How the Apple Watch Got Me to Dig Up My Yard

me celebrating finishing the yard - tool held above my head in victory with dirt behind meI’m afraid Fitbit is dead to me. I called time of death on the 6th of June at 10pm. This was a sad day for me because I’ve loved the motivation I got over the years from tracking my steps, making harder and harder goals for myself and competing with my friends and family in the social network supplied by Fitbit.

I’m sure you know what killed it for me, the Apple Watch and it’s Activity tracking applications. Apple doesn’t have a social network and I really miss that but the other benefits outweigh the loss. With the Fitbit I was obsessed with steps and stairs climbed. That was all that mattered. I hated days that I did an elliptical workout because I go so many fewer steps than when I went running. Once in a while Dorothy would make me do the bicycle at the gym and I only got half as many steps IF I remembered to put the Fitbit on my shoe.

I entitled this post “How the Apple Watch Got Me to Dig Up My Yard” and now you’ll understand why. We decided a while back to have our grass replanted, but the new grass didn’t take hold very well the first time, even though our gardener killed off the old grass first. It occurred to me that perhaps the dense thatch of dead crabgrass was just too dense to break allow the poor little seeds access to the dirt underneath. I took some gardening tools out to the back yard and started to try and dig up the crabgrass. The only one that worked was a tool intended to aerate the grass by punching four holes into it when you stepped down on it with your foot.

I figured out that if I punched it down in about 2 inches from an edge, and then twisted about the vertical axis, I could tear the top layer of thatch loose from the roots. My gardener Ernesto was laughing at me doing this because it was REALLY hard for me. Ernesto is insanely strong and seems to enjoy doing this sort of thing. He came over and did a small patch in a quarter the time it would have taken me. The bad news is, he handed it back to me and went back to his regular work.

Steve also mocked me but because he didn’t believe I’d be able to do it, that I would give up, and then we’d have grass only growing in one (small) part of our yard. He was right though, this was an impossible task. I could only do it for about a half hour before I’d collapse in a heap, having cleared maybe a 2 foot by 8 foot patch. I then got the brilliant idea to rent some heavy equipment like a rototiller. I started investigating them, and remembered that Rod Simmons is a maniac about stuff like this. I knew he’d have good advice so I FaceTime’d him in to show him my yard and get some help. He told me I was nuts trying to do this by hand but also cautioned that the light rototillers don’t really work and that the heavy ones are dangerous.

You’re probably wondering what the heck this has to do with the Apple Watch and the Fitbit, right? Well that afternoon I took a look at the Activity app on my Apple Watch and realized that those half hour stints digging up the yard were burning a TON of calories! A 4 mile run burns over 300 calories, the elliptical for those same 40 minutes only burns 215, a 3 mile outdoor walk with Tesla is 200, but if I worked on the yard I could get another 2-300 calories burned in just a half hour. I got so addicted to that calorie burn that I gave up my idea of using anything other than my own strength to tear up the yard!

Now that I’m done with the yard, I’m searching for ways to burn more calories. Again with the Fitbit it was all about steps, but now that I have access to more metrics I’m motivate to try different exercises. I don’t want to spend MORE time exercising, but what if I could improve the bang for the buck, get more calories burned in the same length of time.

I think some people get hung up on the absolute accuracy of devices that tell you calories burned (or steps counted for that matter). What matters to me is the relative calories burned. If you were walking one mile before and you up it to 1.5 and get more calories burned as a result, that matters. Whether it’s exactly 1.5 miles does not matter. I went on a hunt for more calories to burn.

I did a few elliptical sessions and I clocked around 215 calories in 40 minutes. My friend Pat has been talking about how much she likes her rowing machine so I thought I’d give that a try, since the Apple Watch has a workout option for rowing. I rowed my little heart out for 40 minutes and clocked 250 calories. That’s a 35 calorie improvement, 16% more than the same time on the elliptical. It’s kind of boring because I can’t watch video podcasts while I do it but when Dorothy gets back from her 2 months fooling around on her boat in Alaska she’ll be there to entertain me. Because of the Apple Watch I found an exercise that’s probably a better full body workout.

I found another improvement opportunity. My 3 mile walk with Tesla has some great hills (31 flights according o my Fitbit, but Tesla likes to stop and sniff just about everything so my pace is really slow on these walks, around 23 minute miles. On my own I am usually under 15 minute miles. Of course it wouldn’t be much fun for HER if I just dragged her along and didn’t let her play around, right?

I found a part near my house that has big hills AND lets you have dogs there. The best part is that there’s so few people around and it’s sort of a wild area so I can let her off the leash (which is a rare thing around these parts). As soon as I step foot into the park, off the leash she goes and I walk at my full speed. She stops and sniffs, then sprints to catch up with me. She’s positively in heaven and I can work harder on my walk. Unfortunately I have to cross a really long light to get there and back so my overall pace isn’t as fast as it should be but I’ve gotten it around 17 minute miles on one walk. The even better news is I can get around 200 calories in only 50 minutes for 2.75 miles! I need another quarter mile added to this to get me back to my previous calories but this time gives me an extra 25 minutes of free time in my day!

I know that was a lot of numbers and jibber jabber about it but the bottom line is that because of the Apple Watch I’m getting more efficient exercise, burning more calories and saving time! How fun is that?

1 thought on “How the Apple Watch Got Me to Dig Up My Yard

  1. barry porter - June 23, 2015

    I fear for your front yard :):):)

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