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Garmin drops balls on heart rate, training effect, load, etc.

One of my goals with adding a fēnix 6 to my stable of Garmin devices is that I was looking for a better, holistic view of activity/stress/load/etc., but clearly they don’t seem to understand that there’s a world outside of what they capture. Ignoring that devalues the usefulness of their platform, and frankly makes it less trustworthy for anyone who expects them to get these important metric right. Let’s dig into the problem.

This is a graph of my heart rate (HR) yesterday as measured by the fēnix 6.

As we can see, it records a peak around 113bpm during a cycling activity. This was a virtual Zwift race, followed by a cool down, so I wasn’t using the the watch to record anything. I’m inclined to somewhat forgive the complete wrongness of the data here for that reason (i.e. sampling rates, optical wrist sensors aren’t great for indoor cycling at the best of times, blah, blah, blah), but it should still be miles better (c’mon Garmin). With that out of the way there’s no reality in which my HR was anywhere close to 113bpm during this time, and Garmin actually knows that…

Because I have Zwift configured to automatically sync activities to Garmin Connect; where we can see my real HR in Garmin Connect (I’ve marked the point above where the race ended and the cool down began). A full 68%, using Garmin’s own calculations of this effort, was in Z5, but somehow there was “No Benefit” in the Training Effect section?

I can only conclude from this that there is actually “No Benefit” from integrating Zwift with Garmin Connect, because they aren’t doing anything useful with the data. Not even a simple sanity check versus what their device is doing. Seriously, how hard would it be to merge the two datasets? Oh wait, they don’t even do that with data from their own devices; activities recorded with an Edge 530 have exactly the same problem 🤦‍♂️.

There are two possible remedies that I see:

  1. Record twice: This is a quick workaround of course, but it creates a maintenance issue for me because I will have two recording going up to Strava each time, and I’ll need to delete one of them to keep the data accurate there. Stupid, kludgy, and should be unnecessary.
  2. Garmin fixes the platform: It blows my mind that they aren’t doing the right thing here already. Garmin Connect is the sell for going all-in on their devices, and they are dropping so many balls by not integrating activities that aren’t recorded with the watch. Even activities record with their devices! Yes, I know about Physio TrueUp, and it is supposed to cover some of these concerns, but it doesn’t seem to work, or at least not very well. While I focus on HR, it is really just an indicator. Something that they should be using to calculate load, which is critical to ensuring the right balance of training and recovery.

Ultimately, if I can’t trust the guidance or numbers that the platform supplies why am I using it?


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