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How to make your GPS/Garmin pick up signal

OK, it is time for a run. You get your kit on, put your shoes on, trainers, make your way outside. You turn the GPS watch on. You wait. You wait……

You wait.

You wave your arm around, and wait.

You wait.

It starts raining. You wait.

I won’t go on, but you get the picture. Your GPS watch, which for most people these days has become a surrogate coach, friend, lover (I won’t go into it), does not always get signal straight away which can cause unnecessary stress. There is no actual exact way to fix this because each GPS watch is different but here are a few ways that help according to a little trial and error on my part combined with instruction booklets from a variety of GPS watches:

  • I know it’s not always under your control but having a clear view of the entire sky creates the ideal condition for acquiring satellite signal for your GPS. If there is a clear sky then it really shouldn’t take more than 1-4 minutes to start working.
  • It’s cold outside, you have been sat in your car (with the heater on full blast) with your GPS watch on for 15 minutes now and you don’t have signal. Remember the previous point, if you don’t have full view of the sky then you may have issues. Try placing the watch on the roof of your car or on the bonnet. The chances are your watch is water proof so you lose nothing while attempting this and I have found that I don’t care so much when I’m listening to motivational music away from the rain/outdoor elements.
  • If your GPS watch has traveled 500+ miles, maybe if you’re driving to an event or to somewhere scenic for a long run then it again may not pick up signal for 3-5 minutes. This one makes sense to me because you’d expect if you changed positions from your normal day to day running start spot it would have to work out where you are. Still my Google maps app manages to work it out before I even know where I am most of the time.

A couple of smaller more obvious reasons on why you may not be getting GPS signal immediately:

  • If your device is indoors.
  • If you have just finished updating the software (updating the GPS watch helps it perform better) or reset all your data on there

In this Feb. 13, 2011 photo, a marathon runner, attending the Mardi Gras Marathon, displays three GPS running aides, the Garmin Forerunner 110, left, the Timex Ironman Global Trainer, and the Garmin  Forerunner 305, right. (AP Photo)

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About Matt Wood

Matt Wood
Ex-England International track athlete over 1500m, Sports Science graduate from Loughborough University and race manager at RunThrough events.

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