On “Apple Watch, New Year’s resolutions, and losing 50 pounds”

I published a 9to5Mac piece on New Year’s Day where I explained how Apple Watch pushed me to discover fitness and lose a lot of weight:

Last New Year’s Day I decided to start eating healthy, exercising daily, and filling the Activity Rings on my Apple Watch as a way to get in shape. I broke my New Year’s resolution by January 4, but I started again on April 1 and ultimately lost over 50 pounds in 2016.

Apple Watch didn’t lose the weight for me — it took a lot of dedication and really changing my lifestyle — but the fitness tracking features and Apple’s Activity app helped quantify my effort without me doing too little or going overboard.

Apple Watch has absolutely been an effective motivational coach that has pushed me toward my goal of being more active.

I felt nervous about publishing the article for a couple of reasons.

The article risked being self-congratulatory without adding much value, and the topic was more personal than most 9to5Mac stories so I put off writing it until around 10 p.m. on New Year’s Eve.

My health and fitness journey is something Benjamin Mayo and I often discuss on the 9to5Mac Happy Hour podcast, however, and listeners were writing in to ask if I published an article on my experience yet.

The answer before January 1 was no, but I was targeting New Year’s Day as an opportune date for sharing my story. Losing 50 pounds was also a significant milestone (I was originally planning to write about losing just 40 pounds when I queued the story idea in October).

I spent two hours writing the piece on December 31 and wrapped up around 12:00 a.m. when New Year’s Eve turned into New Year’s Day.

Writing something personal when everyone else is “offline” in my mind helped me put the piece together without thinking too much about what everyone would think, then I scheduled the story to go live at 8 a.m. on Sunday morning when I imagined a lot of people were just waking up.

january-1-drone-beach

After scheduling the piece to publish at a specific time, I went offline for a few hours to run my regular Sunday 5K at the Biloxi Bay Bridge and Front Beach in Ocean Springs near where I live in South Mississippi.

A good friend Jacob joined me to start a running routine for himself, then we flew DJI Phantom 4 drones down the beach for the rest of the morning. This was a fun way to start the new year and helped take my mind off the anxiety around my piece.

I started seeing reader feedback on my iPhone when we got back to my car. The response on Twitter was super positive. I don’t usually read the comments below stories (it’s often too discouraging) but my wife Kelcey says most people were polite there as well.

I really appreciated anyone who shared the piece or offered congratulations, but readers who said it motivated them to go outside and do something active that day totally made publishing the story worth it.

Then there was the Schiller tweet.

I put off writing the piece too late to have an editor proofread it for me so I used a Safari extension called Grammarly that gave me an automated second set of eyes on the text before publishing.

Then I asked a friend Eytan to read the piece after it went live and alert me to any critical errors or embarrassing typos. His response after reading my article was that it would be the perfect story for Phil Schiller to tweet if it wasn’t from 9to5Mac. I agreed with him at the time which only made the tweet that much sweeter.

I saw it right after the run and drone flying from a Twitter notification that pushes Phil Schiller tweets as alerts on my iPhone. WHOA.

phil-schiller-apple-watch-airpods

Phil linking to our site was a first for 9to5Mac, and for me, it was personally very validating. I went from nearly not writing my story to seeing it tweeted by a senior vice president at Apple. A Steve Jobs-era exec who introduces new iPhones and in many ways is the voice for Apple.

This was all before noon.

I was on top of the world for the rest of New Year’s Day. What a tremendous way to start the new year.

Then much later in the evening, Jay Blahnik who is Apple’s head of fitness tweeted the article with a direct mention. This was a total surprise.

Jay Blahnik probably isn’t as well-known as Phil Schiller. He joined Apple to lead Apple Watch health and fitness development after working on the Nike+ FuelBand fitness tracker at Nike.

Like Schiller, Blahnik has been seen on stage at recent Apple events introducing new product features to the world.

jay-blahnik

His voiceover is the one heard in Apple’s original Activity and Fitness video that explained the Activity Rings system on Apple Watch.

Apple doesn’t host the video anymore for some reason, but this version of it has been like a to-do list of new activities for me to try:

Part of what makes fitness tracking with Apple Watch so effective for me is that I like using every aspect of my Apple products. I want to know as much about my devices and use them to their full extent. That requires trying out different exercises in the Workout app and completing challenges in the Activity app.

Something I’ve been considering is how much I would still exercise if Apple Watch went away. That’s the thing. I enjoy exercising, but Apple Watch gets quantifying the effort just right.

Activity Rings clearly define a starting point, progress, and a complete goal. Running a mile feels like enough for me, but running a 5K gets me way closer to my daily Move goal of burning 500 active calories.

Without Apple Watch, I know I should still exercise but the idea quickly becomes overwhelming

I really believe the coaching aspect of Apple Watch is under-appreciated. Apple Watch takes measurements that other fitness trackers can capture — there’s no secret sauce there — the magic is in how Apple translates that data into easily understandable goals.

nike-run-club

I don’t know how much more I’ll write about my health and fitness journey on 9to5Mac. I’m sure the big milestones will be worth sharing with our audience when relevant to new Apple product features, but the big story (how Apple Watch changed my lifestyle) has now been told.

I’m discovering that I enjoy writing about my health and fitness journey, however, so I expect to use this blog as an outlet for exactly that. I also anticipate sharing more thoughts about 9to5Mac stories in the future, pointing to drone footage that I’ve only been collecting so far, and cool Instagram posts with a little more story than the caption provides.

More soon.

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