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Saturday, September 15, 2012

Why I Hate Calories-Burned Monitors

By the time I was done with my highly intense 20 minute, hop-on-hop-off, sprint-a-minute-walk-for-two, interval training on the treadmill, the calories burned monitor displayed a whopping 428!

Yeah, right. 

In the world of fitness and weight management, numbers receive far too much power than they deserve. Calories, pounds, fat grams, carbohydrate counts... (all of that, in fact, is an entirely other topic in and of itself that I could go on and on about, but I digress...) I say- keep math in the classroom, where it belongs and leave the calculations to our accountants. 

If I could, I would smack a sticker that says "enough" on the calories burned monitor of every piece of exercise equipment. Instead of feeling the pounding of our hearts , the beads of sweat on our skin and the endorphin rush in our brains, we look to the digitized number on a machine to tell us good our workout was. 

I don't think so, ya big ol' pile of metal, wires, plastic and rubber! 

"I just burned 500 calories on the elliptical!" Great. Wonderful. But, how do you FEEL? 

When it comes to fitness, let's forget the numbers and reassess the reasons for working out in the first place. 

The truth of the matter is, exercise is a very inefficient way of burning calories. Gasp. I know. A bold statement coming from a personal trainer. But, think about it: In order to burn off the equivalent of one tiny M&M, you have to walk the entire length of a football field. No thank you, I have better things to do with my week. 

So... am I saying that working out is a waste of time? NO!

I don't know about you, but getting in a sweaty session at the gym makes me feel wonderful, regardless of what any caloric-expenditure equation will be able to tell me. 

At an intimidating 5'0", I feel empowered as I feel the heavy weight of cold metal in my hands. The feeling of accomplishment from hauling my body weight up into a pull-up and pressing twice that weight with my legs? There's nothing like it. 

When I'm doing my thing at the gym, I'm not thinking, "must burn off the slice of pizza I had this afternoon." 

...but, rather "wow, my body is stronger than I give it credit for!" and that's what it should be about- appreciating the strength of our muscles and recognizing the awesome abilities of our bodies. 

We should be constantly celebrating our individual power rather than suppressing it by punishing ourselves with diets, workouts that we have to rather than want to do, and telling ourselves we are somehow bad for eating one thing over another.  

I feel sad for those that drag themselves to the gym, miserably trudging along on the treadmill, glaring at the calories burned monitor, waiting for it to reach some magical good-enough number... They're missing out on a chance to really experience what it means to do something wonderful for their bodies and overshadowing a chance to experience a natural uplifting of their spirits by focusing on a number that, in reality, is far from accurate, to be quite honest.

Exercise is a beautifully intoxicating experience that I partake in on most days of the week. I don't do it to manage my weight, change my appearance or balance out my food intake- those things come as a bonus. I do it for me, for the health of my mind and body and to remember that I am strong, able-bodied and powerful beyond what any number will ever be able to tell me. 

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