Why You Should Nurture Other Interests While You’re Indulging Your Main Passion

For years, I had one passion: dance. 

What activities did I nurture on the side when I wasn’t dancing? 

Not much to be honest. Dance was everything to me.

That became a problem when I left the dance world, and all I had left was my day job.

One of the reasons I advocate for nurturing interests on the side is because I remember what it was like to have dance be my world, and when I chose to leave that world due to burnout, I felt oh-so-very lost.

So, what was next for me?

This blog.

I kept on moving. I started running. I did a 5k, half and full marathon one year. The next year I got into triathlons. The year after that was cycling. And the year after that was a year of hot yoga. 

The year after that, I lost touch with movement for many years. I had a very dark period where depression and emotional eating ruled my life. I stopped moving for a while. Eventually I went back to the gym and got into weight lifting and boxing. Then came COVID and a back injury. Then came ACA/12 step and recovery.

Within this time, I got very into personal development in searching for a solution to make myself feel better and trying to figure out why I was so depressed and felt so awful.

During COVID came an interest in orchids and growing other tropical houseplants. I enjoyed this so much I started my own business in May of 2021 called The Rare Plant Haus.

All throughout this time period I tried art classes of different sorts. I kept on moving even when I felt low and didn’t feel like moving my body.

Nurture side interests that you’re curious about while you perform your main passion because when you’re at the top of your craft, burnout your main passion is inevitable. 

It’s not just me saying burnout is inevitable. It’s human nature. It’s the 10 year/10,000 hour rule. At some point in your life, you’re going to want to change course and do something different.

If you wait until burnout occurs, you decide to leave your passion, and you haven’t nurtured anything else on the side, then you’re going to be a beginner and brand new at everything. Being a beginner at everything isn’t a bad thing, but you may not want to be like me and be the beginner at everything at the same time. Learning a LOT of new things at the same time is hard for anyone. It leads to the possibility of feeling like you’re not very good at anything. It’s not a fun way to feel.

If you nurture side interests you have and explore new things that aren’t front and center with your main passion, then you can enjoy being a beginner. You get to learn new things and find out what you like and don’t like about said interest and if you even want to pursue it or not. 

This advice is applicable to anyone, not just athletes. If you don’t nurture any side hobbies, then what happens when you don’t want to work in your field anymore? What other skills do you have to move into a new field? I would say none if you don’t spend time developing your other interests.

All of the things I thought I was bad at simply was because I was a beginner are now some of my main focuses: blogging and writing regularly as part of my business, wanting to live an active life again that does NOT involve dance, when I got back into fitness and movement I wanted to run, bike and swim. I’m not a beginner at any of these things anymore. I may not be great at them yet, but I know I enjoy them and can make a living doing them. These are all things I’m pursuing right now or will be very soon in the future.

What I need to ask myself now is: what’s next? The side things I did from 2011 to 2022 to build new interests are now my main focus. 

What new things am I going to try out and be a total beginner at so that I’ll have new interests when these passions I have now inevitably fade?

I’m aware that burnout will occur for me. I burnt out after 10 years of teaching dance. I burnt out after 12 years in the real estate/title examiner world. Based on my history, with work and athletics, I am asking myself right now, what would I like to do in the future so that I don’t (hopefully) repeat history and burn out with no clue as to what comes next. I don’t want to have to spend a decade developing new main passions because I lose interest in present day interests. 

If I take the time to nurture a new hobby or two now, then I reduce the chances of feeling lost and with a huge time void with nothing to fill said time. 

Burnout happens. You might fall out of love with the thing you enjoy the most. This doesn’t just happen to athletes. Many people start out in life with 9-5 job they enjoy and by the time they hit their 40s or 50s, they’re looking for what is next. Or worse…they get stuck. They stay because they don’t know what else to do.

What’s next for you? Need help figuring it out? Email me at sarathlete@hotmail.com.  Let’s talk it out.

Sarathlete

Opera and Endurance Sports: Training for Your Mind and Body

I am heading to Chicago today to see a really long opera called Don Carlos by Verdi.

