There is a current obsession with quantifying our fitness–and this is one of the saddest parts of a subject that is very dear to my heart. I love helping people get healthier, stronger, and better. You want to get better and I want to learn how to make that happen.
But there’s the Catch-22 – how do you quantify “better?” The more important question is – should you?
I’m going to go against the grain once again and say no, you don’t need to measure every damn thing you do. I recently heard someone say that they didn’t go for a walk because they forgot their FitBit.
This person is literally a slave to the metrics that quantify their “fitness.” What I understand about habit formation and success with exercise programs tells me that this person is not going to be able to stay consistent over the long term. There’s no freedom, and the emphasis is put 100% on what is measured.
People. Friends. Strangers. We’re all missing the point. Exercise is not a punishment for calories that you’ve ingested. You don’t need to measure every step you take and write it down in a journal for it to have an effect.
Watching your heart rate change on a monitor is likely one of the bigger wastes of time I can imagine. It completely takes the focus off the process of what you’re doing. Is it important to train your heart to be more efficient and effective at pumping blood through the body and transfering O2 and CO2? Absolutely. It’s a very good idea to train your heart. But why in the world are we majoring in minors?
What I Do Instead
Here’s some simple heart-training advice for you without having to stare at a screen for your workout to have any effect:
- Go for a walk (Low intensity, long duration)
- Sprint Intervals (High intensity, short duration)
- Play a sport (soccer, tennis, basketball–high to medium intensity, and medium to long duration)
- Flow (as long and intense as you prefer, just keep moving!)
Unless you enjoy going for a 1 hour run–skip it. You are so much better off doing some cardiovascular activity where you build skills, and have fun doing it. If you bust your ass while staring at your heart rate on a screen, you’re going to eventually burn out–I’ve seen it happen countless times.
I personally enjoy playing soccer, racquetball, Jiu Jitsu, with some weight vest walks and hill sprints thrown in there. It gets the job done, and it’s fun.
Well Max, what if I have goals I’m trying to reach, shouldn’t I write down my progress and measure?
Eh. Maybe. How many goals do you have? Will the fluctuations in your ability change your behavior and planning? Is your goal so complex that you need a detailed progress report every step of the way? I see it as just another barrier that takes your focus away from the process.
If you do have a fitness goal, great–write it down.
Then write down an action plan to achieve it.
These two things are actually important.
Goal: Increase Vertical Jump
Action Plan: Deadlift once per week, squat once per week, practice jumping daily, work on sprints twice per week.
Then just do the damn thing. Don’t worry about the very normal fluctuations (up and down) in your ability to execute or reach the desired goal. As long as you are trending in the right direction, just focus on the process.
This twisted obsession with measuring things actually brings us all further away from things that we truly want. What often happens as a result of this obsession with measuring, is what I call Goal Imprinting.
Imprinting happens to us in a variety of ways through outside influences. In one way or another, an idea will be planted in your brain. This is why we typically share a lot of ideas with our parents–they got to us first.
The same thing happens with goals and measuring. Average Joe benches 225 so now you have to. Average Jane has great arms and she can do 10 pull-ups–so now you have to do it too. You read an article that says you need to be able to do X, or you’re not even a man–now get on it, princess!
Give me a break. If a goal is really important to you, you’ll do the work and engage in the process that will get you there. If it’s not important, you won’t.
The Long Game
When you become a slave to measuring everything you do, it actually can take you outside of the process. This isn’t a very good strategy for LONG TERM FITNESS.
This is the goal that I have for you, and for everyone…sustainable fitness and health over the long term.
How we do this, as I’ve stated in more detail here, comes down to a couple of key factors.
- Prevent Injury (don’t do dumb things)
- Prevent Boredom (do fun things)
- Have the Athletic Freedom to pursue any athletic endeavor (if you can try more things, you have more options)
Ditch the fitbit, stop obsessively measuring everything you do, and just enjoy the ride–it can be pretty damn fun.
Better every day,