I’ve been thinking about the role of measuring and counting in motivation today.
Since I posted about speed and the burpee challenge here, I’ve been wondering what’s a reasonable number of burpees to do in a minute. LiveStrong suggested 30 but that seems impossible to me. I said I thought 20 seemed like a good goal. So when the challenge is done that’s still only five minutes of burpees a day.
But what’s funny is that a minute of burpees seems oddly easier than doing 15, even though in my last minute I did 17. And that’s strange. I wasn’t about to stop. The clock was running!
I think I might be the same way if I were timing how long it took me to do 15 burpees.
But to just set out and do 15 with no timer…that’s hard! Sometimes when I just set out to do 15, I change my mind and settle for 10, putting off the additional 5 till bedtime. And that’s silly.
A few years ago I bought a simple timer for doing Tabata style workouts. There a good Guardian article about them here. They’re hard. But again, for me, without the timer they wouldn’t work at all.
CrossFit uses both these styles of measurement. Some workouts have a fixed time and you do “as many reps as possible” (AMRAP) in that time. Other workouts have a set number of things you need to do and then you do them “for time.” This helps you compare your past performance with your current performance and track improvement.
Now I have a timer on my smart phone and an android app for logging Cross Fit workouts. I always have my “Fran” time close at hand.
I’m not sure why measuring and counting has such a great motivational effect. With timing, I think I just tell myself that I can do anything for a 20 seconds or a minute and with more minutes, I try to pace myself.
Pacing is key in athletic performance. A flying lap at our local velodrome takes under 10 seconds but you want to have nothing left, to go all out for those seconds. A 500 metre sprint takes longer but still under a minute but you don’t want to run out of steam before that minute is up but you also don’t want anything left in the tank.
So measured workouts aren’t just motivational, they’re also educational as they teach you what your body can do.
How about for you? Do the numbers help or hurt your motivation? Do you like to count and measure? I see some people at the gym who cover up their treadmill information screen that gives them speed and timer data but those people kind of baffle me.
Try it and see what works. Compare a) just do 20 burpees with b) 20 burpees for time and with c) what’s the highest number of burpees you can do in a minute?
Which is most motivational? Which is the least?
I know that for me both options “b” and “c” beat out “a” big time. But then I’m a bit of a data geek when it comes to fitness. So is Natalie who guest posted on our blog about why counting makes her geeky heart happy.