Strava for Apple Watch: a complete guide

Apple Watch with Strava watch app

Are you a Strava user who also wears an Apple Watch?  I am, and I recently discovered how easy it is to link the two together and track workouts simultaneously in both Strava and the Apple Fitness App via Apple’s Health app.

Discovering the features of using Strava and the Apple Watch together has been a game-changer for me. And maybe it will be for you too!

Both Strava and the Apple Fitness app have wonderful features. I especially enjoy connecting with friends on Strava, but I never knew how to use the apps together.  

When you link Strava to the Health app, you see your Strava workouts in Apple’s Health app and the Fitness app. And you also have an import option to see your Apple Watch Workout app workouts listed in the Strava app.  

Before I knew how to use both apps together, I wasn’t utilizing Strava as much as I would have liked to.  Now I feel that I can have the best of both apps and can accurately track my workouts. 

Not only is it easy to link the two together, but doing so allows you to track your workouts on your Apple Watch while leaving your iPhone at home.  The setup is quick and easy, and working out without carrying your phone is a nice benefit.

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How to use Strava on your Apple Watch and leave your iPhone at home

To use Strava without carrying your iPhone, you first need to download the Strava app to your phone if you haven’t already done so. The Strava watch app needs the iPhone app to sync your Strava workouts to the Apple Health App.  

If you already have Strava on your iPhone, check the App Store for any updates to the app, and if available, tap Update. You want to use the latest version of Strava’s app on your iPhone.

After installing or updating the app on your paired iPhone, sign in to your Strava account or create a new account and make sure you give Strava permission to access your location. Give Strava location access on your iPhone to use the Strava Apple Watch app

Install Strava’s Apple Watch app 

Once you install and set up Strava on your iPhone, it is time to install Strava’s watch app.

Though you can install the app using the App Store on your Apple Watch, it’s much easier to use your iPhone’s Watch app.

  1. Open the Watch app on the phone and choose the My Watch tab at the bottom. 
  2. Go to the section Installed on Apple Watch. Strava might already be installed. If it is, skip these install steps. If Strava is not installed, continue. Strava apple watch app installed on Apple Watch
  3. Scroll down to Available Apps section to find Strava. Tap on the INSTALL button to install Strava’s watch app. Apple Watch install Strava watch app

Now that you installed Strava on your Apple Watch, it is time to authorize Strava for Apple Watch and link Strava and Apple Health together.  This is the crucial step, and linking these two apps is the only way to utilize this feature.  

Step-by-step instructions on how to link Strava with your Apple Watch

  1. Open the Strava app from your Apple Watch.
  2. The message on your watch prompts you to open the Strava app on your iPhone to get started. Scroll down and tap the Setup button. Strava watch app set up in Strava app on iPhone
  3. Click the “Get Started” button in the Strava app on your iPhone. Start setting up Strava's Apple Watch app via your iPhone's Strava app
  4. This opens the Strava app Set-Up Checklist. Your checklist might offer more or fewer options, depending on how you set up Strava in the past. set up list in Strava for watch app
  5. Tap on each listed item in the checklist, starting with accepting the code of conduct. Then move on to Motion & Fitness and allow Strava access. permit Strava to access your watch's motion and fitness data
    1. If this opens Strava’s Settings, toggle on Motion & Fitness to allow Strava access to this data. Also, toggle on Background App Refresh. give Strava Apple Watch app permission to access motion & fitness data
  6. Finally, tap on Sync with Health.
  7. Clicking this takes you to the Apple Health App, where you must consent to allow Strava to collect data and give Strava permission to track your activity. We recommend tapping Turn On All. turn on all features for Strava and Apple Health app integration
    1. You can also choose what health data to share with Strava, including what it can write to and what it can read. 
  8. Tap Allow at the top to save your settings and return to the Strava app. Strava sync with Apple Health app
  9. Tap the Finish button to complete the set-up checklist to enable Strava to sync with the Health App and Apple Fitness App. completed Strava apple watch app setup checklist
  10. The Strava app shows a message that your set-up is complete! Tap Done to continue. Apple Watch Strava app is ready to use
  11. Strava lets you know that “Your Apple Watch and Strava accounts are connected.”  You can also choose to subscribe to Strava’s paid yearly plan if you aren’t already subscribed.  To exit this screen, tap No, thanks.
  12. Next, return to Strava’s Home and choose Settings (gear icon at the top corner) > Applications, Services, and Devices > Health and toggle ON Send to Health. Send activity to Apple Health in Strava Settings for Health
  13. Finally, open Strava on your Apple Watch again. Strava workout options in Apple Watch app

If you’re ready to get moving, choose from Strava’s available watch workouts OR use the Watch’s Workouts app-they both now sync!

