5” or “Performance Condition -10”. On Garmin Connect, Performance Condition is defined and classified as this:

“As you run, performance condition analyzes your pace, heart rate, and heart rate variability to make a real-time assessment of your ability to perform compared to your average fitness level. During the first 6 to 20 minutes of an activity, your watch displays your performance condition score. Performance condition can also be an indicator of fatigue level, especially at the end of a long training run.”
Performance Condition indicator
Now it starts to make sense… despite having a good “fitness base”, the 42km run that I did returned a performance condition that denotes me having only a “fair” condition, which is below my baseline. Hence, the decline and the fatigue indicator.
The KLSCM 42km, my Performance Condition has been at average -3, which is "Fair", which resulted in "Unproductive"
When my Vo2Max went from 55 to 56 about 3 weeks ago, my Performance Condition during a 5km BRICK run was on the +4 and at baseline. The device algorithm checked this as Productive and hence the increase.
Compared to this 5km BRICK Run, which I completed in 22mins, It's on "Good" level, which help me to record new VO2Max
I will not touch into the Training Load for this article – as I am assuming the concern here is because despite a good Training Load, the status is on the decline. If your Training Load is already sub-optimal, it is expected your Training Status will be on the lower end as well.

Your Training Status ties in very closely to the Performance Condition at the time you are doing the exercise. If your heart rate (hence why finding your HRMax and LTHR is important) is higher at a particular pace (hence why it is important for you to put in the correct lactate pace in your User Setting) for your Garmin calculated VO2Max then you will have a negative Performance Condition. 

Likewise, If your heart rate is lower at a particular pace for your Garmin to calculated VO2Max then you will have a positive Performance Condition. Make sense – as you are now more efficient (lower HR threshold) and running at a higher speed (pace), a good indication you are improving.

To maintain a Productive status you must be working out above your Training Load while keeping positive Performance Conditions during workouts that calculate your VO2Max.

My personal take on this Training Status is to use it as a guidance, and to provide insight into our own training regime – we tend to fall into three categories; training too hard (in desperation to improve) or thinking we are training hard (in denial that the fitness is on decline) or training insufficiently (or wrongly) because of other factors. For this “Unproductive” status to show on my device since September 24 – it closely relates to the detraining status in the run up of KLSCM, and the 42km itself being take much easier (ave HR Z2/3) vs a very slow pace (Z1/2 threshold pace) which resulted in the “unproductive”.
Ruled By Device #FeelMyPain
Am I worried? Not really. I believe it will go up back again within the next 2 weeks. Even if it doesn’t show “Peaking” before my Ironman Langkawi on October 26, 2019 – I will still be racing at my own personal peak condition. Use these as guidance, not absolute indicator, very much like how Maximum HR calculation of 220-age is too generic for someone that is active and train at least 7 times a week!

Hope today’s article help you to understand how to continue to maximise your Garmin device!


  1. I selalu panic bila status bertukar ke Unproductive. Normally i chill je, continue workout at Zone 2/3 macam biasa but in shorter period eg. 30mins (less than 1 hour)

    1. standard la. Ramai panik tapi tak pasti kenapa. It got to do with the Performance COndition. which then relates to your training load, your HRAve, and Pace-ave