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This article reviews best practices for optimizing your GPS cycling computer for use with a structured training program. 

Step 1 – Put your computer in a place that’s easy to see 🙂
In this case, Connor Remboldt was tackling the hour record on the Lawrence Grass Velodrome. In track events, it is not allowed to have your computer visible on your handlebars.

General Settings


Auto-lap is the default setting with many computers. We recommend turning auto-lap off so that structured workouts with custom intervals can be followed.


The best practice is to keep auto-pause turned off. Rather than record zero’s during this period, the computer will treat the stop as if it never happened. Auto-pause will artificially inflate averages (power, speed, heart rate, cadence).

Example 1: Real-World Example

A cyclist rides at 200 watts for 30 minutes, takes a 30-minute break for coffee, then rides at 200 watts for another 30 minutes. 

The common yet incorrect way of viewing this ride is that the cyclists averaged 200 watts for a 60-minute ride. The 30-minute coffee break (rest) will impact a rider’s ability to perform the second 30-minute ride and not reflect the athlete’s true abilities for 60 minutes. The correct way to view this ride is one of the following:

  1. The cyclists averaged 133 watts for a 90-minute ride.
  2. The cyclists average 200 watts for two separate 30-minute rides. 

Example 2: Exaggerated Example

Tony Martin is racing a 30-mile time trial. He covers the first half of the course in 30-minutes. He stops for a 30-minute massage and finishes the second half of the course in 30-minutes. The official timer for the event never stops, so Tony’s official time was 90-minutes. When reviewing Tony’s power data for the time trial, you must include the 30-minutes of rest to understand the demands for his official 90-minute time. 

  • Tony’s official time for the race was 90 minutes. 
  • To be accurate, Tony’s ride data for the race must include his 30 minutes of rest.

Many cyclists will choose to utilize auto-pause despite the issues with accuracy. In practice, we find this is fine as long as the recording method is consistent and there is an understanding of how auto-pause impacts data accuracy to manage expectations. We recommend turning auto-pause off if maximum accuracy is vital to your goals. 

Data Recording

Garmin computers will come with the default recording method set to Smart Recording. We recommend adjusting this to 1-Second Recording. 

You can read more about the difference between Smart and 1-Second Recording here.

Include Zero’s in Average Power

Ensure your computer is recording zeros in your average power. Coasting is considered recovery time, and it’s important to factor this into your power average while training. 

Recommended Ride Screens

The following ride screens are meant to be a starting point for athletes new to structured training. It’s common for athletes to fine-tune their data fields as they learn what works best for them. 

Screen 1 – Overview (Power User)

  • Time of Day
  • Ride Time
  • Distance
  • Kilojoules
  • Average Power
  • Normalized Power

Screen 1 – Overview (Heart Rate User)

  • Time of Day
  • Ride Time
  • Distance
  • Average Heart Rate

The overview screen aims to provide general feedback while avoiding information overload.

Screen 2 – Intervals w/Data

  • Lap Duration
  • Lap Average Power
  • 3-second Power
  • Cadence
  • Heart Rate

Cyclists should use Screen 2 during intervals with specific wattage or heart rate guidelines. Cyclists not using power should omit unnecessary data fields.  

Screen 3 – Intervals w/RPE

  • Lap Duration
  • Cadence

We will commonly instruct athletes to perform intervals using “rate of perceived exertion” (RPE), even if a power meter and heart rate monitor are available. 

Screen 4 – Map w/Data

  • Map
  • Lap Duration
  • Distance

During races that require navigation, this is the recommended screen. This basic screen setup aims to ensure athletes stay focused on course navigation and eating/drinking at regular intervals.

Best Practices For Utilizing Structured Workouts on a Computer 

Most training sessions will be created using the Structured Workout Builder in TrainingPeaks. These sessions may then be used on compatible cycling computers.

Using TrainingPeaks Structured Workouts on a Garmin Device
Using TrainingPeaks Structured Workout on a Wahoo Device

Ensure heart rate and power zones match.

Many training sessions utilize a goal range for heart rate and/or power, requiring an accurate threshold heart rate and functional threshold power. For these ranges to be correct on your computer, these numbers must match in TrainingPeaks and your cycling computer. 

Adjust rest and work intervals as needed.

Timing rest and work intervals can be difficult while training on the open road. For example, if your next interval is scheduled to start in 10-seconds, but it’s going to take 30-second to get through an intersection, then the best choice is to wait until you are safely through. For this to work, training sessions must be built in the Structured Workout Builder with “open-ended steps.” Otherwise, your computer will force-start the next step if open-ended steps aren’t utilized. 

Not all devices allow for adjusting interval durations. If this is the case, we recommend not using the structured workout feature for training that requires more flexibility. 

Don’t let your computer become a distraction.

In our experience, it’s best to simplify training while on the road or trail. Optimal outdoor training sessions should have an easy-to-remember structure and intensity goals. If a training session is so complex that it requires an athlete to monitor their computer constantly, it’s probably best performed indoors in a controlled environment. 

Move Up Athlete Kindsay is focused on the course and pacing her effort.

Tips For Perform Structured Training Outdoors

Step 1 – Review the training session.

  • What is the goal intensity and duration for the warm-up?
  • What is the main interval set?
  • What type of route is ideal for the day’s training?

Step 2 – Start the ride / Warm-up.

  • Start your computer, calibrate your power meter (if applicable), and begin the ride. Most training sessions will start with a simple warm-up to gradually increase intensity over 10-30 minutes. 
  • Occasionally, you’ll encounter a more complex warm-up involving several timed steps. These types of warm-ups are typically reserved for testing sessions or race days.

Step 3 – Begin the main interval set.

  • Switch to the appropriate ride screen
  • Hit the lap button at the beginning of your first interval
  • Hit the lap button at the end of your first interval
  • Repeat this process until all intervals have been completed



30-minutes; gradually increase intensity throughout the warm-up.

→ Power Range: 0-75% FTP

Main Set:

(3) x 10’ @ 95-100% FTP w/3-5’ recovery

→ Start each interval at the lower end of the goal range, then adjust up or down based on how you feel. Pedal easy for 3-5 minutes between each work interval. 


10-minutes; easy pedaling 

This is a typical setup for a structured training session. Start your computer at the beginning of the ride and warm up for 30-minutes. Hit your lap button before the start of the first 10-minute interval, then again at the end of the interval. Rest for 3-5 minutes, then hit your lap button to start the next interval. Repeat this process to complete all intervals. 

Jordan Miller is using his Garmin computer to pace his effort and navigate at The Epic, a gravel race in Warsaw, MO.


Modern GPS cycling computers are an excellent training tool but can also add an unnecessary layer of complexity. Our recommendations encourage athletes to use simple data screens to promote safe and optimal training free of unnecessary distractions.



Kent Woermann

Kent Woermann is the owner/operator of Move Up Endurance Coaching. He is currently a certified personal trainer through the National Strength and Conditioning Association and holds a category 1 license in road, mountain bike, and cyclocross disciplines.

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