With its long list of fitness related features, the Apple Watch is quickly growing in popularity with serious athletes. The Apple Watch’s optical heart rate sensor, accelerometer, gyroscope, barometric altimeter, 50m water resistance, and built-in GPS (available in the Apple Watch 2 and 3), lets you track swim, bike, and run workouts indoors and out. With the added benefit of bringing your favorite music along with you, the Apple Watch keeps you motivated during workouts.
The Apple Workout App
Apple’s Workout app tracks both indoor and outdoor workouts, and has specific modes for treadmills and other gym equipment. GPS-capable watches track outdoor activities such as cycling, mountain biking, trail running, and open water swimming.
With a built-in heart rate sensor, your heart rate can be tracked during your workout without the need for a chest strap. For those times when it is needed, it also pairs with a Bluetooth HRM strap.
New in WatchOS 4 are enhanced swim features for tracking metrics like duration, distance, sets, pace, rest time, and stroke type. WatchOS 4 also adds a quick-switching feature to Apple’s Workout app that allows you to easily switch between sport types during a single workout session.This is especially useful when doing brick workouts or while competing in multisport events.
Completed workout data is automatically saved to Apple’s Health app for later retrieval. While lacking some of the other features of a dedicated sport device, the Apple Watch is still a sleek and capable fitness tracker.
Using TrainingPeaks With Your Apple Watch
An important benefit for athletes with an Apple Watch is that workout data can be imported into TrainingPeaks. Apple’s Workout app—and most workout apps available in the app store—save your workout data in the Health app.
These workouts can then be synced to TrainingPeaks with any of these third-party apps, which are available in the App Store for your iPhone or iPad.
Whichever app you choose, you need to allow the app access to your workout data stored in the Health app. You also need to allow the app to access your TrainingPeaks account. Both of these are one-time steps.
From here, each app has its own way of displaying, filtering, and sharing workouts to TrainingPeaks. Each app varies in cost and features; you should read the description of each app to help decide which one will work best for you.
In our testing, all three apps perform equally well for running and cycling workouts. HealthFit and Workout Exporter provide better support for pool-swim workouts, but we did find some issues. Auto-sets do not always match the actual workout, and small time gaps between pool lengths exist, even when you are continuously moving.
Both of these issues have to do with how the Apple Watch tracks pool-swim workouts and stores the data in the Health app. The Apple Watch’s ability to determine when you are swimming, turning (open or flip), or resting between sets, can still use some improvement. Even with these issues, the total distance and duration of pool-swim workouts appear to be correct, which means that your swimTSS for the workouts in TrainingPeaks will be correct. Workout Exporter is the only app to sync non-workout data to TrainingPeaks. Resting heart rate, heart rate variability, and weight are the current options.
How to Track Your Workouts Using Your Apple Watch
Workouts can be tracked on your Apple Watch with the built-in Workout app, or any number of third-party apps. In general, we found that the third-party apps provide additional sport specific features that are typically found in dedicated sport watches, like customizable screens, lap review, realtime maps and support for additional Bluetooth sensors. Below are some of our favorite apps that sync directly with your TrainingPeaks account:
Running and Cycling
Despite its name, iSmoothRun is an all-purpose workout tracking app. With workout profiles for running, cycling, mountain biking, rowing, XC skiing and more, you can record just about any activity. iSmoothRun allows you to customize screens and view a map of your route in real-time. The app also supports auto-laps and auto-pause. With the “Watch Only” mode, you can even leave your iPhone at home. Using the iSmoothRun app on your iPhone, workouts can be synced to TrainingPeaks for detailed analysis. The app can also connect Bluetooth sensors and take advantage of the Apple Watch’s built-in optical heart rate sensor.
Advanced Running Metrics
When paired with a Stryd sensor, the Stryd app turns your Apple Watch into a powerful running device. View your running power, cadence, vertical oscillation, and ground contact time in real-time.
With better-than-GPS pace and distance from Stryd, you get the same performance on trails or treadmills. You can extend battery life on long runs by turning the GPS off on your watch while still getting accurate pace and distance, making it possible to use your Apple Watch for a full marathon or long training runs.
The Stryd app also supports auto-laps and has customizable data screens. When using a Stryd footpod, the app will use the Apple Watch’s built-in optical heart rate sensor. Workouts can be auto-synced to TrainingPeaks for detailed analysis from Stryd’s PowerCenter.
Running and Strength Conditioning
When combined with a Wahoo TICKR RUN or TICKR X, the RunFit app brings advanced running metrics like cadence, vertical oscillation and ground contact time, to the Apple Watch.
The RunFit app also guides you through a seven-minute strength, core, or post-run workout. Using the RunFit app on your iPhone, workouts can be synced to TrainingPeaks without the need for the Health app.