Today is Day 403 in a row of closing all three of my Apple Watch rings. I’ve worn an Apple Watch since they launched in 2015, but I never closed my rings more than 2 days in a row for the first several years.
James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, poses a question worth considering:
A simple question with potentially wide-reaching implications:
Can my current habits carry me to my desired future?
— James Clear (@JamesClear) June 3, 2019
My current habits were not carrying me to my desired future.
Most of my months looked like this:
It wasn’t until 2018 that I decided to start taking my health seriously.
Changing My Unhealthy Lifestyle
I didn’t exercise at all during my 20s. I did nothing but sit and work at a desk—it wasn’t even a standing desk.
One year, while visiting family during the holidays, I asked several older relatives what advice they’d give their 30-year-old self. The most common response:
“Start exercising now. It only gets more difficult.”
I decided to make a change.
In January of 2018, I began exercising several times per week, but I still wasn’t regularly closing my Apple Watch rings. The best streak I managed was 5 days in a row.
It Started With One Perfect Week
It wasn’t until August of 2018 I saw someone share their Perfect Week (All Activity) badge on Reddit. It looked so cool!
“Maybe I could do that…” I thought.
I set out in the last week of August, 2018 to close my Apple Watch rings every single day.
It wasn’t easy, but I did it! I closed all three rings on my Apple Watch Monday through Sunday. I earned that beautiful Perfect Week (All Activity) badge, and I was so proud of myself.
Once I finished the week, I planned to quit. I just wanted to get the badge.
Then I Earned a Perfect Month
After I posted a screenshot of the Perfect Week (All Activity) badge on Instagram, someone messaged me and said, “Now go for the Perfect Month badge!”
I wanted to laugh off their suggestion, but I kept thinking about it. I didn’t really want to break my streak of 7 days. Could I really get a Perfect Month?
Yes, I could!
I got my first Perfect Month badge in September of 2018, and I was hooked. I loved the feeling of accomplishment, so I kept going.
Apple Watch Helped Me Kick My Video Game Addiction
Rewind back a few years ago: I got addicted to playing video games. It wasn’t good. I sunk a thousand hours into a game, and I wasn’t happy with where my time was going.
I desperately wanted to find a way to channel my obsession into something more productive that would benefit my life.
Apple Watch activity rings and badges became my new video game.
After a few months in a row of closing my Apple Watch rings, I decided to uninstall the game completely. I haven’t played video games in 278 days, and I’m happier than ever.
I Completely Changed My Lifestyle
It hasn’t been easy to close my rings every day, and there have been some close calls here and there, but I completely changed my lifestyle and habits. It’s now a foregone conclusion: I will close my Apple Watch rings every single day no matter what.
Sometimes I run, sometimes I walk, sometimes I do strength training, sometimes I do HIIT workouts, but I make sure to always close my rings.
That Darn Stand Ring
A lot of people complain about the Stand ring.
- “I work at a standing desk and it still tells me to stand. Dumb Watch.”
- “Look—I stood up from my chair and didn’t get stand credit!”
- “I got sick of those reminders, and I turned them off.”
What they missed is this (from Apple’s Close Your Rings page):
Close your Stand ring by getting up and moving around for at least 1 minute during 12 different hours in the day.
The blue Stand ring isn’t the:
- ❌ Stand-up-from-the-chair-where-you-haven’t-moved-for-an-hour-and-wave-your-arm-for-10-seconds ring.
This is the:
- ✅ Stop-being-sedentary-and-move-around-for-a-minute-each-hour ring.
Of course, that’s a bit too long, and they had to pick a one-word name, so they called it the “Stand” ring. But remember, the Stand ring is about more than just standing for a brief moment. It’s about moving around every hour.
If you’re like me, when you first got your Apple Watch, you got sick of those “Time to stand!” notifications and turned off the reminders completely.
I lamented the fact that I could not change the blue Stand ring to some other more interesting metric.
I was making a mistake by ignoring the Stand ring.
I learned that Apple did a lot of research and made that third, blue Stand ring for a reason:
Not standing and being sedentary leads to higher blood pressure, decreased energy, and increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
Don’t ignore the Stand ring!
