Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Create custom Apple Watch interval workouts

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Shreya Christina
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While you’ve always been able to customize Apple Watch workouts, the company has finally added the ability to create custom interval workouts in watchOS 9. routine.

Previously the only solution was for: interval training on the Apple Watch was the segments feature. At any time during an activity, you can double-tap the screen to record a significant portion of your workout. While useful, it relied on users to mentally track their own intervals. But in watchOS 9, you don’t have to worry about that. The new custom workouts track all that for you, switching from one interval to another automatically. You’ll also see your performance data broken down by intervals in your training summary.

Different types of workouts now come with a set of pre-made interval workouts. For example, the HIIT activity already has a custom 30 minutes pyramid workout. But while preset intervals are useful, they may not reflect where you are in your current regimen. Don’t worry – here’s how to create and customize your own interval workouts in watchOS 9.

Apple Watch Series 7 shows the Create Workout screen for custom runs

Custom workouts are new to watchOS 9.

Create custom workouts

While programming your custom interval workouts is easy, you have to do it from the watch. Unfortunately, there is currently no way to do this on the iPhone. One more note: depending on the activity you’re programming for, some of your options will vary. For example, you can set pace or cadence alerts for a work interval for an outdoor running workout, but not for a high-intensity interval workout.

That said, here’s how to create a custom workout:

  • Open the training app.
  • Navigate to a specific activity (outdoor running, hiking, etc.) and tap the button with three dots in the upper right corner.
  • Scroll all the way down and tap the Create workout knob.
  • Press Amended knob. It should have a purple clipboard icon.
  • Press Heat up knob. Here you can choose the type of warm-up (time, distance, etc.). If you don’t want to warm up, tap To skip.
  • Press + Add button to create an interval.
  • Tap Work or recoveryand then select the desired interval type. Your options depend on your activity of choice. For outdoor running training, for example, you can choose between open, distance or time. With HIIT workouts you can choose between open or timed.
  • Enter the correct interval (five minutes, 0.25 miles, etc.).
  • Repeat the last three steps for as many work or recovery intervals as you need.
  • To repeat intervals, tap the + Add button and select Repetitions. Choose the interval(s) you want to repeat, then tap Next one. Select how many times you want to repeat a set and tap Done.
  • When you’re done, tap the Cooling down knob. Choose the type of cooling (open, time, etc.). If you don’t want to cool down, tap To skip.
  • Enter a name for your interval training in the Custom title field.
  • When you’re all set, press the Create workout knob.
Custom interval training screen on an Apple Watch Ultra

You can program intervals to repeat as many times as you need.

Edit custom workouts

Any athlete will tell you that as you progress, you may need to adapt an interval workout, even if the format itself doesn’t change. You may need to add additional reps or decide you want to add or remove a cooldown. You may prefer to use one of Apple’s pre-made interval workouts. Whatever the reason, here’s how to edit an existing custom workout.

  • Open the training app and navigate to the activity type that contains the custom workout you want to edit.
  • Press three dots icon in the upper right corner.
  • Scroll through the list of workouts until you find the one you want to edit. Press pencil icon in the upper right corner.
  • Tap the section you want to change. You can adjust the number of reps, change the type of work or recovery interval, edit the title of a custom workout, reorder intervals, and make changes to warmups and cooldowns. When you’re done editing, tap < twice.
Alert types in custom Outdoor Run workout screen on Apple Watch Ultra

Types of alerts depend on your activity. These are some of the options for an outdoor workout.

Add Alerts

After you create a custom interval workout, you can add alerts to specific intervals. For example, suppose you want your heart rate to be zone 2 or lower during a recovery interval. You can set an alert so that your watch notifies you when your heart rate reaches zone 3. That way you know you need to calm down. Alternatively, you can program the watch to alert you when you are in zone 2 so you know what intensity to maintain.

  • Open the training app and navigate to the custom workout you want to add an alert to.
  • Press pencil icon in the upper right corner.
  • Tap either Heat upa specific Work or recovery interval, or Cooling down.
  • Scroll down and tap the Warning knob.
  • Select the alert type you want to add. Your options depend on the activity. For example, with running workouts, you can choose between no alert, pace, heart rate, cadence, and power. However, with HIIT or functional strength training workouts, you can only select the heart rate.
  • When you select an alert type, a number of options appear. For example, if you choose heart rate, you will see your five heart rate zones. For pace, you can choose between a target pace or a tempo range. Program what is most relevant to that interval. Note: Each alert you program only applies to a specific interval.
  • When you’re done, tap < Warning in the top left corner.

Change training views

watchOS 9 has also added the ability to see multiple workout views. That means you can customize screens to group specific stats and scroll through them during an activity using the Digital Crown. And if you have an Apple Watch Ultra, you can now add an extra metric to take advantage of that extra screen space.

Training views are highly customizable. You can omit or rearrange certain views based on the activity or a custom workout. This means you can enable specific views for outdoor running in general and a different personalized set of views for a custom outdoor running workout.

The Heart Rate Zones training view on an Apple Watch Ultra

The training view for heart rate zones cannot be edited, but you can switch whether it is used in a particular workout.

  • Open the training app and navigate to the custom workout for which you want to edit workout views.
  • Press pencil icon in the upper right corner.
  • Scroll all the way down and tap the Training Views knob.
  • You should see a mini-window of your currently enabled training views. You can view them by scrolling through the Digital Crown. Press Edit Views knob.
  • You will see a list of each training view. The view depends on the activity. For example, a custom outdoor running workout has an interval view, metrics, metric 2, heart rate zones, split, segment, elevation, power, and activity rings.
  • To edit the statistics in the Metric and Metric 2 views, tap the pencil icon in the upper right corner. Tap each stat to choose between the available types. Note: You cannot edit certain preset views such as heart rate zones or activity rings.
  • Below each training view you will see a Involving switch. Tap to include or omit a view of a workout.
  • To reorder the views, scroll all the way down. Press Reorder knob. Drag the views to the desired order. Tap Done.
  • When everything is to your liking, tap < three times in the top left corner.

You can create as many custom interval workouts as you want. I recommend doing this when you sit down to plan your workout schedule, well before it’s time to put on your sneakers. When you’re ready, you can select a custom interval workout by pressing the three-dot button for a particular activity. It’s a lot of prep work, but it’s definitely worth it if you train regularly.

Photography by Victoria Song / The Verge


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