By | December 14, 2023
Apple Watch TrainingPeak's Native Integration Launches: Hands-On

It’s been more than 6 months since Apple and TrainingPeaks announced plans for integration back at WWDC, and it’s finally here. In a way, it’s kind of funny. From an end-user perspective, this is actually not some new and fancy feature. Instead, it’s a list of behind-the-scenes software changes that make it seamless and easy to execute your pre-planned TrainingPeaks structured workouts with Apple Watch. In other words, it’s about dramatically increasing the ‘just works’ factor.

You see, back in June at Apple’s developer conference, they announced some developer features that let companies “push” workouts to the Apple Watch. This is a big deal because previously a company like TrainingPeaks would have developed their *own* entire Apple Watch training app (plus a corresponding iPhone app). Everything from dealing with GPS recording to power sensor data to running and cycling measurements and more. Things that require teams of people to do at scale. Now? No Apple Watch app at all. They just send a workout file to Apple and you use the built-in Apple Watch Workout app. Easy as pie.

In fact, TrainingPeaks is far from the first to take advantage of this. The first was actually TrainerRoad back in September on the WatchOS10 launch day. Then it was followed shortly by Final Surge. There are others since then as well. Of course, as almost any company trying to implement this feature will tell you: It’s been a rocky road. But things are finally stabilizing a bit, probably why TrainingPeaks is finally launching this.

So let’s take a look at how it works.

Configuration and synchronization:

To get started, you need to do the following:

A) Update your iPhone to iOS 17.2
B) Then update your Apple Watch to WatchOS 10.2
C) And update your Training Peaks app soon your phone to the latest version

You don’t need a premium subscription to TrainingPeaks for this to work, but with a free subscription it only sends today’s workouts – not 7 days worth.

Once that’s done, open the Training Peaks app and you’ll see a new option to pair it with your Apple Watch. Once you click on it, it basically has two things that it will do: Authorize TrainingPeaks to send workouts to your Apple Watch, and then authorize TrainingPeaks to access your Apple Health data:

You will go through these menus, in that there is a choice above for whether or not you only want to send today’s workouts, or the next 7 days worth. I would leave the default value for the next 7 days, so you don’t have to worry about it. Likewise, I would enable the “Push Notifications” options, which let you know that things like training uploads to the TrainingPeaks platform are complete/ready.

With that, the installation is complete and you are ready to roll.

On guard:

Back on the watch, open the “Workout” app (the default Apple app, not a TrainingPeaks one), and you’ll see the Training Peaks block at the top. If this was the Final Surge or TrainerRoad app, you’ll see that logo instead. This is the first time Apple has allowed third parties to enter this app.

You’ll notice it shows the name and sport profile of today’s workout (bike or run only), compared to my calendar from the TrainingPeaks app you see on the left:

But you can also press “…” in the upper right corner to see other workouts for today (if you had two of them), as well as look at workouts for the next 7 days or previous days:

And then you can press any workout details button (… again) to see the exact steps of the workout. Here’s a side-by-side comparison again, albeit with my app showing mile pace and the watch showing kilometer pace. I keep it mixed up to ensure my bilingual nature stays in play.

With everything ready to go, press to start the workout. It will ask you to confirm if it’s an indoor or outdoor workout, this is really important on the running side, especially and has some implications:

Specifically, the implications are that for running indoor training, the only “goal” you can have is heart rate, not pace. Although TrainingPeaks will have done just fine for Apple. Apple doesn’t show indoor pace goals. More on this in a second. When you start running (or riding), you’ll immediately get the target (eg pace if you’re running, power/cadence/speed if you’re cycling, or heart rate for both). Here’s what the upcoming interval screens look like for an outdoor run:

Here are the target types allowed by Apple (all plus distance/time):

Indoor running: Heart rate target
Running outdoors: Tempo, heart rate target
Ride indoors: Power, pulse, cadence
Outdoor trip: Power, pulse, cadence

So for the tempo based run session, I ran a treadmill workout the other night where it didn’t show any target values ​​the whole time, even though the session actually had a target value. Here’s what those metrics looked like for an indoor run (missing the pace targets):

You can double-click the top left icon (WU, or whatever stage you’re in) to skip to the next training step.

Now all of this also works essentially the same way for driving with power targets. And remember, you can pair Bluetooth power meters (including trainers) to the app, but it won’t do exercise tracking, so it won’t change it automatically.

Here are some look at screenshots showing bits of my workouts, with the upcoming power goals and my current power goals.

