Get your Ultimate Apple Workout Automation!
Follow this easy step-to-step visual guide to create your own Apple cross-devices Workout Automation with iOS Shortcuts!
After reading this article, you not only will be able to build your custom Workout Automation on your own, but you will also be able to download my personal Evening Stroll Shortcut, ready for you to use with your favorite Apple devices.
It all started with the Covid19…
It was the 9th of March 2020 when our Italian Prime Minister announced an unprecedented nation-wide total lockdown, following the rapid outbreak of a quite unknown but already fearsome worldwide pandemic: the epicenter of the first italian outbreak was just 15 miles away from my hometown.
Me, my family, my friends and rapidly the vast majority of humankind was forced to stay at home, to deeply and swiftly change their life and their daily habits.
If you too, just like me at that time, had deeply engrained daily workouts rituals, you suddenly felt lost and clueless on how to stay fit and don’t indulge too much on late evening Netflix binging after a long and stressful working-from-home day.
No more sport, social activities, outside walks and gym: it took us nearly 3 months before we were allowed to start again and with great limitations some kind of outdoor activity. One of the greatest limitations for me, that I was used to long countryside walks on the evening, was and still is the 10pm curfew.
If life give you lemons…
Even when the lockdown was softened and we were allowed to take some limited strolls and have minimal outdoor activities, this was only inside the borders of our municipality and we still must get back inside our homes by 10 pm.
Being that, now I had one strict deadline but I started to vary my walking routes every day to feel less bored of doing always the same identical paths.
But I always felt worried to be late, to miscalculate times and get caught outside still walking by the police after the curfew and to be fined.
I also noticed that I was losing every single day the really limited time of my precious physical activity doing always the same recurring preparations:
Check what was the actual time, start to think about how many minutes I had until the deadline, change my Apple Watch face to my default Analog Activity display, choose the Workout activity, input the duration of time, set a timer to know when I should turn on my heels to get back home in time, set my AirPods Pro as the reproduction device, set the transparency mode to safely hear the outside environment while walking and finally start my favorite podcast show or workout playlist.
When you notice a recurring pattern and you find yourself making everyday or so the same set of actions there’s always space for a nice time saving automation!
How amazing would be if I was able to put my walking shoes on, put my AirPods Pro and go outside just saying:
Hey Siri! Start my Evening Stroll!
Maybe you are asking yourself: “This is another abstruse technical article for nerds and software developers! How am I supposed to build automations on my own?”
Apple since the 2019 with iOS 13 have put the Shortcuts app in the default ones in your devices. With Shortcuts you can easily create any kind of automation workflow.
The iOS Shortcuts App:
If you have never used the Apple Shortcuts app before …well… let me say to you that you are missing a great opportunity to save a great amount of your everyday time!
Check out on my previous articles on how is possible to easily automate with your Apple devices without know anything about coding or being a nerd like Sheldon!
The great thing about that, as you will discover, is that the Shortcuts works seamlessly with your iOS devices and every shortcut routine that you build runs on your iPhone Screen like interactive notifications or can be eventually activated and operated using voice commands even if you are using an Apple Watch, the HomePod or any paired audio device that supports Siri!
And without further ado, as I promised before I will give you a step-by-step visual guide on how to build your own Apple Cross-Device Workout Automation using the power and ease of use of iOS Shortcuts.
First of all to have all the funcionalities provided in the Start My Evening Stroll Shortcut you will need:
- One Apple iPhone that supports the latest iOS 14 Shortcuts
- One Apple Watch that supports the latest WatchOS 7
- One Apple portable audio device with the noise cancellation function (AirPods Pro, AirPods Max)
- The ToolBox Pro app that you can download here to add great additional actions for your Shortcuts app.
Even if you don’t have all the things listed above, don’t worry: following this step-by-step guide you will learn the basics on how to create amazing customized Shortcuts on your own! Check out for the green arrows and annotations and follow through the actions shown in the screenshots.
First search in the spotlight search the Shortcuts app and open it. Then push on the upper right plus button to create a new Shortcut.
Then push on the options button, input the Shortcut name (that you can call after on with Siri, so choose wisely something you will easily remember) and confirm; You can then customize the colour and the glyph of the icon as shown above.
