Apple Watch: Critic or Coach?

My husband surprised me with an Apple Watch for my birthday. While I like to wear a timepiece (especially one I can customize the band to match my outfit), I was skeptical. Would the Apple Watch judge my activity levels (or lack thereof) thus causing me guilt, shame, and lower self-esteem? I don’t need that kind of negativity in my life.

I decided to ease into activity monitoring. Instead, I chose to treat the timepiece as a simple (albeit expensive) watch. I experimented with different watch faces, ultimately deciding on a photo of the Basset. And I learned how to use a few of the apps (It’s nice to receive text messages when I’m away from my phone).

After the first week, I decided to take a look at those dreaded rings.

For those who may be unaware, the Apple Watch automatically keeps track of three activity levels. The wearer receives special recognition if she can close all three rings in a day.

  • Standing/moving (one minute every hour). The pre-designated goal is twelve hours a day (blue ring)
  • Exercise (thirty minutes a day). Also pre-designated goal (green ring)
  • Movement (set as calories). This goal is self-adjusted (red ring)

As I reviewed the first week’s activity, I realized I wasn’t as sedentary as I thought. I often stood 10 out of 12 hours; exercise typically clocked in around 10-12 minutes/day; I closed the movement ring several days in a row (although, it was originally set at a relatively low 250 calories … I assume based on sex, age, and weight).

Interestingly, I did not feel judged or criticized. I felt hopeful.

If I could achieve these results without trying, what might I achieve if I became more mindful of daily movement?

In January, I set a goal: close all rings five days out of seven. I knew if I strived for seven out of seven, I would invariably miss a day and consider myself a failure. I would stop the fitness journey before I started. This modified goal helped me develop self-compassion and grace.

In addition, I increased my movement ring to 300 calories. Since I hit 300 calories most days in December, I knew this was also an achievable goal. I wanted to set myself up for success, not failure.

By the end of January, I closed all rings 20 out of 31 days. And I learned some valuable lessons.

  • If I want to close the exercise ring on a daily basis, I need to walk the Basset in the morning as well as walk a mile on the treadmill in the afternoon. This is a doable program.
  • However, the Apple Watch counts ANY movement. I don’t have to walk continuously to count calories. I can jog in place during television commercials and still achieve my goal.
  • The subtle reminder to “stand” is not a harsh critic, but instead an encouraging coach. Once I follow through – the watch vibrates to congratulate me. This motivates me to want to do it again (and again).
  • As silly as it sounds, I love the “fireworks” display when I close all rings. I feel a real sense of accomplishment.

When February arrived, I was ready to up the ante.

Amazon Image

My movement goal is now 400 calories. I still strive to close all rings five days out of seven, and I’ve added five minutes of yoga a day. In March (or April) I will start adding strength training exercises (perhaps three times a week). When the weather is warmer, I’d like to start walking a 5k three to five mornings a week.

This exercise experiment confirmed the mini-habit theory: Taking baby steps is the key to building sustainable lifestyle changes. However, the Apple Watch is also a helpful assistant. It serves as a good motivational coach who does not pass judgment.

In addition, the Apple Watch offers a few fringe benefits. I can leave my phone at home when walking the Basset yet still listen to a podcast with my AirPods. And similar to Dick Tracy, I can answer any phone call by simply talking to my wrist.

So far, I’m loving my Birthday gift. Thank you, G!


  • Terri

    Hi Molly, I’m glad you like your Apple Watch! I don’t “do” Apple, but I have a Fitbit which I dearly love. I think fitness trackers all have good external motivators to keep us moving which is great! My Fitbit has interchangeable bands too (buy cheaper on Amazon)…in fact I left the house the other day without it, left it on the charger and I felt WEIRD!!! I made my husband take me back home on the way to our next errand so I wouldn’t miss anymore steps. I hope there isn’t a 12 (thousand) step group some day to deal with our tracker addiction 😉 Great post and timely for this season…read on #MLSTL!

    • Molly Totoro

      Oh Terri… I completely understand!

      About four years ago I had a fitbit. At the time, I was trying to walk a 5k each morning. One day I left without my tracker. I didn’t realize it until I was about ten minutes in. I agonized over the decision to continue walking – or to retrieve my tracker and start over. Ultimately, I decided the actual steps were more important than tracking them 🙂

      I have discovered some cute Apple Watch bands on Amazon. I plan to update my winter gray for something more colorful in the spring.

  • Michele

    I don’t have an apple watch, but I have been curious about them. I do like my fitbit. I love your idea of taking baby steps and setting yourself up for success by making your goals manageable. Like you, if I set my goals for exercise too high I would probably quit! You are gradually increasing your time and calorie count so you will make real, measurable progress. Woo Hoo!

