The Ultimate Fitness-Tracking Guide: 16 Best Apple Watch Workout Tips

The Apple Watch has many awesome features and useful capabilities. One of the standout features of the Apple Watch is the Apple Watch Workout app. These 16 Apple Watch fitness-tracking tips can help you achieve a better level of physical and mental health by making full use of the Apple Workout app. 

Related: How to Easily Access Music While Working Out on Apple Watch with WatchOS 4

Apple Watch Fitness-Tracking Basics

Let's start with the basics. You can track most kinds of workouts on the Apple Watch in the Apple Watch Workout app. Here's how to get the most out of the Workout app's different features. One important note: if you're having a hard time getting your Apple Watch exercise minutes to record correctly, you may want to start with troubleshooting that issue before using the features in this article.

1. How to Track a Workout in the Apple Watch Workout App

Before you can use any of the other tips in this article, you need to know how to start and stop tracking a workout on your Apple Watch.

  • Tap the Apple Watch Workout app icon to open.
  • Scroll through the list of workout types to find the one you want. 
  • There are four ways to track a workout: with an open goal or by calories, time, or distance (this will only appear with workouts like running, walking, or cycling.) The most recently used metric appears below the workout name.
  • If you want to use the most recenlty used tracking metric, tap on the workout name. The workout will automatically begin.
  • If you want to change the tracking metric, tap on the More icon (the ellipsis) in the upper right.
  • Tapping Open Goal will immediately start the workout. Otherwise, tap on your preferred tracking metric, and adjust the goal number of calories, minutes, or miles/yards/etc. by turning the Digital Crown, and then press Start. 
  • When you are finished with your workout, swipe right on your watch face and tap End.

Pro Tip: If your heart rate drops or you take a break, your workout might pause. Here's what to do if that happens.

2. What to Do if You Can’t Find the Workout Type That You Want to Track

With every watchOS update, Apple adds additional workout types to its tracking options. Most recently, Apple added two new workout types in watchOS 5. The watch can now track yoga workouts accurately, thanks to a new heart rate-based algorithm, and hiking, thanks to the ability to measure elevation gain.

But the list of workout types is still limited. If you still don’t see the workout you want, you can track it as Other and then name it. Here's how:

  • Choose Other when choosing a workout type and start the workout in the usual way. When you're finished the workout, swipe right and tap End.
  • Next, tap Name Workout.
  • Select the workout type and then tap Done to save the workout.
  • From now on, the workout type will appear in the list of workouts types available for tracking.

3. How to Add Another Activity to Your Apple Watch Workout

Want to cool off after your run with a relaxing yoga session? Or follow your strength training session with some cardio? Since watchOS 4, the Apple Watch Workout app has allowed users to add another activity without ending the workout session.

  • When you are ready to start the next part of your workout session, swipe right from the workout screen and tap the + symbol above New.
  • Find and start tracking your new workout activity.
  • When you are finished with the second part of your workout, you can add another activity or end the workout.

4. How to Lock Your Watch During a Workout

If you're doing a workout that involves water or a lot of arm movement, you can always lock your Apple Watch screen to prevent accidentally tapping or swiping on the screen. If you forget, you can even lock it while doing your workout. (Your watch will automatically lock if you are tracking a swimming workout.)

  • While tracking a workout on your watch, swipe right on your watch face.
  • Tap Lock.
  • To unlock your watch again, turn the Digital Crown until the screen tells you the Apple Watch is unlocked. If you have been tracking a swimming workout, this will also eject any water from the watch.

5. How to Set Do Not Disturb to Start Automatically When You Start a Workout

One of the ways you can get the most out of every workout is by turning off notifications. You can enable Do Not Disturb to automatically switch on whenever you start a workout.

  • Open the Watch app on your iPhone and from the My Watch tab tap General. 
  • Next, tap Do Not Disturb and then toggle Workout Do Not Disturb on.

6. How to Add a Workout Complication to Your Watch Face

If you work out a lot, finding and opening the Apple Watch Workout app every time gets old, fast. Adding a Workout complication to your watch face allows you to open the Workout app right from the watch face. You can do this right from your Apple Watch. Just follow these simple steps:

  • 3D Touch the watch face on your Apple watch.
  • Stick with your current watch face or swipe through the watch faces until you come to a watch face that you like.
  • Tap customize, and then swipe left on the face until you reach the final screen of customization options. That will be your complications menu.
  • Choose one of the complication locations on the watch face and tap it.
  • Rotate the Digital Crown until you find the Workout complication.
  • Press the Digital Crown again to exit the customization menu and then press it again to finish.
  • Now you can go straight to the Workout app from that watch face.

