The Apple Watch is packed with health and fitness features—so many that it can be overwhelming. But with a little thought, you can set up your watch so that it helps you to do great workouts and gets you ready for the next one.
In the Activity app, which is separate from the Watch app, you can check whether you’ve been “closing your rings” every day, and you can set goals for two out of three of the rings. The rings are:
The app encourages streaks, so if you like to see all your rings closed every day (and earn the associated badges) make sure that your Move and Exercise goals are set to a level that feels doable every day (even your rest days).
Notifications are bullshit even on your phone, but there’s no need for emails to bother you mid-workout. Go into the Watch app, and then Notifications. By default, the watch will mirror notifications from your phone apps. Turn off everything unless it really, truly can’t wait. (It can all wait.)
If you’re a Strava person, you’ll love Strava on the Apple Watch. If you do Nike Run Club instead, there’s an app for that too. If you’re not sure how you’d like to track your workouts, stick with the stock Activity app.
Some fitness apps can work on the watch and phone at the same time; others demand you use one or the other, and you may have to figure out what you prefer. (I do outdoor runs on the watch and lifting workouts on my phone, for example.) Take a few workouts to experiment. You may find a new favorite app!
You can play music and podcasts directly from the watch, through wireless headphones, but you’ll have to download them to the watch first. This is ideal if you want to work out without carrying your phone.
But if you prefer to have your phone on you anyway, you may prefer to stick it in a pocket, run your headphone cable to the phone, and use your watch as a remote to control playback. All your favorite music, podcast, and audiobook apps can work this way; again, decide what you prefer. On long runs, I like to set up a queue of podcast episodes in Castro, then stick my phone in my pocket and control everything from my wrist.
I use the Infograph watch face as a control center for planning my morning workouts. I’ve got:
I also use the Nike watch face (you can have multiple faces, just swipe left and right), with its default “start a Nike run” complication, plus activity rings, battery level, and current heart rate. This is the watch face I use the most for everyday time checks.
If you track workouts with the watch, you can see your heart rate in the activity app on your phone, or in the heart rate app on the watch. You can see your running intervals or even your weightlifting sets in the rise and fall of your heart rate during the activity. (No lie, I have used this feature when I forgot exactly how many intervals I did during a workout.)
On your watch, you can check your heart rate at any time with the heart rate app. Scroll down and you’ll see some more data. The very last screen is your heart rate recovery, which is a measure of heart health and fitness. The average person’s heart rate drops by 15 to 20 beats per minute after a workout; the faster it returns to normal, the healthier your heart is (as a rule of thumb, your watch is not a replacement for a doctor).
If you wear the watch when you sleep, you can also check your resting heart rate. The heart rate app on the watch will show it to you, but you can also see it graphed in the Health app. A low resting heart rate is good; if it suddenly rises, you may be overtraining, stressed, or sick.