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How to Create 80/20 Zones on Your Garmin Device

by David Warden

Author's note: If you have an 80/20 electronic run or triathlon plan this document is not necessary, as your custom 80/20 zones will be delivered to your device. This issue is also resolved by using the 80/20 Zones App on your compatible Garmin device. This document is no longer supported and is not maintained to reflect the continuing changes in Garmin Connect. Although Garmin and 80/20 intensity zones achieve the same goal, they are different methods and not compatible. This workaround gets you close to aligning 80/20 and Garmin Connect zones, but is not recommended. The truth is, Garmin is not committed to the training zones feature. How do we know this? Because it's the year 2020 and you still can't setup Pace zones on your GPS-enabled device in Garmin Connect!

1. Establish your 80/20 Zones

To establish your 80/20 zones, see Intensity Guidelines for Triathlon and Running and read through the entire article.

Note: After establishing your 80/20 zones, if you are a veteran user of Garmin Connect, you can skip to step 4.

2. Set up a free account at Garmin Connect

This step is not required, but is strongly recommended. In addition to providing setup ease, a Garmin Connect account can provide you with valuable workout analysis.

It is much easier to set up your zones on a computer or smartphone via Garmin Connect than by doing it on the device itself. To set up a free Garmin Connect account, go to Garmin Connect, and then on Get Started.

Note: Some older Garmin devices are not compatible with Garmin Connect. Should this be the case for you, you will need to set up your zones directly on your device. Consult the user manual for your specific device on how to input your zones on the device.

3. Download and install Garmin Express and add your device

This step is not required, but is strongly recommended. In addition to providing valuable updates for most Garmin devices, Garmin Express will sync your zone settings (as well as your other settings) from Garmin Connect to your device.

Once Garmin Express is loaded on your device, add your Garmin device(s) to Garmin Express by following the instructions in the Garmin Express software.

4. Navigate to User Settings on Garmin Connect or Garmin smartphone App

  • Log in to Garmin Connect.
  • From the Garmin Connect homepage, select Devices and Sync Status in the upper right corner, then Device Settings.
  • Choose User Settings.
  • If you have the Garmin smartphone app, select your device, user settings, and Heart Rate Zones or Power Zones.

5. Set up your 80/20 heart rate zones

Garmin's zone scheme presents several challenges that limit the ability to define intensity. In a well-intentioned effort to keep things simple, Garmin has made them complicated, including items:

(1)  Garmin does not allow you to custom-name your zones (e.g., Zone X)

(2)  Garmin offers 6 HR zones instead of the seven 80/20 zones.

(3)  Garmin Connect only offers one "bucket" per zone instead of two buckets per zone, the result being the 80/20 zones have fourteen buckets (seven zones with an upper and lower limit for each zone), while Garmin offers exactly five total HR buckets. Therefore, some tweaking is required, by using the following steps, to line up Garmin with 80/20:

If you have a run threshold of 165, your 80/20 zones are:

Zone % LTHR Range (BPM)
1 72-81 119 134
2 81-90 134 149
X 90-95 149 157
3 95-100 157 165
Y 100-102 165 168
4 102-105 168 173
5 >105 >173
  • From the Device page on Garmin Connect, select the User Settings tab and scroll down to the Heart Rate Zones section.

For this example, we'll use the Garmin 920xt, which offers Heart Rate and Power zones (but no Pace zones?! This is a GPS company for crying out loud!)

  • Set Running and Cycling Based on % of LT
  • Enter your individual 80/20 zone values from the 80/20 calculator into the Garmin Connect zone table using the guide below (you may have to enter the fields in reverse order).

An LTHR of 165, for example, would look like this:

Garmin Connect BPM Garmin Connect Bucket Corresponding 80/20 Bucket
 119 Bottom of Zone 1  Bottom of Zone 1
 149 Bottom of Zone 2  Top of Zone 2
 157 Bottom of Zone 3  Bottom of Zone 3
 168 Bottom of Zone 4  Bottom of Zone Y
 173 Bottom of Zone 5  Bottom of Zone 5

Enter in your estiamted Max Heart Rate forthe top of Garmin's Zone 5.

Notice that to accommodate the Garmin zone restrictions for 80/20 zones, we had to do the following:

  • 80/20 Zone 1 and 2 are merged into one big zone: Garmin Zone 1.

This merge is not optimal; however, because a central tenet of 80/20 training is 80% at low intensity, ultimately the best performance will occur from training that takes place when 80% of your time is spent between Zone 1 plus Zone 2. We would want to see about 80% of your time in Garmin Zone 1.

  • Garmin Zone 2 becomes 80/20 Zone X.

When you are analyzing your intensity distribution using Garmin's scheme, or monitoring your intensity in real time, you will want to spend very little time in Garmin Zone 2.

  • Garmin Zone 3 equals 80/20 Zone 3.
  • Garmin Zone 4 equals 80/20 Zone Y plus Zone 4.

This is necessary to squeeze in the 80/20 zones into the Garmin system. Although Zone Y should be avoided, it is very narrow and not as problematic as Zone X.

  • Garmin Zone 5 equals 80/20 Zone 5.

6. Sync your device with Garmin Connect

Now that your zones are defined in Garmin Express, they need to be pushed to your device. Some devices, such as the Garmin 920xt, will sync with Garmin Connect via WIFI. Other devices require syncing with Garmin Express (from Step 2).

7. Set up your 80/20 power zones

Garmin's power zones offer you severn zone buckets.

While still on the Garmin Connect User Settings page (just below the Heart Rate Zones section), you will see the Power Zones section.

To set up your Garmin Zones to match the 80/20 zones, perform the following steps:

If you have an FTP of 230, your 80/20 power zones from the calculator will be:

Zone % FTP Range (Watts)
1 55-70 115 161
2 70-83 161 191
X 83-91 191 209
3 91-100 209 230
Y 101-102 230 235
4 102-110 235 253
5 >110 >253
  • Set your Functional Threshold Power (FTP) in the top field under Power Zones.
  • Enter your individual 80/20 zone values from the 80/20 calculator into the Garmin Connect zone table using the guide below (you may have to do this in reverse order to appease the Garmin gods):

An FTP of 230, for example, would look like this:

Garmin Connect Watts Garmin Connect Bucket Corresponding 80/20 Bucket
115 Bottom of Zone 1 Bottom of Zone 1
161 Bottom of Zone 2 Bottom of Zone 2
191 Bottom of Zone 3 Bottom of Zone X
209 Bottom of Zone 4 Bottom of Zone 3
235 Bottom of Zone 5 Top of Zone Y
253 Bottom of Zone 6 Bottom of Zone 5
1000 (just put in a high number) Top of Zone 6 Top of Zone 5

Notice that to accommodate the Garmin zone restrictions for 80/20 zones, we had to make Garmin Zone 3 equal 80/20 Zone X, which sets up the following chain of events:

  • Garmin Zone 4 equals 80/20 Zone 3 and Y
  • Garmin Zone 5 equals 80/20 Zone 4
  • Garmin Zone 6 equals 80/20 Zone 5