You now have the capability to track your workouts on Strava on your Apple Watch without carrying your iPhone!  

Once you set up the Strava watch app, any activity recorded with Strava syncs your workout’s data to your iPhone’s Strava app, your Strava account, and Apple’s Health app.  Plus, workout data includes your heart rate and GPS route information. 

One watch feature that I find convenient for tracking workouts is adding the Strava complication to my watch face.

How to add Strava to your Apple Watch face

  1. Open the Watch app and tap the My Watch tab. 
  2. Choose your current watch face or tap the Face Gallery tab to select a new watch face. Just make sure that your watch face offers complications. 
    1. Do not tap Edit in the upper corner–this button is to rearrange or delete watch faces. Choose your Apple Watch face in the Watch app on iPhone
  3. Scroll down to Complications and select a complication region, then under the Complications menu, tap Strava to add it. add Strava watch app complication to Apple Watch face
  4. Wait for your Apple Watch face to update with your changes!

Adding Strava, for me, makes it easier to begin tracking workouts without searching for it among the many other apps on the watch. Strava apple watch app complication on Apple Watch face

Using Strava’s Apple Watch app

Strava’s Watch app, while useful, is pretty bare-bones and lacks many of the features offered in Strava’s iPhone app. 

For example, the watch app does not offer live segments, the ability to join a challenge, or show a map of your route within the app while recording your route.  

However, the Strava watch app includes some additional features in Settings, such as adding audio cues for run splits, changing measurement units for miles or km, auto-pause for runs or rides, and notification for any run splits. Settings and features in Strava apple watch app

Summit safety pack subscribers with a cellular version of the Apple Watch can also use Strava’s Beacon feature when working out with their iPhones.

In fact, Strava’s watch app may update your average pace from the Workout App to more accurately reflect your pace.  It also offers total distance and heart rate metrics.

Strava’s watch app also does not auto-detect or auto finish. Therefore, you must remember to manually hit Pause or Finish to track any stops accurately or end the workout–not very convenient!   Pause or finish a workout in Strava Apple Watch app

Using Strava’s watch app

  1. Once you are ready to track your workout, open Strava on your watch or tap the Strava complication.    
  2. Strava’s watch app allows you to choose from different activity options, including outdoor run, outdoor ride, outdoor walk, indoor run, hike, Nordic ski, indoor ride, workout, and E-bike ride.  
    1. If you want to change any Settings, swipe right to open the Settings panel.
  3. Select the workout option that best fits your activity and start your workout. There is no start button; just begin your activity.Using Strava apple watch app on a walk or run
  4. When you complete your workout, swipe the watch screen to the left to hit Finish.  This stops Strava from tracking your workout.
  5. Review your workout’s information and tap Save to keep it or Discard to trash it. save or discard strava apple watch app workout
  6. If you choose to discard it, your workout won’t sync to your iPhone and won’t show up as an activity.
  7. Upon saving your workout, you see a message on your watch stating, “Your activity will load when your watch is connected to Strava” (or if you are near your paired iPhone, it reads that “your activity is ready to upload”). activity from Strava watch app uploads when you connect to your iPhone
  8. At this point, you need to open one of the supported apps (Strava, Apple Fitness, or Apple Health) to view your information on your iPhone. walk shows up in Strava and Apple Fitness when integrating Strava with Apple Health

While Strava automatically names your activity according to the type of workout and time of day, you can edit the title and add a photo if you wish by using the Strava app on your iPhone.

  1. Open Strava on your phone and tap open the activity you want to rename. 
  2. Then choose the three-dot More button at the top corner. 
  3. Choose Edit Activity to change the name or Add Photos for any pictures that you wish to add. Strava app Edit details or name of activity
  4. You can also crop your activity or delete it in this menu. 

Syncing your activities to Strava: how to sync from Apple Fitness app to Strava 

Your Strava activity should appear in your Apple Fitness app if you followed all the set-up steps correctly. 

