I love my Apple Watch and wear it every day. They are expensive, so I cannot imagine having this and a Garmin, and since I like the integration with my phone and computer, I can’t imagine getting a Garmin. While the workout features are good, it is confusing to use your Apple Watch for speed workouts.

One of the components of the Jeff Galloway training program is speed workouts. These are a supplement your weekend long runs to help you go faster. Prior to joining Customized Training, I had heard runners talk about speed workouts and track workouts, but I couldn’t wrap my head around them. What were you supposed to do? How did you do it? What determines how fast you should do it? How do you know how many times? Since I found it overwhelming, I have never done any type of speed work in my training besides surges or running fast for a certain period of time.

This weekend, was my second speed weekend. You are supposed to go to a track, but I still cannot find one. The people on my group call said to use chalk to mark out 800 meters on the road and use those as markers, but I can’t find a half-mile stretch without hills. I can see how a track would be really helpful, but that is not what I will talk about here. I want to document how I used my Apple Watch for speed workouts to help me try to meet these time goals, in case anyone else is struggling to figure out the logistics to this. My first weekend was a disaster, but this weekend went much better.

Apple Watch Views

(Please note, I am using WatchOS 8) You can change the metrics displayed on your Apple Watch by using the Watch app on your iPhone and then scrolling to the “Workout” app. From there, you select the first option called “Workout View.”

Workout menu on iPhone Watch app

There is then a list of all of the available workouts, and you can select different metrics for each workout. I usually only care about the “Outdoor Run” workout, but you could change for anything. I should actually think about doing something for cycling.

Workout view on Watch app

The ones I currently find helpful are: distance, average pace, duration, current pace, and heart rate.

  • Average Pace is what I use during a long run to see if I am going at my total 13:40 goal pace. It will combine the entire workout’s average, so that is helpful with run/walk
  • Current Pace is what you are currently doing, which I found really helpful in doing this speed workout.

Another option is rolling pace. This option is what you are doing for the last mile. I am sure there are times when this is a helpful metric, but I can’t apply it to my needs right now.

Recording Segments

Something I found through research is how to create “segments” on the Apple Watch. Many times people talk about clocking laps on their Garmin. This is the same thing on an Apple Watch and so, so easy. When you want to “lap” or create a segment, you just double-tap the screen, and it will briefly show you the segment metrics. This is how I clock my Magic Mile in the middle of my runs. This is a game-changer, and I don’t think many people know about this on Apple Watch.

How to Use Apple Watch for Speed Work

By using a combination of the above, I was able to better monitor my speed workout. My steps were:

  • Record a 15-minute timed run workout for my warm-up.
  • Once this was completed, and I was ready to do my speedwork, I added a new workout for an open outdoor run. This cleared all of the metrics and let me work from scratch.
  • I knew I had to run 0.5 miles for the first speed section. Coach said to do this in 5:05, so that should be a 10:10 pace, and recommended a 90/30 run/walk ratio. I had my interval timer set for 90/30, but only followed it during a speed section when it told me to walk.
  • While I was in this 0.5-mile section, I watched my “current pace” and wanted to make sure it was below 10:10. In reality, it needed to be somewhere in the 9:00 range because I would need to add a walk break in at times. My run time was anywhere in the high 8 minutes to 9 minutes, but once I looked down and saw 7:57. It made me so happy, but I knew that wasn’t sustainable and backed off a little bit.
  • At the end of the 0.5 miles, I double-tapped by screen to end the segment and start my 0.25-mile walk segment. Here, I was told to do this in 5:05, which would be 10:10 x 2 or 20:20. I can’t walk that slow, so I decided not to think about pace, but just walk during these 400-meter times.
  • When I saw on my watch that I was at the next 0.25 milestone, I would double tap and get ready for my next 800 meters.
  • I would repeat this and count on my hand how many sets I had finished.
  • After I completed all of the sets, I added a new open run workout for my cool down.

The Results

You can see what it looks like on your phone in the Fitness App after you finish.

  • Yellow is how much actual time it took you to do the segment
  • Blue is the distance (in miles for my settings)
  • Teal is the average/mile pace of that segment
Segment display on iPhone


This isn’t a perfect method, and I can see how a track would be helpful. A few of the gripes I have are:

  • It’s annoying to look at your watch a lot, but maybe that is just what you do in speedwork. I’ve never used a Garmin, so I don’t have a comparison.
  • I hate that it breaks up my run. I did about 7 miles today, but I recorded it in 3 workouts (1.something miles, 4.5 miles, and 1 mile). That just annoys me. I like to see a high distance number. I’m not sure if it would make sense to do them all in one for speedwork, but I think this is probably a better way to do tempo runs without knowing your current segment pace during the workout.
  • Not sure I needed to start a new workout if I knew the mileage after my warm up. If I ended the warm-up at 1.25 miles, I could just do the 0.5 segment to 1.75 or something.
  • I have no idea how I would do this if I had to really hit the 5:05 mark. “Current Mile Pace” shows your run pace then slows down a lot when you walk, but it doesn’t average them. At this point, the Average Pace metric doesn’t make sense because of the slow 400-meter recovery.

Apple WatchOS 9

This fall, Apple will release the new operating system – WatchOS 9. At WWDC they announced several really cool new features for running. One of them looks like you will be able to change your screen metrics to show “current segment pace” which would solve many of the problems I have here and when doing weekday runs. The public beta is supposed to be released in July, and I think I am going to sign up for it so I can use this feature. I don’t use my watch for much more than this, so I don’t think it would interrupt too many other activities if the features are buggy.