Top-tier Garmin features are trickling down to your favorite Forerunner, Instinct watches

A road map on the Garmin Forerunner 965
The Garmin Forerunner 965 will get more dynamic mapping starting today. (Image credit: Michael Hicks / Android Central)

What you need to know

  • The Garmin September software update is rolling out now to select Garmin watches.
  • Most recent Garmin watches are receiving a new Workouts app, team sports profiles, and pre-workout muscle maps.
  • Key Garmin watches receive Hill and Endurance scores, Training Readiness, Training Load Ratio, Morning Report, and unique golf, fishing, or gaming profiles.
  • The Garmin Forerunner 965, 955, 265, and 255; Instinct 2X, 2, and Crossover; Fenix 7 & 7 Pro; Epix & Epix Pro Gen 2; Enduro 2, tactix 7, MARQ Gen 2, and quatix 7 have all received new features. 

If you bought a Garmin watch in the last couple of years, odds are you'll receive a bunch of new features within the day. Starting September 5, Garmin began rolling out a load of long-requested tools and new sports modes to the latest models, along with popular features of last-gen watches.

For starters, all of the latest Forerunner watches (255, 265, 955, and 965) and Instinct watches (2X, 2, 2 Solar, and Crossover) will receive new team sports modes like football, baseball, basketball, soccer, rugby, hockey, lacrosse, racket sports, and boxing.

Next, they'll all receive the new Workouts app. According to Garmin, it'll let you "easily find and organize workouts across all your athletic pursuits — including daily suggested workouts plus those downloaded or created in the Garmin Connect app." A better way to organize workouts was in our Garmin wishlist of new features, so this seems like a great start.

To go along with the new workout app, all of these Forerunner watches — plus the latest Fenix, Epix, Enduro, tactic, MARQ, and quatix watches — will see muscle maps prior to HIIT, cardio, pilates, or strength workouts. First, you'll "preview the muscle groups that your custom or preset workouts will impact" so you can decide if your muscles can handle it. Then you'll see your muscle stats in the Connect app after a workout, though we don't know what this will look like yet. 

A graphic showing the Garmin Hill score

(Image credit: Garmin)

For Garmin watches like the Forerunner 965 and Forerunner 955 with mapping software, Garmin has added "color and topographic shading" onto its maps, so you can better visualize terrain and elevation changes instead of relying on contour lines.

Plus, they'll support a weather map overlay when connected to your smartphone, showing real-time "precipitation, cloud cover, temperature, and wind data" in relation to your current location. Both of these map tools were exclusive to the Fenix 7 Pro and Epix Pro Gen 2, so we're happy that Garmin isn't keeping them locked to its priciest watches anymore.

In addition, the Forerunner 965 and 955 — plus the aforementioned top-tier models like Fenix 7 and Enduro 2 — receive Endurance and Hill scores. 

Endurance scores are meant to "go beyond" VO2 Max since "individuals with the same VO2 max often have very different results." It looks at data from the past two to three months to score your ability to train for long periods, which should be especially helpful if you're preparing for a marathon.

Hill scores are fairly self-explanatory: they'll start with your VO2 Max baseline and then determine your hill endurance and hill strength. In other words, you'll be scored based on your ability to sustain long uphill stretches and to push with speed and intensity. Get ready to be judged if you like to walk up hilly trails instead of running them!

The author's training load ratio on the Garmin Forerunner 965

Load ratio on the Forerunner 965 (Image credit: Michael Hicks / Android Central)

As for Garmin's other running watches, the Forerunner 265 and Forerunner 255 will both receive load ratio, a really useful bit of context that tells you how your weekly training load compares to your chronic load average across the last four weeks. It helps you determine if you're overtraining or sliding backward.

Frustratingly, even though this update gives the Instinct 2 series Training Readiness — a metric that combines Body Battery, sleep data, acute load, and recovery to tell you how ready you are for workouts of different intensities — the Forerunner 255 still doesn't, despite supporting all of these individual metrics. Maybe that'll come with the next update.

The Instinct 2 Solar also received the Morning Report for the first time, something it reportedly had trouble adding in the past and removed from past beta updates. We're glad Garmin got it working for the stable build. 

Also, every Instinct model just got a Gaming mode: it offers "biometric-based data that helps you understand your optimal stress zone, plan breaks with a game power feature, and view Body Battery energy levels to play at your best." Sure, why not? The Garmin Venu 2 series gets Gaming, too, but nothing else; unfortunately, no other Garmin Venu 3 features have come to the last-gen models yet.

Rounding out the update list, Garmin's Fenix, Epix, and other top-tier brands will receive a "Fish forecast" with recommended times to see the most fish; a Red Shift mode that changes the display color to be better suited for nighttime use; and an "enhanced golf activity" which Garmin doesn't describe.  

You can check out Garmin's update chart at that link if you want to double-check which Garmin watches will receive which new features.

Michael L Hicks
Senior Editor, VR/AR and fitness

Michael is Android Central's resident expert on fitness tech and wearables, with an enthusiast's love of VR tech on the side. After years freelancing for Techradar, Wareable, Windows Central, Digital Trends, and other sites on a variety of tech topics, AC has given him the chance to really dive into the topics he's passionate about. He's also a semi-reformed Apple-to-Android user who loves D&D, Star Wars, and Lord of the Rings.

For wearables, Michael has tested dozens of smartwatches from Garmin, Fitbit, Samsung, Apple, COROS, Polar, Amazfit, and other brands, and will always focus on recommending the best product over the best brand. He's also completed marathons like NYC, SF, Marine Corps, Big Sur, and California International — though he's still trying to break that 4-hour barrier.