This Christmas, Santa was good to me. My main present from Father Christmas himself (OK, it might’ve been my husband Dave) was an Apple iWatch Series 3 (the best deal currently available is from John Lewis).
I really wanted a wearable fitness device for Christmas, but I hadn’t even dropped any hints to the Mr; so to say I was chuffed was an understatement, because this is obviously much more than just a fitness tracker.
The Set Up
As soon as I’d unwrapped it, I was eager to get it up and running. This meant linking the Apple Watch to my iPhone 7, which thankfully was really easy. I had to run a quick software update on my iPhone to get the latest iOS (required when pairing with a watch), but after 15 minutes that was done and I was good to go.
After accessing the Watch app on your iPhone (which should automatically be there if your system is all up-to-date), it walks you through what you need to do to get the pairing right. Once that’s all done, you can choose your Apple Watch preferences, in terms of which wrist you’ll be wearing it on and what way around you want the device to sit (i.e. buttons to the right, or buttons to the left). This configures the wearable so that everything displays how you want it to.
Then, you can choose passcodes, backgrounds and what apps you want on your wrist and, hey presto, you have yourself a fully functioning Apple Watch.
It didn’t take me long to “learn” the controls of the Apple Watch; after all, there are only two buttons on the side (the digital crown – that’s the bit you normally get on the side of a manual watch – and a flatter button. Pressing the crown shows you the apps on your Watch and the other button shows you everything you’ve already got open on the device (just like double tapping your home button on you iPhone would).
It’s all touch screen, of course, and swiping down from the top will show you all of your recent notifications (messages, social activity etc.) whilst swiping up will show you your battery life and give you shortcuts to things like airplane mode, cinema mode, do not disturb, a torch (which lights up the Watch face) and a function that lets you ‘ping’ your phone in case you can’t find it (a regular occurrence for me, so very handy). The latter causes your iPhone to give off a fairly loud chiming sound, so that you can find it beneath your pile of washing, down the back of the sofa, or wherever else it might’ve got to.
Tapping and holding the screen with your finger allows you to swipe through and customise the different backgrounds; I tend to alternate between having photos on there (which the Watch pulls from the ‘favourites’ folder in your iPhone’s gallery) or the ‘Activity Digital’ background which lets me see how my ‘rings’ are doing for that day (more on that later).
The Fitness Stuff
I know most of you will be reading this to find out what fitness functions the Apple Watch Series 3 has and you’ll be pleased to know it doesn’t disappoint.
First of all, you have the Activity app on the Apple Watch which you’ll become a bit obsessed with if you’re anything like me. It’s easy to spot and can be identified by the three rings (blue inside green, inside red) on the app menu (or on your home screen if you’ve chosen the Activity Digital background display that I mentioned earlier).
The rings represent ‘Move’ (red), ‘Exercise’ (green) and ‘Stand’ (blue). You can set your own ‘Move’ goal, which is the number of active calories burnt throughout the day, but the ‘Exercise’ goal is set at the recommended 30 minutes per day and the ‘Move’ goal encourages you to stand up and move for at least one minute during 12 hours of the day (particularly handy if you have a sitting desk job like me).
The aim of the game (OK, it’s not a game… it’s a lifestyle) is to ‘close your rings’ each day, which fill up in a clockwise motion as you progress with your goals. On days when you have a workout, it’s super easy and even when you don’t, a quick 30 minute walk on your lunch break will help towards your exercise and move goals.
What I look most about the Activity apps and the rings is that they make your goals seem easily achievable and it’s easy to keep track of how you’re getting on throughout the day. Plus, you get little reminders (unless you turn them off) to stand and move for a minute and when you close a ring, which makes you feel like you’ve accomplished something.
The heart rate app (identified by a red heart on a grey background) is also really cool to keep track of, as it shows you your current heartrate, resting heartrate and average heartrate when walking that day. Sometimes I like to do 20 jumping jacks just to see what I can get my heart rate up to, because, you know, I’m crazy like that.
Next up, there’s the Workout app (identified by a running stick man on a green background). This is great, because it enables you to pick the type of exercise you’re about to do; I have twelve options to pick from and an ‘other’ if my workout type doesn’t appear in the list. The options range from things like High-Intensity Interval Training and Outdoor Run, to a Rower, Elliptical, Pool or Open Water Swim (it’s waterproof), Outdoor Walk and Stair-Stepper.
I mostly us the HIIT workout option for my Saturday morning Bootcamp sessions, as it’s a mix of tabata style training, circuits and weights all mixed into one, with high bursts of activity and short rests. I also use the outdoor run tracker a lot, which has led to me not using Run Keeper at all anymore. Personally, I find it just as good (as I was never bothered about seeing my map anyway.. even if it was fun trying to make weird patterns with my route).
You can review your workouts on the Activity app on your iPhone, as it all syncs. You can see all the usual suspects there, like total time, average heart rate (complete with pretty graph) and activity and total calories burned. You can also find your ring history here and any achievements you’ve been awarded, like move and exercise records.
Apple gets a load of criticism for its battery life and I was really surprised to see that the Apple Watch lasts for 2 days (mine is still new) without needing a re-charge. Compared to other wearable technology brands this may not be brilliant BUT, compared to other Apple products, this is really good.
All in all, I’m a big fan of the Apple Watch Series 3. It’s comfortable to wear and lets me easily keep on top of my fitness and movement goals. It’s also great for keeping on top of my messages and emails when I’m on the move for work, like down in London for meetings. I don’t have to pull my phone out every two minutes as everything I need is right there on my wrist.
One of the features I also really value is the ‘Breathe’ app on the Apple Watch, which helps you to practise mindfulness on the move, any place, any time. It encourages you to ‘be still’ and ‘bring attention to your attention to your breath’ and then you inhale and exhale to the rhythm of an expanding and shrinking pattern of circles. It’s honestly really worthwhile, especially if you’re having a stressful day and need to regroup and it’s only for one minute at a time. I’m all for mental fitness as well as physical, so this gets extra brownie points from me.
Prices start at around £329.00, so whilst it isn’t a cheap wearable by any means (it’s Apple… what do you expect?) I’d say the Apple Watch Series 3 is totally worth the investment.