You have some other option that you can set:
You can add the Shortcut to your Homescreen and it will exactly be like launching your own app. Some Shortcuts will be useful when using the Share Sheet Funcion to manipulate text, files, images etc etc directly via one specific Shortcut.
You can choose to have certain ones to run even if you are on Sleep Mode and you can also add simple Shortcuts to run directly from your Apple Watch.
When you have choosen the main settings, let’s start adding some action, the building blocks of Shortcuts. Actions are performed in Shortcuts like a simple code of a program, executing one after another from the top to the bottom.
First we add a Text action that we will use as a reminder / checklist before going outside: use the search field to find the Text action and select it:
Inside the Text action you can add text as you will normally do with a note: in this case it will be used to pass a list of things that will be shown to you in an alert as a notification for the things I need to check before starting the automations.
Then search and choose the Show Alert action and open the Show More menu to customize the options of the Alert notification.
In the title you can input text, but I always prefer to pass inside the field the content of a Text action so in the future it will be more easy to write down, edit, customize or even use again as a variable the Text action content throughout the Shortcut.
If you leave the Show Cancel Button option toggled on, when the Show Alert action is run you can choose if you want to proceed with the next actions or stop the sequence and directly exit the Shortcut.
Push the blue plus button to add another Text action: I will use this to get an information about the current time so I can program how much time I still have before the curfew or the next appointment or activity so I will not to be in hurry or worried to be late.
Input the text you want, then just above the keyboard, scroll from right to left to find the red Current Date action that you will add to the text field clicking over it.
When you add the Current Date action you can decide how the date and time will be presented to you: click over it in the Text action field then in the Date Format option and choose None so you will only get the time in hh:mm Short Time Format.
Complete the Text action with the question you want to be prompted regarding how long in minutes you want to walk:
It’s a good practice thinking about the correct unit of measure you want to use, and make it explicit in the question so if you decide to walk for 2 hours you will input 120 minutes and not the number 2.
Push on the blue button to add the next action: search and add the Ask for Input action.
Click on the blue Text field as shown in the image below to choose the right input type: in this case we want to be asked for a number and when we will run the shortcut this will be also be reflected on the input interface: instead of having the keyboard we will directly be presented with the numeric keypad.
Choose the number option, then click on the action Prompt greyed out field: here you can input a text via keyboard but as shown up before we will use the Text action as the text to be shown on the Ask for Input action notification.
Then expand the Ask for Input options near the Show More, toggle off the negative and decimal number options, then click in the default number field: this will speed up the Shortcut execution: if you know that you will at least walk for 1 hour, input 60 that it will be the preset number that you can just confirm hitting Ok. Let’s now click on the blue plus button to add another action.
Search for the Calculate action: this will apply the following math to the provided input: click on the blue Plus sign and choose the division operator: in the greyed out Number filed input the number 2 so any chosen duration will be split in two. Then click Done and add another action.
Search for the Start Workout action and add it: normally you will be presented with the most frequent type of workout you start on your Apple watch: if you click on the field you can choose any of the dozens default workouts if you want to customize your shortcut.
Then click on the Open Goal field to set it to a time related goal.
Here you will have 2 options:
You can choose on the variables for the Ask for Input and pass the total duration value you have chosen above or add the calculated result, as I have done in the example on the left.
Click on the number field, than choose the Calculation Result action presented above the numeric keypad.
Next go in the bottom field and search for another action to add:
Search the Start Timer action, click on the greyed out input field and choose for the Calculation Result action. Doing so, if you decide to take a 40 minutes stroll because it’s 9:20 pm and you must be at home at 10:00 pm, you will have a timer set for 20 minutes that no matter where you have wandered it will warn you that’s the time to go back to home.
The next action it’s not one of the default Shortcuts ones, but you can find it on the Toolbox Pro app I mentioned above: it offers one time in-app purchase for some of the most advanced functions but if you want to unleash all the power of automations you won’t regreat the couple of dollars/euros you will invest on it. In the search bar you can also find all the action embedded on the app installed on your device: the most part of third party app developers have understood how powerful can be the Shortcuts for users and now they offer many Shortcuts Actions.
