Poll: Do You Avoid the Clock When You Exercise?


By: , SparkPeople Blogger
  :  360 comments   :  28,476 Views

I loved teaching Spinning classes at my alma mater's recreation center. The equipment was state of the art, the sound system was superb, and the students packed into my 6 p.m. classes and loved the challenge of a 60-minute ride. There was just one clock hanging in the room—off to the side and behind most of the bikes—yet there was a handful of students who would ask me to remove the clock from the wall during class. I guess they didn't want to look at it during class, but couldn't stop themselves from doing so. When you're working out and you don't absolutely love to do so, it can be downright discouraging to feel like you've put a dent into your workout goal, only to look up at the clock and see that you're not even a quarter of the way through. Ugh.

Where I teach now, there is no clock hanging in the Spinning room at all. The only clock available is lying on the floor by the instructor's bike, for his or her benefit alone.

This led me to wonder: Do you watch the clock when you exercise?

We all familiar with the idiom that a watched pot never boils; I think this applies to the clock when we're exercising. Think about the time or agonize over how much longer you have to go, and the minutes will seemingly tick backwards. Am I right? Usually, I challenge myself to go as long as I can without looking at my watch when I'm working out. Why? Because feeling like you've made a lot of progress only to find out that you're not even close doesn't make for a good workout. This holds especially true if your workout is extra challenging, boring or something you're making yourself do (versus something you WANT to do). I feel this way sometimes when I'm testing new DVDs that aren't particularly fun or I'm taking a class at the gym that isn't holding my attention. "Just ignore the clock," I tell myself over and over.

A few weeks ago, I was gearing up for my long run, which I always do on the weekends when I have more time available. I got all dressed up in my winter gear, strapped on my heart rate monitor, put on my Garmin watch and…it was dead. Oh no! I was a crossroads: To exercise without a watch (my workout buddy) or to give up on my workout for the day because I wouldn’t know how long I had been out or how fast I had gone (major motivators to me). I opted to run anyway, and like a recent winter run I did without my iPod, I could only go as fast and as long as my legs wanted to take me. I couldn't rely on my watch. I had to tune in to my body, estimate my distance, and not let the clock dictate how far I ran that day. It really made me think about how we impose time limits for the duration of our workouts. Is it because we really don't have the time to do more (like before work) or is it because we WANT to stop? How far would we all go if we covered our elliptical consoles with a magazine or ignored the clocks on our gym walls and simply listened to our own bodies and how we felt during our workouts?

I don't mean to get all new age-y on you, but from someone who always watched the clock (with dread in most cases), that watch-less run was pretty freeing, and I hope to forget the clock altogether more often (as long as I'm not facing a time constraint). I have a feeling that I'll enjoy myself more and focus on the moment—and how great it feels to move my body and develop strength and stamina—than what the face of a clock is trying to tell me.

How about you: Do you watch the clock during your workouts? Does it make the time go by faster or slower? Are you willing to try a time-free exercise session?

