Numbers.

What size are your jeans?
(how do you feel in those jeans?)

What does the scale say?
(why does it matter?)

How many miles did you run – today? this week? this month? this year? Ever?
(or, how alive did you feel on that run?)

How much site traffic does your blog get?
(how much did that insightful and perceptive blog comment from a friend mean to you?)

How fast did you run/bike/swim that race?
(how proud were you to simply cross that finish line?)

Numbers.

They make the world go ’round.
…or do they? should they? why do they?

We are surrounded by numbers. Blog stats. Workouts completed. Miles run. Comments given. Comments received. Blogs in your RSS reader or on your blogroll. Sizes of your jeans, number on that scale.
…you get my point.

Numbers can be all-consuming. I’ve made it no secret that I can get a little crazy by numbers. Which is why I stopped keeping a workout log. And why I stopped food logging (yes, I log now, but more on that in a minute). And why I don’t closely track my run mileage week-to-week right down to the last decimal point (hence no “junk miles” up in here).

However.

Numbers can also be an excellent tool – a progress report of sorts when working towards a specific goal. And that’s when I think numbers can be invaluable. When they’re used to track progress – but not to gauge success/failure. It’s a fine line, but an important one. Tracking progress means you’re working towards a goal and seeing positive changes that are pushing you closer and closer towards that magical finish line. Using numbers as the one, the only, indicator of success? I think that can quickly become a negative mind game.

Let’s take that food log thing as an example. For me – I started using the food log as a way to help me stay accountable as I worked towards the goal of completing the barre n9ne 60-day challenge. It was my measuring stick to help me figure out how to (successfully) eat for my (caloric) number and it helped me reach very important qualitative and quantitative goals.
…yes – I’ve lost two pants sizes and many inches since starting that challenge last May.
…but the more important goal for me – way beyond the size of those jeans?
…that I am confident and strong and sure of myself. Things you can’t measure with a scale or a measuring stick. Priceless in my book.

So what am I getting at with all of this numbers talk? I urge you all to take a really close look at how you track progress. Does everything *have* to be tied to numbers? Are there any progress reports you can gauge that take a more qualitative approach than quantitative? Hey – I’m not saying everyone needs to be just like me in their approach to numbers, I just think that we could all benefit from stepping back and re-evaluating now and then, yeah? Trust me, I know I’m not perfect and definitely no expert — I’m just sharing what’s been working really well for me…y’know, in case you’re looking for ideas. 😉

…and if you dig this topic as much as I do (based on the length of this blog post, clearly I do!), I’d love it if you’d join me for next Tuesday’s (Feb 7) FitBlog chat at 9pm ET. I’m moderating the discussion and am super excited to hear what you all have to say!

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28 thoughts on “Numbers.

  1. I admit that I care about all of those things. I think there is a definite difference between caring about them and wanting to improve them (and measuring improvement by the numbers) and obsessing over them. I used to check my blog stats several times a day. Now, there are plenty of days when I forget completely. And you know what? The stats are the same. Same thing with the scale really.

    • Yes, I totally agree – there’s a very distinct (but fine) line between obsessing over numbers and using them to your advantage, as a measuring stick towards progress but my hope is that it’s not your *only* indicator of success or progress, just one indicator, you know? I totally don’t blame anyone for using numbers to gauge progress, it’s a great tool — I just see a lot of people both online and IRL let numbers rule them vs. finding a better balance between numbers and tracking and measuring etc., and gauging progress based on more qualitative things like how you feel when you look in the mirror or how that run cleared your head, regardless of the miles.

  2. It’s so flipping true – we tend to base everything around numbers. I know I get caught up in the numbers game when it comes to running (mileage and pace). I guess I’m too lazy to worry about blog traffic LOL 😉 But progress really can’t be measured in numbers. Just because you wear size x, it doesn’t mean you’ve not made progress. Just because you “only” ran x number of miles, it isn’t failure. That’s awesome that you’re hosting the chat btw. I always want to participate but am a total doof at them. I can’t ever remember what app to use to really play. Hootsuite and tweetdeck are too slow.

    • YES – that’s the point I was trying to get across: just getting out there and running a MILE is something to be proud of, let alone multiple miles. And, if your pants simply fit better, regardless of the size on the label, that’s progress. If you walk away from your next run and focus on how exhilerating it was vs. how glad you are that you got in your planned xx miles, that’s a home run in my book.

      re: fitblog – I use tweetdeck usually when I participate but I hear that going to the fitblog chats site and logging in (via your twitter acct) is actually faster. I hope you can join 🙂

  3. I’m a numbers girl myself. I calculate EVERYTHING. Thankfully I’ve gotten better over the past few years. By taking a step back, seeing it all for what it’s worth, and then going back to how I feel has made a world of difference. So hard to find that happy medium sometimes.

