Like so many of us, my relationship to movement and exercise has had its ups and downs since the pandemic started. Depending on the weather, my mood and the stressful and upsetting stories in the news, I found my routines so incredible inconsistent. Some days I was up and moving and riding on my funky desk bike throughout the day, hydrating more and enjoying the feeling of getting my heart beating faster for things that weren’t scary or sad — and others I was lucky if my movement went beyond stumbling from my nest of blankets on the couch to the coffee maker and back again.
And while everyone’s bodies and response to living in deeply traumatic times are different, I found myself feeling worse and worse the less I moved. Like when your mental health is already suffering, feeling like you’re sprouting roots in your couch is a real quick way to exacerbate things. I missed, more than anything, the routine of getting from home to my trains to my office and back — knowing I’d have a good amount of outdoor time and get a few guaranteed steps in.
So I thought maybe it was time I see where fit-tech could help me out. I wanted to have a better understanding of my routines and see if I could maybe incentivize doing the things that would make me feel good later — a gift to future me, who I frequently neglect. I’d never been into the FitBit, Apple Watch, data-compiling parts of late 2010s wellness (still am not counting myself as a huge fan!) because I hate math and being subjected to unnecessary numbers. I also wanted to make sure that I could incorporate my new hunger for information about my behavior with my fundamental opposition to the diet culture accomplices of calorie counting, scale obsession and fitness routines that feel compulsory.
But I caved and decided, on recommendation from my sister and because it could easily work with my iPhone, to get on board the Apple Watch train. No, it’s not exclusively fit-tech, but that was my intended purpose for it — so humor me here.
And, shocking no one more than me, somehow I really liked it?
So when I first started wearing my watch, it took me a bit to get used to having an expensive thing on my wrist throughout the day. Like any good millennial, my phone is my nearest clock through most of the day and save for a few hair ties I don’t really wear bracelets these days to lay around the house and work. So I kept forgetting it was on and worrying I was getting it wet when doing dishes or washing my hands (thoroughly, for at least the length of the “Happy Birthday” song). This has little to do with the fitness tracker part of it and more to do with the “having expensive hardware on a part of your body you move around frequently and carelessly” takes some practice.
But I set my activity tracker to some fairly achievable goals to start as I got into the swing of things — looking to up my regular exercise to at least 45 minutes a day. The movement ring does track by calories — which is not a metric that particularly interests me (and may be triggering for folks in recovery for disordered eating or exercise behavior).
Gamify the day-to-day
Something I noticed immediately was, despite being glued to my email or meetings or some other (fairly sedentary) task, I was aware of the days I was moving less just by nature of it being right on my wrist. Knowing myself and how those days also tended to line up with not-so-great brain days, it was super helpful to look down, see my little sad rings in need of some love and decide that I could go walk around for half my lunch break or hit my bike for a ride to get my spirits up.
When you close a ring, you get a satisfying notification moment — your little wrist robot is proud of you! It feels dopey and sad to be excited about something like that but when you can’t exactly do something active with your friends and have less options for low-key delight, it adds up. I found that on days when I had a streak of closing all my rings, I’d push through and feel a bit more motivated to close them the next day and then the next one. The gamification of fitness apps (for better or worse) is something tons of people smarter than me have written on, but something in the back of my brain enjoyed the accomplishment of having manageable goals I could literally see myself achieving each day.
The data I wanted — looking at my habits in a big-picture way as I got a glimpse at those days I got my rings closed and the days where I didn’t do all that much — helped me get a better understanding of the kind of high stress days I could probably use a bit more movement and the rest days where I was perfectly happy being a couch potato. (I also found out that my movement via laundry days and stress cleaning days totally add up!)
The verdict? I’ll keep wearing it
Obviously, I am hardly a devotee to my smart watch (and I do not love her the way I love my beautiful, hideous hamster wheel bike desk). I’ve forgotten to put it on at least four times since my little trial run ended and frequently find myself muttering at it dismissively when it tries to tell me to breathe or stand up when I don’t want to breathe or stand up.
But, ultimately, I’ve enjoyed having an additional record of my habits to help me make plans that help me feel more in control of my body and disrupt the patterns that seriously bummed me out. For a casual fan of wellness data looking for a small boost in motivation, I’d totally recommend.
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