It is possible to use the Apple Watch as an effective fitness device? I honestly think so (at least if combined with an external bluetooth heart rate monitor like the Polar H7 displayed below).

I would like to review some of the apps I use and love most, in the hope that others will consider it interesting, and perhaps saving some Apple Watches that could have fallen into the oblivion, bringing them back to a newer and better life as fitness trackers devices outside the obvious native applications.

Ready, steady… Lets Go!

I use fitness apps on the Apple Watch on a regular basis. Some of them are good, but only a few are actually worth it, and can provide a better experience than not using any app at all while practicing sport.

If designing a “normal” app is already a very difficult task, designing a good fitness app that is going to serve a user that is on the move, is even more complicated.

That difficulty is the reason why I have been amazed recently by an application that I use normally for doing ciclo indoor interval trainings, or just to check my heart rate while practicing. It allows me to know just from a glance which cardio zone I am training on  at any specific moment of time, and also if I am reaching my limits and I should take it easy and reduce the cadence or free some resistance over the wheel.

But let me give you some extra information about what heart rate cardio zones are, because this could result a little bit confusing if you are not used to them.

For effectively training cardio, we need to consider the percentage of the Maximum Heart Rate (MHR) at which we are training.
The MHR is the maximum amount of beats that our heart can provide in one minute. The logic behind heart rate cardio zones is, that it is not the same training, for example, at 80% of our MHR for 20 minutes, that training just at 50% of our maximum peak for the same amount of time. Both things produce different adaptative responses in our bodies.

But… how we calculate our MHR? For men, we can use a basic formula: 220-our age.
So for example, if you are 40 years old man,  your Maximum Heart Rate will be  roughly 220-40=180.

Of course there are formulas more accurate that take into consideration your heartbeat while on rest (basically considering if you are more or less fit, or have recovered properly from a previos exercise), but for the sake of clarity, we will keep the formula simple; for men that formula would be 220- age = MHR, as described above, but for women, there is another formula more accurate, which is: 206 – (88% of your age) = MHR

Once we know how to calculate the MFR, we need to embrace the idea that training at different percentages of the MHR, arouse different reactions on our body, and different benefits.

This graphic summaries the cardio zones, and the effect in our body:

 As you can see, each zone has a name (from very light to maximum), and an interval of bpm measured as a percentage range of the MHB.

So, lets say you want to schedule a training session with the main purpose of burning fat. In that case, according with the info,  you might train on the moderate interval that goes from 60% to 70% of your MHB.

Again if you are 40 years old this is from 108 bpm (60% of 180) to 126 bpm (70% of 180).

Easy, right? You must keep your heart beating from 108 to 126 bpm if you are 40 years old and want (mainly) to burn fat.

Keeping track of this while training is a little bit tedious, and need a heart monitor. Apple Watch can be a good one when used with the right tools. That is the reason I have been so amazed recently by a little app, with a cleverly designed user interface, that makes my training better, converting my Apple Watch in an more effective fitness device.

That app is called MotiFIT, and before continuing ,let me clarify that I am not related in any way with the creator of the app. I am just a user.

The app facilitates monitoring your heart beat and cardio zone effortless, and provides accurate and relevant information on the Apple Watch through a beautiful interface.

It can work together with the Iphone or  independently on the Apple Watch, which is the only device I carry (together with a bluetooth heart rate monitor Polar H7) while training. It works also with the internal cardio sensor of the Apple Watch, but frankly not as smoothly as using an external bluetooth heart rate monitor.

The main reason why the application has amazed me, is because its clever UX design. Designing a good app is difficult, designing a beautiful app that properly helps the user while practicing sport is even rarer.

Take a look to just one of the multiple views you can select from MotiFIT interface while the app is running natively on the Apple Watch

 Top left is the hour of the day. Under that, the big number with a heart symbol, represents the current bpm. Below that, there is the flame symbol representing the burned calories.

Then it is the circle metaphor. It grows clockwise filling the circumference with a color bar until it arrives to the zone that corresponds to the current bpm.
Notice that there are different colors: blue, green, yellow and red, each of them representing the different cardio zones, and displaying in real time the current zone with the bar that fills the circle circumference. You just need to take a look to the circle bar and take note of the color at the end (in this case yellow), to know the zone you are currently training on.

So in the example I was training on the yellow zone (hard) at 138 bpm.
As I have simply started the training,  the calories burned were only 7 (flame symbol).  The line on the inner part of the circle, the one that is closer to the heart graphic, displays the average bpm on the whole training. The external line, is the maximum bpm reached during the training.

Simply, beautiful, useful, precious.

And this is just a view of several available.

Who said that the Apple Watch was not a serious training device, when combined with the right applications like motiFIT?