No Data, No Cry
A few days from the equinox, spring is nearly sprung. The cherry blossoms unfold and evenings stretch their legs. Through the dark months, us endurance honks—me, sort of—have chained ourselves to treadmills and other torture devices, following our workout plans with religious fervor, every heartbeat, watt, and calorie tracked and logged.
A recent cartoon poked fun at the endurance crowd. It depicted a lycra-clad athlete boasting about her workout stats: 162bpm, 524 watts, over 10,000ft climbing. Blah, blah, blah. Question marks encircle the other person’s head. To which they ask, ‘But did you enjoy it?’ She glances at her watch; ‘it doesn’t say.’
Data-obsessed athletes, or those living with one, know this scenario isn’t far from the truth.*
This is because enjoyment is a feeling, unmeasurable by a watch. Imagine this: the combination of these metrics should peg your enjoyment at 7.5. What? In fact, hyper-focus tracking of your bike rides or XC ski, can remove all the pleasure from the experience, turning it into a second job. Blame Strava!
As a recovering data-addict, I understand. That being said, data has its place. Objectively knowing that we have improved over time is useful. Just not every single f*&%#ng day!
Nearly Eaten By a Lion
Every so often to change things up, I drive to a destination with my bike. One time, I forgot my training watch. Give me a second, just the memory of it makes me shudder. Embarrassing to admit, I literally froze. Except a hungry lion wasn’t lurking in the bushes. The threat was more dire. My mindset had calcified. I believed that if I didn’t track my ride then it obviously didn’t happen.
Once I beat my entitled ass in the parking lot, I saw my problem for what it was. Doing the thing had completely detached me from my enjoyment of it. Once the panic subsided, I realized my legs and bike could actually function without a watch. So off I rode, but let me tell you, those first watch-free miles were wobbly. And you survived? Barely.
Post ride, I didn’t scroll through my workout data. Instead, I noticed my thirst, tiredness, and heavy legs, there because I did a monster bike ride, not because some arbitrary numbers told me I should be feeling those things. Notice the difference? The shit gets crazier. I recalled the crunchy gravel under the tires, the heat blast as I crested the hill, the raccoon that cut me off mid-descent. Beyond my forgetfulness, nothing is remarkable about the day, yet the memory still hangs around. Hmmm?
Forgetfulness is Bliss
Then an even stranger thing happened, I ‘forgot’ my watch the following week. Pretty soon I forgot it every time. Comparatively speaking though, without tracking my workout data I am slower now—yes triathletes, you were right—but on the flip side, my enjoyment of exercise has shot through the roof. To my mind, that’s a solid trade-off.
IMHO, the only data us weekend warriors really need is a rough idea about time-in and distance. That’s ample. Don’t worry, our hearts (and legs) will tell us if we crushed a workout. However, if you simply love tracking your heart beats, power, and O2 saturation then do it. Who am I to tell you otherwise? Just don’t let it become more important than doing the thing you love to do. Got me?