Let’s define an endurance sport as a marathon today and call a finishing time 4 hours. For me, that’d be super fast! The only marathon I’ve ever done was Chicago Marathon in 2011 which took me 6 hours and 58 minutes to finish. The time limit on Chicago Marathon is 6 hours and 30 minutes. I didn’t get a book time, got a DNF and barely got a finisher’s medal. They were breaking everything down when I got to the finish line. Such a bummer in some ways. But there’s the fact that I made it to the finish line and I finished that marathon for ME. No matter what any results say, I know I finished that marathon.

Opera is like an endurance sport for the mind. 

In my opinion, opera is excellent mental training for an endurance sports.

Don Carlos is a 5 act opera with a 30 minute intermission. The total run time will be 3 hours and 50 minutes. Let’s round up and call it 4 hours. That doesn’t include going to a pre-opera talk, or the hour drive up or back in Chicago traffic.

The longest opera I’ve ever seen was 5 hours. I almost fell asleep at one point, but I made it through.

There are supertitles titles in opera if you see them live at an opera house like Lyric Opera. Supertitles are used for live performances. If you see an opera through the MetHD in a movie theater, then you have subtitles to view. Supertitles, used for live performances, and subtitles, used for recordings, project what’s being sung in a foreign language int eh opera into the native language of the audience. The version of Don Carlos I’m seeing today is sung in French, and the supertitles for the live performance will be shown in English.

Four hours of listening to a story sung in a foreign language and looking up and down between a projector to see what’s being sung to know what’s going on on-stage requires a lot of focus. Plus there are many stimuli to pay attention to beyond the story. There’s what’s going on with the music, the singing, the acting, sometimes dancing and trying to make sense of all of it put together. Plus, if it’s something I haven’t experienced before, there’s the novelty of all of it and trying to get through it the first time with knowing nothing about it.

I can train myself in advance for what I’m going to see so I know the storyline before I see it. I could listen to the opera before I go. I can attend the pre-opera talk so I have an idea of what to listen for in the music, know a little bit about the composer and learn a little bit about the storyline. If I really wanted to, I could even listen to a pre-recorded version on Apple Music.

Opera is similar to the mental and physical training you have to put in to be able to cross the marathon line. Let’s say neither are requirements in our life. Opera is a luxury and not compulsory. Let’s say the same for marathon. It’s recreational and not our job. Both could be, but let’s say they are just for fun and not necessary components in our lives. 

Just like you’d train for a marathon over many months to prepare your body for it, especially if it’s your first rodeo is a lot like attending an opera. There is mental focus required in both to get you through the event. There’s a physical component more so in a marathon, but it’s there in opera sometimes just to keep you sitting up and not falling asleep because not all opera experiences are the same (some will put you to sleep). There’s the dreaded lines for the bathroom in either scenario. There’s a 30 minute intermission at Lyric Opera for a reason (i.e. it’s an old building and not exactly optimized for long lines of people who use the bathroom at the same time) just like there are porta-potties along the marathon routes for a reason( four hours and beyond is a long time to wait before needing to use the bathroom.)

If you’re looking for some mental training for your next endurance event plus a chance to flex your mind, broaden your cultural horizons, and have a treat for the senses, I recommend you try out going to an opera. You might find that the skills you’ve cultivated as an endurance athlete might help you get through the long event if you’ve participated in endurance events in the past where you had to sit with yourself for long periods of time and focus on getting yourself across the finish line. If you’re training for your first event, I recommend you give opera a try because it’ll teach you a valuable lesson that endurance is a sport of the body and the mind to cross the finish line. 

At some point, 4 hours in an opera will feel easy. Just like being on an endurance course for 6 hours will feel easy. You have to stick at it. Neither opera nor endurance sports are easy at first, but the more you do either the easier it gets. 

My husband and I are going to hear Handel’s Messiah. My husband is not an opera goer. He said that the Messiah was long. I asked him how long it was because I didn’t know. He told me it was 2 hours and 20 minutes. I said to him, “Oh, that’s nothing.” I should’ve clarified what I said by adding, “Oh, that’s nothing for me, but I understand that will be a lot for you.” 

