How I Used to Track Exercise
I used to track exercise by placing a star on a twelve month calendar. I could see how many days I worked out in one glance. It was nice. It worked. I thought that was good enough.
Then I Discovered Run Keeper
I like to track things: My to-do list, my exercise, my writing, my children’s antics. I downloaded Run Keeper (free) so I would know how far I was going during runs and walks and so I could keep track of my weekly mileage.
The app provided kudos when I’d beat my best time or best pace or furthest distance. I quickly became obsessed with beating my last time.
The Moment That Almost Broke Me
A few nights ago I did a hill that is quite tough due to its steep grade. It is approximately 2.5 miles round trip. I start by going down. It is too steep to run down without the old knees taking a beating. The return is up, up, up with no level spots to ease sore muscles. Not a one. And it hurts. So of course, I like to do it because I know what muscles I’m working and it’s great exercise. I hate it for the endless up journey, but once I get to the top, I’m proud I did it.
This timeI walked the hill with my thirteen-year-old twins. In the past they stayed with me or dragged feet behind. Something happened since those younger days, they didn’t walk alongside me. They didn’t drag feet behind. Instead, they blazed ahead.
When we reached the bottom and turned around for the butt-burning journey back up, my boys stayed with me for all of, oh, ten yards. I huffed and puffed. I kept my head up, but my eyes down. It’s my way of not crying when my thighs are on fire and I realize I’m not even ¾ of the way up. Now, I had done the hill nine days before and it wasn’t so bad…not great, but not like this death beckoning battle. Plus, I had been exercising between visits. And yet, I felt like I wasn’t going to make it. I struggled putting one foot in front of the other, I forced myself to keep form, slight lean forward, smaller, quicker steps, abs engaged. And I still struggled. I thought it was the heat; It was sixty-five degrees out, so my body reasonably felt like four-hundred degrees. Either I was going to either have a heart-attack or I was going to spontaneously combust.
Then I lost visual of my sons after they rounded one of the first corners.
I flipped through every motivational phrase I could think of, I told myself I was strong, I had done this hill before and by-golly I would get to the top. When all that failed to help, I counted. Whenever I lost count, I started over. It’s a great mindless way for me to pull my head out of the pain and pretend like I’m not doing anything other than counting.
Eventually, I made it to the top. I found my boys sitting on some stairs in all their middle-school sassiness, “Geez, what took you so long?” Too pooped to pop them upside their heads, we made for the truck. I was proud of persevering, but frustrated that it had been so hard.
The Glorious Realization (tracking showed the progress)
The next morning, I pulled up my Run Keeper stats and checked the last three times I climbed that hill. I compared it to the previous evening’s battle. I had beaten my best time by three minutes and 46 seconds. Let me say this again: I PR’d by THREE MINUTES AND 46 SECONDS!!!!!
I never would have thought I could have done that hill faster. It hurt. I struggled like I had stepped back in time and was doing that hill for the very first time. But, since Run Keeper kept track for me, I found the reason for the struggle. I am in better shape. The exercising is paying off. That and I was pushing to keep up with my boys, who received hugs for pushing me.
Track your exercise and push yourself. When you’ve struggled through a routine and feel down on yourself, check your stats. Maybe you pushed out more reps than usual. Or you went further than usual. Or you went faster than usual. You won’t know if you don’t track your progress.