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  • 310
    Like others here, I do watch the clock because I have to get to work. - 2/1/2010   11:36:53 AM
  • 309
    At home, I am a clock watcher, and you are right, time does drag by, it's like the workout will never end!
    But in my Zumba class, we don't have time to look at the clock, and the hour is gone before I know it..sometimes it feels like it is over before I am ready for it to be..
    So watching the clock does make a difference. - 2/1/2010   7:17:58 AM
    I'm a clockwatcher! I love my Nike + for my ipod and have such a hard time running without that extra motivation of knowing my distance and pace. - 1/31/2010   10:49:43 PM
  • 307
    I am usually exercising with my Turbo Jam videos and there is a count down on there, so YEAH I watch the clock! - 1/31/2010   8:58:13 PM
  • 306
    I try not to focus on the clock, makes the workout go faster and more enjoyable. - 1/31/2010   2:07:17 PM
  • 305
    I avoid the clock whenever possible, I like to use the elliptical, blast my mp3 player and close my eyes. It really helps with breathing and the rythum of the music controls your speed. I take occasional looks but try going like 10 songs instead. the clock drags on If your watching it. The only exception for me is interval training, because they run in 10 sec increments! - 1/31/2010   9:43:16 AM
  • 304
    there isn't a clock at the gym where i workout. the first couple weeks i was there i would look at my cell phone a couple times to see how much time had gone by. but now i'm free from the clock, and enjoy my workouts so much more. - 1/30/2010   11:31:47 PM
    I am guilty of watching the clock, but I am going to give it a try without watching it. - 1/30/2010   9:19:56 PM
  • 302
    I only watch the clock if I am at the gym before work. If it is my day off I will not look at it and even cover it if need be. my work outs are much easier when not looking at it. - 1/30/2010   8:54:23 PM
  • 301
    The clock is the enemy. When I'm working hard and trying to push it when the last thing I want to do is workout...what feels like 25 minutes has only been 5, what feels like an hour has only been 15 minutes...etc. The best thing for me to do is go through two full songs before being allowed to look at the clock. - 1/30/2010   4:05:20 PM
  • 300
    There is a clock on the wall at the gym - facing my favorite treadmill. I HATE IT. Actually, I love working out so much that the clock keeps reminding me that my time is almost over. I don't want to spend more than 2 hours in the gym at a time and the hated clock makes sure I don't. lol - 1/29/2010   6:30:42 PM
  • 299
    Another clock watcher. I find my self watching the clock most when I am over exerting myself. - 1/29/2010   5:37:23 PM
  • 298
    So ironic...me reading this post today! Just this week I headed to the treadmill (a little bit of struggle that day), WITH my heart rate monitor and my ipod firmly affixed. Never go without them! As I'm checking my calories burned 30 minutes in, I think to myself, WHY am I checking my calories burned? I found myself letting how many calories I'd burned dictate how much longer I should run. After this realization I thought - how insane! I still felt great, my body could go longer, however, I found myself thinking if I've gotten to my calories burned goal, I then had the choice of whether to go longer, or not. Craziness! That day I kept going for another 20 minutes, or so, and felt great! Well said..."focus on the moment"! - 1/29/2010   11:12:06 AM
  • 297
    Good article, i have never really considered not looking at the clock. I workout for 45 minutes, i dont go by distance or calories burned so i have too or i wouldn't know when to stop. It can be motivating to me, i know around 20 minutes i will get my second wind. If i'm getting tired i know it wont last long until i get another burst of energy. - 1/28/2010   9:45:12 PM
  • 296
    It depends on what I am doing. If I am in a class like spin or boxing I might glance at the clock once, but I am usually too busy, & into what I am doing to notice too much. If I am on a machine it's in my face so I can't help but pay attention. Also I do interval training on the treadmlll so the clock helps me. If I am running outside I usually will look once or twice because I am limited by time. - 1/28/2010   9:32:03 PM
  • 295
    When outside, I mark my progress by landmarks, not time. I start the stopwatch on my cell phone and forget about it until the end. I try to beat my time the next time.