In sports terms, a 10k feels like “nothing” when you’ve gone a marathon distance or longer. In cultural terms, 2 hours and 20 minutes of run time for any kind of event is “nothing” when you’ve sat through much longer events that require much more focus.

For a newbie in sport or culture, though? A 10k isn’t nothing it’s something. It’s hard. Same with cultural events-2 hours and 20 minutes is a lot to sit through when you’ve never heard a piece of music played for you with a chorus singing. 

Appreciate where you started. 

See how far you’ve come. Appreciate where beginners are at. 

Respect the event. 

Respect the distance and time.

Be humble. 

Remember you were a beginner too and things weren’t always easy for you. 

Know that things will get easier over time, and life won’t always be as hard as it is when you’re just beginning.

Realize if a marathon or a 4 hour opera is easy now, that maybe it’s time to do something new that challenges you like an ultra marathon or learning to play an instrument in the music you listen to in your favorite operas (this is what’s next for me in the culture department).

Always challenge yourself and try to do a little more than you did before otherwise you’ll get bored in your body and mind. Keep moving. Don’t allow yourself to get stuck. If you’re not challenging yourself, then you’re never going to grow as an athlete or as a person.

Sarathlete

Selecting My First Goal Trail Race for My 5k Walk/Run Program and How Being In Recovery Has Impacted My Training 

What’s the point of doing something without having a long-term goal in mind? 

As a striver in recovery, I struggle with this question a LOT. 

On the one hand, I strive with a goal for my efforts in mind. It’s where I shine!

On the other hand, I can get pretty controlling with my training. A bit obsessive. Ok, maybe more than a bit obsessive.

Controlling things was an area of both strength and weakness I found when I was working on the 12 steps of ACA (Adult Children of Alcoholics and Dysfunctional Families).

The thing about recovery for me is learning to face some of my demons in a more balanced way. 

One challenge for me here will be getting ready for trail race, for sure. 

There’s an added challenge for me now being in recovery. Before, I would’ve gone out, done the training and gone beyond what the training program stipulated. Overworked out depending on what was going on in my life.

So, this race means more in a way than races I did before because there’s now an extra layer of an additional challenge of trying to make sure I stay in balance with myself and not overdo the training. 

I’ll be doing the training during a typically difficult time of year for me: the holidays. Thanksgiving and Christmas. This is an incredibly difficult time of year for me. While I can’t predict how I will feel this year, I do anticipate feeling some anxiety and sadness over not hearing from my mother. I’ve invited her to Thanksgiving dinner, and I doubt she will even get back to me on whether or not she can make it. I will also be dealing with the anticipation of my in-laws. There’s also my in-laws. There’s usually some kind of drama or flair-up there as well that causes some discomfort over the holidays.

One of my past ways of being was to take out my anxiety on my body and my training, even if I wasn’t training for anything.

The good things in my favor:

  • Having a targeted race and specific training plan to follow so that I can stay balanced, try to follow the program and not overdo it. I feel the training program is suitable for my body and level of activity so I am not at risk of overtraining and burning out.
  • This race means a lot to me. Seeing I can run a 5k trail race is something I’ve been wanting to do, especially seeing if I can do it coming off of such a horrible back injury.
  • I’m very aware of my tendency to overdo it. I’ve been facing my demons of exercise bulimia and overworking out/overtraining, and I’ve been ok so far. Part of recovery for me has been learning to face my old demons in a balanced way because while the are “demons”, they also make me who I am. Demons represent what makes me me and sometimes the “demons” get me through hard times and are part of my greatest struggles. 
  • I have a recovery coach who I see once a week to help me through my recovery process. When I see my coach weekly, it’s a chance to check-in and hold me accountable. I already talked to my coach about my issues with working out and that I was starting a new training program for a 5k trail race as one of my smaller goals to lead to my main goal which is a 50k trail race. 

The bad things that don’t seem like they are in my favor:

  • The holidays, stress and relapsing into old ways of controlling my emotions by taking my anxieties over family out on my body. Exercise bulimia and overtraining are not new to me. 

