May. 19th, 2016

ralphmelton: (apple)
The Apple Watch works as a fitness tracker. Each day it urges me to burn a certain (adjustable) number of calories, get thirty minutes of more vigorous exercise, and stand and move around for at least a minute in twelve different hours.

I am on a nine-week streak of achieving all three of those goals every day for a week. I'm on a 69-day streak of achieving my calorie goal every day.



Other people - even other people on my friends list - will have higher goals and longer streaks. But these are the records I want to compare this to:
- My previous record for perfect weeks is one. Not a one-week streak achieved multiple times, but one single perfect week in the ten months before I began this streak.
- My previous streak for the calorie goal was twenty days.

I do not expect that I will be able to maintain this streak indefinitely. When I had the kidney stone, I didn't exercise much and missed my calorie goal. And there have been days when the watch ran out of charge early and didn't record the exercise I might have done. I suspect that I have at least a 2% chance of failing to meet my calorie goal on a particular day - which means that this streak is already longer than my expected duration.

There are a couple of sneaky psychological effects at work with the watch that have been particularly motivating:
- One is the effect of the streak itself. I know that this streak is continuing only because I've been striving to continue it, and it's longer than I'd expect to maintain normally. So once I break my streak, it's very possible that I may never get such a long streak again. So yesterday, when I did not feel like taking an evening walk, I thought "this is my best chance to ever get a sixty-nine day streak," and that helped me get moving to walk that evening.
- The other effect is the way the watch encourages me to ramp up my activity. Here's how it works:
Last week, my calorie goal was 420 calories. So when I looked in the evening and saw that I had burned, say, 380 calories, I was very tempted to go take a walk and burn 40 more calories. But it's hard to be precise about my calorie burn, so I am likely to burn 20 or 30 calories more than I need to. In fact, because I was aiming to burn 420 calories every day, I burned at least 437 calories every day.
So, at the beginning of this week, the watch suggested "why not raise your calorie goal?" And it looks so easy to raise it to 430 calories, because that's what I've been doing already last week.
I think that this is a very cunning way of inching my goal up to the maximum level at which I will still find it motivational.

However, I cannot say that I'm enjoying my exercise every night. Sometimes while I'm out walking, I find myself eagerly anticipating the day after I break my streak, because on that day I'll feel much less self-imposed pressure. My hope is that this will settle into a happy habit before that time, so that it's easy to resume healthy exercise once my streak inevitably ends.

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ralphmelton

September 2016

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