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Tuesday, June 18, 2024

These Apps Turn Your Apple Watch Into a Fitness Tracking Machine

The Apple Watch gets a bit of flack for not being as capable a multisport watch as some higher-end Garmin and Coros watches, like the Fenix 6S Pro. And, while it’s true that the battery life isn’t comparable, many of the features it’s (supposedly) missing can be added through one thing the Apple Watch does have: an incredible app ecosystem.

Best Apps for Running

The built-in Workout app on the Apple Watch isn’t bad, but it lacks a couple of key features for serious runners, like interval workouts and the ability to see more metrics.


iSmoothRun is one of the most complete running apps out there. It allows you to create and track custom workouts based on time or distance intervals, or your heart rate zone. You can also configure your Apple Watch to show more than just five metrics, which is nice if you want to see your heart rate, elevation gain, current pace, time, and distance all at once, like I do.

Price: $5, optional $5/month for iSmoothRun Pro, which adds features like the ability to sync training plans from other services.


If you want to be able to share your runs with other people or compete with your friends, Strava is by far the best app out there. While the Watch app doesn’t do much more than track your runs, the stats you can see after—and the kudos and comments you can get from your friends—make it worth downloading.

Also, if you subscribe to Strava Premium, you get training programs powered by McMillan running. They’re really handy if you want a faster 5K or 10K, or to run a half-marathon or marathon for the first time. Unfortunately, the workouts don’t sync to your Watch, so you’ll have to pace yourself, but the programs are solid.

Price: Free, from $8/month for Premium, with training plans and other features.

Watch To 5K

Not everyone who wants a fitness watch is already blasting out high-mileage weeks. If you’re planning to use your Apple Watch to motivate you to start running, Watch To 5K is well worth a look. It takes the incredibly popular (and successful) Couch to 5K program and builds it into a Watch app so you can leave your phone at home.

Watch To 5K guides you through each run and tracks your progress so that with three runs a week for nine weeks, it will have you ready to run 3.1 miles.

Price: $4.

Best Apps for Triathlon Training

While the Apple Watch can track multisport activities, it’s not particularly intuitive. If you’re preparing for a triathlon, that means using a touch screen when your hands are wet and you’re trying to transition between disciplines. There are better apps out there.

Triathlon Tracker

Triathlon Tracker is the ultimate, well, triathlon tracker for the Apple Watch. Instead of having to touch the screen, you can mark your transitions between disciplines by tapping both side buttons on your Watch. Its stat tracking also matches whatever discipline you’re currently in.

Triathlon Tracker also works for your multisport training days. If you’re just doing a swim/bike or run/swim session, you can configure it beforehand.

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For swimmers, MySwimPro is as good an app as you can get. The free app will let you create and track swim workouts (instead of just tracking how many lengths you’ve swum). If you’re actually trying to train rather than just get some exercise in, this makes a big difference.

There’s also an Elite subscription plan ($20/month) that will give you customized coaching if you want it.

Price: Free, optional Elite from $20/month, which adds coaching and other features.

Best Apps for Outdoor Activities

Continuously using the GPS on your Apple Watch will drain its battery more quickly than regular day-to-day use, so if you’re planning a multiday backpacking trip, you’ll need to bring a battery pack. For most casual half-day hike or skiing sessions, however, it should do fine.


WorkOutDoors adds vector maps to your Apple Watch that can even be stored for offline use. If you’re hitting the trails for a hike, run, or ski tour, you can add a GPX route to follow so you don’t get lost.

Basically, it’s the app that turns your Apple Watch into something closer to one of Garmin’s adventure watches.

Price: $6.


SkiTracks is the ultimate ski tracking app, at least if you’re skiing lift-accessed slopes. It can track how many runs you’ve done, your average speed, and of course the vertical you’ve managed to ski so far that day.

Afterward, you can look back over the day’s skiing and see it all laid out on a 3D map of the terrain on your iPhone.

Price: $1.

Best Apps for the Gym

One area where the Apple Watch excels is in the gym. If you want to track your weights, reps, and sets, or sweat hard in an interval workout, there are apps that make that easy to do.


Strong allows you to log your full workouts, including all your exercises, reps, and sets, without your phone. It’s great if you want to avoid the distraction of Twitter during rest periods by leaving your phone in your locker.

With the free version of the app, you’re limited to three custom routines at once—which is enough to save a push/pull/legs split. If you want more custom routines, Strong PRO starts at $5/month.

Price: Free, optional Strong PRO from $5/month for more custom routines and other features.

Seconds Pro

If high-intensity interval training is more your kind of thing, Seconds Pro is one of the best apps out there. You can create as many brightly colored and easy-to-read custom timers for your workouts as you need to get your sweat on.

Price: $5.

And Get an External Heart Rate Monitor

Wrist-based heart rate tracking, like you get with an Apple Watch, isn’t as accurate as chest straps, and it gets worse the harder you’re training. If you want your Apple Watch to be able to log your heart rate when you’re deep in the pain cave, an external heart rate monitor will go a long way.

Check out our guide to the best heart rate monitors for a few suggestions.

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