The Apple Watch Turned Me Into An Analytics Goblin

The Apple Watch Turned Me Into An Analytics Goblin
Image: Tegan Jones/Gizmodo Australia

I once forgot to wear my Apple Watch. I was halfway to work before I realised and I had no time to go back. I spent the rest of the commute lamenting that this one moment of forgetfulness would mentally dominate my existence for the next thirty days. The Apple Watch has transformed me into a monster that subsists on analytics and challenges.

This post was originally published on July 4, 2019.

Not closing Apple’s activity rings for a single day meant that I wouldn’t achieve a perfect month. Worst still, I had managed to forget it on the first day of the month. I was the furthest point away from a refresh.

I never used to be this way. But now the lack of data-capture weighed on me; festering in my goal-obsessed mind.

My metamorphosis from regular human into thirsty data creature happened gradually, though I can pinpoint the moment it began.

Over Easter I booked an impromptu four-day hike in Tasmania. Up until this point I had been wearing the watch sporadically when I remembered to charge it.

But if I was going to hike 80km, I damn well wanted that effort recorded, and it had to be on the Apple Watch. While I own and enjoy other wearables just fine, I’ve always preferred that Apple ecosystem when it comes to fitness — the bands are comfortable, the data has always seemed to be the most accurate and the Milanese loops are gorgeous.

In retrospect, the signs of my obsession began on that trip. There were times when I ‘paused’ the workout and forgot to resume until several kilometres had passed. Or I stopped to rest and the watch automatically paused itself without my realising. I have since disabled that functionality.

While Apple Watches track all of your movement across the day, it still meant that I lost a chunk of recorded time on those workouts, and that bugged me.

It shouldn’t have mattered, but I was already succumbing to the mentality that a workout didn’t really count if it wasn’t recorded.

While that hike absolutely kick started a regular fitness routine for me, the Apple Watch has played a significant part.

For those unfamiliar with the tech, one of the key components is the Activity app. In addition to recording your workouts and sharing your progress with selected friends, it has three daily activities that it tracks: movement, exercise and standing.

They manifest themselves in the form of rings that you are supposed to close every day.

This requires standing once every hour for 12 hours for a minute or more, 30 minutes of exercise and a certain number of kilojoules burned, which is initially determined be metrics such as your age, height, weight, gender and general activity level. The latter can be adjusted manually, though.

I take a huge amount of satisfaction in closing the activity rings.

On busy days when I haven’t been able to work out, I have been known to do laps of my kitchen at 11:57pm just get that move goal over the line.

apple watchComplete vs Incomplete rings. It hurts my soul a little.

This behaviour may seem unhealthy, but I genuinely enjoyed it. It felt good to have an external source of motivation that pushed me to be active and physically unwind from a stressful day.

Until I had the Apple Watch, I spent my days transplanting myself from one screen to another.

And this level of training has been a necessity in the lead up to the City2Surf — with the running tracker helping pace improvement and the rings continuing to beg for closure, satiating my lizard brain.

Yes, I was happy with the symbiotic relationship. But then I cracked my ribs.

While the injury could have been far worse, I wasn’t able to exercise for weeks. Far longer than what the doctor initially predicted.

I already felt bad about myself over this, swearing that I could feel myself getting weak. Lazy. Fat.

I don’t like admitting that because I know those terms are hurtful and in my case, an exaggeration. But it’s also how society has programmed me to think; a laundry list of hateful and awful ways to describe women who haven’t been airbrushed into oblivion.

But it’s also honestly where my head was at. I was terrified that once I lost all of my progress I wouldn’t be able to motivate myself to get back.

The Apple Watch Turned Me Into An Analytics Goblin

My May acitivity vs my June activity. You can see the exact day I first injured myself, but I perhaps didn’t slow down as much as I should have.

Having a visual reminder on my wrist didn’t help.

My lack of target completion. Seeing a friend, whose activity account was linked to mine, smashing their goals.

What was once a great motivator had become a daily beacon of failure.

I became more concerned by my lack of ring closure than the fact that it hurt when I sneezed.

And this is something I’ve had to come to terms with in my recovery.

While one could argue to simply not wear the watch anymore, I really do love it. So, instead, I’ve tried to approach the way that I use my watch differently.

I’ve had to become okay with listening to my body rather than an app on my wrist. I’ve had to try and not be haunted by the gaps in the rings and take solace in doing my best every day, whatever that may look like.

It’s not always easy. I had to mute friends’ workout notifications so I wouldn’t be tempted to fall back into competitive habits. And had to learn to let go of perfect days, weeks and months.

But I still enjoying using the watch.


The Apple Watch Turned Me Into An Analytics Goblin
apple watch se

I even use the most data-heavy watch face by default

I like that I can still record gentler exercises such as a walk, or even some light yoga on a good day. I like paying for stuff with it. I like the aesthetic.

And I suppose part of me still wants to track my progress, even if it isn’t as impressive as before. My continued use of the analytics watch face is evidence of that. So is not changing my kilojoule goal.

For the most part my brain has stopped obsessing over not hitting my goals every day. Although, I still catch myself bemoaning the lack of colourful ring closure on occasion. Like on July 1st.

From my perspective, the biggest learning from this is that technology can indeed be a wonderful addition to your lifestyle and workout routine.

Analytics and consistent goal reminders from wearables are fantastic, until you can’t physically hit them without risking your health.

And in those cases, it’s so important to remember to do what is best for you, no matter what the apps and tech say. No matter how badly you have gamified your brain and lifestyle around them.