If you're an active cyclist or runner, you've probably at least dabbled with online mileage and training logs. These online services add tremendous value to your training information. When used with data uploaded from a sports GPS device, they take virtually all of the tedium out of capturing, storing, and analyzing training data.
Garmin has successfully combined the features of online training logs and online route planning and mapping services in its free Garmin Connect service. The route planning and mapping feature specifically is called Course Creator. With Course Creator, you can also export a route file to your Garmin GPS device.
The export feature is terrific if you want to pre-map a new route in a new location. A mapping GPS such as the Garmin Edge 800 can provide you with turn-by-turn directions from a pre-loaded route.
To begin using Course Creator, start a free account at Garmin Connect if you don't already have one. You will make the best use of Garmin Connect and Course Creator if you also own a Garmin sports GPS device, but you don't need one to create and share courses online.
Access the Garmin Account Sign In page and click Create One under the form.
Enter your name and email address, choose a password for your account, and then click Create Account.
Once you're logged in, you can access the full website and begin making a course.
From the left-hand menu, open Training and then Courses to launch the Courses page.
Click the Create a Course button to open the Select a Course Type window.
Pick a course type from the dropdown menu. Your options include Running, Hiking, Road Cycling, and several others.
Pick Custom as the Drawing Method, and then hit Continue. Another option is called Round Trip, which is an easy way to quickly build a course that has a particular distance. However, the following steps are for making a custom course, not a round trip course.
Click the map to make a starting point, or use the Location search bar at the top of that page to start somewhere that isn't nearby.
You can zoom very close to the map, so be sure to utilize that ability to make sure you're selecting the correct roads and paths that you want included in your course.
Click on the map again to make another course point, and keep doing that until you're finished building the course. The Course Creator tool will display total mileage in real time as you create the path.
Note the options on the left side of the map. You can have your course points follow popularity routing or roads, or you can even make the course follow your every move with the Freehand option which will create direct lines from each of your course points.
If you wish to do a loop route, click your way to the last point you want to be sure to hit, and then select Loop to Start to finish it out. There's more on these options below.
Name your course with the pencil icon, and then save it by clicking the Save New Course button.
The Course Creator tool does a good job of tracking roads when you have the Follow Roads option enabled. If you pick Freehand for a truly custom course, make sure to watch closely at where you're clicking; the line between each click is straight and doesn't factor in buildings or yards.
If you wish to plan out a course where you go to the ending point and then return to the starting point, following the exact same path, you can do that, too. Just map out the path and then click Out and Back from the left side of the map.
Editing any course is as easy as clicking and dragging intermediate points. For example, if you want to move your course south by a few blocks, find the line that is too far and drag the blue point down a few streets. The rest of the course will auto-adjust to make it work.
Sharing and Exporting Your Course
When you've built and saved your course, it appears in your courses list, accessible through the Training menu as described above. When you open a course, you can keep it private or use the Make Public link to share it.
Sharing a Garmin Connect course is as easy as sharing the URL. Copy the link in your browser and share it with anyone so that they can view the course details like the distance, map points, elevation, etc. They can also download your map in the GPX or FIT file format.
Keep in mind that when you share a course, anyone with the link can see exactly where the course begins and ends, something you might not want to share if the course includes your home address.
One of the neatest tricks of Course Creator is the ability to export your course to your Garmin GPS device. Simply connect your Garmin to your computer via its included USB cable and then click the Send to Device button. This works only if you have Garmin Express installed.