Running with Zwift and Apple Watch

Following on from my post on using Apple Watch with Zwift for cycling Zwift have released Zwift Run (it was previously in beta) meaning you can now run around virtual worlds on your treadmill by yourself or with others, compete in events, follow workouts, and generally make the treadmill kilometres a bit more entertaining.

And they have built in support for Apple Watch to supply both Heart Rate and Pace data while le you're running.

Getting Setup

The setup works much like Zwift for cycling - you can read the full details in my blog post but here's the quick and dirty version.

  • If you are running Zwift on the iPhone that Apple Watch is connected to, you are good to go.  Just install the Zwift app on Apple Watch and follow the steps below.
  • If you are running Zwift on an iPad, Apple TV, Windows PC or Mac then you'll need to run the Zwift Mobile link app on the iPhone your Apple Watch is connected to.  Then follow the steps below.

Getting Started

Go ahead and launch Zwift and switch to Zwift Run (if you're not already there)


Tap the Run Speed button - and you should see Apple Watch in the list, so select it. 


Do the same for Heart Rate (select Apple Watch).  For cadence you will need a foot pod (see below) which is a shame since Apple Watch is certainly capable of recording cadence - maybe in a future update...


Select your run type and route and if you want to run with someone and hit Run.


And that's it.  No calibration or config, you can now start running on your treadmill (at least you are once you have done your laces up apparently)

Er this is a virtual world, surely my laces can tie themselves?

Er this is a virtual world, surely my laces can tie themselves?

How Accurate is It?

I ran for just over an hour doing intervals based on HR on my treadmill using Apple Watch to provide pace and HR for the first half, and then changed to a Stryd foot pod for pace (still using Apple Watch for HR) for the second half.

Here's how that looked when exported to Strava:

Screen Shot 2018-03-02 at 21.59.51.png

You can see that the pace is a bit slower and lot more variable when I was using Apple Watch, and was much more consitent with the foot pod.  The consistent one is of course the accurate one because I was just setting the pace on the treadmill.  

Heart Rate looks good for the most part, but had three sections where it dropped out.  One of those (the bigger one) was when I jumped off the treadmill to get the fan to face me and turn it on, and I didn't really notice the other two on the screen as I was running, and I'm not sure why they happened.

Cadence kicks in once I switch to footpod and is not recorded at all before that.

The footpod I used is the excellent Stryd, though it's not the cheapest option.  If you want to explore other options the Zwift Runners group on Facebook is a great place to start.

Just for completion, Zwift can't do anything with your trainer to change the incline so you need to do this manually to match the Zwift terrain as you are running if you want to be as accurate as possible (I didn't bother, though I did change the incline to help my heart rate get up to the zone I wanted in the interval more quickly)

Apple Watch + FootPod or just Apple Watch?

So the question is do you need the extra accuracy of a footpod?  It all depends on how you are training.  If you want to run with a virtual group then you probably want the consistency of pace so that you don't run in front and drop behind randomly (I haven't tried this but I expect it is what happens based on what I have run by myself).

If you are just looking for a real world accurate pace then I never really trust treadmills anyway, you don't get the pushback from running on the road, but with the Stryd pod you can at least calibrate it with Zwift to what feels right at a paricular pace (though if you do intervals and change pace, that accuracy is likely to reduce)

If however you are running by yourself against heart rate zones then Apple Watch is perfectly fine and works great with Zwift.  And it's nice to just jump on the treadmill, fire up Zwift and start running.