So if you search Toolbox Pro you will get access to all the supported actions: choose the Get Audio Output Device. Now it’s the time of one of the most useful and a little more advanced command you can use in Shortcut: add another action from the Scripting section and choose the If action:
If you have already used the IFTTT ( IF This Then That ) app/service it’s exactly the same. The action will check if a chosen condition it’s true or false and will then act accordingly: if you’re not familiar with this concept, it’s the base of the Boolean logic and where the binary language and all computing has started: the 0 is false, the 1 is true, so now you know what really are all those zeros and ones! To put it in other words, here the process of your Shortcut will arrive at a crossroad: according to the condition checked it will proceed right or left.
Click on the Connections field, scroll down until you will find the Name condition that you want to check against. Then click on the condition field and choose the is option. Now we will add the audio device of your choice that must support the noise cancellation function:
Exit from the Shortcuts app, go into your device Settings and click on the Bluetooth section: first check if your audio interface of choice is connected, then click on it, go into the name field and click on the arrow, than copy the whole device name as it’s shown.
Select the grayed Text field, than paste the copied device name inside it. Add another action, searching for the Set Noise Control Mode. Go into the Route field and click inside it; turn your audio device on and connect it to your iPhone.
When you click into the Route field you can select the chosen audio destination device, then click into the greyed out Noise Control mode field and choose the Transparency mode option.
Drag and drop the Set Noise Control action and put it above the Otherwise action block: now you can read the first route the Shortcut will take:
It will check what is the current audio output device and IF the name of the device IS the one you have selected THEN it will set it to the Transparency mode so you will be sure that you will be always hearing your surroundings while walking outside, without the need to manually check it every time.
But what if you have another audio output selected (like the HomePod or any other AirPlay device) when you are still at home and you start the Shortcut? That’s what the Otherwise block it’s for!
Search in the bottom field for the Set Playback Destination action and add it to your Shortcut, then click on the blue device selection field.
Select the destination device of your choice, then drag and drop the Set Playback Destination action directly under the Otherwise block.
Add again the Set Noise Control action doing the same steps as described before:
Note that you can also make a long press click on the Set Noise Control action where you see the red colored icon on the left of the action name and duplicate it under the current one and drag it in the wanted position. Drag this action directly under the Set Playback destination action.
So when you will decide to run the Shortcut If the audio device will not be the one you have decided, the other route of action will be of selecting that device and automatically put it in transparency mode.
Then search and add the Set Volume action: whatever level the volume was set before you start the Shortcut, now after the If action it’s ended, the selected audio device will be put at 50%. You can edit the desired Volume level clicking on the percentage field.
After we have worked on our Audio playback destination device and mode now let’s turn our attention to our Apple Watch:
Search and select the Set Watch Face action, then click on the greyed out Face field; you will be presented with the ordered list of all your Apple Watch faces; select your preferred one; I found out that the Activity Analogue one it’s the best fit for me to have all the relevant information I need while I am walking outside. See how you can easily choose your preferred one. Then select the Show More action options:
Toggle off the Show When Run switch so you will not be bothered with a useless iPhone notification, then search and add the Choose from Menu action:
We will build a menu with three different options that we will be presented to choose from when we will run this action:
- Playing a Playlist
- Playing a Podcast
- Playing Nothing at all.
First edit the Prompt field with the question that will introduce the options:
Then rename the example One and Two fields below the prompt with the different description of the option block that you will after can choose.
As you can see, clicking on the green plus icon will let you add how many different options you want. You can also reorder the options dragging up and down the list of options on the right, over the three grey horizontal lines icon.
Every single option block will then represent very different outcome actions.
Let’s begin with the Playlist option block first:
Search and add the Get Playlist action then click into the Playlist greyed out field:
Here you can choose your playlist of choice in your Apple Music library.
In the example above I choose my Relax songs collection; then search and add the Play Music action. Go to the action option in the Show More field where you can customize the Shuffle and the Repeat settings. I prefer to start the reproduction of the Playlist in shuffle mode to add a little bit of variety for every new evening stroll.
Drag and drop this two actions directly under the Playlist block. Now we will complete the Podcast block. Search and add the Play Podcast action: then click in the greyed out field that as for the Playlists before, it will present to you the list of your faved shows: choose the one you prefer or if you want to be presented with the full list every time you will choose the Podcast option choose the Ask Each Time at the bottom of the list.
Now move the Play Podcast action directly under the Podcast block: the last one it’s indeed very simple; search and add for the Nothing action, drag it and drop it directly under the Nothing block.