    I hate treadmills because everything looks the same 4 miles later! So I end up obsessing over the time display. I'm only willing to use the treadmill when it's super cold or super hot outside. The main use for the thing is letting my dog work off extra energy on it. - 1/28/2010   8:08:27 PM
    If I am doing cardio on a machine I can't help but look at the clock constantly. If I have a towel or something with me I try to cover it up so I don't check every second and get discouraged. I love classes because they normally keep me engaged enough to not know or care about the time. - 1/28/2010   2:46:42 PM
  • 293
    I always watch the clock but most of the time I'm trying to do better than I did the time before. Just a personal challenge and motivator for myself. - 1/28/2010   11:45:58 AM
    I look at it, but don't find it discouraging at all. I play little games with myself like trying to get a certain number of calories in a minute. And now I'm doing the Couch to 5K program by time so I need to watch the clock so I can time running.
    In a class, I'll glance at it occasionally but I'm usually surprised how much tim ehas passed! - 1/28/2010   12:23:35 AM
  • 291
    I watch the clock on the treadmill incessantly, I can't help myself. Sometimes it's helpful, but more often than it makes the workout feel like it's dragging. I think treadmill minutes are longer than regular minutes. - 1/27/2010   9:56:25 PM
    I pedal on a stationary bike, and my husband built a little book or magazine stand that fits right over the console so that I can read while I pedal. I don't WATCH the clock --- that WOULD discourage me -- but I like being able to check it at some point during my "ride" to see where I'm at time-wise. Usually by the time I look I've only got about 10 or 15 minutes left to go, so THAT is encouraging! Of course, right now I'm only pedaling for 45 minutes. I hope to get up to an hour in the next couple of weeks. - 1/27/2010   9:29:36 PM
  • 289
    I usually work out in the mornings before getting ready for work so I do watch the clock so I will leave the gym on time to go home. - 1/27/2010   8:29:20 PM
  • 288
    The Wii has a timer and the time seems to fly by! - 1/27/2010   3:24:12 PM
  • 287
    I have to look at the clock because I work out during my lunch break at work, but I do find that if there is good high energy music playing, I look at it less often and have more energy to work out harder. - 1/27/2010   11:25:25 AM
  • 286
    When i get ont he elliptical i cover the timer with a magazine, even if i dont read it.....there is a wall clock right in front of me but i try to avoid it...generally i am listening to my ipod so i will pass the time reading the subtitles on the tv.....i find that judge judy is really entertaining when you read what they are saying.... - 1/27/2010   10:10:01 AM
  • 285
    Yes I do watch the clock but I am more in tune to the music, most of the time I go over because I am so caught up into the beat. - 1/27/2010   9:01:56 AM
  • NPAUL929
    I always look at the clock when I work out, especially on the treadmill. After about 15 minutes I want to get off, but I say, "20 more minutes." Those 20 minutes come around and I say, "I'll go 15 minutes more." Before I know it I have my hour in and then I walk for 1/2 hour. Could not do that without watching the clock. I know that if I did not watch the clock I would stop sooner. - 1/27/2010   8:51:32 AM
  • ALI4215
    yes..............always. - 1/27/2010   8:34:37 AM
  • 282
    i try not to,but end up looking a lot - 1/27/2010   5:26:48 AM
  • 281
    If I'm looking at a clock while I'm doing something, then I think it's a chore that I want to finish as quickly as possible. Have fun, ditch the clock, and see how you did when you're finished ! - 1/26/2010   8:04:26 PM
  • 280
    I look at it compulsively. Every 15 seconds. When I'm on the treadmill anyways. If I can run outside, I pay much more attention to distance than time, which is MUCH more pleasant! - 1/26/2010   7:00:30 PM
  • KATIEY686
    I set the time on the machines and then read the subtitles on the news. It keeps me distracted for enough time, but towards the end I am constantly looking down to get ready for a cool down. - 1/26/2010   3:19:16 PM
  • 278
    I do look at the clock. But only for the fact that I don't have all day to exercise. There are a lot of days that I could go on forever. Like when I go hiking in the mountains unless I am with my son and then the complaints come in from him. Then I look and see if we execised enough, because his complaining gets to me. I am sure if there was something that I didn't like I would look. - 1/26/2010   11:14:52 AM
  • 277
    I definitely watch the clock in a negative way--like can I quit yet? I don't use it to motivate me to improve my time. I just don't think that way--not yet, anyway. So for me, no clock is better. Yesterday I took a weights class that was really, really hard. I kept telling myself, "Don't look at the clock. Don't leave early. Just do your best." - 1/26/2010   10:35:52 AM
  • 276
    My two forms of exercising are walking my dog and riding my exercycle. When I walk my dog we follow a set route, so I don't need to watch the clock.

    When I ride my exercycle, I set a timer for 20 minutes, turn on the TV and watch a news show. The time seems to go faster when I'm distracted. - 1/26/2010   8:41:49 AM
  • 275
    I don't usually watch the clock unless I'm out for a walk and that's just to make sure I'm not over or under-doing things since most of my workouts are specifically timed. - 1/26/2010   8:37:07 AM
    Watching the clock, for me, is death to exercise. I have to set a timer and exercise so I don't see either the timer or any clocks. The reason: I get bored about ten minutes into any basic indoor aerobic exercise. Now, outside, I love being outdoors and so I can walk for hours; inside, though, I get cabin fever and cannot wait to quit.