Final Thoughts:

Being in recovery and in 12 step has made me more aware of my old ways, and I’ve had to learn to confront them and deal with my old ways and form new habits that are more balanced and aligned with the person I’ve become. I can easily slip into old ways of being, but I have support around me to hold me accountable. Based on my list above, the good far outweighs the bad. I’m pretty sure I’ll be ok with the support I have around me. I believe I can do this in a balanced and healthy way. I think, in some ways, the severe lower back injury was good for me because it showed me how out of balance I was in my life and that I needed to come back into balance with my life in all aspects, not just fitness.

Resource links:

Here’s a link to the race if you are interested in signing up and doing it with me:

https://raceroster.com/events/2023/65857/frozen-feet-5k-trail-run

If you’d like to train with me in real life or virtually, email me at sarathlete@hotmail.com and let me know. Here’s the training program I’m following:

Sarathlete

How Trail Running Went For Me

It felt awesome, a little uncomfortable and fears bubbled up.

I was stronger than I thought.

I was able to run further than I thought.

My body remembered what running felt like after 8 years of NOT running.

My expectations were so low for myself that I wasn’t sure I would be able to do the workout or not. I underestimated myself. Years of low self-esteem was detrimental to myself.

I need better support for my girls. This was probably the most uncomfortable part of the run for me.

Zone 1 training matters. I didn’t realize what a base I’d built for running. Activities like weight training, cleaning, hiking, easy cycling, walking on the beach, you name it, that I did as Zone 1 helped me build up basic fitness and a very good base for starting a beginner trail walking/running program.

This was only one run. Now, I have to get through the next run.

I did something I thought I couldn’t do.

I felt unsteady in my running shoes on the trail. I ran in a pair of trainers with barely any support. I tried on my old trail shoes when I got home (yes I know that sounds weird), and I realized how different any sneaker feels compared to minimal-like trainers. I wear No Bull trainers for gym workouts. I think I might try a pair of Vivobarefoot trail shoes. I don’t want to go back to super-padded running shoes. I might try to keep running in the trainers I have, order a pair of Vivos and gradually build up my foot strength that way with running in my trainers and starting to wear Vivos for everyday use to build up foot strength and then eventually transfer that to the gym and the trails.

I felt scared being all alone as a female on the trails. I didn’t feel that way when I ran on the roads in populated places. The siren feature on the Apple Watch Ultra didn’t make me feel safer because I doubt anyone would be able to hear it where I was at. I think the siren would be great for a woman being alone in Chicago if I felt unsafe, and maybe as a woman on the road, but I don’t think it’s helpful on the trails.

I questioned myself as to why I stopped running. I don’t know the answer even now.

It felt so good to be outdoors on the trails. I could’ve gone further, but I didn’t.

I didn’t respect the time of the workout. I went further. I’m a striver. Of course I went further and didn’t respect the time.

Training based on time vs. distance feels different. Anything I’ve ever trained for in endurance has been based on mileage. The training program I’m doing is based on time spent running and is not focused on distance. 

I ran fasted, and it was perfect for me. I’ve been doing intermittent fasting to help me lose weight. I ran fasted, and it went well. I felt good. As I grow my mileage/time base, I’ll eventually need to add a nutrition and hydration component, and I’m not sure what that will look like on a lower carb lifestyle.

I need to learn how to use my Apple Watch Ultra. I don’t have a clue how to use any of the fancy features it comes with. So, I need to do some research to see how to actually use the trail GPS features for longer runs. Better to learn how to use it first on shorter runs so that I’m used to using it for when I do go on longer runs.

I depend on my husband to lead me around the trails when we go hiking. I’m afraid to go on trails I haven’t been on before because I feel that I have no sense of direction. I don’t know if that’s actually true or if it’s a left-over story I tell myself from a trauma of being lost somewhere at some point in time. But my husband wasn’t there to lead me around today. I took a trail we’d hiked before so I knew my way, and I didn’t get lost. I am afraid of being someplace I don’t know and getting lost. 

