In reality, I am very happy with my Apple Watch. Because of it, and how it has challenged me, I have actually begun to run — not walk, on my way to improved health.
One of the interesting iPhone apps that comes along with the Apple Watch is the “Activity” app. It is really great at tracking your workouts — and even prodding you into using it if you did not know it existed (more on that in a minute). A more “how to” version of this article is available on my blog.
I live the honorable life of a desk jockey. I am lucky enough to toil in the comfort of air conditioning while I sit in meetings or use my keyboard with various software programs. This would all be fine and dandy, aside from my hobby. I occasionally race cars in 90 degree heat accompanied by 90 percent humidity. At least I do it while wearing a triple-layer fire suit! Good thing I am getting old on top of all of that.
Until they find the fountain of youth, I had to find a way to deal with 30–45 minutes of racing a race car in fairly uncomfortable conditions. Wait — there is this concept of getting in better shape by working out!
Walking 10 thousands steps a day
The benefits of walking over five thousand steps per day have been well documented. For some reason, many of the step counting companies and apps decided the daily average goal should be ten thousand steps. I have a couple of apps on my iPhone that let me know my progress towards the 10k daily goal. This is in addition to the 70k weekly goal and the four variants of a monthly goal (let’s not forget leap years). Due to the Apple Health app, my steps have been recorded in my iPhones since 2014!
In June of 2016 I decided to get serious and track my steps. The iPhone comes with an accelerometer in it, and I was happy to just use that by carrying the phone in my pocket. The app I chose to track my steps represents the days, weeks and months that exceed the daily 10k average as the color “green”. Less than 10k average are shown in “orange” and less than 5k average are shown in “red”.
Unfortunately I started late enough in 2016 that while I had many “green” days, weeks, and months, I was unable to turn the year green by walking extra steps each day.
Adding the Apple Watch
I purchased the Apple Watch because I am basically a geek at heart and knew it complimented the iPhone. While there is still no “Dick Tracey video call” feature yet, it does allow some additional benefits for health tracking. I currently own the Apple Watch Series 3 with built in heart rate monitor. It allows me to leave my phone at my desk and still records my steps. Now I can count steps even when recharging that woefully puny iPhone battery that Apple provides!
I am a firm believer that the best products do not need a manual. I wouldn’t read it if they came with one — so this may reinforce my belief. The great thing about the “Activity” app is that it “tells” you to use it (no manual required)! While out walking in sub-zero temperatures this January, my “haptic notification” on the watch told me to take a look. After taking off gloves and peeling back multiple layers of jackets and hoodies, the Apple Watch let me know that it thought I was possibly exercising — and would I like to start a “workout”?
I had not known that there was a workout tracker on the watch. I had been using the messy bubble view of the apps and had no idea what one app was from the other. Apple taught me to use the workout app!!! Great product.
Thank you Dan Boerner for showing me that I could change to the more obvious list view! Now I had the ability to “start” my workout at the beginning, not after Apple noticed that I had been exercising for 5 minutes.
Starting a Workout on the Apple Watch
There are a number of different workouts on the Apple watch, and ways to set the goals by distance, time or calories burned.
Once you start your walk, run, bicycle trip, etc. the watch gives you continuous feedback on various metrics such as: time, distance, heart rate, average speed, active calories, etc. This is very handy when trying to break your personal best as you know when to pick up the pace, etc. It also helps during training where you want to check your heart rate.
Apple Watch Workout and iPhone Activity Apps
Why Apple would call the app one thing on the iPhone and another on the Watch is a subject for someone at Apple. But once you complete a workout on the Apple Watch, you can view a short summary in the “Workout” app on the watch — but much more interesting details on the iPhone “Activity” app.
Details such as: total time, total miles, the path you walked tracked via GPS, the “splits” of the average time per mile for each mile walked, as well as the temperature and humidity at the time you took your walk. The following screen shots show all of these from one of my recent walks.
The Five Mile Walk Around Lake Riley
Note the the top of the screen shows the date, distance, and total time it took me to walk around the lake. It also shows my average heart rate. Pretty cool. As you look further down the screen, it shows I averaged 15 minute and 23 second miles for those 5 miles. Furthermore, it shows the “splits” of each mile’s average broken out. My fastest mile was actually mile 4!
Scrolling further down the page a few more handy pieces of information are displayed such as the heart rate over time, the temperature and humidity, as well as the GPS map of my route!
Lastly, by clicking on the GPS map, an enlarged version is available as seen in the next screen shot. Note that the line depicting my walk is mostly yellow, but changed to red where I paused or stopped and turned green when I walked fast enough.
This really made taking a walk seem pretty fun to me. I started to compare the times on each of my various routes. I had my basic one mile , two mile, three mile, and five mile routes. Each time I went out I would walk faster and faster to try to beat my record on that route (maybe aligns with why I race cars). This got harder and harder.
The Only Way to Walk Faster Was to Run!
My four routes have increasingly longer distances and times, but in general they are about 16 minutes per mile (my record 2 mile walk now averages just under 15 minutes per mile). Eventually I realized the only way to set a faster time for each of those distances was to run part of them. I started by running the downhill portions. My Apple Watch had finally gotten me to run instead of just walking my steps! I was running from (because of) my Apple Watch!
The other nice feature of the Activity app is letting you track all of your workouts at a glance for the month. Thirty-three workouts in June was a great way to get my steps in for the month and make up for those difficult January and February months in Minnesota.
My Apple Watch has made it where I am constantly challenging myself to go faster, walk more often, and to push myself to get into better cardio shape. It also works indoors on my elliptical machine and stair stepper.
I have used it for interval / High Intensity Training (HIT) where I need to monitor my heart rate as well. I understand the Apple Watch Series 4 is even more accurate in measuring heart rate, but the Series 3 is good enough for me at this point. The Apple Watch has done far more than I expected when I bought my first one a few years ago.
Ted Cahall July 2, 2017