I would encourage you to turn your Stand notifications back on. Make a point to get up, and move around for several minutes each hour. You can do this, and it’s good for you. The degree to which it’s annoying is the degree to which you need it.
If you’re healthy, you’ll never see the notification reminding you to Stand because you’re already moving around. You’re not remaining sedentary for long periods of time.
Yes, standing at your desk for too long without taking breaks is a problem too!
If you get a “Time to Stand!” reminder while standing at your desk, don’t complain that the Watch is dumb and ignore the reminder. Take it as a sign you’ve remained relatively motionless for too long and it’s time to take a break.
Walk downstairs, down the hall, or go outside and move around for a few minutes.
The 3 Rings Club
After I closed my Apple Watch rings consistently for a while, my friends started to notice. Gradually, they began to join me. I formed a cohort of Apple Watch activity buddies with whom I share my activity (currently 10 strong). I call it The 3 Rings Club. We’re all serious about closing our Apple Watch rings every day.
We love replying to each other’s Workout notifications; sometimes with an encouraging message, other times with a joke or playful jab.
This accountability has played a large role in helping me stay consistent. It’s not a solitary activity, it’s a group effort.
Accountability is key to maintaining consistency in the beginning.
I like to use what I call the Three P’s of Accountability:
- Public Accountability
- Tell the world you’ll do something.
- Example: Share on your Instagram story or post a tweet on Twitter saying you will close your Apple Watch rings every day. Share a weekly update to stay accountable.
- Partner Accountability
- Tell a friend you’ll do something.
- Example: Add an Apple Watch Activity buddy and share your workouts with them. Tell them you will close your Apple Watch rings every day. Reply to each others workouts and send encouragement. Meet in person or hop on a weekly call to stay accountable.
- Personal Accountability
- Tell yourself you’ll do something.
- Example: Write in your journal, or place a sticky note at your monitor: “I will close my Apple Watch rings every day.” Set a reminder on your iPhone. Use a habit tracker—whatever you need to do!
Most people don’t have self discipline and struggle to follow through on commitments they make to themselves (see: all the times you set an early alarm only to hit “Snooze” half a dozen times). So it might seem strange to see “Personal Accountability” in the list above. How does it help?
Well, at first, Personal Accountability doesn’t help. Usually your Personal Accountability is the weakest form of accountability.
But when you combine all three forms of accountability, it increases the chances you’ll follow through.
- You’ll want to follow through on your Public Accountability because your reputation is at stake. You want to be seen as dependable because reliability is a desirable trait.
- You’ll want to follow through on your Partner Accountability because you don’t want to let your buddy down. You want to show up consistently for your partner as much as, if not more than, you want to show up for yourself.
- You’ll end up staying consistent mostly because of the first two forms of accountability, but in doing so, you also strengthen your own Personal Accountability.
When you combine these three forms of accountability, the first two strengthen the third.
In time, you’ll reach a point where your Personal Accountability becomes so strong, you can tell yourself you’ll do something and you’ll actually follow through on it without any other forms of accountability. You develop self discipline.
Achieving the Perfect Year
After earning my second and third Perfect Month badges, I decided to go for a Perfect Year.
While there’s no official badge for “Perfect Year” yet, I set out to get 12 Perfect Month badges in a row—that’s what I’m calling a “Perfect Year”.
Closing my Apple Watch rings became a part of my life and before I knew it, the month of August ended, and I’d earned my 12th Perfect Month badge.
I didn’t stop there. A few days ago, I earned my 13th Perfect Month badge. My focus now is to earn 12 Perfect Month badges in the 2019 calendar year. I have no plans of stopping.
After I decided to go for a Perfect Year, several of my friends committed to closing their Apple Watch rings every day for a year as well.
In recent weeks, several of them reached the 365-day milestone!
— Shawn Blanc (@shawnblanc) October 1, 2019
It really goes to show how powerful the snowball effect is:
- Someone shared their Perfect Week badge and inspired me.
- I shared my Perfect Week badge.
- Someone shared their Perfect Month badge with me.
- I shared my Perfect Month badge.
- My friends shared their Activity with me and started exercising regularly.
- I shared that I was going for a Perfect Year.
- My friends decided to go for a Perfect Year too!
