Filling in the Connected Fitness Gaps with Apple Shortcuts
I've written pretty extensively about my connected fitness setup, Oura ring, and Apple Health integration, but what I didn't talk much about is some of the manual steps I have to take in my quest to log accurate data. I focus on trying to track as many things as possible - workouts and sleep of course, but also water I drink, medications I take, and nutrients I consume. A lot of this is a manual process, but I've started to build up some Apple Shortcuts to help me out.
Caffeine & Water Tracking with Ember
I use an Ember mug for most of my tea (not a big coffee drinker), usually Earl Grey. Ember has an integration with Apple Health where it logs the caffeine I drink to the health database after I finish a mug. This is handy, but I also try to closely track how much water I drink, which Ember does not do. I tried a few approaches to tracking this. First, I tried out some NFC tags that, when scanned, log a health sample based on which tag I scanned. This was a bit too tedious for me, and finding somewhere to put the tag that would be convenient proved difficult. The long-term solution ended up being an Apple Shortcut.
The shortcut is simple on the surface: When I close the Ember app, look for caffeine logged, and then log an equivalent amount of water. In practice, I wanted to make sure the process was robust, so I needed to protect against duplicate data, and provide a way to make sure I could go back in time and log old records in case the shortcut doesn't run for a while. The shortcut I came up with gets caffeine records logged by Ember for the past 7 days, checks if an entry for water has been logged for that specific timestamp, and if it hasn't, record the water I drank.
To store which records I've already written, I used Data Jar, an app by Simon Støvring. I use this one as the backend to a lot of my shortcuts and highly recommend it.
Now, whenever I close the Ember app, any caffeine that's been logged is automatically also logged as water drank. Pretty simple! You can find this shortcut on my new Apple Shortcuts library.
I've never been one for multivitamins, but I recently got a 30-day supply of morning and evening performance vitamins from Life Time Fitness for free, so I figured I'd give it a go. If you know me, you'll know my natural first instinct was to track how much of each vitamin I take each day, to quantify any impacts on my training. Unfortunately, I was a bit disappointed to find out there are no good apps for logging this sort of data to Apple Health. I went back to Shortcuts, and created two to precisely log how much I take: Log AM Vitamin and Log PM Vitamin.
These two shortcuts simply create one health sample for each nutrient in the vitamins. I was happy to see that Apple Health allows for tracking most of the vitamins included in the pills. Now, running the shortcut allows me to quickly log vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E, vitamin K, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, folate, vitamin B12, biotin, pantothenic acid, calcium, iodine, magnesium, zinc, selenium, copper, manganese, chromium, molybdenum, and vitamin K2. Whether or not taking these has any effect on me is still up in the air, but at least I'll have the data to back it up.
Rather than trying to do deduping logic with a persistent state, these two shortcuts simply have a confirmation prompt before running so protect against accidental activations. You can find both the AM and PM versions of this shortcut in my Apple Shortcuts library.
Miscellaneous Health Data
The Apple Health app really isn't designed for easy use by humans. It's first and foremost a database, so entering data manually can be frustrating and error-prone. Rather than try to log data manually when the need arises, I tend to create shortcuts instead. I have one to log arbitrary amounts of water in case I drink water from a bottle other than my smart bottles, or drink wine, beer, or anything else throughout the day. I have one for logging cycling distance when I ride the stationary bike at the gym or my Peloton at home. I even have some for pulling reports, such as how much caffeine I drank in the current day. Any shortcut that I access frequently I add as widgets for convenient access.
With a little practice, Apple Shortcuts can be a powerful tool for fitness tracking. In the future, I'll share some other shortcuts I've built to automate other tasks that don't just relate to health and fitness. In the meantime, let me know if you have any unique shortcuts that make your life easier!