If you have Facebook friends like mine, your newsfeed is filled with end of year stats on number of miles of swimming, biking and running done this year. It’s great! People are active and they are celebrating! There are some folks who target a number and go for it, and some who are squeezing in those last miles at the end of the year to get to a number.
I won’t be posting my totals. Don’t get me wrong – there is nothing wrong with chasing miles or celebrating numbers. Chasing numbers can be very useful. They can be a carrot when motivation is low; I used them that way this year when I challenged myself to see how many miles I could walk, following a surgery that prevented me from being able to run.
But that being said, there are potential downfalls to chasing numbers:
- It can end up detracting from our goals. When you wrote your goals down at the beginning of the year, if you wrote “I will run x miles”, or “I will run more miles than last year”, or “I will start running regularly”, then congratulations! Your mileage reflects your goals! But if you wrote “I will improve my swimming technique”, “I will improve my pace over x distance”, or “I will achieve certain race results”, then purely chasing miles will not get you to your goal, and may hurt the process. How well you achieve your goals at the end of the year will affect how good you feel about your year.
- Chasing and posting mileage invites comparisons. I’m not worried about what others think, I’m worried about what goes on in my head. Guess what? I didn’t run as far as my pure runner friends, or bike as far as my pure cyclists friends, and I’m absolutely sure I didn’t swim as far as my pure swimming friends! Does that change how I feel about my year? No! I did what I needed to do to accomplish MY goals.
- Chasing miles can lead to injury. The same is true for streaks – running every day for x number of days. Both blunt my ability to respect and honor the needs of my body, and they do not allow for adaptation time that is required for me to reap the benefits of my work.
- Numbers do not reflect quality or the true pursose of the session. They are a very one dimensional view of training.
And yes, I totaled my miles this year, because I was curious. It was interesting and fun, and I’m amazed at what happens with the accumulation of daily effort. What do my miles represent? I hope they represent an honest effort every day to accomplish the intent of each workout. Did I do my recovery runs slowly? If not, I failed the workout. My workouts should reflect my goals, and if I have given every workout my best effort with attention to the intent of the workout, the results will lead me toward my dreams and goals.
So, go ahead and total those miles and post them! It’s a strange and amazing thing, the number of miles we cover in the time it takes the earth to circle the sun - both athletes and planets in motion. I like reading the posts and celebrating with you!
But if you didn’t accomplish your goals this year, make sure you aren’t chasing miles for mileage sake. If you did accomplish your goals, but reading all those posts make you wonder if you should do more mileage, remember – you accomplished YOUR goals! That’s worth far more!
Coach Susan Ford lives in Tennesee and coaches runners and triathletes as a Pursuit Athletic Performance coach, in addition to her work as a veterinarian. Her own inspiring journey from an always-injured and frustrated triathlete to one that is strong, durable (and always finishing at the top of her age-group in every race from 5k to ironman) is a remarkable one. To learn more about Susan and her coaching services, go here.