But if you are like me and in the habit of tracking all of your workouts in the Fitness app on your Apple Watch, you may not see the Workout app’s activity in Strava.  

The good news is that there is an easy way to record Apple’s Workout app’s session in Strava.  

  1. When you start your workout, begin tracking with your Workout app on your Apple Watch.
  2. And once you complete your workout and stop tracking it with the watch’s Workout app, open Strava on your iPhone.
  3. You receive the notification in Strava that “Your Apple workout is ready to import.” get your Apple Watch workouts into Strava
    1. If you missed the notification, open Strava on your iPhone, tap the Home tab at the bottom and choose the Settings icon (looks like a gear.) Then select Applications, Services, and Devices > Health.
  4. Once you click on this notification, you see a screen in Strava that shows your Apple Fitness workouts for the last seven days. get your workouts from Apple Fitness into Strava
  5. Verify that there is a checkmark next to Health. If not, you need to connect Strava to Apple Health-tap the + sign to connect and follow the steps in our previous section.
  6. Under Automation Settings, make sure you toggle on Send to health and Notifications for new workouts.   
  7. To import workouts to Strava, tap the Import button next to the workouts data and time. Strava checkmarks each workout that it successfully imported.

Not getting Strava’s notifications?

Open Settings > Applications, Services, and Devices > Health and toggle on Notifications for new workouts. Strava app new workout notification setting

Is Strava not working on your Apple Watch?

If Strava isn’t working as you expect on your Apple Watch, there are a few things you can do to fix it.

  • Update the Strava app and check for any software updates for your watch and paired iPhone. If you see available updates, tap the update button.
  • Restart your phone and your Apple Watch.
  • Force close the Strava app on your Apple Watch.
  • Delete the Strava app from your Apple Watch and add it back in–you’ll need to run through the set-up steps again.
  • Delete the Strava app from your iPhone, restart your iPhone and Apple Watch, then reinstall Strava from the App Store on your iPhone.
    • When you remove Strava from your iPhone, Apple automatically deletes it from your watch.
  • Unpair and re-pair your Apple Watch.

Why workouts don’t show up in Strava. Is your Apple Fitness and Health app activity not syncing to Strava?

Remember that while data syncs in the background and automatically between Strava and Apple Health, it does NOT sync automatically from the Health app (or Apple Fitness and the Apple Watch Workouts app) to Strava–you must manually import your workouts into Strava.

  1. Open Strava on your iPhone.
  2. Go to Settings (the gear icon.) 
  3. Choose Applications, Services, and Devices > Health.
  4. Under Services, verify that there is a checkmark next to Health.
    1. If not, tap it and set this feature up. Apple health and Strava connected
  5. Scroll down and look for workouts listed in the section workouts from the last 30 days listed and tap Import next to each activity to sync that workout to your Strava account.
    1. Once it imports, you see a checkmark next to that activity. Strava import workout from Apple Health and Apple Fitness apps
  6. Repeat for each listed activity.

Are your Strava workouts not showing up in Apple Fitness and your activity rings? Apple iPhone activity rings shows data from Workout app and Strava

When you set everything up properly, you should see activity from Strava in Apple Fitness and Apple Health apps. And this activity should also show up in your activity rings!

If you aren’t seeing your Strava activity in Apple Fitness, check that you toggled on Send to Health.

  1. Open Strava on your iPhone and choose the Home tab.
  2. Tap Settings (the gear icon.) Setting gear icon in Strava app
  3. Choose Applications, Services, and Devices. settings for application, services, and devices in Strava app
  4. Tap Health.
  5. Toggle Send to Health on. Send to Health Strava app

Once you toggle this on, Strava automatically sends all your activity data to Apple Health and Apple Fitness apps, including route, activity type, distance, time, and calories.

However, any activity logged into Strava using a third-party app such as Zwift, Garmin, and others do NOT include your GPS route information but DOES include all other information.

Final Thoughts

This past week, after linking my Strava and Fitness app together, I was able to run, ride, and even go for a kayak ride without my iPhone!  

It was easy to track my activities using Strava on my Apple Watch or use the Workout app and then import those activities into Strava. I also love connecting with my workout buddies that I have missed by not using Strava.  

Give it a try and let us know in the comments what you think.  

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