    • Molly Totoro

      I think if I had a reliable fitbit (mine broke several months ago) I would probably be satisfied with that technology. BUT… since my husbanded gifted me the Apple Watch, I have enjoyed the syncing capabilities with my iPhone. Fringe benefits, I’d say. Not necessities 🙂

  • Debbie

    I also have an apple watch and enjoy its gentle reminders and monitoring. It helps me to see how I can improve my movement goals each day and keeps me on track. I like playing with the various watch faces too. I enjoyed your review #mlstl

    • Molly Totoro

      Someday I will experiment with the different watch faces, Debbie. For now, I enjoy looking at my top ten photos (mostly the Basset, my grandchildren, and special travel memories).

  • Kay

    I enjoyed reading about your experience with your Apple watch, Molly. I’ve got one too and also received mine for my birthday last fall. Also from the husband. Ha! Before this watch, I had a Polar watch and that worked well for keeping up with my movement, etc. However, it didn’t sync with my Weight Watcher app. I had to manually enter the daily steps. I do use the WW activity function because it’s another type of info and motivation for me. Anyway, my Apple watch does sync with my WW app and that’s been fun. Like you, I’ve gradually moved my goals up and get positive feedback from my watch and also from my WW app. I like the positive messages. I will say that my husband and I have both joked about our ‘stickers’ that we get for achieving various things from Apple. He keeps saying that it’s such a generational thing and we laugh. Of course, we did not grow up in the time of ‘everyone gets a sticker or a gold star’. Ha! I do like it though. Good for you and keep it up. Baby steps indeed.

    • Molly Totoro

      That is an interesting observation, Kay. The rewards are like little gold stars! However, I do feel I “earn” them as opposed to getting one like everyone else. I think your husband may be right though … it is generational. But I wonder… did our generation not reward ourselves enough? Hmmm… I think I may brainstorm another possible blog post 🙂

  • Nancy Dobbins

    Hi Molly,
    I don’t have an Apple watch…and I don’t think I need all its functions, maybe a Fitbit is at better “fit” (pardon the pun). But I like the idea of tracking one’s activities and keeping on track with movement goals.
    Visiting from #MLSTL and shared on SM.

  • Leanne

    I laughed at your Dick Tracey reference Molly – and I know what you mean about fitness trackers and guilt trips. I have a fitbit and have worn it daily for nearly 18 months now. It motivates me to try to get my 8,000 step target in each day (I was nowhere near that before I started wearing one) I also like the alarm feature – much nicer way to wake up in the mornings. And the fireworks always give me a happy feeling.
    Thanks for linking up with us at MLSTL and I’ve shared on my SM 🙂

  • Sue from Sizzling Towards 60 & Beyond

    Hi Molly, I smiled when you said you loved the fireworks. It is the little things isn’t it that keep us going. I don’t have a fitness tracker although I use Map My Run to record my pace and distance. I would like one though. I remember having a pedometer when I was doing Steptember and we had to do 10,000 steps a day. Some days I would be walking around the living room to reach the 10,000 mark. Anything that encourages us to move and keep healthy is good in my book. Thanks for sharing and being part of the #MLSTL community. Have a great week! xx

  • Denyse

    Ah this heading caught my eye. I have been thinking about an Apple watch for some time but wondered about the rings. You have explained that so well. Thank you.

    I am using a fitbit daily now after a considerable break whilst recovering from cancer. I have upped my daily steps to 6000 and know this is doable.

    I am also keeping an eye on what I am eating more to keep me honest.

    I have thought about investing in the apple watch to mark the 2nd anniversary of my cancer diagnosis but the cost is a factor. In Australia, it is even more expensive than in US!

    Denyse #mlstl

    • Molly Totoro

      I understand the cost consideration, Denyse. I will say, if you own other Apple products, the integration is worth some extra expense. Also, my husband purchased an “older” model, which saved a bit of money – and I do not miss the bells and whistles of the latest version.

  • Donna

    Hi, Molly – I enjoyed reading this review of your apple watch. I have resisted all such wearable technology. (Yup, I can be very “stone age” sometimes). This post has helped to ease some of my initial skepticisms about the Apple Watch (and similar devices). I greatly appreciate you sharing it. #MLSTL

  • Janet Mary Cobb

    I’m late to the party here – but I love that you are using the Apple Watch so constructively to coach you to your wellness goals. Personally, I think the watch is a coach and Delilah remains the critic!

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