I want to build a community of runners, walkers and hikers. I never appreciated the last time I had friends was based around like-minded activities. I miss that, but I don’t see a big trail running/hiking/walking community in my local area. So, I’m going to find those friends and build a community of runners, walkers and hikers.

I probably will never be fast. I’ve never been fast. I’m strong and resilient as ever, and I know I will try my darnedest to cross the finish line. 

I need to pick a goal trail 5k race so I have something to shoot for and a goal to achieve with the trail running program I’m doing. I always do better with a goal to achieve in my life.

Sarathlete

Avoiding Running Again, Starting My New Training Plan Today, Accountability, and Building a Like-Minded Community of Athletes

I’m coming back from a pretty big-for-me injury. I injured my lower back in February 2021. The pain first started with swimming. Then it went away after a few weeks. I thought I’d just thrown my back out from too much stress. Then, in March 2021, I was doing a resistance band workout and my lower back went to the point of pain that I’d never felt before. 

Photo by Kindel Media on Pexels.com

In all my years of activity, I’ve never had an injury that took my breath away, caused me so much pain and incapacitated me for a year to where I was afraid to move because I was in so much pain.

I stopped moving for a year because I was so afraid of this pain. I did everything the medical professionals told me to do: physical therapy, get an x-ray, get 2 MRIs, get two steroid shots, stop moving, start moving again and lose weight.

I just couldn’t understand why my body betrayed me after being active for years and only ever suffering from three injuries and only one of those three injuries was extremely painful. 

Oddly, all three injuries were on the right side of my body. My first injury was the ball of my right foot mostly near my big toe. I was doing a Jive exercise and I slammed my foot into the ground at the suggestion of my coach, and boom – injury. It made it hard to walk and to teach for a while. The injury was around for about a year, but it healed and it was gone. Second major injury was on my right calf and lower leg. I injured it running. It went away after about 6 months. The current injury has lasted over a year, but I’ve seen the pain reduce since the last steroid shot in December 2021. The injury is still there. My body can feel it in my lower back. I’m never comfortable sitting. This injury is something I’ve learned that I must accept and live with. I hope it will heal, but no one has given me a good outlook on that. The last doctor I saw was in March 2022 who told me I’d need a spinal fusion. He said we’d have to work on pain management and trying to make me as comfortable as possible. He recommended I start exercising again and lose 20 pounds.

I was 5 feet tall and 198 pounds at that point. Hearing I might need a spinal fusion got me moving again. Slowly I’ve built fitness back up, and every day I go a little further than before and I surprise myself. I still have the discomfort of the pain and the fear of the pain coming back at the intensity it was at. That shooting pain down my right leg was too much, and my body remembers that pain.

To build myself back up, I started vlogging for one of my YouTube channels with a little vlogger kit and my phone at a local park. The terrain was soft, it got me outside, it got me talking and being creative while I was “exercising.” I put exercising in quotes because it didn’t feel like exercise. I started doing it in March and it lasted until it got too hot outside for me to want to keep doing it. Eighty degrees is too hot for me, and in NWI, that means I stopped vlogging outside around the end of June.

The next step to rebuilding my fitness was going for walks along the beach with my husband. Sand was a soft terrain for me but it helped build up my core and leg strength without impact on my joints. We also started going into the water in July when the weather got warm. I would aqua jog in Lake Michigan or we’d take a walk along the beach where the ambient temperature was generally cooler than it was in the park.

I found my way to twelve step in all of this towards the end of July 2022. I started going to my recovery center and participating in their programs in very early August 2022. They had an outdoor cycling program going on, and I decided I’d try it. I was terrified of the back pain and potential discomfort, not to mention I hadn’t been on my road bike in years.

Cycling turned out to be a blast. I missed two rides between when I started in August and the last ride of the year which was end-of-October 2022.

Cycling didn’t bother my back too much the same way aqua jogging and walking on soft surfaces in the park or beach walking didn’t bother it too much either. In fact, cycling seemed to help it.

I started doing yoga again as well on Apple Fitness + in August. I started to build myself a workout routine that was low impact and had cardio and core and some easy strength.