On the left (first screenshot) is the target message screen. It appears for a few seconds and then disappears. The rest are screens you can scroll too. But one of the big things missing here is that you can’t see your current training goal after the screen disappears for a few seconds. Thus, if you iterate through complex and varied interval sessions (running or riding), you have no idea what the goals are.

This is a huge gap that Apple really needs to focus on.

Now I imagine some might say “But this gap has been around for 18 months now, what’s the big deal?”

Well, two things:

A) Until now (WatchOS10) you have only been able to create workouts with heart rate goals, as Apple previously did not support cycling goals
B) But even bigger, you created your own workouts on the watch itself (which is somewhat painstakingly slow). Your ability to create complex workouts was thus minimal. Furthermore, and much more importantly, YOU created them, so you probably knew what those goals were. Whereas now training platforms, trainers, AI, automation, etc… create very complex workouts and ones you’ve never seen until you press start.

Thus, it is very easy to get lost and not know what to actually do. Of course you’ll get over/under target warnings if you deviate too far, but that’s not ideal, as it still doesn’t tell you what the target is:

Also, and this is specific to cycling goals – you’ll get these warnings constantly because Apple only uses a 3-second averaging effect. So even when I was using a high-end Wahoo KICKR Bike with me that perfectly performed these power targets to 100% compliance according to the TrainingPeaks app, I was getting these alerts every 10 to 15 seconds…every workout, the entire workout.

In any case, once you’ve completed the rollout, you’ll see a summary, which even shows the name of the workout at the top, as well as the ability to save/add the workout to your local workout library. This is useful if you want to do that workout again.

From there, you’ll see the workout in the Apple Fitness app first, just like any other workout:

And then, usually within a minute or so, it appears on TrainingPeaks, automatically synced with that day’s scheduled workout, where you can also see compliance:

Like all other TrainingPeaks workouts, coaches can leave comments, you can do regular analysis, etc…(from either the web or desktop), all of this is exactly the same as any device.

Going forward:

So, where do things stand overall?

Well, it’s a good first step on structured workouts from 3rd party platforms, and will undoubtedly make it much easier for platforms like TrainingPeaks, TrainerRoad, Final Surge, etc… to not only get workouts on people’s wrists that have Apple Watches , but also likely expand their target markets towards less endurance-focused athletes who may be using all kinds of Apple Watches (not just the Apple Watch Ultra series).

After installation, syncing and scheduled training processes work quite well, as does getting data back into the platform at your fingertips. Similarly, the collection of the data metrics such as power matches perfectly with other units, so I don’t see any problems with type of power data logging there.

However, there are three things that Apple really needs to address here (and these are Apple things, not TrainingPeaks things):

1) First, and most importantly, there needs to be a dedicated data page on the watch (not the phone) that shows the current interval goal. Whether it’s power, pace, heart rate, speed or cadence. I basically need to have a dedicated structured training page that shows that goal and where I am in relation to it. Having a warning page is simply not enough.

2) Second, for running training it needs to support at least showing those indoor pace targets on that screen. Given that it records cadence on the watch (yes, even if wrist cadence is wobbly indoors sometimes) it should show that too – because at least I can set a treadmill to that cadence if I know it.

3) Third, and for cycling power training, they need to change their internal over/under warning messages to a higher smoothed value to account for normal variations in how power meters work, minimizing/eliminating the target warnings that occur every 10-15 :e seconds.

The good news is that I don’t find any of these things difficult. The 2nd/3rd are likely as close to one line of code as possible. Right now they are using 3-second effect, so change that value to 10-second effect. Problem probably solved. Additionally, there is a yes/no option for displaying pace targets “if type = indoor” that just needs to be toggled the other way. And first, it should also be very trivial to create a data field to only display the current target.

If they can pull that off, then they have a pretty reasonable and competitive option that should serve athletes pretty well and make it super easy for industry fitness platforms to get workouts to people’s wrists. While things like structured swim practice or running power goals are missing, I don’t think they’re super critical “first cut” items either. Although they would certainly be interesting in the longer term.

As I’ve said many times over the past 2 years, Apple is slowly ticking boxes. Sometimes it meanders a bit and misses a square, but so far it seems like they quickly realize they missed one, and double back to play mole before going off and finding more squares to check. And before we know it, we’ll be at Apple’s WWDC conference in June, where WatchOS11 will likely be announced, and the next slate of sports and fitness features with it.

With that – thanks for reading!

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