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WatchOS 9 Brings Advanced Running Features to Apple Watch

The biggest leap to run tracking comes to the Apple Watch since its launch.

Justin Eastzer Former Senior Video Producer
Prior to CNET, Justin_tech ran his own YouTube channel with a focus on the smart home and lighting, VR/AR, wearables and more. Diabetes tech became a new passion after his type 1 diagnosis in May 2021. If you enjoy terrible puns and emerging tech, then you'll enjoy his tech-ventures.
Expertise Five years of tech YouTube-ing and two years of experience with diabetes wearable tech, which is used daily to foster better relationships with technology. Credentials
  • Audience-building across multiple social networks, including over 5 million subscribers for America's Got Talent and a niche diabetes tech education and community building platform
Justin Eastzer
3 min read

Apple's WatchOS 9 is expected to be released in September, and there are a lot of new features to be excited about. The new OS brings upgraded sleeping tracking, new watch faces and advanced tracking for runners. 

This looks to be the biggest leap in running features on the Apple Watch since its launch. There are new workout views, including heart rate zone tracking and elevation, enhanced custom workouts, multisport features and more. To see these upgrades in action, watch the video below.

Watch this: WatchOS 9 Brings Run-Tracking Upgrades to Apple Watch

New workout views

The new OS lets you swap between multiple tracking views while exercising with the built-in Workout app. There are two customizable metric views. Each has space for four metrics that can be swapped out for a list of information (cadence, distance, pace, duration and more) that is most important to you on your run. Apple has introduced four new metrics with the new OS: vertical oscillation, stride length, ground contact time and power. 


The new heart rate workout view displays current heart rate zone. 

Richard Peterson/CNET

WatchOS 9 also adds a new heart rate zone workout view. On top, there is a color coded bar that shows your current heart rate zone -- it's like having OrangeTheory Fitness on your wrist. OrangeTheory Fitness is a workout class that projects your heart rate level on screens throughout class. Now that information is right on your wrist. Heart rate zones are automatically created using your estimated max heart rate and resting heart rate, which is saved in the Health app. You can manually set your own zones right on the watch. 

In addition to heart rate zones, there are separate workout views for segments, splits, elevation gain, power and activity rings. Workout views can be cycled through using the dial or swiping up and down. Each of these views can be turned on or off and reordered for all custom workouts so if you return to the same workout, it will retain its layout each time you use it.

Personally, I'd love to see the integration of outside app metrics into these workout views. As someone who has type 1 diabetes, it would be fantastic to see my current blood sugar levels and trajectory from the Dexcom app on my workout views since it's an important stat during my physical activity.

Enhanced custom workouts

With the current WatchOS, you can set running guidelines for distance, calories or time, but WatchOS 9 adds even more control and customization with custom workouts.

Tapping the "..." on any workout will bring a list of custom workouts. Now you can program workouts with warm-ups, cool downs, and intervals for work and recovery. You can even set these intervals to repeat. Haptic and voice alerts can be created to help you move through the different stages of your workout and stay on pace. I could see these custom workouts being used by coaches to set workout plans for their trainees. It would be cool if one day someone could send you a workout via text directly to your watch.


The Pacer view updates runners with the pace needed to achieve their custom workout guidelines.

Richard Peterson/CNET

There's a custom workout called Pacer. For this, you choose a distance and target finish time and the workout displays the pace you need to run in order to hit your goal. It will also send you alerts along the run.

Another cool feature is the ability to race a route you've already completed. When you complete an outdoor run, the distance, time and route data is securely saved on your iPhone. If you go on the same route again, the iPhone can detect it's the same route and display a workout view comparing your current run with the last one and alert you if you go off course.

Multisport auto-detection

If you're training for a triathlon or just like to combine biking, swimming and running into one workout, you are in luck! Until now, if you wanted to switch between workouts, you had to end one and start a new one or manually add on another workout type by swiping over to the right and hitting "new." But with Multisport on WatchOS 9, you don't have to!


A Multisport workout can detect when you switch between running, biking and/or swimming.

Richard Peterson/CNET

There is now a dedicated Multisport workout on Apple Watch that can be programmed to include running, biking and/or swimming. Better yet, the watch will auto-detect when you switch from one activity to another.

To see all of these new running features in action, watch the video above. And to learn more about all the updates coming to WatchOS 9, check out this article.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.