Over the past few years I see a very strong trend of measurement around me. People measure a lot when it comes to their health. They measure how long they sleep, how deep they sleep, how far they ran, in what pace they ran, how many steps they took, what their heartbeat rhythm was, and the list goes on. Lately, I have been having some serious doubt when it comes to all this measuring. Does it really bring more benefits than downsides? I think this may differ per person, but in general I’d say the answer is no. Here’s why I personally don’t measure my sport performances or sleep.
How I started measuring my runs
During the COVID-19 pandemic I completely stopped exercising. It was not good for my health at all, but that’s what the pandemic did to me. I was very inactive during that time. But after a year, I felt the urge to exercise again. And so, I started running. It felt amazing. Better than ever. Which was great, because I had never really liked running. When I started running at that time, I also started measuring my runs. I measured how far I ran using the app Strava. That’s what everybody around me did and it seemed logical at the time. Strave is an app which tracks your sport performances and I wanted to see my progress.
In the first year, I made a lot of progress. I went from running once a week to twice a week and I kept running further and further. But I had a time limit. My goal was to be able to run 60 minutes (two times 30 minutes), because that is the duration of one handball match. And once I hit that 60 minutes, the distances I ran started to stagnate. Very logical, because I just ran for one hour every time. And from that point on I noticed that if I had a good run, I still was disappointed in myself if I did not run further than I did the previous time.
Why do I measure?
I kept feeling that way after each run. I would have a good run, which made my body and mind feel very good. However, once home, I opened the app to see how far I ran and then my whole mood switched to disappointment. It was very discouraging. It made me think: why am I measuring how far I run? What do I gain by knowing whether I ran 7 or 8 kilometers? I am not training for a specific goal, I train for longevity. I want to keep running for the rest of my life. One hour runs, once or twice a week. It’s about maintaining the fun and developing a habit that I will keep until the day I die. Measuring how far I run is not necessary at all and so I deleted the Strava app.
Why do we measure?
Me deleting Strava made me think about this bigger trend of measuring all kinds of things. Our sleep, our exercises, our walks, etc. If you train for a specific goal, it’s great. But I don’t understand why we should measure everything if we don’t act on the information? Great, you ran 10 km, but what does it matter? Should we not focus on having an active lifestyle in general? And should we not focus on how our bodies feel? Should we not focus on having fun while exercising?
Nowadays I feel better after running. I know how my body feels, so the distance is irrelevant. I also don’t care about my pace or my heartbeat. After a run, I am just happy that I moved that day and I focus on fun. When I think about it, it’s the same as I do with handball, which I have been playing for about 15 years now. I never focussed on how many goals I scored or how far I ran during a game. I just played, to move and have fun at the same time. And besides sports, when it comes to sleep, I feel the same way. Why should we measure how long and deep we’ve slept? Should we not feel how good we’ve slept once we wake up? I think all this technology is making us lose contact with our bodies.
So, I personally feel like ordinary people like me, who train to stay healthy, don’t need to measure everything they do. I understand that it’s all very nice. You know, I am also excited if a device tells me exactly that I slept very well. But you know, I don’t want the device to tell me that. I want to feel when I slept good. And I want to feel whether I need some more sleep. I don’t think we ordinary people gain anything by knowing more and more, because it doesn’t ever stop. From distance, we go to pace, from pace we go to heartbeat. What comes next? What will we measure the coming decades?
Downsides of measuring everything
I already listed one reason as to why I don’t measure my sport performances or sleep: I think we lose contact with our bodies. But that’s not the only disadvantage. I think there are two more. One is the fact that we’re always using devices. More measurement means more analyzing and more screen-time. I honestly don’t think it’s healthy to keep devices like a smartphone, smart-watch or anything else on you all the time. I’ve read very often that the radiation from your smartphone is not exactly good for your health. It’s recommended that you do not keep your smartphone with you in the bedroom. For multiple reasons. I think that reasoning goes with a smart-watch and other devices too.
And then there’s the sustainability aspect of this issue. The more we measure, the more devices we need. These devices need to be produced and that causes a lot of negative impact. I don’t think it’s realistic to have so many devices. If every single person were to have that many devices, I don’t think the earth will be able to take it.
And last but not least: not measuring everything makes room for other things. Being in the moment when you run, laying down in bed to sense how your body feels, etc. I think simple is good. A minimalistic lifestyle personally brings me a lot of joy. Minimalistic in the sense of stuff, but also in the sense of focussing on what’s really important. For me it’s not important to measure how far I run or how deep I sleep. That’s why I don’t measure my sport performances or sleep.
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