There's something that has bothered me for years about the Apple Watch, specifically how it's used as a running training tool.

It's safe to say that Apple's Watch has been on an upward trajectory when it comes to its run-tracking prowess over the years; after all, the first incarnation didn't even have GPS on board, making it relatively useless as a workout buddy. for runners without the phone present.

Since then, with each iteration of the watch, Apple has made slow, steady improvements, and with the release of watchOS 9 at WWDC 2022, it really stepped things up, adding a number of new elements like structured interval training and customizable data. The screens make it a true fitness companion.

However, while the Apple Watch has always had a heart rate monitor, it has never had something that I consider minimal to be considered the best running watch: heart rate training.

What does heart rate training mean? This is where you try to keep your training in a specific zone throughout your workout: if you're trying to get in shape, maintaining a certain heart rate can help you more than relying on maintaining a certain heart rate. Tone or muscle problems may mean you can't be as fast as you'd like.

Train with your heart rate, however, and you'll be able to ensure you're working as hard (or not, if you're trying to keep things cool on an easy run) as you want at all times. Go up a hill and slow down? Your heart rate won't, trust me.

(*9*) Apple Watch heart rate monitor has gradually become more accurate over the years. (Image credit: Future)

So you could say it's great that Apple is finally getting this feature on the watch with this new software… but here's the mystery: why now?

Since Apple has had a wrist-based heart rate monitor for a long time, it could easily have allowed users to set their zones (or do it automatically based on their maximum heart rate, which it has been able to measure for years) and then provided alerts. to let them know when they move out of a desired range.

In short, Apple could have brought this feature with the first Apple Watch many years ago. Then why not?

Apple most likely didn't because of a phenomenon known as cardiac drift (opens in a new tab), where other physiological factors - from poor hydration or nutrition to a lack of high-level fitness - mean that the Same amount of effort will produce an increasing heart rate during a workout.

This means you'll end up working harder to stay in the same zone for a longer run, which defeats the purpose and could easily demotivate newer runners, which the Apple Watch was used to.

So again, why are you doing this now, Apple? Sure, the brand has improved the software algorithms with watchOS 9, which means it can more accurately determine your heart rate from your wrist, which could mean it could eliminate heart rate deviation... but that seems unlikely. .

That may be because wrist-based heart rate monitoring has never been more accurate than wearing a chest strap to measure your heart rate, something Apple openly admits (opens in a new tab), and only with the recent updates to your Apple software you can rest assured. in its ability to provide accurate heart rate data.

After all, heart rate training is a feature that Polar and Garmin have offered for years, and it's one of the many key advantages their users enjoy over the Apple Watch, so it's strange that Apple has avoided it for so long. so long.

If the decision to delay this feature comes down to accuracy, that makes a bit more sense: Rivals like Garmin often promote the use of a chest-based heart rate monitor (and make their own) where Apple rarely does. time points out that you are even. able to plug one in and you probably don't want to denigrate your own hardware in the watch by pushing the need to plug in accessories to get the most out of it.

power to the people

Screenshot of Apple's WWDC 2022 keynote

The new running metrics are welcome, but are surprising in their sudden appearance. (Image credit: Future)

There's another mystery: Apple's new running power metric. It's somewhat surprising, following in the footsteps of other high-end fitness brands to achieve running power without the need for an additional in-shoe sensor or the like.

What the watch tracks with power, using its ability to track your movement, is the force you expel with each step, giving a result in watts, a common measure of power on many platforms.

Running power monitoring is theoretically a better measure of performance than heart rate. Remember that there is no universal way to monitor energy, in the same way that you will get different step counts with different fitness bands, but as long as Apple can be consistent in its energy feedback operation, this should be a better way. to check how you are working in your heart rate zones.

I can't wait to get the final version of watchOS 9 on a new Apple Watch later this year and try out the new metrics; if they work well, I can forgive them for not being there until now, but I still believe that Apple deliberately withheld these features for some reason.

(*9*) Apple Watch still has a long way to go to beat the best Garmin watches, but it could have gotten a little closer with these updates.

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