The Apple Watch is slated to receive a bunch of new fitness-centric features in watchOS 9, and one of the most important is the ability to create custom workouts to track high-intensity interval training (HIIT) accurately. It’s relatively easy to put an Apple Watch on the wrist and go out for a run or walk each day, perfecting the same route at the same speed daily. However, this might not be the best way to improve performance in cardiovascular activities. It is best to switch it up with a varied training plan to see tangible results in running or walking. A sample training plan might include short and quick runs, long and slow runs, and interval training — but the Apple Watch has struggled with tracking interval training since its release.
With watchOS 9, users can track interval training with custom workouts in the native Workout app. It comes alongside a flurry of new features targeted at runners that were previewed in the upcoming software release, which will be made available to the public in the fall. watchOS 9 was announced and unveiled at the Worldwide Developers Conference in June at Apple Park with new metrics for runners, including vertical oscillation and stride length. The way users can track workouts also changed with the introduction of race routes and a virtual pacer. In addition, a new running mode designed explicitly for high-intensity interval training fixes one of the Workout app’s biggest flaws, and it’s a game-changer for people serious about cardio.
The Workout app in Apple’s watchOS 9 makes it possible to create custom workouts best fit for high-intensity interval training, which is characterized by intense exertion and recovery resting periods. For example, while on a typical run, the goal is to maintain a desired pace and exertion level throughout its duration, the goal is different during HIIT. Instead, runners aim to put as much effort as possible into a pre-determined interval and then rest afterward. In previous versions of watchOS, these types of workouts were extremely difficult to track. Apple Watch users could either leave the workout running and skew the averages upward or pause the activity and skew the averages downward. Either choice left the runner with ending data that didn’t truly reflect the workout they had completed.
Customizable Workouts Can Accurately Track Data
The athlete can structure custom workouts to reflect the activity they plan to complete. This separates the high-intensity intervals’ data from the rest intervals’ data, which is more reflective of the actual workout. In other implementations of HIIT, it is possible to individually adjust each individual’s time or distance target before hitting the road, track or treadmill. However, Apple hasn’t clarified the extent to which users can customize workouts. Based on other features shipped with watchOS 9 — like race routes and the pacer experience — it would make sense for HIIT workouts to be fully customizable. Even if there are limitations, the result is better than prior ways to track interval training on the Apple Watch.
The feature is paired with new metrics that are particularly valuable to athletes participating in interval training. The Apple Watch will be able to track the heart rate zones a user passes through during a workout based on custom boundaries or an estimate based on the wearer’s age. There is also a metric that tracks the power used during an interval so that the wearer can view the difference in exertion between work and rest intervals. These new metrics complement existing ones, like pace and cadence, to evaluate and improve a runner’s performance. Interval training was an area where the Apple Watch severely lacked, but with watchOS 9, it looks like HIIT tracking is finally worthwhile on the smartwatch.