How to get your winter Apple Watch workouts to count!

I've been doing "outdoor walk" workouts with my Apple Watch since Series 2 launched in September. I'm well on my way three perfect months — filling the stand, move, and exercise rings each and every day — and I don't want to mess that up. So, the other day, when I walked for an hour and barely scored ten minutes of exercise credit, I panicked. I walked for half an hour more and barely got another few minutes. More panic. What was happening?

I was exhausted, my leg muscles were sore, and my Watch was basically laughing at me.

So I stopped. I checked to make sure my Watch was on properly. I checked to make sure the update I'd begun in the morning but couldn't finish before I left — no time to put it back on the charger! — hadn't caused any problems. And then I remembered horse, not zebra. And I checked the workout.

It had snowed the night before, which meant instead of walking on a gravel path like usual, I was walking on fresh powder. It was a much harder workout, but it was also a slower one as I had to fight for every step, especially uphill. As a result, my muscular exertion was higher but my cardio was lower. And that's not good for "outdoor walk", which factors pace into its calculations.

So, today, I stuck to the same hike but instead of "outdoor walk" I chose "other workout". It's partially a cop-out but also partially a genius work around. Since it's not specific to walking, it's not pace-based. And that means, when I walked for 45 minutes, I got 45 minutes of credit.

I was still exhausted, my leg muscles were still sore, but now my Watch was laughing with me, not at me.

While I was out, I saw several people walking with snow shoes and several more using cross-country skies. I live near a huge nature preserve, so there are a lot of options. I'd love to try out both. Apple Watch doesn't (yet!) have any winter-based workouts, but I figure I can use "other workout" for all of that, at least for now. Downhill as well, which I'll be starting up again soon.

It's smart that Apple included "other workout" for just that reason. Given how arduous it is to measure and optimize every type of workout, it'll take a while for them to really round out the offerings — where's skating on the list, both ice and roller?

This way, I can hit the snow and still have my exercise show. And that means I can hopefully nail at least a few more perfect months.

Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

  • Thank you for this article. Definitely will remember this when I'm walking on the Airline trail in the snow. The only time I have used the other workout was when I was lifting weights. Sent from the iMore App
  • Good tip. I do a lot of walks off trail in the bush, and though quite a work out, they never count for much.
  • Great tip Rene. I've had the same thing happen to me on walks as well. Now I know what to do!
  • I'm curious how this would have worked out if you hadn't started any workout at all? I am a new Watch owner (pulled the trigger a couple of days after Pebble announced they were done and my new Time 2 was cancelled) and have not started a workout yet so have no idea how it changes the credit you get. I have a desk job so don't get much time to walk around during the day - set my activity level to moderate and only hit my move goal last night after scraping ice off my daughters car (which seemed to be counting as steps). Sent from the iMore App
  • If you don't start a workout in the workout app then you are not guaranteed to get credit for exercise minutes. In my experience it does not affect the number of calories burned that it measures. If you are going to go running then you may be safe. Buy if you are doing an actual workout session you are always better off to start some kind of workout on the watch to make sure you get credit for the time spent.
  • I had this exact scenario happen to me last week. I didn't know the outdoor walk workout was pace based workout and was wondering why I registered a 10 minute workout when I walked for over 40 minutes. Next time I'll use the 'other workout' as you recommend. Thanks Rene.
  • What kills me is when my workouts don't count because the Watch fails to capture my heart rate. I'll be in the gym on a treadmill and, besides the fact that apparently I run differently outdoors and on a treadmill so it always thinks my treadmill runs are shorter, it will stop sensing my heart rate. It will just stop or misread by half. I found out that the cold will sometimes make it read wrong. Same with sweating, apparently. I'll do a 5k run and workout after and then look down and see it thought my heart rate was 78 or something the whole time or blank and thus my workout tracking is shot. I thought that might be where you were going with this article. I hope this has improved in the new version. My Watch is the original. But I plan on upgrading for the GPS.
  • Similar issue when walking my dog on trails after dark. I use a headlamp because it gets dark now at 5PM, but I simply can't walk the trails as fast in the dark. Still walking over a mile of hilly horse trails, but the Outdoor Walk is registering it as 5-6 minutes instead of 20 minutes.
  • Great tip that should be helpful for a lot of people, including me if I decide to walk this winter instead of doing my typical long runs. Winter running is a struggle!
  • Well thats something I would've never thought to check.... thanks for sharing Rene!!!