And here we are at the finish line of our Evening Stroll Shortcut:
Let’s conclude adding one last step:
After you have chosen the action to perform from the menu options, it’s always a good idea to give one last command that will close the Shortcut app.
Search and add the Exit Shortcut action directly under the End Menu block, then click done and your Shortcut it’s finally ready to go!
Ready, Set, Go!
It was maybe an unusual long read for the standard lenght of the articles you can find here on Medium, but I really wanted to make sure that you can learn the basics on how to build this Shortcut step by step and have a truly extensive guide to make your own customizations along the way.
Now I will give you a demo on what to expect when you will run this Shortcut: at the end you will find my gift to you for the precious time and attention you have given to this guide. To activate the Shortcut:
- Click on the tile with the Shortcut name: you will receive the notification to check if you have all with you before going out.
- Click OK if you want to proceed or Cancel if you want to stop the execution: I do the last frequently as I often forget my Apple Watch or my AirPods on my charging base, or I have some of the other stuff on the table or on my messenger bag: it’s the easiest way to start again the process without cancelling timers, started workouts and lose my limited time for walking before the start of the curfew.
- You are prompted with the current time. You can then input how long the outside walk will be and automatically set an halfway timer to get your alarm. Make your choice and click on Done.
- Finally you will get the menu options for the kind of media content you want to reproduce to your audio interface.
Above you can see that all the automations we have coded inside the Shortcuts have worked fine:
- By opening the iPhone Control Center screen you will see that one song of my Relax Playlist (a gregorian chant song named The Origin of Fire) it’s currently playing.
- A timer has been set for 20 minutes and it’s running.
- The playback destination device are my AirPods Pro with the Transparency mode on and with their volume set to 50%.
In the meantime on my Apple Watch:
- A workout has been started.
- The watch face Activity Analogue has been selected.
- The current Workout selected is the Outdoor Walk with Set Goal.
When the time to go back to home has come, the Alarm will be triggered both on your phone and in your Apple Watch.
I find the power of Shortcuts automation amazing, don’t you?
And finally, here we are!
You have automated numerous manual and repetitive tasks on 3 different Apple devices, saving your time and attention for what will matter the most:
Enjoy your workout, keep your daily activity on and don’t be bogged down on trivial and repetitive tasks that easily add to all the friction you had already experienced during your day.
If you only need to click a button to have all of these actions done, chances are that, just like me, you won’t miss any workout, you will experience less stress and you will really make the most of your time.
…And here it is the Good News!
I am now quite confident that you can easily reproduce my Shortcut (or eventually customize it) thanks to this step by step guide but… You don’t even need to build this up on your own, because you can immediately have my Start my Evening Stroll Shortcut downloading it just by clicking on the embedded link 👆🏻 above.
To add it to your Shortcuts library and start using it you only need to check in your iOS device settings that “Allow Untrusted Shortcuts” is active*.
*DISCLAIMER: Any non user-built Shortcuts is considered by Apple potentially dangerous for the intrinsic power to partially control your device and the possibility to execute scripts and automations in the background. Before downloading and using any unknown or untrusted third-user Shortcuts and giving any permission to access your personal data (if required), I strongly suggest you to scroll through the actions and see what the Shortcut it’s supposed to do. Even if everything I share it’s designed to be safe, secure and more complete as possible I cannot and I won’t be held responsible for whatever issue or damage of any nature deriving from use of the contents, the opinions and the suggestions written on this article.
“…but hey, I’m quite confident that if you have read until here I have earned a bit of your trust!”
Do you want to learn MORE?
If you are wondering how much time I have invested to create this powerful tool probably you will be shocked: less than 15 minutes! How much time this Shortcuts has saved me since I started using it? Maybe hours!
Wield the power of crafting any solution you can imagine for your business and personal life with the power of iOS Shortcuts!
Discover the amazing ability to link together multiple apps and devices in a seamless and frictionless experience in a single ecosystem and invest all the time that you will save only on the things that really matters to you!
This is my promise to you!
If you’re already craving for some other smart and useful solution, if you need help to build up from the ground your personal automations or you want to learn more about the wonderful frontiers opened by iOS Shortcuts ask for a connection here on LinkedIn or follow my Twitter account @giacomopasini
I thank you again deeply from my heart for your time and your attention.