7. How to Customize the Metrics Shown on the Watch Face for a Specific Workout

One of the best things about the Apple Watch is that you can customize the specific metrics that are shown on the workout screen for each type of workout you commonly do. If you are a runner, you'll want to use this tip so you can take advantage of the new running cadence and pace tracking metrics Apple added in watchOS 5. 

  • Open the Watch app on the iPhone and make sure you are in the My Watch tab. Scroll down and tap Workout.
  • From there, go to workout view.
  • Here, make sure Multiple Metrics is selected. This will allow you to see more than one metric while you are working out.
  • Next, select the workout type for which you're customizing the metrics. In this example, I have chosen Outdoor Run.
  • Once on the Outdoor Run screen, Tap Edit.


  • Add metrics by tapping the green circle next to the metric type. Remove metrics by tapping the red circle. You can select up to five metrics. When you are finished, tap Done.

You will now see your chosen metrics on the watch screen whenever you are tracking an outdoor run.

8. How to Add Pace Alerts to Your Outdoor Running Workout

In watchOS 5, Apple added a lot of new features for runners to its workout app, including Pace Alerts for outdoor running. Once you enable Pace Alerts, your Apple Watch will notify you any time you go above or below your pace goal during your outdoor run.

  • When you are ready to start tracking an outdoor run, tap More icon (the three dots) to the right of Outdoor Run
  • Scroll down and tap Set Pace Alert.
  • Turn the Digital Crown to set a pace goal and then tap Done.
  • Below your goal pace, choose whether you want to use the Average pace (your one mile pace averaged over the time you’ve been running) or Rolling pace (your one mile pace at that moment) and then start workout as usual. 
  • Once you have set up Pace Alerts they will stay the same for every Outdoor Run workout until you change them or turn them off.
  • You can change the selected pace in the future by tapping on the pace you’ve set and following the steps above for setting your goal pace.
  • You can turn Pace Alerts off by tapping Off below Average and Rolling.

9. How to Enable or Disable Automatic Workout Detection

Have you ever gotten most of the way through an amazing workout, only to realize you never started tracking it? Or have you ever glanced down at your watch 30 minutes after your workout was over and realized you forgot to end the workout? Well, that should no longer be a problem thanks to watchOS 5! The Apple Watch can now remind you to start or stop tracking a workout if it thinks you are exercising or have finished your workout. You can even choose to turn both types of reminders on or off or to keep one on and turn the other off.

Workout detection is available for walking, running, swimming, rowing, and using the elliptical. You can enable or disable this feature right from your Apple Watch. 

  • Open your watch's Settings app and tap General
  • Scroll down and tap on Workout
  • Here you can toggle Start Workout Reminder and End Workout Reminder on or off depending on your preference.

10. How to Sync Your Watch to Your Gym's Workout Equipment

When there is compatible gym equipment within range, you can use Apple Watch GymKit to transfer data both to and from the elliptical, rowing maching, stationary bike, or other equipment that you are using. Before you can use this feature you should enable the Detect Gym Equipment setting in your Watch app on your iPhone.

  • Open the app and make sure you are in the My Watch tab.
  • Go to Workout and toggle Detect Gym Equipment on.
  • At the gym, if the workout machine is GymKit-compatible, you'll see the words Connects with Apple Watch and the display should feature a contactless reader. Hold your Apple Watch close to the reader until the watch and machine pair. 
Photo Source: Apple
  • Start and end your workout using the controls on the equipment.
  • After you end your workout, it will appear in the Activity app on your Apple Watch and iPhone, just like it would if you had tracked it only on your Apple Watch.

10. How to Share Your Apple Watch Activity with Others

Accountability to someone beside ourselves can be a major motivator in getting fit. If you are looking for a way to include some outside accountability in your workouts or just want to enjoy some friendly competition, follow this process to share your activity with others via the Apple Watch. You can only share activity with friends who also have an Apple Watch.

  • Open the Activity app on your iPhone and then select Sharing.
  • Tap the +, enter the contact's name in the To field, and then tap Send.
  • Once your friends have accepted your invitation to share activity, you can monitor each other's progress and send encouraging messages via the Activity app!

Pro tip: You can also use Apple Watch to track your steps and you can see the steps directly on your Apple Watch face!

11. How to Challenge a Friend to a 7-Day Activity Competition

Once you are sharing your activity with someone, you can challenge them to a seven-day activity competition. Competitions are one-on-one, but you can have multiple competitions going at the same time. You can start a competition from the Apple Watch or from the iPhone Activity app.

To start a competition on your watch:

  • Open the Apple Watch Activity app.
  • Swipe left to see the list of people you’re sharing activity with and tap on the name of person you want to compete with.
  • Scroll down and tap Compete and then tap Invite [person’s name].

