Your first question may be, “Why would I want an Apple Watch Series 3 over the cheaper alternatives?”. Well here are some of the key features that first attracted me to the Apple Watch Series 3, and some cons that were pointing me to alternative fitness tracking wearable tech like the Fitbit, for example.
- It’s an all-round activity and fitness tracker that logs high-quality health data.
- There’s a heart rate monitor built in, which takes a reading every 10 minutes, to record historical heart rate data. If your heart rate spikes unusually it will also alert you in case of an imminent heart attack (god forbid!).
- Its waterproof, meaning you don’t have to be too precious when you sweat all over it or when it rains. Oh and you can go swimming with it too.
- The Series 3 no longer needs to be tethered to an iPhone to receive cellular data, including calls, messages and apple music (provided you have the $10 cellular add-on plan).
- It has high accuracy GPS for activity tracking and map apps.
- You can call out in an emergency or ping your location in an instant. Could be useful in an emergency or if you’re lost, and need someone to retrieve you.
- Motivates through ‘competitive features’ with others who also have an Apple Watch. There’s nothing like a bit of spousal competition to motivate you to move more during the day.
- Can play Apple Music on it using wireless headphones. If you’re looking for a pair of high performance true wireless headphones for running then check out our list of the 5 best wireless headphones for running.
- No sleep tracking natively on the Apple Watch Series 3. Although there are a couple of apps that will do it for you. The problem with this is that you will have to recharge the device in the morning whilst you are getting ready for your day. A recharge from near empty takes about 2 hours. And about 1.5 hours to get to 80%. I didn’t really want to have to think about this as an extra step to my daily routine, so decided that I could do without the sleep tracking feature.
- The battery won’t last for an ultra marathon unless you’re an elite. The battery lasts for about 5 hours when the GPS is active and you are logging an activity. So it should last you for a road marathon if you can make it back within 5 hours.
- Needs charging every other night if you’re not using it as a sleep tracker (in which case you would need to charge it more often).
- The Series 3 Watch with Cellular starts at $399, so it’s pretty expensive. More so than the Fitbit-type alternatives.
Running with the Apple Watch Series 3
Now I should mention that this watch isn’t bomb-proof and for any ultra marathons or mountains races, I would always wear my Suunto Ambit 3 Sport watch. The Ambit 3 is a rock-solid sports watch that can take a real beating. The battery lasts over 15 hours while using the GPS on its ‘5sec fix’ setting. More than enough for 50k ultramarathons. And I can get real-time readings on my positive/negative elevation accumulation along with my current altitude. These are features that you really NEED when out running the mountains.
The Apple Watch Series 3 is a device that is much more than just a dedicated GPS activity tracker, so I’m not going to compare the two as it would be like comparing apples & oranges; pointless. Instead, I’m going to share some of my experiences while running with the watch and why I wear it for most training runs.
Heart Rate Monitor
It’s a great thing being able to train with your heart rate. Nothing knows your current fitness levels like your good old heart. The Apple watch can read your heart rate directly from your wrist, and it’s accurate, even when running. So I have taken to wearing the apple watch for training runs up to 2 hours. If I ran road marathons, I may use this watch too, but to be honest I probably wouldn’t trust it to work accurately for the entire duration, like I would with my Suunto.
My training has very successful while working with my heart rate rather than pace. I find being able to check my heart rate throughout a run allows me to reign in the pace a bit towards the end of a session. This stops me from over exerting myself. It also allows me to finish my run feeling strong rather than exhausted, which in turn motivates me to get out sooner for my next run.
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Heart rate monitoring is also available on the Suunto Ambit 3 Sport, but only by way of a band that stretches around the top of your chest. This type of monitor is very accurate, but also very constrictive when you’re gasping for air on tougher runs.
EDIT: 12 June 2018
The Strava App
The app works really well with the Apple Watch Series 3. As you would expect, It reads the heart rate data continually in real time, and displays it whilst you run. It also tells you after each mile or km split, what that split’s average pace was, along with your current average pace for the entire workout. This is a nice way to quickly see if you are getting faster of slower during a workout. For all this data, you don’t need to have your phone with you while running, nor will you actually need a cellular plan on your watch. This is an excellent improvement on the older Apple Watches, where you would have to carry your phone with you.
Although I have the Apple Watch Series 3 with the cellular function, I do not actually have that activated as it costs an extra $10 a month on top of your standard mobile phone plan. When I’m on longer runs, I always take my phone with me, so its great to have the ability to control music directly on your watch without having to dig around in your race vest for your phone.
Making/Receiving Calls while Running
If you do opt for the cellular data, or are running with your phone in a pocket or race vest, then you will be able to actually make calls with the watch whilst running. I tried this the other day with Helen. We were both out on a run but not together, and I needed to know something about a route we were running. With just a couple of taps we were talking, and thats without using headphones, as the watch has a microphone and speaker! Being able to do that without even having to stop running, felt like a real revelation. Very cool!
The watch is very lightweight and has a comfortable velcro strap to wick away sweat. It really is a thing of beauty, knowing that, at first makes you precious about not getting it too sweaty or scratched. But actually, this watch is hardier than you may think. My advice would be to enjoy it, put it through its paces and let it do what it was designed to do; make you fitter!
Buying Options for Apple Watch
The GPS is very accurate and the battery life will last you up to 5 hours. Plenty of time for most runs. I particularly enjoy being able to use it with its built in heart rate monitor, without having to wear an extra chest strap.
If you don’t already have a Strava account then make sure you sign up to one first (its free).
EDIT 2/23/2018: Ok, so I went for a run with my Apple Watch yesterday and to my dismay, my activity wouldn’t save. This is very strange as when I was running, the watch appeared to be logging time, distance, pace etc, but when I came to finish and attempt to save my activity, the Strava app on my watch was telling me that it didn’t think I had moved anywhere and could therefore not save the activity. There are unfortunately no indicators of whether or not GPS is locked-on with the strava app for Apple Watch and so there’s no way of knowing if this will happen again whilst out on a run. This sounds like a problem with the Strava App rather than the Apple Watch but for now I will be sticking to my trusty Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR (which also monitors heart rate from the wrist). I put this down to the Strava app for not telling me GPS wasn’t locked-on before starting my run. I should mention that this error was especially frustrating as I was working hard for personal CR’s on segments :oP.
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Hardier alternatives for long days in the mountains on the trails
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