Many times when we begin working towards a new fitness or health related goal, we put stock in the numbers and use them for motivation. We look at how much weight we have lost, the clothing sizes we dropped, calories burned, miles completed, or weight lifted to show us and drive us toward success. It is so easy to get caught up in the numbers.
Numbers are simple to calculate. They provide a sense of control and can give us confidence when the results are positive. When we see the scale drop or we visibly improve our workouts with a higher calorie burn or longer workout we may feel confident in the concrete evidence that numbers provide. A goal, such as losing a particular number of pounds is often preferred because we feel we can determine our success by counting calories. The desire to run a faster race or increase workout intensity might be important because numbers verify our improvement to ourselves, and possibly even others. Just as it is understood working forty hours a week will result in a specific dollar number deposited into our checking accounts, we will ideally determine progress from the calculated effort we have given. Society is driven by numbers to validate us, from our bank accounts to how many friends we have around us or on Facebook. So it makes sense we would depend on numbers in our fitness goals as well.
While numbers have their place in helping to motivate us, there are many issues about them as well. Sometimes they are inaccurate. For example, many factors can affect the number on the scale any given day. Other times numbers may decrease motivation because the number goals are unrealistic and end in frustration. It is difficult to continue to strive towards a goal you feel is impossible. And sometimes, numbers are even detrimental to our health when we want to achieve more, more, more and end up pushing ourselves past our limits.
I am not denying numbers can provide helpful information. They are a useful part in determining progress. For example, marathon runners need mileage goals; someone striving to improve his or her health may need activity goals; and bodybuilders typically have weight lifting goals. The issues with numbers arise, however, when you can’t see past them to other more fulfilling means of motivation and a broader goal outside of the numbers. There are a few things you can do to help shift your focus away from solely the numbers and towards other rewarding approaches.
Prayer, meditation and reflection - Prayer and reflection can serve to put things in perspective with your goals and life in general. It can relieve the stress that may be deterring your drive. It also is a time to be inspired and reminded that you are a valuable part of this world and have something to offer. Reflecting on a bigger purpose can encourage you to work towards becoming the best version of yourself.
Don’t forget your current progress - Think about all the accomplishments you have made already. When you remember how far you have come, it can open your eyes to your potential and that you are capable to continue pushing and achieving your goals.
Never lose sight of the bigger picture - Most of us start a goal for a worthy reason. Remember why you started your journey. Don’t allow your weight loss goal to become strictly about fitting into a smaller pants size. Keep your focus on the improved health and energy. In goals of increased strength or accomplishing a new race distance, don’t work for self-importance. Instead concentrate on your passion for God, the sport, others and the desire to accomplish something you never thought possible. Let the same initial spark and passion you felt at the beginning motivate you every day.
I have personally experienced the letdown of using numbers for my entire source of motivation and have fought to change my perspective. Last summer, I decided to enter a fitness competition. It was a goal I had dreamed of achieving for quite some time and I felt it was the perfect time to start. My daughter was almost a year old and I had made progress in reaching new levels of fitness over the time since her birth. It felt natural to take things to the next level and finally pursue a longtime goal.
The process of training for the competition really brought me down. I went from working out because I enjoyed it to counting the hours I put in each week so I could reach the “necessary” amount of time for my training. I went from eating wholesome foods I loved and having a balanced diet to nitpicking over every calorie that entered my mouth. I wore a body monitor to assess my daily calorie burn and I would control my day’s activities with my daughter based on what burned the most calories instead of what made her happy. My mood each day depended on what the scale read during my daily weigh-in. I would find myself stressing out if my measurements didn’t decrease the previous week or two. I obsessed with the numbers and became a very unhappy person.
Once my competition ended, I had no desire to go to the gym or worry about what I was putting into my body. I utterly lacked motivation. Then it hit me. One morning during my prayer time, I felt God reach out to me. I felt like he was telling me that I am wonderfully made and should honor that. I began praying each morning for God to help me treat myself with respect, which would include eating well and being active for my health instead of my size. I understood that my body has a purpose and my experience with the competition did as well. I realized that I should be an example of healthy living, including a healthy mind-set, to my daughter. God can then use me to support others. Understanding how much God values me makes it easier to value myself as well, which is extremely motivating.
To base your achievements on numbers does not give you the full picture. It makes it easy to forget the primary reason we should be living a healthy lifestyle or pursuing a fitness goal. Our motivation shouldn’t be to achieve some number; we need to treat our bodies with respect through a healthy lifestyle and daily celebrate the one life we have been given. You are not a number. The purpose of your life is not determined by a number either. Shift your focus to an eternal perspective and find lasting motivation.
is a woman of many passions. She grows her faith by leading a discussion in an adult Bible study at her church. She enjoys staying home with her young daughter and husband. Fitness and healthy living have been part of her life for a long time. When she returns to full-time work she plans to help others achieve their fitness goals through personal training. She is the writer behind the healthy living blog Faith, Fitness & Fun
where she discuss many topics from fitness and nutrition to motherhood and faith.
TALK WITH OUR EDITOR. Marisa Shadrick
is the Women’s Interest department editor for Faith & Fitness Magazine. She is hands-on about health management and enjoys encouraging women through her writing and public speaking. HAVE A STORY IDEA OR QUESTION? Send Marisa an email
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