The Apple Watch is an excellent running partner and fitness smartwatch. That’s why it’s dominated our best smartwatch guides since its launch in 2014, and really, only specialist running watches from the likes of Garmin can match its prowess.
But once you dive under the hood, there are some excellent features that many runners might not know about.
Read on for five features every runner should know about:
If you regularly run the same routes, there’s a nifty feature that can spice up your workouts.
The Race Routes feature keeps tabs on your past routes, and enables you to race yourself, for an extra dose of motivation.
We used it for our local park run, and it offered a whole new experience to race your PB in real time. And if you're not feeling at your best, you can just race your last effort instead.
To use the feature, just start an outdoor run session in the Workout app, but hit the three little dots menu button.
Choose Routes, and then select one from the list.
We didn’t see any Routes listed here on the first attempt, and we had to update our iPhone to iOS 6.2 before routes were displayed. If you’re seeing a blank list, start there. Also, make sure your Apple Watch is updated as well.
Build your own workout
You can also build your own workout entirely.
Again, head to the Outdoor Run option in the Workout app and hit the menu button.
From here you can start building a workout, either setting a target time, pace, distance, or calorie target by choosing a Custom > Goal Based workout.
Pace-based goals are especially interesting, as you will get a graphic to show you how far behind or ahead you are of your pace goal.
You can also build in interval timers, and set warm-up and cool-down periods.
It means you can have the Apple Watch guide you through specific sessions, so you can concentrate on the workout.
If you like building structured workouts on the Apple Watch, we also highly recommend downloading and using Nike Run Club.
Auto upload to Strava
For years we used Strava to track our running workouts because we didn’t want to miss out on the social and performance analysis for our runs.
But as the Workout app improved, it became annoying not to be able to enjoy the richer interface during runs that Apple’s experience provides.
A couple of years ago you could manually upload workouts to Strava from the Apple Watch, which plugged some of the gaps. And now it can all be done automatically.
We have a full guide to connecting Apple Watch and Strava, so we won’t reproduce that here. But there’s now an option to have workouts synced over automatically.
Just toggle on Automatic Uploads – and go for a run.
One for Apple Watch Ultra only (weirdly), Precision Start enables you to have the Workout app ready to go on the start line of races – and push to begin.
When you fire up the Apple Watch Workout app, the tracking begins immediately, by default. You get a 3,2,1 countdown, and off you go.
That’s not only fiddly when you’re in the funnel of a big race, but also presents a challenge for accuracy. That’s because the Apple Watch doesn’t spend time finding a satellite lock like pretty much every other GPS sports watch, and uses other signals to plot a location before it locks on.
That’s fine on training plods, but if you’re on the start line of your big race, you’ll want the watch locked and ready to go.
To turn on Precision Start go to Settings > Workout and turn on Precision Start. You won’t go back.
We hope this rolls out to the Series 8 and SE, as it's a useful feature for any runner.
View live running power
In the past couple of watchOS updates, Apple has added a ton of running dynamics updates including vertical oscillation tracking, cadence and more recently running power.
We’ve written about running power extensively, and it’s effectively a metric of running effort, rather than heart rate exertion. And when used correctly, it can be an effective tool for ensuring you don’t burn out on races.
The issue is that it doesn’t show on the Apple Watch Workout app by default, but you can have it appear as a live metric.
This is a great chance to explain how to edit and adjust the metrics you see during a workout.
Go to the outdoor run activity in the Workout app and hit that menu button again. Go to the Open workout, and then tap the tiny edit button, and choose Workout Views.
Here you can cycle through all the displays for running metrics, and you can choose whether they should be included or not.
Running power will be part of that list – so hit Include and have it displayed live on your wrist as you run.
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