It’s been more than 6 months since Apple and TrainingPeaks announced plans for integration back at WWDC, and it’s finally here. In some ways, it’s kinda funny. From an end-user perspective, this actually isn’t some mind-bending new fancy feature. Instead, it’s a slate of mostly behind-the-scenes programmatic changes that makes it seamless and easy to execute your pre-planned TrainingPeaks structured workouts using the Apple Watch. In other words, it’s about dramatically increasing the ‘just works’ factor.
You see, back in June at Apple’s developer conference, they announced a few development features that let companies ‘push’ workouts to the Apple Watch. This is a big deal because previously a company like TrainingPeaks would have had to have developed their *own* entire Apple Watch workout app (plus a corresponding iPhone app). Everything from dealing with GPS recording to power sensor data to running and cycling metrics and more. Things that take teams of people to do at scale. Now? No Apple Watch app at all. They just send a workout file to Apple, and you use the native Apple Watch Workout app. Easy-peasy.
In fact, TrainingPeaks is far from the first to take advantage of this. The first was actually TrainerRoad back in September on WatchOS10 launch day. Then that was followed shortly by Final Surge. There are others since then too. Of course, as almost any company trying to implement this feature will tell you: It’s been a rocky road. However, things are finally stabilizing a bit, likely why TrainingPeaks is finally launching this.
So, let’s take a look at how it works.
Setup & Sync:
To get things started, you’ll need to do the following things:
A) Update your iPhone to iOS 17.2
B) Then update your Apple Watch to WatchOS 10.2
C) And update your TrainingPeaks app on your phone to the latest version
You do not need a premium TrainingPeaks subscription for this to work, it’ll work for both free and paid accounts.
With that settled, crack open the TrainingPeaks app and you’ll see a new option to pair it up to your Apple Watch. Once clicked, this has basically two things it’s going to do: Authorize TrainingPeaks to send workouts to your Apple Watch, and then authorize TrainingPeaks to access your Apple Health data:
You’ll iterate through those menus, though there is one choice seen above for whether or not you want to send today’s workouts only, or the next 7 days’ worth. I’d leave the default of the next 7 days’ worth, so you don’t have to worry about it. Likewise, I’d enable the ‘Push Notifications’ options, which lets you know things like Workout Uploads to the TrainingPeaks platform are completed/done.
With that, setup is done and you’re ready to roll.
On the Watch:
Back over on the watch, you’ll open up the ‘Workout’ app (the default one from Apple, not a TrainingPeaks one), and you’ll see the TrainingPeaks block at the top. If this were the Final Surge or TrainerRoad app, you’d see that logo instead. This is the first time Apple has allowed 3rd parties inside of this app.
You’ll notice that it shows the name and sport profile of today’s workout (bike or run only), compared to my calendar from the TrainingPeaks app that you see on the left side:
But you can also tap the “…” in the upper right corner to see other workouts for today (if you had two of them), as well as look at workouts for the next 7 days or previous days:
And then you can tap any given workout’s details button (the … again) to see the exact steps of the workout. Here’s again one compared side-by-side, albeit, with my app showing miles pace and the watch showing kilometers pace. I keep it mixed up to ensure my bilingual nature remains in play.
With all that ready to go, you’ll tap to start the workout. It’ll ask you to confirm if it’s an Indoor or Outdoor workout, this is really important on the running side especially, and has some implications:
Specifically, the implications are that for running indoor workouts, the only ‘target’ you can have is heart rate, not pace. Even though TrainingPeaks will have passed it perfectly fine to Apple. Apple doesn’t show pace targets indoors. More on this in a second. As you start running (or riding), you’ll immediately get the target (e.g., pace if running, power/cadence/speed if cycling, or heart rate for either). Here’s what those upcoming interval screens look like for an outdoor run:
Here’s the allowed target types by Apple (all plus distance/time):
Indoor run: Heart Rate targets
Outdoor run: Pace, heart rate targets
Indoor ride: Power, heart rate, cadence
Outdoor ride: Power, heart rate, cadence
Thus for that pace-based running workout, I did a treadmill workout the other night where it showed no target values the entire time, despite the workout actually having a target value. Here’s what those metrics looked like for an indoor run (missing the pace targets):
You can double-tap the upper left icon (WU, or whatever stage you’re in) to skip ahead to the next workout step.
Now, all of this also works essentially the same way for riding with power targets. And remember, you can pair Bluetooth power meters (including trainers) to the app, however, it won’t do trainer control, so it’s not going to change it automatically.
