I am a person who loves figuring things out. I like answers, and realistic figures and being able to come up with reasonable reliable solutions. But not in the mathematician or Excel Spreadsheet-master sort of way– I purely like the simplicity of having a definite outcome, which acts as a sustainable source for future reference. For this reason and this reason alone, I didn’t mind math back when I was in school. Also for this reason, coupled with a sharp ability in visual memorization, I developed an apt for numbers–numbers capable of practical application in the real world as it pertains to health, fitness, and performance.
I write this not to bore you, nor to take you through a tedious calculus lesson, but to offer a means of escape–escape from something that perhaps subconsciously may be “weighing” you down. Let me elaborate on that idea for a second, so you can get a better taste of the point I am trying to reach…
For years, the scale was the enemy. A thin medal box that held secrets capable of ruining an entire week’s worth of effort. A creature that hid in the dark depths underneath the bedside table, only to be brought out often as the bearer of bad news…hesitating for a moment upon receiving a standing presence, its dials moving back and forth as if it had some control over your center of being–like a magnet playing with the key to your soul. For so long, I placed value in the scale and its “magic numbers.” There came an outward praise for a reading deemed “good,” yet coupled with a secret luring of dissatisfaction from within.
Funny how we tend to place so much self worth in a device so inconsistent, and in a number we are told is regretful or acceptable.
While the scale is by far the most prime example I can emphasize with regards to “sticking to your numbers,” there are all sorts of other “scores” we tend to give ourselves in life. Some of these standards, milestones or checkpoints are wonderful motivation and sometimes necessary for intervention purposes. It is when we let the pressures and unrealistic expectations control us that these numbers can become obsessive. Clinical values such as blood pressure, fasting glucose, cholesterol and other blood-test results are types of numbers that are often necessary to keep track of. Assessments that include body fat percentage, lean mass, total body water, and BMI can be great for beginning an exercise plan and for documenting results. Keeping a detailed running log with specific mile splits and personal best times can be a very useful tactic to stay on track with a training program for a half marathon or a 5K. Knowing just how many arm strokes it takes you to complete a one lap swim can benefit your 50m freestyle. But if you already possess quite an avid competitive nature, some of these practices involving numbers may eventually get to your head. I know this, because by attempting to better myself and my athletic performance, I unintentionally found myself trapped in a sudoku puzzle filled with society’s pressures and my own expectations.
I remember the first time I went for a jog without a watch strapped to my wrist…
…with the the wind in my face and thoughts flowing freely, I noticed the bright blooming flowers in the tops of the trees along the side of the road in my very own neighborhood. I could hear the light consistent pounding of my feet and rhythm of my breathing. I cornered the same familiar bend I veer around every morning, usually around 7.23 minutes and counting. But this time, I hugged the curb free and unattached, lengthening my stride and reaching for more.
Although I still use numbers as a reliable source of progress, they no longer dictate my being. Placing too much emphasis on hitting targets, adhering to a confined regimen, or building explosive statistics can cause fitness (and other endeavors) to become more of a pressure rather than a choice. My time, place, rank, weight, score, dimensions, Facebook likes, age, or track record may hold some sensible significance for a scrapbook someday, but they don’t deserve to rule my life. These values definitely serve their purpose under specific circumstances, and can also gain appropriate praise or provoke essential calls to actions when necessary. But I would much rather strive towards something greater than a number on a screen or a figure on a scale. Reality is, I’m only one person–one mind, one opinion, one thought, and one heart. But sometimes, in the sea of scrutinizing self-criticism, you’re not the only one. Sometimes, amidst all the comparison and continuous counting, one is simply enough.
You are worth so much more than a numerical value. Your presence in this world matters. Your thoughts, your hopes, and your dreams are worth sharing.
So know your numbers, in as much detail as you choose. Just know when it is safe (and sometimes favorable) to forget them. Be the one you can always count on.