Strava’s Apple Watch app is not just for cyclists [Runner’s Week: Day 3]

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Strava is better known for cycling than running.
Strava is better known for cycling than running.
Photo: Graham Bower/Cult of Mac

Runner's Week It’s Runner’s Week at Cult of Mac. Every day this week, I’m reviewing a different running app for Apple Watch in an effort to help you decide which app belongs on your wrist to log all your sweaty miles.

Yesterday I reviewed Runkeeper. Today, it’s Strava’s turn.

It’s time for Apple Watch to get serious about fitness

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Here's how Apple could improve watchOS 4 for fitness buffs.
Here's how watchOS 4 could improve Apple Watch for fitness buffs.
Image: Graham Bower/Cult of Mac

Apple puts fitness front and center in its advertising for Apple Watch Series 2, even going so far as to claim the device is a “superior sports watch.” But in reality, it is not a sports watch at all. It’s a smartwatch. And that’s a massively important distinction.

Sports watches, like the TomTom Runner or Garmin Forerunner, are cheaper and more reliable at logging workouts, while smartwatches are jacks of all trades, which usually means they are masters of none. Or at least, not masters of fitness.

The sad fact is that it doesn’t have to be this way. Right now, it’s mostly the software that is letting Apple Watch down. That’s why I’m hoping that with its next major software update, Apple will finally get its smartwatch into shape for fitness fans. Here’s what I want to see in watchOS 4, which Apple will likely unveil at its Worldwide Developers Conference this June.

The ultimate runner’s review of Apple Watch Series 2

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Is Apple Watch Series 2 the perfect running partner?
Is Apple Watch Series 2 the perfect running partner?
Photo: Graham Bower/Cult of Mac

With the launch of a GPS watch, and a renewed Nike partnership, Apple is getting serious about targeting runners. So is Apple Watch Series 2 the perfect running partner that Cupertino promises?

As an avid runner myself, I was keen to find out. Over the past couple of months, I’ve been training for the TCS New York City Marathon, and I took my Apple Watch Series 2 with me every step of the way — right up to the finish line in Central Park last week. Here’s how it measured up.

Apps vs. apparel: Can Strava compete with big sportswear brands?

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The last of the indie fitness apps: can Strava hold their own against the big brands?
The last of the indie fitness apps: Can Strava hold its own against the big brands?
Photo: Graham Bower/Cult of Mac

Sports apparel makers clearly believe that fitness apps are an important part of their futures. Under Armour and Adidas have invested heavily in fitness apps, and Runkeeper’s recent acquisition by ASICS is just the latest in a long series of app acquisitions by apparel makers.

These companies have big brands and deep pockets. Can an indie developer realistically compete with all that? Gareth Nettleton, VP of marketing for indie fitness app Strava, tells me that like any serious athlete, his hard-charging company thrives on competition.

Fitness apps are ruining the Apple Watch. Apple should scrap them.

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My resolution for 2016: Less staring at spinning dots, more running.
My resolution for 2016: Less staring at spinning dots, more running.
Photo: Graham Bower/Cult of Mac

Apple has got its fitness strategy all wrong. It sees Apple Watch as a computing platform rather than a device, and so it promotes third-party apps instead of making better built-in ones of its own.

That may be a fine strategy for Macs and iPhones, but it just does not work for watches and fitness trackers. Relying on third-party fitness apps means spending far too long staring at the spinning dots of death (the Watch equivalent of a spinning beachball), when we should be working out.

Instead of offering a range of underwhelming third-party workout apps, what Apple Watch really needs is one great built-in app that integrates with popular fitness platforms like Runtastic and MapMyRun.

How to choose the right running app for you

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And the winner is… find out which running app offers the most features
And the winner is… find out which running app offers the most features
Photo: Graham Bower / Cult of Mac

There are so many iPhone apps for runners, it’s hard to decide which one to use. Should you go for a familiar brand like Nike, or a specialist like Runkeeper?

Ultimately, all running apps do pretty much the same thing: They use GPS to track how far and how fast you run. But when you take a closer look, their features and prices vary considerably. So I’ve done the leg work for you, to help you find the right running app faster.

How to set personal fitness goals with Apple Watch

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Positive goals, like training for a marathon, tend to be more effective than negative goals, like losing weight.
Get creative with your goals to achieve greater results.
Photo: Graham Bower/Cult of Mac

Apple Watch gives you three goals: standing, moving and exercise. But these aren’t really goals. They are actually more like targets.

A real goal is something you want to achieve — an outcome you have in mind that is so important, it motivates you into action. Starting a fitness program without this kind of goal is like going on a road trip without any idea of your destination. Maybe you’ll arrive someplace nice, but don’t count on it.

So when it comes to fitness, the big question is: What are you trying to achieve?

Why I’m cheating on my Apple Watch

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I now wear two watches when I’m running. Seriously.
Two-timer: I now wear two watches when I’m running. Seriously.
Photo: Graham Bower/Cult of Mac

After six months of trying to log my runs with my Apple Watch, I finally gave up and bought a dedicated GPS running watch.

There’s a lot to like about Apple’s new wearable. The Activity app, for example, is brilliant at helping people lose weight. But the truth is, as a running watch, it sucks.

Where are all the watchOS 2 fitness apps?

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Runtastic's text is sometimes too small to read while running
Runtastic's text is sometimes too small to read while running
Photo: Graham Bower/Cult of Mac

WatchOS 2 offers cool new features for third-party fitness apps. But a week after its launch, most leading fitness apps have yet to go native and take advantage of the Apple Watch update.

So what’s up? The answer may lie in Apple’s new workout API, which does not provide the GPS coordinates required for apps to map your run or cycle ride.