Why Numbers Don’t Add Up
- By Morgan Horton
- June 13, 2019
Fly’s Founder, Jenni Bruning Brown, hasn’t weighed herself in over 10 years. She doesn’t count calories or keep specific track of her weekly workout stats, even though she’s been in the health and fitness industry for over 20 years. It’s an approach that carries throughout Fly studios as well, she says, and for good reason.
“You will always find a clean & beautiful environment filled with supportive & awesome community members plus killer workouts at Fly, but you won’t find a focus on data trackers or mention of weight loss,” she says. Why? Dr. Bruning Brown says there are many reasons to steer away from focusing on the numbers as your primary motivator:
- Numbers don’t tell the whole story. When it comes to weight (as one measure of numbers), many people are healthy but the numbers don’t reflect their health and fitness level. First, as you work out, your body will build muscle & often this results in weighing more on the scale. If you try to use numbers on a tracker, your device might indicate how many calories you’ve burned or your heart rate, it doesn’t reflect how you feel. Dr. Bruning Brown says that if you think about your energy, or your flexibility or what you can do in your life that you couldn’t do before you were working out regularly, you will have a more holistic & rewarding picture of what workouts & fitness do for you. Do you have more energy to play with your kids? Are you less tired at work? Can you go for a run without gasping for breath after a few minutes? She says that looking at the whole effect, instead of looking just at that number is much more important. Taking a minute to examine what your workouts & your workout community do for you & focusing on what you have gained rather than what you are trying to lose makes it more positive overall. Once you can let go of the number, you’ll be able to tap into parts of yourself both physically & mentally that are out of reach when you’re narrowly focused on stats.
- The number results are often short-term. Focusing on dieting, calories or completion of a weight loss challenge puts everything into an externally evaluated, guilt-producing, short-term goal. And, unfortunately, many who are trying to lose weight or get in shape are more in need of self-growth & increased self-confidence than being a few pounds lighter, which are long-term & internal goals. Neither of those are addressed when looking primarily at the numbers. Also, because weight loss isn’t easy, people often feel like they’ve failed & they lose confidence if they don’t lose it. They end up yo-yo dieting & focusing on the external rewards when what they really want is to feel good about themselves.
Dr. Bruning Brown says while looking at the numbers is an easy solution, it isn’t the best one. “Often the numbers distract from real progress. Instead of asking ourselves if we feel strong or energized from working out, we have gotten into the habit of tuning in to our data & tuning out from what’s really going on,” she says. Her suggestion? Try to focus on the internal benefits such as strength, resilience and commitment to goals, so that we’ll make long term progress instead. Besides, if you hit a numbers goal, it doesn’t change your day-to-day life or amount of self-love.
- Numbers can actually work to decrease motivation instead of increasing it. Think about those times when your heart rate went really high. Did you slow it down? Did you think you could push harder? For some, thoughts of “wow, I’ve never gotten that high,” can cause them to slow it down and not push past boundaries. Dr. Bruning Brown says the psychological phenenomena of “comfort zones” causes people to stay where they know they will be okay, rather than to push themselves. It’s what happens to golfers who can’t break 80, or when a runner can’t break a 9-minute mile. Comfort zones keep us comfortable, and unfortunately they keep us from making progress.
The same is true when you see a number on the scale. Gyms that focus on “slimming down for summer” or that have scales in their bathrooms can leave their members feeling demotivated, distracted & constantly in an external tug-of-war. Dr. Bruning Brown suggests that instead of watching your weight or heart rate, actually look at & listen to your body. “Try to get in tune with how you feel to measure your progress & push yourself past your internal boundaries instead of letting your numbers hold you back,” she says. If you can’t feel your heart racing in class, just try to push a little harder & see what happens when you do. Or, use your last month’s plank to measure this month by holding it a few seconds longer. Instead of motivating with weight or numbers, find motivation in your performance, do things with perseverance & extended commitment to yourself.
While you won’t find a weight loss challenge at Fly, you will find killer classes & a major burn in any of our sweat sessions. Join us to fill up your cup, get motivated & stay strong.