A year of Apple Watch addiction and motivation

Early 2017 I got an Apple Watch.  I wasn’t fussed about them at the time as I never normally wear a watch of any sort.  But when my husband didn’t want his any more, I thought I’d give it a go.  A few months later and I was addicted.  While I used the word lightly at the time, what really worked for me were the regular achievements and challenges.  It was the same thing that got me hooked into World of Warcraft many years ago1 and I know that if I do something, I throw everything at it, but once I can’t complete a challenge I usually drop something.  After my initial post about the watch I found myself in a situation where I couldn’t achieve the challenges.  Towards the end of 2017 I had a few too many days in front of the computer with work and just wasn’t active.  What I noticed was that as soon as I missed a day of activity, and thus I couldn’t get a “perfect month” achievement, I stopped even trying to be active until the start of the next month. If there was no reward, even a completely irrelevant badge in an app, then why try…  Long term health benefits don’t give the same level of accomplishment in the short term for most people, myself included.  So after a particularly gluttonous December 2017 I made myself a promise.  Quietly, I decided I would be active every day in 2018.  Regardless of the weather, regardless of whether I was feeling ill2, regardless of work commitments, I would hit the move goal for 365 days continuously.  I was not allowed to decrease my goal at any point and the only extra rule was that if I was suggested an increase in my move goal then I had to agree to it.

2018, done.

It was harder than I thought.  Remembering the charger for all work trips3, forcing myself to do extra because the watch had lost contact with my wrist and wasn’t counting, forcing myself to do that 11pm workout after being up since 5am because I’d had a mentally exhausting day rather than doing anything exercise wise, and finally forcing myself to do more than just read when I was feeling ill.  But I did it.

On the 31st December, I got a new iPhone.  I did not want to set it up until I’d got that last bit of exercise in and logged just in case something went wrong in the data transfer4.  I could cope with starting from scratch on January 1st but not if I hadn’t actually made my challenge beforehand!  So to my family, who were wondering why I was so excited to get new tech but not actually unbox it or set it up when I got home, this was why!

So last night I got that 12th perfect month5 and this morning I transferred all the data over, including my activity history.  I can’t stop now, but I know that as soon as the continuous day streak is over it will take a lot of will power to continue, or some new achievements…

What a difference a year makes… but what distance?

Something that’s really interested me is that this morning I’ve been through some of the data that the health app has been collecting. At the start of September 2017 I got some new trainers, Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 34. I walk a *lot* so comfortable shoes are a must, even though these are technically running shoes, for the distance and speed at which I walk, mainly on paved surfaces, these are perfect. Even when I’m presenting talks I am usually still wearing trainers rather than heels. I got a new pair of Nike Air Max Plus TNs for Christmas as the soles of this others had completely gone. Given that I wear them every day, surely I could find out from my activity data how far I’d walked from September 2017 until 25th December 2018 and see what my mile-lifespan6 was for a pair…

Exporting data has to be done from the health app rather than the activity app itself (click on health on the main screen, then health data, then the person icon to get the option).  This creates an xml output of all your data so may take a while.   I was going to write my own parser script but came across Ryan Praski’s blog post complete with a script that did exactly what I needed, credited to the Test Driven Data Analysis blog. This gave me a while host of useful files that I’ve barely scraped the surface of analysing7.  What I did discover was that in the 474 days I had my original pair of Nikes I walked a total of 5282km (3282 miles) equivalent to an average of 11km (7 miles) a day.  Which is significantly more than I was expecting although does make sense when I start adding up everything8.  If my new Nikes don’t last at least the same I’ll be disappointed ;).  But if you ever wanted to know how many miles your trainers should do before they fall apart (on tarmac/pavement) at least now you know…

I am going to continue my self imposed activity challenge for as long as I can, as long as my apple watch and the shoes hold out anyway.

  1. It’s been seven years since I last logged in!
  2. Obviously had I been seriously physically ill I’d’ve let myself off the hook but I didn’t want to start with any further caveats.
  3. I really ought to buy a second watch charger as they really don’t last more than a day if you do significant workouts with them.
  4. I am an eternal pessimist when it comes to technology and generally have multiply located backups of everything 😉
  5. I was half hoping for a secret hidden “perfect year” achievement but no such joy.
  6. Or km lifespan if you prefer.
  7. It *is* still the holidays after all!
  8. When it’s 500m from the car park to the train platform, it doesn’t feel like a walk but it’s an extra km each day I don’t normally consider

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Dr Janet is a Molecular Biochemistry graduate from Oxford University with a doctorate in Computational Neuroscience from Sussex. I’m currently studying for a third degree in Mathematics with Open University. During the day, and sometimes out of hours, I work as a Chief Science Officer. You can read all about that on my LinkedIn page.