To start a competition on your iPhone:

  • Open the iPhone Activity app and make sure you are in the Sharing tab.
  • Tap on the name of a friend you wish to challenge and tap Compete with [person’s name].
  • Tap Invite [person’s name].

Your friend will then have 48 hours to accept your invitation and the competition will start two days after that. Each competitor can earn up to 600 points per day for adding to their activity rings. The person with the most points at the end of the seven days wins.​

Now you're competing! Don't forget to check out these tips on how to win every Apple Watch competition.

Power Your Workouts with Apple Music & Podcasts

Listening to music or a podcast is a great way to make workouts easier and more effective. Playing audio directly from your Apple Watch means you can work out without the extra bulk of your iPhone. 

12. How to Add Music to the Apple Watch

If you have a cellular-enabled Apple Watch Series 3 or Serie 4, you can use it to stream music without syncing music to the watch. If you want to avoid using your watch's cellular data or you don't have an Apple Watch with cellular capabilities, you can sync music from your iPhone to your Apple Watch in order to play music from the watch during your workouts. You will need to plan ahead and sync the music from your iPhone when your Apple Watch is charging.

  • To sync music from your iPhone, first choose an existing playlist or create a new playlist in the Music app on your iPhone.
  • Next, make sure your iPhone and your Apple Watch are paired via Bluetooth and put your Apple Watch on its charger.
  • On your iPhone, open the Watch app and in the My Watch tab, tap Music > Add Music and select the album or playlist you want to sync.

13. How to Add Podcasts to the Apple Watch

Apple finally added the Podcasts app to the Apple Watch in watchOS 5. Podcasts are synced to the Apple Watch in much the same way music is synced; choose the podcasts you want to sync and they will be added to your watch then next time your Apple Watch is charging and near your iPhone.

To choose which podcasts to add:

  • Open the Watch app on your iPhone, make sure you are in the My Watch tab, and go to Podcasts.
  • Under Add Episodes From, you have two options:
    1. Listen Now: Adds one episode from each show in the Listen Now tab in your iPhone Podcasts app.
    2. Custom: Adds up to three episodes from the podcasts you have selected.
  • When you are ready to listen to a podcast while working out, make sure your headphones are paired to your watch, open the Podcasts app on the Apple Watch, and choose a show to listen to.

Episodes should auto-delete after playing, but you will need to make sure they play through to the end in order to ensure they delete. If not, you can delete the episode from your podcast app and then sync your watch and phone again. 

14. How to Pair Earbuds with an Apple Watch

Listening to music on your Apple Watch requires pairing your watch with Bluetooth headphones. 

  • Make sure your headphones are in discovery mode
  • Open the Settings app on your Apple Watch and tap Bluetooth
  • Tap on the name of the headphones you want to pair. In the future the headphones should automatically connect to your watch whenever they are powered on and in range of your watch.

15. How to Set a Playlist to Autoplay When You Start an Apple Watch Workout

Next up on our list of Apple Watch tips is all about getting the music flowing without any extra effort on your part.

  • Open the Watch app on your iPhone and select My Watch at the bottom of the screen.
  • Go to Workout > Workout Playlist and tap the playlist you want to autoplay when you start a workout.

Pro tip: At the time of this writing, it's not possible to assign different playlists to different workout types. But you can get around this on the occasions you're in the mood for something different by starting a different music playlist before starting your workout. That playlist will continue to play instead of the designated autoplay one.

16. How to Access Audio Playback Controls without Leaving Your Workout App

Before watchOS 4, you had to leave the Workout app and open the Music app in order to in order to access the music playback controls. That's not always an easy feat mid-workout! Fortunately, the audio playback controls are now accessible directly within your workout.

  • From the main workout screen while tracking a workout, swipe left.
  • Use the controls to adjust your volume or skip a song and then swipe right to return to tracking your workout. 
  • Another quick and easy way to access audio playback controls while using your Workout app is to use the controls on your earbuds.

Pro Tip: Make sure to keep track of your Fitness Trends to see how you are doing over time. You can also view all your past workouts in the Fitness app on your iPhone.

To maximize your fitness experience with Apple Watch, learn how to get better calorie accuracy. For an even better workout experience, consider subscribing to Apple Fitness+. Last year it introduced a new feature Time to Walk, and now they also have Time to Run. Their inspiring stories will keep you company on your walks or runs! Just don't forget to wash your hands when you get home, Apple Watch has a handwashing feature for that, too!

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Author Details

Becca Ludlum's picture

Author Details

Becca Ludlum

Becca is a blogger, freelance writer, and iDevice addict. She lives in the middle of the Arizona desert with her husband and two boys, and can't imagine life getting any better. Read about her crazy life at, or connect with her on twitter @BeccaLudlum