Running with an Apple Watch (Part 1)

Running with an Apple Watch - Part one of twoI spent a week running with an Apple Watch to see how it functions as a running watch. In this first part of a two-part series, I’ll detail some key features (or lack thereof) and whether I liked or disliked them. In the second part, I’ll report my experience running with an Apple Watch during several different types of runs, indoors and outdoors, and compare performance.

No Internal GPS (DISLIKE)

Let’s get this out of the way first. Unlike nearly every other option, the Apple Watch does not have an internal GPS chip. Instead, it relies upon the GPS in a iPhone 5 or newer. There is an accelerometer in the Apple Watch which is supposed to calibrate over your first 20 minutes of running with an iPhone, measuring your distance by your stride, and giving you an option for running without a phone. I run with an iPhone about 95% of the time anyway, so while I dislike this feature, it doesn’t really affect me.

Water Resistant (LIKE)

Running with an Apple Watch in the rain should not be a problem. It’s rated water resistant to the IPX7 standard, which means it can withstand immersion in up to one meter of water for 30 minutes. Unlike my Nike+ Sportswatch, which was a casualty of the 2014 Wine & Dine Half Marathon deluge, Apple Watch should not be damaged by even a torrential downpour, let alone sweat.

Nike+ Sportswatch was no match for this storm
Nike+ Sportswatch was no match for this storm

Functions as iPhone Remote (LIKE)

I almost always run with my iPhone in a running belt. When I get a notification (email, call or text) I have to pull out the phone, decide whether I want to respond, then put it back when I’m done. Running with an Apple Watch is nice because I have all that functionality on my wrist. I can check to see what the notification is about, and respond from my watch by answering a call or replying to a text message.

Receiving and responding to texts is easy when running with an Apple Watch
Receiving and responding to texts is easy.

Holds 2GB of Music (LIKE)

Running with an Apple Watch means you’ll have access, using bluetooth headphones, to hundreds of songs you can sync to its internal memory. This is a nice option for when you want to run with music but don’t want to carry a separate music player. Alternatively, you can use it as a remote to control music in your iPhone music library.

Controlling music on my iPhone from my Apple Watch
Controlling music on my iPhone from my Apple Watch

Functions as Activity Tracker (LIKE)

I never had a FitBit, but now I understand why they’re so effective. The Apple Watch measures  progress toward your daily Active Calorie burn goal (which you can customize), minutes spent exercising (toward a goal of 30 minutes per day) and getting up out of your chair at least once an hour for 12 hours. Progress is displayed by three concentric circles which close as you achieve each goal. I have found myself a slave to the circles, working hard to close them each day. This has motived me on many occasions  to go for a run – an added benefit to running with an Apple Watch!

The desire to close the circle is strong. When you hit all three goals the watch lets you know.
The desire to close the circle is strong. When you hit all three goals the watch lets you know.

Heartrate Monitor (LIKE)

Independent scientific tests have rated the Apple Watch Heartrate Monitor extremely accurate. I  don’t train using heart rate zones, but I know a lot of people do. Many running watches require the use of an external strap, so the built in monitor on the Apple Watch is a nice feature.

The resting heart rate of a runner.
The resting heart rate of a runner.

Battery Life (LIKE)

The Apple Watch boasts “all-day battery life,” and I never had a problem with it, with the understanding that it needs to be charged every night. The toughest test I threw at it was getting up at 5am, running 10 miles and using the Apple Watch normally all day until going to bed around 11pm with 35% battery life left. I’m confident that, unlike my Garmin Forerunner 10, this will last through a marathon.

The Apple Watch's battery lasts all day.
The Apple Watch’s battery lasts all day.

Summary

In terms of overall features and how they relate to running with an Apple Watch, I think the good far outweighs the bad. In the final part of this series, I’ll put Apple Watch to the test in various scenarios to see how well it functions as a running watch.

Chris Smith

About Author:

Chris Smith, a.k.a. @DopeyRunr, started running in 2013. He has since completed the 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2018 Dopey Challenges, and dozens of other marathons and half marathons around the country.

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