I recently downloaded a running app (Runtastic) on my phone that tracks your distance, calories burnt, average and top speed. I’ve become mildly obsessed with it — each run I want to go a little farther, run a little faster and burn more calories. Last night I finished an 8.3 km run in 46 minutes, and immediately cross-referenced it with my last run — 8.6 km in 46 minutes. What’s more is I’d only burnt 468 calories in comparison to 483 calories. And shoot, my average speed was 10.8 kph but last time it was 11.1 kph. This inner dialogue of self comparison left me feeling unaccomplished. It was impossible to feel good about my workout if I didn’t improve on the numbers this app generated for me after each run. I became too focus on these tiny details, I forgot to actually consider what I had accomplished.
These minute differences in quantities, which are likely not to be significantly different, distanced me from the bigger picture: how did I actually feel after completing my most recent run? Well for starters, my lungs felt like they may explode and my left hip throbbed; I was tempted to take a nap right there and then on the sidewalk. What good is running to beat your top score if you don’t feel on top?
This time of year can bring on extremely toxic and counter-productive thoughts. We all want to get trim and toned in light of the summer season, but for what purpose? Are we trying to live up to some standard that “bikini body guide” Instagram accounts advertise out of socially constructed ideals? Not to say that working on your six pack, or losing 10 pounds, or doing 40 push-ups is necessarily a bad thing, but becoming obsessed with those numbers might not be doing us a lot of good. Of course, it’s an accomplishment to be able to bust out 30+ crunches in 30 seconds — but I’d rather feel good about keeping my gaze straight up as not to strain my neck, and keeping my back flat against the floor to care for my spine if it means I only do 10 crunches in 30 seconds. I’d rather make fitness choices that are going to serve me and my body, and tend to what is important.
Image Source: Pinterest
Yes, we should workout to build our confidence, and working out harder, faster and stronger may serve that purpose. But confidence building comes with being able to do more in our day-to-day life, experiencing less pain and more freedom in movement, and actually feeling good after a workout. Fitness should help us with our quality of life, such as cardiovascular health, ability to sleep, attention, mobility, stress levels, mental well-being and digestion, among others. Fitness should not just come with the motivation to satisfy and reduce our success to numerical values.
In our busy lives, we only have so much time to dedicate to fitness, so why not approach our workout regime in a loving way that values what feels good over what looks or sounds good? Sometimes what serves us and our well-being is coming home and doing a low-key workout like going on a short bike ride, or doing some restorative yoga. Sometimes what serves us is going to sleep at 9:30 over trying to squeeze in a workout at all. These apps are a great way for us to monitor our health, but don’t read into the numbers to the point where you lose out on feeling proud that you are taking care of yourself. So as you cultivate your fitness practice for the summer, make sure you feel good about yourself over feeling good about the numbers.