Lately, as I have been trying to run less and listen to my body more, I have found myself constantly thinking about miles. It’s become a bad habit ever since I started tracking my training, but I am always thinking about how many miles I want to run each day and how many I will complete that week. So even though I’m not following a training plan right now, I can’t stop thinking about these numbers! It can be a good thing, in that it keeps me from running too many miles, but it can also be really bad- when I want to do just 1 or 2 extra miles to hit a certain number that day or week.
Last Saturday as I headed out for my “long run” I thought about doing 8-9 miles, because that was a natural progression from the 8 I did the week before, and also a gradual increase in my weekly mileage. Saturday morning was bitterly cold and windy. I thought about running on the treadmill, but really wanted to get outside. During my 1st mile I considered quitting, only because of the cold. I realized I had been running directly into the wind, so it got a little better when I turned to face another direction. As I tried to figure out how many miles to run, if not 8-9, I kept thinking about how many miles it would make for the week.
Why would that matter at all? It doesn’t! It’s just become a habit that feels impossible to break.
How counting miles is like counting calories
It reminded me of how I used to count calories in my head. I have no idea when it actually started, but my guess is around the time I graduated college and all the hype was about low-calorie and low-fat and moving into the low-carb mindset. I would pick up an issue of a fitness magazine and it would tell me that I should be eating 1200-1400 calories per day.
Thinking about it now, it seems absolutely ridiculous! 4 years ago I was using MyFitnessPal to track my food and calories. and even when I wasn’t using that I was adding them up in my head. Honestly I didn’t even realize I was doing it and never thought it was weird until I realized that I had STOPPED doing it. When I started training for my first marathon, I started to feel like I didn’t have to worry about calories because of how much I was running. Even though at the time I wasn’t eating the best quality food, it was definitely a good thing that I wasn’t as concerned about my calorie intake.
It wasn’t until about two years ago that I truly became free from this habit. I began focusing on eating nutritious foods and from there I didn’t have to worry about calories. I realized that if I was eating the food I needed, everything else would balance itself out. From there, I stopped weighing myself too. I realized I was feeling better physically and had no concern about a number on a scale.
I’ve been thinking that my obsession with miles is similar to this past obsession with calories.
It’s useless and anxiety-provoking. If I was running the miles that I needed to run to meet my goals in a healthy way, then the numbers would follow. If I trained by doing a few hard workouts a week with a few days of easy miles and a long run, the miles would add up to my “magic” mileage amount, whatever that might be for me at the time.
So what am I going to do about this?
Since I am being totally open and honest in this post, I don’t plan to stop counting miles. I might say that I will, but my brain will still do it. Just like I couldn’t force myself to stop thinking about calories because it was something I automatically did. However, at least for now, I’m going to try to take my running one day at a time, and see where that gets me. As much as possible I will try not to have a planned mileage per day- other than a maximum amount of time that I have before work on weekday mornings. Maybe, starting with this approach I will eventually be able to move towards thinking of my running in terms of quality instead of quantity, just like I was able to eventually do with food.
I still have this on my fridge. I wrote here about how I saved it during my first marathon-training.
Does anyone else get obsessed with calories and/or miles?
Do you plan out how many miles you will run each week and then feel like you have to stick to it?
Thanks to Amanda for allowing me to “think out loud” about all of that!