How I trained for a half marathon with my Apple Watch

Digital conversations


By Cai Mei Khoo

How I trained for a half marathon with my Apple Watch

Ever since I got my hands on the Apple Watch, I have neglected my non-digital, non-smartwatch watches. While I fully appreciate Swiss Made timepieces, truth be told, I’m all for efficiency and versatility. I wear the Hermès double tour leather strap during the day, and carry the Nike sport loop in my gym bag. My watch face changes with a swipe at the bottom of the watch face—one day it’s a kaleidoscopic print of a picture from my recent Moroccan holiday, next day it’s Toy Story, or Activity Digital, which allows me to view my activity rings instantly. For the uninitiated, the Apple Watch tracks your activity, split into three rings that you get to set goals for: Move, Exercise, and Stand. It’s become a personal challenge to close all rings at least 4 times a week—there’s a gratifying feeling when I get a notification from my watch congratulating me on closing my rings; strange, but true. After all, the Apple Watch was designed to make you more active.

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In the weeks leading up to the KL marathon, where I’d signed up for the half marathon, my Apple Watch proved to be the trusty sidekick I needed, giving me a pat on the back where I’ve been active, or sending me notes of encouragement to move just a little bit more to close my rings. I run with the Nike+ Run Club app, which I’ve placed on one of my watch faces for quick access—it appears at the bottom of the Activity Digital watch face, which reads ‘Running today?’. At the end of a run, short of a high five, my watch reads ‘Back at it. See you tomorrow?’ or ‘Run. Recover. Repeat. See you soon.’. Sometimes though, conversations with my watch can veer to, let’s call it sassy. On a particular busy day at the office, it was raining outside, getting late and all I wanted to do was go home for a warm dinner. I got a notification that read ‘Sometimes you run best on the days you don’t feel like running’. Too bad my watch generally ignores me when I talk back to it.


For days I decide to do a HIIT workout rather than run, I use the Workout app to track my activity. Detailed metrics such as heart rate during workout, average heart rate, total calories, type of workout, and total time are all logged on the Activity app on my iPhone. It also syncs with third party apps such as My Fitness by Jillian Michaels, which offers 7-minute workouts for the days I’m short on time. The Activity app also allows you to share your activity with friends, which helps foster a friendly, competitive (some call it kiasu) spirit.

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When I’m stuck at my desk for an extended period, my watch reminds me that it’s time to stand and move around for a minute—something we don’t actually think about when engrossed in work, but a useful notification to have. Another app I like to use is the Breathe app, particularly when I’m feeling overwhelmed at work or when stuck in traffic. I set mine to just 1 minute of breathing time—a pocket-sized activity that helps with mindfulness and midday relaxation.


On race day, my watch helped keep me in check with timing—I cruised a bit too much in the first 5km, so had to speed up for the remainder of the run. This SCKLM 2018 marks my fifth half marathon, and I clocked in at 2 hours 14 minutes, with an average pace of 6:16/ km (tied for personal fastest half marathon with last year’s run). My watch also indicated that I burnt a total of 1,144 calories, which means I could have 3 peanut butter and banana sandwiches, or about 3 plates of wantan mee, if I wanted to. But my fitness journey doesn’t stop just because I’ve completed the race. On my wrist, my Apple Watch displays the distance of my last run and is asking if I’m running today. 3 weeks into April and I’ve logged 19 workouts—I’d say I’m on a roll, thanks to my watch.


Looking at amping up your fitness journey? Here are some apps to consider:


Sweat with Kayla: Fitness expert Kayla Itsines wants you to reach all your health and fitness goals with her app packed with everything that made her Bikini Body Guides an international sensation.

Nike+ Run Club: Gives you everything you need to run better and more often-including GPS tracking details of your run, customised coaching plans that fit your goals and adapt to your progress, and nonstop motivation from your friends.

My Fitness by Jillian Michaels: For anyone who has ever wanted Jillian Michaels to be their personal trainer and coach, this is the answer. The app provides detailed instruction, totally customisable exercise regimens, and detailed meal plans co-created with renowned chefs



Apple Watch Breathe App

Headspace: With over 16 million users in more than 190 countries, the Headspace app offers hundreds of guided meditations designed to help with everything from stress and anxiety to relationships and sleep.

Calm: One of the world’s top meditation apps with 11 million downloads and over 50,000 five star reviews.  The app contains a series of unique audio programs that help alleviate some of the most important mental health issues of the 21st century—stress, anxiety, depression and insomnia.

YogaGLO: This app seeks to bring mindfulness and movement to your everyday life. YogaGlo was founded by Derik Mills to make internationally known yoga and meditation teachers accessible to a broader audience.



HomeKit “good night” scene with Siri (on iPhone)

Night shift (on iPhone)

Bedtime (on iPhone): Start enjoying a regular sleep routine by establishing a set bedtime and wake time. Visualize the number of hours reserved for sleep, and see how aligned your sleep bars are throughout the week. Receive bedtime reminders at night, and wake up to all-new pleasant sounds. 

Sleep Cycle: An intelligent alarm clock that analyzes your sleep and wakes you in the lightest sleep phase—the natural way to wake up feeling rested and relaxed. 



LoseIt!: Used by millions of people around the world, Lose It! is an effective, personal, app-based weight loss program.

H2O Pal: Staying hydrated is great for health and H2OPal helps you intelligently keep track and get better at drinking water.

Waterminder: An easy, intuitive app to track your water intake. Based on your body weight (or your personal goal), WaterMinder will remind you to drink water to reach your daily goals. By seeing current water fill visually and in percents you will instantly know how well hydrated you are. 


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