Tech Talk: Can an Apple Watch Be Your Training Do-All Tool?

Not an Apple Watch. But damn. It should be.

Not an Apple Watch. But damn. It should be.

When the first Apple Watch came out, I pronounced that if anyone caught me wearing one, they could just end me right then and there. Who needs all that crap on their wrist when they have an iPhone in their pocket? But as I’ve adopted more running and strength classes into my training, I started seeing the appeal of having a device that could do everything - track rides, runs, strength workouts, distance, heart rate, etc. But can one device replace heart rate straps, Wahoo Elements, and the like? I’m going to try to find out.

A Failed Attempt

An Apple Watch isn’t my first smart watch. I tried a Garmin VivoSmart 3 and it was a bit underwhelming. It was prone to stopping a workout because my jacket grazed the screen, it didn’t have GPS and the pedometer was less than accurate. It was also “minimalist” at best and downright ugly at worst, in terms of appearances.

The Garmin uses Garmin Connect as its user interface to view workouts and health data, and it’s pretty robust. My low-end model didn’t have Strava as an option you use natively, so you had to upload the Garmin data to Strava, much like you’d do using a Garmin bike computer. This meant you didn’t have a ton of options to edit the workout once it was uploaded, meaning adding mileage to your indoor workouts from your Garmin to your Strava was a no-go. Not a huge deal, but for from a perfect situation. I found the heart rate data from the Garmin almost identical to the heart rate models we use at Yen, so I reckon it’s about as accurate as you can get. Still, being locked into using Garmin Connect, rather than using Strava on the device isn’t the best situation, at least in my opinion.

This isn’t meant to trash Garmins. Mine was a low-end model; more activity tracker than smartwatch. Cody has a better Garmin and he loves his. He has none of the issues I had with my lower-end version, so I wouldn’t look past a Garmin as long as it has GPS and buttons, rather than the touch-screen only model I had.

The Apple Watch

The main reason I went the cheap route with the Garmin was because the Apple Watch is anything but cheap. I got a Series 3 for $240 - that’s about half of what I make in a month at my second job and it took some convincing of the wifey-poo to let me pull the trigger. My initial impressions are that it’s a big step forward from my Garmin. I did a run with it yesterday and used Strava on the watch, leaving my phone at home. I need to save up to get some bluetooth headphones, since I don’t have the LTE version of the watch, but it’ll be nice to be able to run this summer without having to wear a fanny pack to carry my phone around.

Running is one thing, but the real reason I got this was for being able to upload my indoor cycling workouts to Strava with mileage. To me, having heart rate, duration of workout, and perceived mileage is sort of key to my training.

One Week In

After seven workouts in seven days, I’m having a lot of luck with the Apple Watch so far. I never have any issues with workouts being stopped, and the watch even stayed alive in 8 degree weather on a 10K run. I half expected it to turn off due to cold, as most mobile devices tend to do, but it stayed on the whole time. Battery life is pretty darn good. I ran it about 72 hours, including a 1-hour workout, and it still had 35% charge when I put it on the charger. That’s an encouraging sign, before the long bike rides start later this spring and the real test of the watch comes to fruition.

I’ll do another update in a few months when this thing finally hits some trails and the real question is answered; can this thing replace a Wahoo Elemnt?

Wes Sovis