Week one of training for my winter and spring races is in the books, and I am excited to embrace the upcoming challenges of this training cycle. I know I’m a few weeks early, but I’ve made some resolutions for this go-round. I am determined to keep a positive attitude and embrace all aspects of the training. I will run slow on my easy days. I will look forward to the long runs twice a month on hills in higher altitudes. I will love long fartlek workouts and that awful hill at the Boulder Reservoir. And, I promise to do all of the additional stretching, strengthening and core exercises to make me a more efficient, injury-free runner. Those are all the things I resolve to do.
But there is one thing I resolve I won’t do this time: step on the scale!
Up until last winter, I was obsessed of weighing myself daily. Same time every day, same scale, completely naked. I kept a spreadsheet of my daily weight, complete with comments. My morning weigh-in ritual consisted of the following: step on scale; lean left; lean right; lean forward; lean backward; hold breath; and use the lowest number. Sometimes, I would repeat after realizing I was still wearing my earrings or my Garmin. After all, those items may add .0000001 ounces to that total number, and I simply couldn’t have that. That digital number flashed to me by that cheap piece of equipment in the morning, set my mood for the rest of my day. If I was pleased by the number, I was in a good mood; otherwise, that disappointing number was etched on my brain. To re-iterate:
The number on the scale dictated how I felt each day.
If the number on the scale flashed XXX.X, I was ecstatic! I am getting into shape, and I feel leaner and stronger. If the number on the scale flashed YYY.Y, I was unhappy. Something must be wrong. What did I eat or do yesterday to make this number go up? Even if it was up by .1 ounces, it was still higher. I’d spend my entire day thinking about that number and why it was that number. It consumed my thoughts and just made me feel down throughout the day. Never mind that I nailed my intervals that day, my boss gave me praise for completing a work assignment, or my dear hubby surprised me with flowers just because he felt like it. I was still in a bad mood, all because that number wasn’t what I hoped it would be.
In February, my left hammy started acting up and started screaming at me while in the middle of a 16 mile run. I had to limp home in the freezing cold which hurt like hell. At that point, I was also at a much lower weight, and one could assume that perhaps my body was telling me something. Subconsciously, I was probably restricting calories. I kept telling myself that the bad hammy was due to indoor riding on my bike. I think it was that too, but obviously, this was a sign that perhaps I was starting down a bad path. I stopped weighing myself, partly because I knew that not running would affect my weight, but also because I realized that I was being silly.
It took me some time, but I realized that the number on the scale really is just that, a number. My scale does not talk and even if I splurged on one that did talk, I’m sure it would just tell me the number out loud. The scale doesn’t acknowledge the fact that I hammered that five mile tempo run earlier in the day, and it has no idea what an Ironman is. It’s not going to tell me that I am a good friend or caring wife and daughter. And, it certainly won’t give me kudos for that work promotion. Heck, it will completely ignore that fact that I increased my bench press 10 pounds from last week. In summary, it is a number and isn’t the only way to measure success in life.
I don’t want to give the impression that I’m completely ignorant of my weight. But, I don’t feel like I need a scale to confirm whether I’ve gained or lost weight. I have mirrors and clothes to serve that purpose. If my clothes feel tighter, I have probably gained a little. When I started to lose weight, my watches feel looser, and I have a little dimple in my chin that appears. I tend to keep a fairly healthy diet consisting mostly of veggies, good fats and lean proteins, but I do have indulgences and that’s ok. I try to watch portion sizes and fuel when I need it and stay away from foods that make me feel ill. It’s really that simple. I won’t incorporate that past obsession into this training cycle, and I refuse to judge my fitness based on the number on the scale.
Some athletes keep close tabs on their weight so that they can carefully balance performance and injury prevention. The scale can be helpful for those who are overweight and are making changes towards a healthier lifestyle. The scale isn’t evil, and it can be useful for some. It just isn’t for me and fortunately, I realized it before it was too late. I don’t recall the last time I weighed myself, and I’m fine with that. I’m much happier and rid myself of unnecessary stress in my life.
What is your relationship with the scale? Does it dictate your mood? Are you ready to join me in staying away from the scale this training cycle?