In September 2022, I did a duathlon. It was supposed to be run-bike-run, and I thought I couldn’t run at the time. I knew I could bike the distance of the race: 12 miles. I also knew I could walk the run portions of the race. The first leg of walking was 1.5 miles. The last leg of the walking was 3 miles. I knew I could do all three things, so I challenged myself and signed myself and my husband up for the duathlon. We did it! We crossed the finish line together. We were the last finishers. That didn’t matter to me. I’ve been the last place finisher at many, many, many races back when I participated in running races, triathlons, and cycling events. 

I was so excited to see myself progress and cross the finish line nearly pain free, that I used it as motivation and kept on going.

My recovery center has a gym with dumbbells, kettlebells, TRXs, boxing bag, barbell weights and some cardio machines like ellipticals, rowers, stationary bikes, and treadmills. 

The first workout I did was mix of boxing and TRX. I walked out after my first workout with very little pain. Workouts have increased in intensity and I have added resistance training to my workout with dumbbells. I even jump sometimes. 

Impact. Jumping. I had to stop doing anything like after I first injured my back.

Jumping got me thinking about running again. 

I asked myself if I could run again?

In October my husband and I started going for hikes and they have increased with distance and intensity.

This got me thinking even more and I asked myself if maybe I could run again, but do it it on the trails this time. Running is high impact, but it would be much softer to do on the trails.

Then I bought Apple Watch Ultra to challenge myself. If I bought this watch, could I train to do an ultra trail race, like a 50k?

I bet I could.

The watch came in and we’ve been getting used to one another.

This whole time, I’ve been avoiding running.

That fear of the old pain is still there.

This blog keeps me accountable. If I put out into the world that I’m doing X thing, then I tend to keep showing up and doing X thing.

So, I’m holding myself accountable today for trying to go outside and walk/run on a trail near my home. Want to join me virtually? I’m not sure exactly how virtual walk/run trail workouts work, but I do know that I can post my training plan on this blog, and people can follow me. I can share my workouts on here, and post my feelings and you can follow me here and on my social media platforms. 

So, here is the first part of my recovery center building program planning and also the details on holding myself accountable for eventually running.

I’m starting with a trail walk/run because I think that will be easier for me than just flat out trying to run the whole time. I’m starting easy and will work my way up. I may not be near a 50k trail distance right now, and my plan is to walk/run that distance, but I hope I blow myself away with my strength and resilience like I have this entire back pain journey that’s been going on since February 2021 and is nearing the two year mark. Yuck.

I may have to live with the pain my body feels. However, if you made it to the end of this post, you will have read my physical recovery story of my body and see i’ve built my body back over time with various methods and that I’m going strong.

You’ll also be reading this line right here: I’m scared of the pain. 

I’ve been saying for a week now that I’m going to do a trail walk/run race. My first goal race is a 5k walk/run. But I’ve yet to go out for the walk/run.

That changes today.

I’m going outside to do it.

Here’s a link to the training plan I’m going to follow if you’d like to do this with me: https://www.atlantatrails.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/5k-training-plan-beginners.pdf

If you’d like to post virtually about your experience, email me at sarathlete@hotmail.com and let me know you’re interested and I’ll create a space for other like minded people to join me.

Something else I’m very bad at is social media. It’s the social part of social media I don’t do so well with. But I’d love to build up a community of like-minded people who are interested in doing some group runs both in-person and virtually. If you live in Northwest Indiana, and you’re interested in guided trail walk/runs or hikes, email me and let me know. 

I’ll build the space once I have interest both in-person and virtually.

My workout today is going to be walk 5 minutes and walk run 30 seconds for 5 intervals on the trails over by Bailly Homestead/Chelburg Farms in Porter, Indiana. I’m really scared of the running. But I’m going to try it and see how it goes. I’m hoping the pain won’t come back and be as bad as I fear it was in the beginning when I first injured myself.

Sometimes I wonder if my body holds onto the intensity of the pain to keep me from re-injuring myself. I remember how much pain I was in, and the fear of that pain holds me back. Yet, when I exercise, I don’t feel any pain at all. No shooting pain. Sure I’m a little stiff in my lower back, but nothing like before. 

