by Anthony 

July 15, 2023

With the release of iOS16 and Watch OS 9, Apple added plenty of enhancements to the Workout and fitness apps. So I thought now is a good opportunity to go over some of those features, some older features you might have missed, and just some overall tips and tricks for getting the most out of your Watch and the Workout app. Let's get started!

Improve Workout Accuracy

First up is to ensure that the fitness data your watch is displaying is accurate. Your watch will measure and monitor all sorts of fitness and health related information whilst you’re exercising and throughout the day.

From your heart-rate and the calories you burn, to the amount of oxygen in your blood, and how well you recover after a workout; your watch will monitor all of this and more. However, for the measurements to be accurate, your watch needs to be calibrated correctly, and the information you provide about yourself also needs to be accurate.

If you haven’t updated your information in a while, now is a good opportunity to check that it’s still correct. There’s a good chance your watch is making calculations and drawing conclusions based on incorrect data.

If you are new to Apple Watch, the first time you open the Fitness app on your iPhone you’ll be asked to enter your age, height and weight. For those of us who have been using an Apple Watch for a while, you can update your details by clicking on your profile icon in the Fitness app on your phone and choosing health details.

It’s also worth noting that the Health App on your phone needs similar information with some additional fields, such as blood type and whether you’re taking medication that might affect your heart rate.

With your personal information updated, it’s worth also checking the various permissions that must be enabled to use all of your watch’s different sensors.

Start by opening the Settings app on your iPhone, click on Privacy and Security, followed by Location Services. Turn on Location Services, if it isn’t already, and you want to enable “Location Access for Apple Watch Workouts”. Then scroll to the bottom of the list and choose System Services and here you want to ensure “Motion Calibration and Distance” is also enabled.

Having done all of this, open the Apple Watch app on your iPhone and open the privacy settings. Here I recommend enabling all of the sensor information but, at a minimum, you’ll want to ensure that “Fitness Tracking” is enabled.

Apple then recommends going for, “a 20 minute outdoor walk or run on flat terrain, in an area with good GPS reception on a nice, clear, sunny day” to calibrate your watch. You should do this even if you intend to do most of your fitness sessions indoors or on a bike.

This outdoor workout will provide your watch with the information it needs to accurately measure your daily activity. The exception here is probably swimming, in which case you would probably just go for a swim.

If the measurements in your personal details have been incorrect for some time. Say, you’ve recently lost or gained a bit of weight. It might be worth considering resetting your calibration data. Just bear in mind that this will result in slightly inaccurate data while your watch recalibrates. During this time you should aim to exercise as much as possible outdoors on flat terrain.


Shortcuts to Starting a Workout

To start a workout, you can of course just open the Workout app on your watch, choose a workout from the list or customise it by tapping the 3 dots. Apple offers a range of possible suggestions or just scroll all the way to the bottom of the list to create a completely custom workout.

If you regularly choose the same Workout routine, then a quick alternative is to create a shortcut and add it to your watch face.

Start by opening the ShortCuts app on your iPhone and click on the plus icon to create a new Shortcut. Search for WorkOut and choose Start Workout. You can rename your Shortcut by tapping on the name. Like in the WorkOut app on your watch, you have the option to change your goal, whether that be distance, time or something else.

Having created your shortcut, before clicking Done, add it to your Apple Watch by clicking on the information icon in the menu and enabling ‘Show on Apple Watch’. Click Done, close the Shortcuts app, and switch over to the Apple Watch app.

Tap a watch face to edit it, or create a new one, and choose the complication you want to replace. Your shortcut should be listed as one of the options. If you don’t see your list of shortcuts you may need to enable shortcuts in your iCloud settings.

Having added your shortcut as a complication, now you only need to tap the icon on your watch face to automatically start your workout.

Asking Siri to Start a Workout

Another quick way to start a WorkOut is to ask Siri. Set how you want to activate Siri in the Watch app on your iPhone. There are 3 different options to choose from and I like to have them all enabled. It’s then just a matter of saying something like, “Hey Siri, start a 10 kilometre outdoor bike ride”. You can skip the 3 second countdown by tapping the screen.

Another Siri tip that is not just related to workouts is to prevent Siri from responding through your watch’s speaker. This is particularly useful for those occasions when you inadvertently activate Siri, such as during a meeting, which seems to happen to me far too often.

