The Apple Watch Series 8 family is here, and that means all Apple Watch owners get a fresh new version of Watch OS as long as you have a Watch Series 4 or newer.
This new version is called watchOS 9 and has a number of new and really useful fitness and training features.
One of our favorites isn’t coming out until later this year. In an upcoming update you will be able to compete against your earlier times and try to beat your own PBs. This is super handy if you tend to run the same routes or, for example, want to regularly participate in park runs around the same route.
Today, however, we’re more interested in some of the new features that you may not have tried yet but can take advantage of today. Here are our top picks:
watchOS 9 adds a new metric called Running Power. If you’re dealing with electricity bills at home, you might be familiar with the stats it gives out as it evaluates your runs in watts.
This is the number one statistic that tech savvy cyclists live by, whether they ride indoors or outdoors. And the reasons are exactly the same that make Running Power worthwhile (for some of you) in the Apple Watch.
It’s a calculation of the effort you put in. Start running up an incline at the same pace and your mileage will increase. Go downhill and it gets less.
We wouldn’t recommend accelerating hard on a descent to maintain your mileage. That sounds like a short road to injury. But it can be a very useful way to control your exertion level on longer climbs – something that pace alone cannot provide. You might consider it as an alternative to managing your runs based on your heart rate. Use whichever feels better after trying both.
Other watches already offer a similar metric. Garmin recently added it as a “native” feature in its Forerunner 255 and 955 watches, but you’ll need either a Garmin HRM-Pro heart rate strap or a Running Dynamic Pod for it to work.
Coros watches and some Polar models offer mileage statistics without any additional hardware, just like Apple. But it’s kind of unusual that Apple is ahead of Garmin in fitness with watchOS 9.
However, the feature only works when running – even when walking/hiking, these stats are not displayed. It’s also not really worth comparing your stats to a friend who owns a Garmin/Coros setup. You’re not going to get super accurate stats with algorithmically generated performance metrics, huh are possible when using a power meter on the bike. You should compare them to your own stats, as each brand effectively sets its own baseline.
2. Running Dynamics
There’s more good news for runners with watchOS 9. It brings fairly advanced running dynamics, recording stride length, vertical oscillation and ground contact time.
The stride length should be pretty obvious. It’s the distance you cover with each set of steps—the right (or left) leg leaves the ground to hit the ground again in the next running cycle.
Vertical oscillation is how much you move up and down when you run. This is usually recorded from the upper body as it avoids the added complication of arm movement. But Apple, these smart kids, takes this into account in its calculations.
Ground contact time is the elapsed time between the first part of your foot touching the ground until you lose contact with the ground completely.
You might want to take a closer look at these stats when you’ve beaten goals like running 5K or 10K in X minutes, as they are indicators of your running technique.
Lower vertical oscillation is generally considered better because you expend less energy on movements that don’t propel you forward. Improving, reducing your ground contact time is largely a matter of improving your biomechanics, how efficient your legs are.
The general advice is to start incorporating fast segments into your workout. But you should also see some improvement in ground contact time as you reduce vertical oscillation.
Stride length is determined by your height and leg length, but can be a useful metric to monitor when trying to improve your form.
These stats will not be useful for everyone. But they’re a way to get empirical feedback when working with a trainer, or even a series of YouTube videos to try to run more effectively – by changing how you run, not just how fast or how long .
Customizable workout views and workouts
Perhaps the most useful set of new features in WatchOS 9 is the simplest. The screens you can see while exercising are now much more immersive.
Why break the trend of the day? Let’s take running as an example. In previous versions of watchOS, you had a stats page as you ran. Five statistics are visible at the same time. You could adjust these stats on your iPhone if you dig a little deeper, but we wonder how many people have realized it’s even possible.
Mid-training is an order of magnitude more diverse in WatchOS 9. There are optional displays for running power, heart rate zones, your activity rings, and elevation. Apple also offers two customizable workout screens, similar to the only one we got earlier.
Unless we’re totally obsessed with mileage, we’re probably more interested in those two customizable screens than the glittery preset additions.
However, this represents that the Apple Watch’s information expands during exercise to be much more like that of a dedicated fitness watch. great stuff You can thank the Apple Watch Ultra for that, as it’s aimed squarely at people who would typically consider buying a Garmin, Coros, Polar, or Suunto watch instead.
Apple goes further when it comes to customization and lets you create custom workouts too. You’ll be familiar with the style of these devices if you’ve ever tried a couch-to-5K program. You can set goals by distance or time, and alternate efforts with cooldown periods. To create one of these, tap the three-zip icon on the workout selection screen, then tap Create Workout.