I’ll post tomorrow about how this goes. Worst case scenario is that I try running for 30 seconds, discover the pain, and I go back to my car and drive home. I can always stop and go home. I can always walk it if running is too much. I’ve got this, in some form. I have to get out and try though. I hope you’ll join me in person or virtually down the road!

Let’s build a recovery community of like-minded athletes!

Have a good run, walk, hike, bike ride, whatever you do. Get out there and move!

Sarathlete

Apple Watch Ultra Initial Thoughts and Early Review

One of my goals for the month of November was getting an Apple Watch Ultra.

Apple Watch photo that says "Start your first run".
Photo by cottonbro studio on Pexels.com

Quick disclaimer: None of the products or apps mentioned in this post are sponsored or affiliated with me in any way. They are all products and apps I’ve purchased with my own money that I enjoy using.

I received an Apple Watch Ultra with the beige trail loop on Friday 11/4/22. I started wearing it on Monday 11/7/22. I had trouble getting the watch hooked up to AT&T’s cellular plan. If you ever have this happen to you with Apple Watch and a cellular plan with AT&T that’s not new, call for support and ask to speak to a real person. This was a nightmare when I tried to transfer my second ever cellular version of the Apple Watch from Series 3 to Series 6. This time I tried to find a solution on my own, but I remembered the hours of frustration I spent trying to figure it out on my own and had to speak to a representative at AT&T anyways. 

The problem: AT&T doesn’t activate your ESIM a/k/a EID when they send you the watch if you order it online. You do have to deactivate AT&T’s NumberSync on their website. You also have to call and speak to a representative because NumberSync doesn’t work for Apple Watch on the AT&T site. You must set up cellular for your Apple Watch in the Apple Watch App on your iPhone. If the ESIM isn’t activated on your Watch when AT&T sends you the watch then you will get an error message when you try to set up Cellular. The workaround is to call and have support activate the ESIM on your watch and wait with them on the phone to make sure the cellular feature is working on the Apple Watch. To do this, you’ll need to turn off your phone, use another device you can make calls on and have the representative on the phone call your cell phone number and see if it comes through on your Apple Watch (without your phone being on). Then, you are set!

This was a big pain point for me because I suffered with the frustration of not being able to do it on my own. Go figure! I had to ask for help, and that’s something I struggle with anytime.

So, my gripe with setting up cellular on the watch is a gripe about AT&T and not about the actual watch itself. 

The watch has been great. Even though it wasn’t set up with cellular, I did have it on over the weekend and took my phone with me so I could use it tethered to the phone since it wasn’t capable of working completely on its own yet. 

Likes and loves so far:

  • I like the night mode. I use it during the day so there’s less brightness. I use night mode during the day to cut down on blue light. Night mode makes the watch less interesting to always be distracted by. It’s a nice option to turning on theatre mode as a way to not have the screen constantly on and being bright and distracting to me.
  • I like the bigger screen for my eyes. I can make the font bigger, and it’s just easier to see things on the larger 49mm screen vs. the former 44mm screen I’m coming from.
  • Battery life is great so far. 
  • Stat tracking has been awesome. 
  • I like how light the Trail Loop watch band is. I had a silicone band on my previous watch. The Trail Loop band is very light and acts like a seatbelt keeping my watch firmly attached to my wrist so it doesn’t slide around. The silicone band wasn’t as comfortable as the Trail Loop. The slack that I tucked in always poked into my wrist and I never liked it.
  • Sleep tracking and wearing the watch over night was comfortable and I slept through the night without it waking me up. (I’m an insomniac and a very light sleeper and fear anything waking me up during the night. I didn’t wear apple watch to track sleep for years because I was terrified it would wake me up, but it didn’t!).
  • Athlytic app. I’ve never done much with the statistics I’ve gotten from the 5 years of owning Apple Watches in the past. I like the Athlytic app so far and I’m looking forward to integrating its scores based on data analysis on how I should train every day using things like sleep analysis and heart rate variability.