    The best way to make my exercise time fly by is to read while I'm doing it. - 1/26/2010   2:15:56 AM
    I find that I watch the clock for the first 15 minutes or so, often thinking that "my bod doesn't want to do a full workout today." Then, after I am fully warmed up I forget to watch the clock and quit thinking about avoiding a full workout. Also, I started doing the New Leaf metabolic program at the YMCA so each workout is designed to maximize ramping up the metabolism. It requires a lot of attention since each cardio session cycles at varying lengths and heart rates. It requires so much attention that the time flies by and you really feel a sense of accomplishment. I am much happier and more productive when I am too distracted with something/anything to remember the clock. - 1/25/2010   10:59:15 PM
  • 272
    Great article!
    I'm about a 50/50. I have distances I do outside, and usually I just check before & after times, unless I'm trying to go for extra speed. Since my exercise times are 1-3 hours... nah, I don't watch it all that much! I only go for upping my speed when my arthritis is backed off- not during the rain months that we are in now. If I'm in a gym- yes, I do watch the time more, cause that's more like 'work' for me. - 1/25/2010   10:23:16 PM
  • 271
    I watch the clock for a variety of reasons. 1) I only have two hours of daycare for my kids, so I need to make sure I get everything done, including my shower! 2) I'm highly competitive, with myself. I want to see how many calories I can burn, how many repeats I can do... 3) I often get up early to go to the gym or do my long run before other family commitments so I need to be done by a specific time. - 1/25/2010   10:18:59 PM
  • 270
    I don't watch the clock much unless I have somewhere to be.
    I walk on my treadmill and put a DVD series in and just start walking and when I am finished with the show, I slow down and stop.
    It really helps by keeping me distracted and I don't watch the time go by because I am into the show. - 1/25/2010   9:50:15 PM
    I use the time for when, but not for how long to work out unless I have to be finished by a certain time. When my friend and I walk or work out, we share funny stories and laughs until one of us decide we should wrap it up for that session. Then we the time is revealed, we are often surprised about having worked out so intensely for so long, because it never seem as long...the timeless results are great!

    *** No...Slower...Yes*** - 1/25/2010   8:18:24 PM
  • 268
    I set my timer on my IPhone so I'm defiantly watching it. - 1/25/2010   4:55:24 PM
  • 267
    i always watch the clock! its not always a good thing but i run/walk for certain time periods so i watch it to know when to speed up and when to slow down. - 1/25/2010   3:49:04 PM
  • 266
    I definitely am a clock watcher, especially when I jog. Don't like doing it, but it gets results for me. Even when I don't have a watch or clock to look at, I know exactly how many minutes has passed at the end of each song. Guess I need to change my playlist! - 1/25/2010   3:31:36 PM
  • 265
    Time just drags on and on if I'm watching the clock, so instead on the bike I set it to my speed, it seems to be a good motivator for me, I got to quit watching the clock though, I think I would do more if I did. - 1/25/2010   2:34:44 PM
  • 264
    I try to avoid looking at the clock during my exercises because I kind of like the thrill of looking at my clock and being surprised bacause I did like 60 mins and didn't really realized it. - 1/25/2010   11:44:03 AM
  • 263
    I am in a timed group fitness class, but I do glance at the clock, now and then. When I exercise on my own, I have a set time, I want to do, and check the clock, from time to time, but I'm not so much a clock watcher. The time goes by, faster, if I don't check the clock often. - 1/25/2010   11:31:02 AM
  • 262
    I try not to but I do sometimes glance at the clock. I usually try to distract myself by focusing on the workout itself (especially if I am in a fitness class) and my breathing, or if I am on the elliptical or the dreadmill, I focus on podcasts, music or the gym's TV. - 1/25/2010   11:21:34 AM
    Oh I am such a clock watcher! But I do have to say that sometimes it actually motivates me. I look at the time left and tell myself I can do 10 more minutes at least. Another 10 minutes goes by and I repeat the mantra. As for running, I've never brought a watch with me while running. I usually have no idea how long my runs actually are. On the weekends I make myself run a long ways away from the house before starting back. That way I can force a long run out of myself. At least that's what I used to do.

    After a hiatus of several months, I am back to the Spark. I stopped my running and I gained 7 pounds. I went for my first longish run yesterday (much shorter than usual), but it was a start at least. Maybe having a watch would have inspired me to run a bit longer. - 1/25/2010   11:14:30 AM

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