Crunching Some Numbers

Just a warning: this is a bit of a rant post.  This is what happens when my brain goes into a bit of an overdrive.

Since when did math have anything to do with running?  I mean running is really just putting your left foot in front of your right foot and then repeating until you feel like puking.  Isn’t it?

I’ve been thinking a lot about numbers for some reason.  Now I’m not big on math; at all.  So it was a little odd that numbers kept popping into my head on my last run (yes I said it… er…wrote it)  See I’ve come to realize that some of the numbers are quite innocent and some are disturbingly sinister.

Back to the numbers: distance and time are no brainers.  I mean you want to know either how far or how long you want to, or have to, go.  I used to care about speed but once I figured out what pace was I never looked back.  Except when I’m on the treadmill and then I care about speed because you don’t want to get speed and pace confused.  That can be disastrous.

It seemed that the more I ran and the more I tracked, the more I wanted to track.  Suddenly I wanted to know what my heart rate was so that I could keep myself in the anaerobic zone…or is it aerobic zone?  Meh keep my heart rate around 150.  Elevation?  Yup want to know what that is.  Incline and decline?  Hell ya.  For some reason my watch likes to tell me how long it’ll take to recover.  I don’t listen but I like to see what it says.  It even rates my performance.  I’m not quite sure what a rating of 41 is but it stays there a lot so I guess that’s good.

So those are all good things to track.  I mean you don’t have to get so in depth but they offer concrete evidence to guide future training and are awesome to look back to see just how far you’ve come.  We need to do that more: to look back and realize that at some point, you smashed through barriers that you had put up and you KEPT GOING!

Then there are the more insidious numbers that come up.  I had gotten into a bit of a discussion after my last post about not counting calories.  I had been doing that hardcore when I decided to drop some weight a few years back.  I faithfully entered everything into My Fitness Pal and sure enough, I dropped weight.  I dropped a lot of weight.  It was all weight that needed to come off and a little bit more.  I wasn’t anorexic or bulimic but given how tall I am, no one believed me when I told them how much I had weighed.  Quite a few people, especially folks that I hadn’t seen for a little bit, would take me aside and ask me if I was “okay” in that really soft voice that asks without asking “what’s wrong with you?”  Hang on…I decided to take control of a life that I was unhappy with and I did and you’re asking if I’m sick?

I hadn’t realized just how much the calorie counting had become a bit of a crutch for me.  It was an element of control.  On one hand it was great for making me aware of everything that I was eating and tracking my exercise because for some reason my estimates of how much I burned when walking the dogs was no where near what the app said.

But your weight affects your running so that’s another thing to track.  And because I don’t keep callipers handy to measure body fat, I was taking various body measurements.  Not to track athletic performance but to track weight loss.  I was almost discouraged when there was minimal loss even though I was running or lifting more than I ever had.

Other numbers pop up like weight, BMI, clothing sizes.  All these ways to categorize us.  To pigeonhole us.  To try and sell us on another magazine that promises you’ll lose five pounds by Christmas right next to how to score the big O.  (I think I may do another post later on ranting about body image.  Thoughts?)

So what got me off the measurement train?  I don’t know.  Part of it was realizing that I was not happy.  That my joy was not dependent on a number.   That I was never going to win a race and that took the pressure off to win and just to do.  That even though I was skinnier, I was still me and still single.  So why confine myself to salad and water if I want a massive effing burger and beer?  Just as long as I don’t eat one every day.  I know that I do better with nutritious food but I also know that treat foods are just that: treats.

Do I still track my food?  I took a bit of a break because it wasn’t enjoyable.  I have put on a few pounds but I know why and I knew that would happen when I went on a two week road trip with my dogs and ate pie for lunch.  And barbecue.  And frozen custard.  And donuts.  And you know what?  I’d do it again.

Because what I’ve come to realize is that when this whole crazy trip called life is over, it can’t be measured in numbers.  There’s no formula that you can scribble on a board and go “Yup had a good one”.  Now I’m not saying that everyone should go crazy and chow down on everything and anything because you still have to keep that machine of a body moving until the end.  All I’m saying is that it’s a crazy world out there and you have to enjoy it while you can because none of us are getting out alive.  So you might as well eat some cake.

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