Dislikes and complaints so far:

  • The color of the Trail Loop band. I chose the beige/yellow/light blue one, and it’s really ugly. I struggled to pick out a Watch band I really liked. None of the options were really what I wanted.
  • The Watch feels like it was made for men only. Yes, you can wear it as a woman, but there’s nothing feminine about the watch on the wrist of a woman, in my opinion. The watch size is a plus, but it’s also a negative. It’s huge and really sits prominently on my wrist. With small wrists and forearms, the watch really stands out and that’s a negative for me. I’m not a fashionista, but I do like having a watch that complements me and whatever I’m wearing and isn’t the only thing people see when they look at me. Like, “Wow, that’s a big Watch!”. That is what my husband keeps telling me.
  • The Trail Loop looks like a seatbelt. The aesthetics of this watch band are a negative, even though I like the feel of the Trail Loop Band.
  • The Trail Loop isn’t waterproof. I like to swim, so this was a struggle for me when I purchased the Watch. I’ve never had a watch band from Apple that didn’t dry instantly. I’m keeping my silicone band from my Apple Watch Series 6 so that I can wear it in the water when I do swim. However, for daily things like doing the dishes or showering, the band gets wet and doesn’t dry instantly.
  • The Trail Loop could stain. I’ve never had a watch band that could get truly stained because it was a fabric. My husband made spaghetti and sauce the other night. I noticed I was being extra careful when I was washing out the sauce pan to make sure I didn’t get tomato sauce on my watch band. I’ve NEVER had to worry about stains with any of the other watch bands in the past.
  • The watch face feels heavy on my wrist. I miss the lighter version of the regular Apple watch.
  • I had to purchase a third party app to do anything with data analysis that I do get from the Watch. This is a complaint about any Apple Watch I’ve ever had. If you want to build a weight workout, you need a third party app. If I want to get suggestions about my training based on the stats the watch provides, I have to purchase a third party app. I like having all things in one place, on one platform and one ecosystem. I don’t like having a bunch of different apps to deal with. I wish Apple Watch (not just Ultra) gave me suggestions for my training and suggested ways to track my training without having to purchase third party apps in order to do so. The workaround for this is to use Apple Fitness Plus, which I have and use on occasion. But if I want to track weight workouts, see the next lift I’m going to do on my watch, then I need to buy a third party app to do so. I use Fitbod for these weight workouts. I use MySwimPro for swimming workouts. I use Apple Fitness Plus for yoga workouts.

Things I’m looking forward to trying and things I’d like to see in future Apple Watch Ultras:

  • My first trail run! I got this watch so the battery life would last me for a trail ultra marathon I’m planning on running. So, yes, in a sense, I got the Apple Watch Ultra to motivate me to do an ultra trail marathon. I’m excited about this, and a little scared given the injury I’m coming back from. I ran a marathon and have done other distance events like triathlons and duathlons and cycling distance events, but it’s been a long time since my last marathon (11 years)! 
  • I’m not a diver or skier so those things on the ultra watch mean nothing to me. I paid for the trail running features for both trail running and long distance hiking. 
  • I would love to see a future watch built for an Ironman athlete and a matching watch band to boot. Doing an Ironman distance triathlon is a goal of mine. I’d love a watch that could support and was made for all triathletes for swim, bike and run and has a band to match with the waterproofness of the silicone band or like the old Nike Watch Band that was breathable, but that had the comfort and velcro option that doesn’t dig into my wrist like the Trail Loop has.
  • I’d love to see a lighter version of the watch for women (i.e. a version that weighs less). 
  • I’d love to see a watch that could integrate into your daily life and outfits that doesn’t look so masculine.

So, those are my updates so far and my review, likes and dislikes about Apple Watch Ultra after wearing it for less than a week.

More reviews to come after I do go for my first trail run and also just use the watch more and more day-to-day now that cellular is activated. I’m looking to use my phone less and the Watch more, and I haven’t had a chance to test that yet. That’s another thing I”m looking forward to trying along with my first trail run.

Hope you’re having a great day!

Sarathlete