How my Apple Watch keeps me motivated

Fitness tech and I have a rough relationship. I love the idea, and have always been a huge fan of data on my daily activity, but it has always been an easy concept to ditch. The first time I go a full day without remembering to put on my Fitbit or check in to my activity tracker app, I know I'm done and that plan isn't going to work. I needed something that encouraged me to keep using it, and made me regret not having it around.

It turns out that thing, at least for me, is the Apple Watch. Here's how I've been using it to stay motivated and more focused on staying healthy.

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The rings are my life now

Like a lot of other Apple Watch fans, everything starts with the Activity rings. It's a simple, subtle goal tracker with a couple of basic objectives. As long as I stand up every once in a while during my work day and hit the gym at some point during the day, I fill my activity rings with room to spare. Not overly different from any other goal system, but the ability to set the rings as my watch face puts it front and center for me every time I look at my wrist, which I needed. The constant reminder is good for me.

The thing that pushes me ever so slightly here are the reminders. Apple Watch will remind me to stand if I've been at my desk or on the couch for too long. It's just enough to get me to take a quick break, which for me usually means remembering to toss in a load of laundry or take out the trash. The more important reminders are when I've nearly completed a goal and the Watch tells me I can complete a ring with a quick ten-minute walk, or when I woke up late and the Watch tells me I'm usually much closer to completing my goals. These are small nudges that I respond to well, and the software being aware of my regular activity makes this highly personalized.

By far my favorite part about the activity rings is the way they challenge me to do better. Twice now in the last 60 days my Watch has told me my Move goal was being increased, because I was completing it so easily. Without being asked to do so, my Watch is challenging me to be better in small ways. And it's working, which is great news for me.

Achievements keep me going

Maybe it's because I play a lot of video games, or maybe it's the artwork, or maybe it's just that little bit of extra positivity, but I love the Achievements system in the Activity app. You get a little award for completing basic goals, like using a new kind of workout or working out every day in a week, and they're fantastic. These awards look like colorful little pins on a flat black pinboard, and when you select one there's a visually pleasing 3D animation of the award. You spin the award and it's got your name on the back, as though it were a real thing.

These awards are as simple or as complex as you want them to be. You can be hardcore and try to get 400% of your daily move goal or 1,000 move goals, but it's not a requirement. I started simple, aiming to finish my rings every day in a week, but now I'm eager to try new workout types in my watch. I get excited when I see a holiday-themed award arrive, like the one that asked me to get a quick 5k run in on Thanksgiving Day. I find myself loving the challenges and the little award at the end is a simple sense of completion I can share.

My only real regret here is that Apple doesn't sell any of these as pins. It'd be kinda cool to collect physical versions of some of these awards at the end of the year.

Just getting started

I'm only a couple of months into this new way of tracking myself, but I'm getting a ton of information I can play with later. For example, the Apple Health app has a record of how long it takes me to return to my resting heart rate after a workout. I get to look at that over time as I push myself harder and see how my heart rate changes as my body becomes healthier. I can track a ton of information just by wearing the watch, and of course I the Apple Health app can integrate with lots of other apps and hardware if I decide to add later.

One big feature I'm not using yet, mostly because I'm working up the courage to do so, is the social sharing part of the Activity app. I can share my fitness activity with friends who are also Apple Watch users, and we can use that to compete with one another. I'm excited about that idea, but needed to first make sure this was something I was going to stick with for a while. As it turns out, not only am I sticking with the Apple Watch but it's keeping me motivated and helping to push me to be more active.

Are you using your Apple Watch for health and fitness tracking? Share you story in the comments!

Russell Holly

Russell is a Contributing Editor at iMore. He's a passionate futurist whose trusty iPad mini is never far from reach. You can usually find him chasing the next tech trend, much to the pain of his wallet. Reach out on Twitter!