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Are the Apple Fitness Activity Challenges too much?

A bit of background

Does "close your rings" mean anything to you? If there answer was no, then where have you been? Ever since the time that Apple Watch was first conceived, there's been a healthy (and unhealthy) obsession with the associated Activity app. Closing your rings was Apple's way into the fitness market from the likes of Garmin and Fitbit. The goal was to get users to Move, Exercise and Stand (essentially move from a stationary position) every day.

When the Apple Watch first came out, I jumped on that bandwagon. I did close my rings quite vigilantly but it was missing a heart rate measurer. Which is why for some years, I had switched to Garmin as I was running, cycling and swimming which Garmin had helped me record.

Now I am back on the Apple Watch, my obsession with closing my rings has become part of my everyday routine. I am currently on a year streak but since this has become my everyday, the Activity Challenge has been something of a love/hate kind of deal with me. I love that it gets me motivated to focus and achieve more but I hate that it can be relentless to an unhealthy climax.

How does it work?

Every month, within the Activity app, you are given a challenge that is supposedly randomised. Here are few examples:

  • Walk / Run for X amount of mi/kms.

  • Exercise for X amount of minutes.

  • Burn X amount of calories.

  • Close all three rings for X amount of days.

  • Double your move goal for X amount of days.

I kind of wish there was a Stand version just for a break from the harder ones! Anyway, you're given a calendar month to finish this challenge and then you are rewarded with a (sometimes perceived as arbitrary) badge as recognition of your efforts.

Can I do it?

Now, keep in mind, these challenges are based on your trends and activity at point of creation. So it doesn't matter if you are not that active or you are an athlete, the challenges are adapted for your skill level. The caveat here is that Apple wants to push you because if you aim for the same, then are you really going to get any fitter?

So I've found that they tend to base your challenges on your current trends plus about 10%. So if I am averaging 100 exercise minutes a day. The challenge will get me to exercise 110 minutes a day.

Whilst this sounds quite doable, if you do achieve that extra 10% for that month (yay badge!) then the next month would require you to do another 10% and so on, recurring and forever. It will reach a point where the challenge gets unrealistic and unpractical. Exercising for 3 hours a day can be seen as unhealthy, especially if you need to have the crucial rest days for recovery.

A major gripe for Apple Watch users is the relentless fervor in which goals and challenges don't consider that we are actually human and not robots. We have lives and life throws many obstacles in the way.

Now, that's not really an excuse. You just have to be smart about when and how you strive to complete the challenge.

Saying that, I'd be insane not to admit that there are times where the challenge is just too overwhelming. I have Activity competitor where we have a very amiable and encouraging relationship (even though we haven't met in real life, partly due to COVID and that she's in Canada) but we like to share our challenges at the start of the month and give those few encouraging words. She has to walk or run 565.2km, which is 18.2km a day. She's an avid walker but even for her, her challenge rotation has not favoured her. It has continued to demand her to increase her mileage and at a time where she wants to refocus her fitness regime to toning, the Activity challenge keeps her on her toes. Literally. She has decided not to strive for this month's challenge. And while personally, I would be saddened to have a missing badge, it would be a good opportunity to have a reset.

How can I reset without losing my badge streak?

There is a way to reset without losing your badge. It does involve a bit of luck but when it comes, you should embrace it. The challenge that allows you to reset is the "Close your rings X amount of times". This challenge is the nicest one I feel for anyone who closes their rings naturally and without too much effort.

While the challenge is getting me to do 10% more each time, my daily move, exercise and stand goals remain relatively the same. I have set these to be the "minimum" I want to achieve on a daily basis. I know there's a lot of controversy but it's really each to their own. If you have an issue with them hitting their 400% of goal then find someone more aligned to you.

Anyway, I digress. In conclusion, thank your stars if you get this challenge!

What do I have in store for me in August?

This August 2021, my challenge is 5640 Exercise minutes. Luckily for me, I had that reset for me last month and whilst this looks to be a shocker, my trends tell me that on an average, my daily Exercise minutes is around 194. This means that I have reasonable confidence that I would get this.

Previously, I have had to inject additional minutes into my workout schedule to ensure I hit the target. For instance, if the challenge was to hit 214 Exercise minutes daily, and my trends was 194 Exercise minutes, then I would plan to add 20 minutes extra of Apple Fitness workouts to help me achieve closer to the challenge. This would reduce the need to panic exercise few days before the end of the month.

Hope this post helps you are enlightens you on what the Activity monthly challenges are.

Any questions, let me know.

In the meantime, stay active, close your rings and see you next time.

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