How to pause an activity with your Garmin watch – automatically or manually

Woman using sports watch during a run
(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you've just got a new Garmin watch, it might take you a little while to familiarize yourself with its controls. You'll soon get the hang of browsing through glances (little snippets of information about your day, such as your current step count, calories burned, and last night's sleep) by scrolling with the touchscreen or buttons, and it's easy to start tracking a workout, but it's also important to learn how to pause it so you're not left scrabbling at the controls during a run or gym session.

Pausing an activity will temporarily stop the timer, and suspend heart rate tracking. Any movement while your watch is paused will not be recorded. It can be helpful if you're waiting at a crosswalk, you need to refuel, or you're waiting for a piece of equipment at the gym.

When it comes to pausing activities, not all Garmin watches are the same. All devices allow you to pause tracking manually, some can pause certain activities automatically if you stop moving, and some let you pause a workout for an extended time and resume it much later.

Manual pause

If you have a Garmin watch with five buttons (like the Fenix, Forerunner, Epix, and Instinct series), you can pause an activity by pressing the top right button. Pressing this button a second time will resume tracking, or you can scroll down from the 'pause' screen to save or discard the activity. You'll be asked to confirm your choice, so it's unlikely you'll delete your workout accidentally.

If you have a Garmin Vivomove or Lily, you can pause and resume tracking by double-tapping the screen.

Auto pause

Some Garmin watches can pause tracking automatically when you've stopped moving for a certain period of time. These include ones in the Descent, Epix, Enduro, Fenix, Forerunner, Instinct, Tactix, Quatix, and Marq series. You can find a full list on Garmin's website.

To configure auto pause, select an activity, then hit the menu button (center left) and scroll down to More Settings. Scroll down to Auto Pause and you'll be able to toggle it on or off, or enable it when you drop below a certain speed.

Auto pause isn't available for all activities, but can be very useful for running, cycling, walking, and hiking.

Auto pause settings on Garmin Fenix 7S watch

(Image credit: Future)

Resume later

If you pause an activity for a long period of time (typically between 15 and 30 minutes), your watch will end the activity and save it automatically so it's not lost. This stops your watch's GPS running in the background, which could drain the battery, and is helpful if you paused your watch at the end of a workout and forgot to select the save option. However, it's not always what you want, particularly if you're hiking and want to stop for lunch, or are taking a well-earned coffee break during a bike ride.

Some Garmin watches give you the option of pausing a workout, the returning to the main watch face and resuming the activity much later. This option will turn off GPS until you're ready to start again. To use it, pause your watch manually, then scroll down to the option Resume Later. When you're ready to restart tracking, just select the activity type from the menu as usual, and your watch will pick up where you left off.

You should find this feature on all watches that have the auto pause function.

Cat Ellis

Cat is the editor of Advnture, She’s been a journalist for 15 years, and was fitness and wellbeing editor on TechRadar before joining the Advnture team in 2022. She’s a UK Athletics qualified run leader, and in her spare time enjoys nothing more than lacing up her shoes and hitting the roads and trails (the muddier, the better), usually wearing at least two sports watches.