My running journey began on June 15, 2018, when my mother died in the back of an ambulance on the way to the hospital. This is the moment I have fled and pursued ever since. Concretely, I started running one evening in 2019 when, in a fog of depression and despair, I turned to sport to try to save myself. I hastily picked out the most athletic shoes I could find and headed for the door. I didn’t have time to find anything to listen to then, but I lifted my wrist and tapped a running workout on my Apple Look. In the midst of a mental breakdown, I always wanted to record the distance I managed to cover.
At first, in the months following his death, I thought I could escape the trauma of it all by introducing some exercise into my schedule. I figured a casual stroll around the block at lunchtime would suffice. And if I exercised my body, I naively thought that my mind would also be taken care of.
I had used an Apple Watch since the product was released in 2015, but that catalytic moment in early 2019 was when I started to really use it as a fitness device. Before that, it was mostly a wristwatch that told me the time and a few notifications.
Once I started running regularly, the Apple Watch became much more than a small computer on which emails popped up. Its music playback capabilities, along with activity rings and health data collection, were the main reasons the Apple Watch was the tool I needed to get me running more frequently, then make me run. Years later I am now over 3 miles every day.
A mini iPod music player
The most important thing the Apple Watch did to help me get into the running habit was to provide a great way to listen to music. Although less obvious than the iPhone, I firmly believe that the Apple Watch is a spiritual successor to Apple’s music player, the iPod.
I tried running with my iPhone on occasion, but it was heavy and still awkward compared to how it dragged in a pocket. However, using the Apple Watch for running was a significantly better experience. Even the new and larger Apple Watch Ultra is nearly invisible strapped to my wrist, paired with tiny wireless earbuds.
Listening to music allowed me to clear my mind by focusing on the lyrics or ignoring them altogether. The time I spent running allowed me to soak up the melodies and let them overwhelm me. But most importantly, I was delighted to listen to the latest albums that came out every week or old favorites that I had forgotten over time. Being able to press play on certain songs like Griff’s”One foot in front of the other“or The Lone Bellow’s”Count on me” was the spark I needed to get me out of the door and into real motion.
In fact, despite subscribing to multiple music services, Apple Watch is the main reason why I started favoring Apple Music over Spotify starting around 2019. I was able to sync playlists and albums from Apple’s music streaming service and grab any songs I wanted. . It was the best portable experience at first, and it’s still largely unmatched.
Later it was Apple Watch apps like Audible and Overcast that let me listen to audiobooks and podcasts while I toured the neighborhood. With these apps, there was always something new to listen to. When I took the plunge and got an Apple Watch with cellular connectivity, it unlocked the ability to decide on music at the last minute without me needing to sync it to the watch beforehand. It helped me take away the excuses I was trying to find myself that I didn’t have time to sync the content I wanted to listen to.
Rings and Apple Health
Listening to music or audio was the primary motivation for the Apple Watch for me, but the operating data it collected would eventually become another major incentive to keep building that habit. The impact of my aggregate running data over time was hard to ignore. Logging workouts and distances covered provided a history that even now I look back on to prove to myself that I’ve made progress.
As part of this, the activity rings helped me see the areas I was taking care of or neglecting. Before the Apple Watch, activity tracking was largely about counting steps. In my mind, this metric was arbitrary and one-dimensional. It did nothing to motivate me. In contrast, viewing three rings filled with color for the different categories until they were full or closed each day had an immediate impact. The separation of standing, movement and exercise made more sense to me. As I started running, the green exercise ring became harder to ignore when left open or incomplete.
When I started running, I could quickly glance through the app to see the few days I had closed my exercise ring. As I accelerated my run, I could see ring closures coming faster. It made me want to continue the trend. In January 2020 I ran about 40 miles. By May of that year, I was running over 100 miles every month and closing my rings every day.
A new step
I think it’s important to recognize products that have actually helped us achieve our goals or point us in the right direction. The Apple Watch has been an essential part of my running history. It has been extremely helpful in helping me develop the habit and is still a companion I would struggle to run without.
There are many fitness trackers or smartwatches available, but when I first started I appreciated the deep integration of the Apple Watch with my iPhone. It shares many useful apps on the go and its exercise capabilities continue to grow. Playing audio without my phone was great. These features might also be what you are looking for to help you achieve your goals.
The first real milestone I set for myself was to run 1,000 miles in 2020. The following year it was to run 100 miles each month for a total of 1,200 in 2021. This year my goal was different. I had no problem maintaining my tendency to increase my distance, but I wanted something else. Finally, something the Apple Watch can’t help me track. I’ve spent 2022 trying to figure out what my long-term goal is, as a whole. I started running due to grief, depression and poor mental health, but that’s not where I want it to end.