Athletes of all levels have used the Apple Watch to track workouts for years, but it gets even more flexibility thanks to WatchOS 10. Platforms like TrainingPeaks can now contribute custom workouts to the Apple Watch Workout app, making it easier to train and monitor progress without requiring a separate app on the wrist.
I’ve been doing custom cycling sessions from TrainingPeaks on the Apple Watch Ultra 2 for a week, coached by a three-time Olympic gold medalist. While I am far from a professional athlete, I can see how useful this will be for anyone looking to take their training to the next level. TrainingPeaks can send running and cycling sessions to the Apple Watch and is one of several apps that tie into Apple’s Workout app, along with TrainerRoad, Final Surge and RunMotion.
Apple continues to make inroads into sports-focused watches like Garmin and Suunto by adding useful tools for athletes to the Apple Watch. WatchOS 9 introduced custom workouts in Apple’s Workout app and in-depth running metrics. Fitness Plus lets you build your own workout plans in iOS 17. Apple Watch Ultra 2 offers features like dual-band GPS and longer battery life than any other Apple Watch.
Many athletes need in-depth recovery metrics to prevent overtraining or show progress over time. The Apple Watch lags behind other sports watches on this front, but integration with third-party apps like TrainingPeaks that have recovery insights helps bridge the gap.
How to send custom workouts to Apple Watch
The process may differ depending on the third-party app you’re using, but specifically for TrainingPeaks, it’s pretty simple. First, open the iPhone app and select “Connect to Apple Watch” when prompted. Navigate to the “Apple Watch and Health” menu and select “Apple Watch Workout App.” Confirm that you want to connect TrainingPeaks to the watch and allow notifications.
You should now see the option to send a single workout to the Apple Watch on-demand or sync seven days of workouts to the watch. You’ll also want to select “Connect to Apple Health” from the TrainingPeaks settings so it can write data to the Apple Health app. Currently, TrainingPeaks supports syncing running and cycling workouts with Apple Watch.
When your workouts are on Apple Watch, they appear at the top of the Workout app and display the TrainingPeaks logo in the left corner. Start one right away by tapping as usual, or tap the three dots in the right corner to view your upcoming schedule.
Training with a champion cyclist
TrainingPeaks hired athletes Jason Koop and Kristin Armstrong to coach custom running and cycling sessions so I could test the integration before launch. Armstrong is a three-time Olympic gold medalist and the most decorated American women’s cyclist of all time. To say I was intimidated at the thought of her coaching me is an understatement, especially given that I ride for training and recreation rather than competing in the Tour de Femmes.
Once I synced upcoming workouts to the Apple Watch Ultra 2, I hopped on my power meter-equipped spin bike. Now that any Apple Watch can connect to Bluetooth devices like cadence sensors and power meters in WatchOS 10, you can see that data on your wrist during a workout and on iPhone as a live activity. Cyclists use power data for a number of reasons, such as measuring effort. It’s also a consistent measurement for indoor and outdoor rides.
During the workout, the interface looks just like it would if you created a custom workout on the watch yourself. I ride with the iPhone sitting on the bike’s handlebars to get to a bike computer, and it shows an indicator showing the upcoming interval so I know if a work or recovery interval is coming up. Since I ride with a power meter, I can also see if I ride in the right zone or not.
The fitness app also gives you alerts to let you know if you’re on track by buzzing your wrist, showing an alert on the screen, and talking to you through your headphones or through the watch’s speaker.
My first training session was humble. I struggled to keep up and kept getting notifications that I was under the target. Since TrainingPeaks lets you message your trainer in the app after each ride, Armstrong offered to adjust the Functional Threshold Power (FTP) on the back end. It is the maximum intensity level you can sustain for one hour. Apple Watch also automatically estimates your FTP after five high-intensity rides lasting at least 10 minutes.
My next training sessions were much more successful. I also switched my training view to show iPhone power data on my handlebars and heart rate on my watch. Another nice feature is being able to save your custom favorite workouts permanently on the Apple Watch. I really liked the 35 minute interval training session that Armstrong suggested and it’s easy to keep it on the clock. When you’re done with the workout, scroll down on the summary page and select the “Add to Workout App” option at the bottom. You can even share these custom workouts via messages or email.
Before I could send custom workouts to the Apple Watch, creating them on the watch itself was pretty tedious. You have to do everything from the Workout app, customizing your intervals and goal type manually. It’s so much easier to be able to create workouts on your phone or grab existing ones to sync to your watch.
While I don’t plan to ride competitively anytime soon, I think this integration will be of great help to coaches who want to send custom workouts to athletes or coaches with ease. The whole process was so seamless that I didn’t have to do anything else once I synced all the workouts to the watch. No more excuses: just get on my bike and ride.
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