    • Ohh I’m very proud of you for taking that step back and re-evaluating the whole numbers thing. Like I said – numbers have a time and a place, I totally get that. I just know that for me, numbers can trigger obsession which I try to steer clear of as often as I can.

  4. I love this sis, and I hope part of it was inspired by our ongoing email conversations about this, and about combatting ‘fat talk’ and turning perceived negatives into positives! We are all healthy, beautiful, and determined. It doesn’t matter what the scale says, it doesn’t matter how many miles we run. we are able, fit and happy.

    • Yes, that convo definitely spurred some of this thinking today. It is SO easy to get caught up in a negative spiral with things like fat talk and numbers obsession. Rather than focus on “I wish I was size xxx” or “why can’t I run as fast a pace as xxx”, I’d much rather focus on an overall sense of pride by basing my progress on qualitative goals instead. In MOST cases anyway, that seems to work best for me.

  5. Bravo friend, Bravo!
    I agree with this post whole-heartedly.
    This post is why I DO NOT own a scale. Why I rarely look at blog stats. Why I am ok with skipping a run if my body is telling me to rest.
    So many amazing points and thoughts to ponder….good post!

    • I am scale-less too! I will admit that sometimes my mind gets the best of me when it comes to skipping a run — but not because it means “missing” my weekly mileage goal or something, but more because I worry that I’ll start slacking if I miss a workout. When really – let’s be honest, I’m not the slacking type and if my body is telling me “no!” to a run, I ought to listen and trust that I’ll be just fine with one less run in my week. MORE than fine, even.

  6. Well done! Great post! Sometimes all the numbers are distracting and detract from the real purpose — to be fit and happy! I’m excited to hear you’ll be moderating FitBlog Chat! Contrats!

  7. Numbers make me crazy, but at the same time make me aware and accountable! I decided I won’t weigh myself in 2012, just because I don’t feel like it’s that important and I want to focus on what do more instead of numbers.
    It seems like it’s SO about balance, just like most things—using numbers to make results happen but not going overboard with them and focusing on the wrong thing!

    • I think that’s an excellent goal for 2012, my friend. So many more important things in life to focus on, and when you look at the big picture – it really does prove how insignificant numbers can be, yeah?

  8. I’m trying SO HARD not to focus on numbers. I still log my food, but not on the weekends so that I can take a break and not be obsessive. I would love to live a “number-free” life eventually!

    • That’s the one exception I have – the food log. To me it’s not so much about the numbers behind the food log but how I use it as a tool to help me stay accountable, vs. saying “oh wow, look at how many calories I ate today…” know what I mean?

  9. excellent post! I used to be a gal consumed by numbers. I no longer count calories or weigh myself or track how many calories I burn bc I get addicted and upset if I dont live up to my own expectations. For me, I live better without the numbers. But everyone is different!

    • Exactly – I can sway towards that addicted/upset side of the equation too which is why I tend to avoid numbers as much as possible. I’m glad that you’ve made the choice that works for you. Like I said, for some – it works well to use numbers to gauge progress, for me? It can detract from the overall experience of whatever goal I’m working towards.

  10. a wonderful post! I don’t let numbers rule my life like they used to. the scale, size of my clothes, etc. like you said, how do you feel in those clothes? I went jean shopping the other day and bought the ones that I feel great in – didn’t give a crap about the size, or attach any meaning to it. but I also agree that numbers can be a great resource when we’re looking to achieve fitness goals – faster running times, etc. it’s a balance!

  11. I admit … I focus on the numbers … whether it be: weight, clothes size, follower count, calories … It’s all about the numbers. BUT I have found this to be a GOOD thing … because well, when I’m counting calories it makes me think more. It holds me accountable to WHAT I’m putting in my mouth and whether or not it’s the BEST choice. So, to me, I’m all for focusing on the numbers! 🙂

    • I’m with you on the counting calories as a way to stay accountable – those are the only numbers I’ve found that work for me, the other numbers (size, scale, etc.), I can do without. But some people would say the opposite – that counting calories drives them nuts, but logging miles, watching the scale is their way to stay accountable. To each his/her own I think – esp with something as touchy as numbers.

  12. Ah. Numbers. I have a hard time with them on occasion…but you’re right…you need them at times to really track your progress. My big thing has been getting over THE SCALE. I’ve really started moving away from the scale and moving toward other ways of measuring my progress. I have a ton of clothes waiting for me in small sizes. I have a measuring tape to measure inches. And yes…I started logging food (haven’t in the past week, since I’ve been battling wounds and colds). I used to obsess over numbers, but what I’ve reminded myself of is this: whenever we get obsessed, step away. Take a break. When you’re done resting, you can get back at it if you need to. Moderation. 😉

    • YES – moderation, amen!! At the end of the day, if you teeter towards obsession, that’s when it’s time to step back, walk away and re-evaluate. Totally agree!! Can’t wait to fitblog it up with you about this on Tues!

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