How To Set Up Your Apple Watch For Maximum Fitness Motivation

Photo: Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

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.

How To Track Your Workouts With AppleWatch

However you get your workouts in, you might eventually reach a point where you want to keep track of them so you know how many calories you burn, what distances you travel, and what heart rate you hit while exercising. All of which is very easy to keep tabs on if you own an Apple Watch.

Read more

Set Your Activity Goals

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:

  • Move (the red outer ring) - how much the watch thinks you’ve moved around today. It’s measured in calories.

  • Exercise (the green middle ring) - how many minutes of exercise you’ve had today. The watch detects exercise when you’re moving around and your heart rate is elevated, but it also understands when you’ve logged a workout with an app (for example, you’ll get credit for a 30-minute yoga session even if your movement and heart rate didn’t trigger the automatic exercise detection).

  • Stand (the blue inner ring) - how many hours of the day it thinks you’ve spent with at least one minute on your feet. The goal is 12. It is not very good at telling when you are standing, so you may have to wave your arm around when it gives you those “Stand up!” reminders as you’re, say, standing at your standing desk.

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).

Turn Off Most of the Notifications

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.)

Choose Your Favourite Fitness Apps

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 favourite app!

Queue Up Your Audio Situation

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 favourite 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.

Put Motivating Complications on Your Watch Face

Screenshot: Apple Watch

I use the Infograph watch face as a control center for planning my morning workouts. I’ve got:

  • My workouts all plugged in to my calendar, which means that at night my watch face tells me what’s on deck for the morning. For example: “6:30am Easy Run.”

  • Sunrise/sunset and alarm time, so I know when I’m waking up and how much of the workout I’ll have to do in the dark (sigh).

  • Weather, specifically Dark Sky. I tap this complication and it tells me what the weather will be at each hour of the day so I know what clothes to set out for that morning run.

  • Phase of the moon, which is not a necessity but the dark is less depressing when there’s a full moon.

  • Battery level, so I know whether I have enough juice for a night of sleep tracking followed by a morning workout.

  • Monthly mileage, a complication that comes from the Nike Run Club app. It automatically calculates how many miles I’ve run (with the app) so far this month, and I love watching the numbers tick up.

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.

Keep Tabs on Your Heart Rate

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.

Trending Stories Right Now