If someone else hadn’t shared their small success, I wouldn’t have been inspired. If I hadn’t shared my success, my friends wouldn’t have been inspired.
Move Goal Shaming
One annoying thing about sharing your Apple Watch achievements is there’s always someone who asks, “What’s your Move goal?”
No matter what you reply, the answer is always, “Seriously? That’s it? Haha, no wonder you make it every day? My move goal is <some bigger number>.”
They usually go on to explain why maintaining a streak is impossible for them because their goal is so much bigger.
There are two problems with this:
- Everyone is different (more on that in a moment).
- The point of the goal is to motivate you. If it’s consistently impossible to hit your daily targets, your Move goal will have the opposite of the desired effect: it will demotivate you.
Let me expand on the first point.
I’m a very skinny person. When I exert myself for hours, I burn an amount of calories that would seem low to you. I know people twice my weight who burn the same amount in minutes.
I average 80 to 100 minutes of exercise every day, but I rarely break 1,000 calories because of my body size—even with extended amounts of intense exercise.
It should go without saying, but:
The amount of calories burned in a given workout is different for everyone.
It doesn’t matter what someone else’s number is—their body is different from yours. Depending on your age, sex, height, and weight, you might burn 1,050 calories while someone else will burn 425 calories doing the exact activity for the same amount of time.
Setting a Sustainable Move Goal
So what should your Move goal be?
I recommend setting your Move goal so reaching it takes either:
- ✅ 30 minutes of intense exercise, OR…
- ✅ 60 minutes of light exercise.
It’s really simple to calculate your Sustainable Move Goal:
- Look at a recent 30-minute workout where you went hard. How many calories did you burn?
- If you haven’t ever done a hard 30-minute workout, give it a shot this week. Run, lift weights, do some cardio, HIIT, etc. Get that heart rate up!
- Look at a recent 60-minute workout that was relatively light and easy. How many calories did you burn?
- If you haven’t ever done a light 60-minute workout, try taking a brisk walk for an hour. You’ll probably log 3 miles or so (around 5 kilometers).
Set your Move Goal at a number that takes 60 minutes of light exercise or 30 minutes of intense exercise to attain.
Don’t keep increasing your Move goal when Apple suggests.
Set your goal between your 30-minute intense exercise calorie burn and your 60-minute light exercise calorie burn.
- Example #1: If you average 750 calories for an intense 30-minute workout and 850 calories for a lighter 60-minute workout, I recommend setting your Move goal in the middle to 800 and leaving it there.
- Example #2: If you average 450 calories for an intense 30-minute workout and 500 calories for a lighter 60-minute workout, I recommend setting your Move goal in the middle to 475 and leaving it there.
If you keep increasing your goal every time Apple suggests, the amount of exercise required to reach it will eventually get so high, you can’t realistically fit it in to your normal schedule. When you inevitably set the goal so high you break your streak, you run the risk of getting demoralized and quitting.
Make your goal attainable with 30 minutes of intense activity. Then, even on really busy days, achieving your goal still remains realistic. You can set aside 30 minutes to get a good workout in and you will close both your Move and Exercise rings at the same time.
99% of the time, I go way beyond just closing the Move ring (66% beyond on average, to be exact), but in the rare instances where I’m sick or injured, maintaining a Sustainable Move Goal means it’s at least not completely impossible for me to keep my streak (see “How to Close Your Rings if You Get Sick or Injured” below).
When you meet your goal, you’ll often be motivated to go above and beyond it. You’ll end up achieving more in the long run than if you kept increasing your goal to the point of failure and quitting as a result.
Before you go for a Perfect Year, consider starting small and setting a goal of getting just one Perfect Week (All Activity) badge.
It’s still my favorite badge to date. It looks so nice.
Once you earn a Perfect Week, go for a Perfect Month.
Once you earn a Perfect Month, go for a second Perfect Month.
After about three months in a row, it will get easier to achieve a Perfect Year because you’ll have adjusted your routine and adapted your lifestyle to staying active so you can close your rings every day.
No matter how you slice it, you’re still showing up one day at a time. Focus on today and start small.
Make It Fun
As long as you see closing your rings as a chore, it will feel like an uphill battle for you.
Find a way to make exercise fun.