In the Watch app on your iPhone, click on Responses and you can choose to have Siri always respond, or only respond when you’re wearing headphones, which is my preference, or you can use focus modes to control Siri.

Play Music Automatically When Working Out

Another useful automation if you listen to music while working out, is to have a playlist begin automatically at the start of your workout. Again in the Watch app, open the workout app settings, and choose “workout playlist”.

If you don’t see your playlist in this list, it’s probably because you haven’t downloaded it to your watch for offline listening. Open the Music app settings, click “Add Music” and select your playlist. It’s worth noting that your playlist will only start downloading to your watch whilst your watch is charging and in range of your phone. And, sadly, this only works for Apple Music - there’s no option to add Spotify playlists.

Customising Your Workout Data.

During a Workout you can use the crown on your watch to scroll through realtime information about your session. The information shown on these screens will be relevant to the type of workout you’re doing. So on a run you’ll see information about your heart rate zones, pace, and total distance.

To measure your pace, the watch will add splits every kilometre. You can add additional splits - such as the half-way point of your session - by double tapping the screen at any point during the workout.

To change the information displayed on screen during a workout, and the updates that Siri provides, you can customise the workout by clicking on the 3 dots on the watch face next to each workout. You then need to click on the edit icon.

When editing a workout you can add additional alerts, such as, if your pace slows beyond a certain range. You can also add and remove views, such as cadence and average stride length. To re-order your different views, scroll all the way to the bottom of the display and select re-order.

Pausing a Workout

If, like me, you have a habit of forgetting to end your workout sessions you can automatically set your workouts to pause when you stop moving. To do this, go back into the workout settings in the Watch app on your iPhone and enable auto-pause. You can also enable reminders for both starting and ending a workout, and there’s an option to manually pause a workout by pressing both the Crown and side button simultaneously.

Low Power Mode

For all day workouts, such as hiking or a long bike ride, you may want to turn on low power mode. This will turn off the Always-On-Display, and disable heart rate and blood oxygen measurements. If you’d rather keep these enabled, another trick to conserving your watch battery is to bring your phone with you on your workout. This allows your watch to hand-off a number of battery intensive tasks to your phone and uses the bluetooth connection between the two devices to receive updates.

Combine Multiple Workouts

Another useful feature is the ability to combine multiple workout sessions. For example, if you tend to cool down with a few stretches or a walk after exercising, you can include this into your routine and have your watch continue measuring your stats. Instead of swiping right and choosing on “End”, click on the plus icon. This will allow you to choose your next workout routine.

If you always warm up and cool down, you can add these permanently to your exercise by creating a custom workout. Choose your usual workout routine - I’ll go with Outdoor run - and scroll all the way to the bottom to “Create Workout”. Click on “Custom” and here you can add warmup and cool down periods. I like to give myself 5 mins either side of my main session. Having added your entries, give your custom workout a name and away you go.

Heart Rate Recovery

If you tend to remove your watch immediately after a workout, I recommend leaving it on for an extra three minutes. During this time your watch continues to monitor your heart rate to measure how well your heart-rate recovers after exercise. You’ll see this information in the Fitness app on your iPhone. Click on your workout, then on your heart rate, and there at the bottom of the window is your post workout recovery measurement.

Avoid Accidental Taps

If you have a tendency to accidentally tap your watch face whilst working out, you can lock the screen by swiping right, and tapping Lock. Once you’ve finished working out, to unlock the screen, press and hold the crown. This is essentially the same as turning on the Water Lock option in the control centre, which you use when going for a swim or washing your watch.

Fitness App

Finally a quick word about the Fitness app on your phone, which is called Activity on your watch. Here you can quickly see your daily stats and by default the app sets you a target of burning 1000 calories a day.

Each week your watch will provide you with a weekly summary of how often you reached your daily target. If you’re not reaching your target each day, the app recommends a new move target for the following week.
You can also manually set our move goal in the activity app on your watch by scrolling to the bottom of your daily stats and choosing ‘change goals’. On your phone, in the fitness app, you’ll find the setting under your profile icon where you change your personal details. Here you can also change the units of measurement, if you tend to measure in miles rather than kilometres.

If you found this post useful, don’t forget to check out my YouTube channel for lots of tips and tricks on all your favourite apps.

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