Photo: Mirae Campbell
Confession: I haven’t really exercised in... well, more than five years. I know this because my oldest son is four and a half, and his birth was preceded by nine months of pregnancy, and the only prenatal exercise I did was some very gentle pregnant-lady yoga, which involved a lot of stretching and lying down.
In fact, the only time I’d gone “jogging” since my kids were born was the time my toddler took off running down the beach on vacation, and I had to catch him before he tumbled into the ocean. (My youngest was only three months old at the time, and after two kids, let’s just say that “things” felt… different.) It was a jolting reality check: while I looked fit—I was losing weight from the constant breastfeeding and sleep deprivation of parenting two small humans—I was sorely out of shape, and physically unable to keep up with my own children.
The reality is that after a long day of work, double daycare pickup and the dinner/bath/bedtime routine, my version of self-care means a 9 p.m. beer, a bowl of ice cream and a Game of Thrones binge-session on the couch, not making sure I'm getting in 30 minutes of exercise a day.
This is why I felt like I was living in a fantasy world when I got to test out the Apple Watch Series 4 on a three-day, kid-free fitness and wellness trip in Whistler, BC. All my distractions were three time zones away, and I hadn’t had that much time to myself in years—literally. It felt disorienting to be so focused on my own exercise, my own meals, and my own sleep. I wasn’t worrying about the kids’ potty breaks or how many snacks I had stashed in my bag. Instead, I was trying to keep up on a 6-kilometre run with a professional ultra-marathoner. I skied over 30 kilometres at Whistler Blackcomb, followed by a restorative yoga class. Meanwhile, the Apple Watch automatically detected and logged my workouts, told me my heart rate, the calories I was burning, the number of stairs I’d climbed, and my total steps, among tons of other useful info.
Here’s why I’ve been using the Apple Watch ever since:
With the watch right there on my wrist, and with the Activity app rings set as my “home” screen, it’s a physical reminder right there on my wrist to at least think about putting myself first—a huge shift in perspective for me. While I haven’t become addicted—yet—to the Activity Sharing feature (you can compete against your friends), I have become semi-obsessed with closing my Activity Rings every day. Instead of feeling a little bit shamed by how little I'm moving, it’s been surprisingly motivating. It tells me when I’ve been sitting at my desk for too long and reminds me to stand up once an hour. It rewards me with a virtual pat on the back when I take a brisk walk during my lunch hour. And when the Activity Rings look incomplete at the end of the day, it forces me to reflect on why I’m not taking any time to care for my own body. On the nights I find myself slightly short of the 30-minutes of exercise per day minimum, I can do a few minutes of jumping jacks in my four-year-old’s bedroom while he puts on his PJs and brushes his teeth. Or if we’re out of milk, I’ll jog to the store and power-walk back, instead of driving. I’m beginning to figure out how to sneak movement into teeny slivers of time, which is sometimes your only choice when you’re so busy being a mom.
Skiing and trail-running in Whistler is not my every-day routine, of course. Once I was back home, doing my usual work-daycare commute, I was happy to find that I can often complete my Activity Rings in a normal day of getting up early with the kids, running after them, getting them to two different daycares, and going to the office (then repeating it all in reverse). I also like that the Apple Watch gives me credit for hauling my baby around during a baby swim class (yup, it’s water resistant up to 50 metres), for pushing our double stroller around the neighhourhood (DEFINITELY A WORKOUT), and every time I march back upstairs to retrieve the forgotten pair of socks, grab extra diapers, or deliver the hamper full of clean laundry. The Watch has shown me that while I may not be in the best shape, being a mom is a really physical job.
My 18-month-old is in a phase of simply referring to my smartphone as “Elmo.” (He’s probably watched that one YouTube episode of Elmo playing with balls hundreds of times now.) I have to keep my phone out of his line of sight, or he'll start pointing at it, yelling "Mel-mo! Mel-mo!" It’s actually a huge help to be able to triage emails and text messages that flash on my Apple Watch instead of pulling out my phone to check and see if I’ve received something urgent. (I also avoid the rabbit hole of being distracted by social media.) Prior to getting the watch, I was also using my phone simply to check the time, which became a distraction in the middle of our bedtime routine. A quick glance at my wrist means I’m paying more attention to my children (and less time on my phone) during our limited quality time together.
This might seem super obvious, but the Apple Watch is attached to your wrist, so if you have to suddenly sprint across the playground to prevent your preschooler from falling off the slide, you’re not leaving your phone behind on a park bench or unattended in a stroller organizer. When you go on a run, you can leave your phone at home (which feels freeing), but still receive important text messages or listen to music.
On the slopes at Whistler, we used the Snoww app to track the other skiers in our group, clock our runs and measure our vertical distances. While my kids are still on the bunny hill, I’m dreaming of the days when we can all hit the mountain together and not worry too much about getting separated on the trails. The Watch also has several Emergency SOS safety features helpful to families: you can enable an automatic call to emergency services by pressing and holding the side button; pre-program an emergency contact to call; or enable fall detection—the Watch knows if you’ve taken a sudden spill (on the ski hill or down the stairs) and might need assistance.
Yup, I’ve used the very calming Breathe app on the Watch to help distract my four-year-old from a tantrum. Watching the beautiful graphics pulsing in and out is a visual cue that teaches him how to take long inhales and exhales, instead of freaking out about something. It also reminds me to take a breath when I’m frustrated with my kids or feeling overwhelmed.
When my children are a bit older and sleeping through the night, I hope to make more vigorous workouts a more consistent part of my day. In the meantime, I love that the Apple Watch’s Heart Rate app reminds me to keep it simple: it’s not about calories in or calories burned, or the numbers on the bathroom scale. It’s about MOVING. It’s about getting in some cardio, every day, so that I can keep my heart healthy for my future—and be there for my kids’ future.