Here’s some watch screenshots showing bits from my workouts, with the upcoming power targets and my current power targets.
At left (first screenshot), is the target notification screen. It pops up for a few seconds, then goes away. The rest are screens you can scroll too. However, one of the big things that’s missing here is that you cannot see your current workout target after that screen goes away after a few seconds. Thus, if you’re iterating through complex and various interval workouts (running or riding), you have no idea what the targets are.
This is a huge gap that Apple really needs to focus on.
Now, I imagine some might say, “But this gap has existed for 18 months now, what’s the big deal?”
Well, two things:
A) Up till now (WatchOS10), you could only create workouts with heart rate targets, as Apple previously didn’t support cycling targets
B) But even bigger, you created your own workouts on the watch itself (which is somewhat painstakingly slow). Thus your ability to create complex workouts was minimal. Further, and far more importantly, YOU were the one creating them, so you probably knew what those targets were. Whereas now, it’s training platforms, coaches, AI, automation, etc… creating very complex workouts and ones you’ve never seen till the moment you tap start.
Thus, it’s very easy to be lost and not know what you’re actually supposed to be doing. Of course, you’ll get over/under target warnings if you stray too far, but that’s not ideal, as it still doesn’t tell you what the target is:
Further, and this is specific to cycling power targets – you’ll get these warnings constantly as Apple is only using a 3-second averaged power. Thus even using a high-end Wahoo KICKR Bike with me perfectly executing these power targets to 100% compliance according to the TrainingPeaks app, I got these warnings every 10-15 seconds…every workout, the entire workout.
In any event, once you complete the rollout, you’ll see a summary, even showing the name of the workout at the top, as well as the ability to save/add that workout to your local workout library. This is useful if you want to do that workout again.
From there, you’ll see the workout in the Apple Fitness app first, just like any other workout:
And then, usually within a minute or so, it’ll show up on TrainingPeaks, automatically synced to the planned workout for that day, where you can see compliance as well:
Like any other TrainingPeaks workout, coaches can leave comments, you can do usual analytics, etc…(from either web or desktop), all of that is exactly the same as any other device.
So, where do things stand overall?
Well, it’s a good first cut at structured workouts from 3rd party platforms, and undeniably will make it far easier for platforms like TrainingPeaks, TrainerRoad, Final Surge, etc… to not only get workouts on people’s wrists that have Apple Watches, but also likely expand their target markets towards less endurance-focused athletes that may be using all manner of Apple Watches (not just Apple Watch Ultra series).
Once set up, the sync and planned workout processes work fairly well, as does getting the data back to the platform at hand. Likewise, the collection of the data metrics, such as power, matches perfectly with other devices, so I’m not seeing any power data recording accuracy type issues there.
However, there are three things that Apple really needs to address here (and these are Apple things, not TrainingPeaks things):
1) First, and the biggest, there needs to be a dedicated data page on the watch (not phone) that shows the current interval target. Be it power, pace, heart rate, speed, or cadence. I need to essentially have a dedicated structured workout page that shows that target, and where I am in relation to it. Having a warning page is simply not enough.
2) Second, for running workouts, it needs to support at least showing those pace targets indoors on that screen. Given it records pace on the watch (yes, even if wrist pace is wobbly indoors sometimes), it should also show it – because at least I can set a treadmill to that pace if I know it.
3) Third, and for cycling power workouts, they need to change their internal above/below warning messages to a higher smoothed value to account for normal variations of how power meters work, thus minimizing/eliminating the target warnings that happen every 10-15 seconds.
The good news is, I don’t think any of these things are hard. The 2nd/3rd ones are likely as close to one-line items of code as possible. Right now they use 3-second power, thus, change that value to 10-second power. Problem probably solved. Further, there’s some yes/no pace target display option “if type = indoors” that just needs to be toggled the other way. And for that first one, creating a data field to just show the current target should be very trivial too.
If they can knock that stuff out, then they’ve got a quite reasonable and competitive option that should serve athletes quite well, and make it super easy for industry training platforms to get workouts to people’s wrists. While it’s missing things like structured swim workouts, or running power targets, I don’t think either are super critical ‘first cut’ items. Albeit, those would certainly be interesting longer term.
As I’ve said many times over the last 2 years, Apple is slowly checking off boxes. Sometimes it’ll meander a bit and miss a box, but thus far it seems like they quickly realize they missed one, and double-back to play whack-a-mole before going off and finding more boxes to check. And before we know it, we’ll be at Apple’s WWDC conference in June, with WatchOS11 likely being announced, and the next slate of sports & fitness features with it.
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