If you don’t like a particular workout, try something else! Maybe you haven’t found your thing yet. Experiment and try something new.
Activity badges are a great way of gamifying your health, but another way to spice things up is to start a Competition with one of your friends.
If you haven’t tried Competitions yet, give it a shot. You can earn unique badges by winning (as well as simply completing) competitions with your friends (TIP: start multiple competitions with several friends at the same time to multiply your efforts and earn more badges for the same amount of work!).
Personally, after doing about a dozen Competitions, I grew bored of them, but I remember having fun in the beginning, so I’d still recommend trying it out if you haven’t.
Some more ideas for making workouts fun:
- Only allow yourself to listen to your favorite podcasts while running.
- Only allow yourself to listen to your favorite audiobooks while stretching.
- Only allow yourself to listen to your favorite music albums while lifting weights.
- Only allow yourself to watch YouTube videos or browse social media if you’ve already completed one workout today.
Feel free to mix these up to your liking. They’re just suggestions based on things that have worked for me.
I love listening to podcasts, audiobooks, and music, so I use them as rewards: I allowing myself to listen to certain things only while doing certain exercises. This helped me look forward to exercising when I was first getting started.
Over time, I grew so fond of the “runner’s high” endorphins that I now look forward to exercising for its own sake. Listening to podcasts or audiobooks is just a bonus.
Invest in an LTE Apple Watch
I love my LTE Apple Watch so much. I use the heck out of it. I love not having to manage downloads and syncing. I hated the slow Bluetooth transfer speed on previous models. If I didn’t think to add something to a playlist the night before, forget it. It took forever to sync albums and audiobooks, so if I didn’t remember to sync something until right before my run, It was too late. I had to go without.
No more of that nonsense with the LTE Apple Watch.
I can stream whatever I want, whenever I want, wherever I want. I never bring my huge Max iPhone on runs. All I need is the Apple Watch and AirPods.
You know how you always get your best ideas in the shower (or while running) but by the time you finish, you forgot the ideas?
That never happens to me.
For one, I use waterproof AquaNotes in the shower (highly recommend).
But the key to never losing another idea on a run is dictating things you want to remember with Siri—only possible with an LTE Apple Watch.
“Hey Siri” support on AirPods makes it super easy to capture ideas the moment you get them.
I dictate notes and make reminders for myself on almost every run.
I never forget anything because I capture ideas the moment I get them. This alone makes the LTE Apple Watch more than worth it.
On the Value of Ideas:
I can distinctly think of three ideas this year that have been worth five and six figures to me. I don’t think twice about the cost of the LTE Apple Watch or the $10 or $15 per month I spend on the cellular service. Seriously, I don’t even know the monthly amount because I don’t care. The ideas I don’t lose are worth 10,000 times what I pay.
How to Close Your Rings if You Get Sick or Injured
I got injured pretty bad late 2018 which made running impossible. I was also under the weather a couple times and not feeling well.
The nice thing about setting a Sustainable Move Goal is it’s still possible to close your rings (albeit with a bit of effort) even if you’re not feeling well.
My best recommendation is to do a Flexibility workout. You can find lots of follow-along stretching routines on YouTube. Not only does it feel great, but taking a nice, leisurely 60–90 minutes to stretch will give you some Move and Exercise credit.
I was able to close my rings while injured this way, and I ended up falling in love with stretching so much, I incorporated it into my routine even after I recovered! I’ve now stretched every day for 347 days.
Obviously, I wouldn’t recommend pushing yourself too hard if you are terribly sick or completely bed-ridden. You’ll simply have to break your streak. But if you’re not completely out of commission, you might be able to complete a 60–90 minute Walk or Flexibility workout to close your rings so long as you have a Sustainable Move Goal.
Apple Watch Has Changed My Life
I feel better than ever.
- I’m stronger.
- I’m more flexible.
- I have six-pack abs.
- I have more energy.
- I can run much faster.
- I broke my video game addiction.
- My resting heart rate has gone down 10bpm.
Are you satisfied with repeating the last six months of your life? If the answer is no, something needs to change.
When I ask myself, “Can my current habits carry me to my desired future?” I’m happy to say the answer is now a resounding “Yes!”
Apple Watch played a big part in that transformation.
Onward and upward.