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The Numbers Racket

Tuesday, March 08, 2011


When I was a young construction laborer during college summers the other laborers were “playing the numbers” everyday. In some areas it was called policy, it was a illegal penny ante form of Lotto America where you put three to five numbers on a slip of paper and gave that and your money to a runner. The way you won was if those numbers came up in sequence as the last digits in the attendance at whatever horse racing track was in season.

While it is not exactly the same I see people playing a version of the “numbers” everyday hoping that they will win the battle of the bulge and lose weight. As you review the forums you see “how many”, “how long” ”how can I burn more calories” “what is the best machine to burn the most calories” “why are the numbers on my scale not moving?” You see posts “ I burned 1000 calories doing this magic workout” “I did two hours on the elliptical” “my HRM was reading at the top of my heart rate zone” or “how can I burn more calories, how much time do I need to add to my workouts?”

This is a numbers racket which has no substance or meaning when it comes to becoming lean, fit and healthy. While they may be talking points or a claim to bragging rights they measure nothing. In a worst case scenario they may lead to a false sense of accomplishment or even to the delusion that some form of progress is being made. Tick of the check marks, paste up a gold star for effort on your chart.

The real indicators of commitment and progress are a completely different set of numbers, numbers which do have meaning. Numbers such as a change in measurements or clothing sizes, numbers as to how many calories you consumed and not the artificial values of what you think you may have “burned” have meaning and value. Your heart rate monitor says X, what was your RPE ? How many pounds did you use for an exercise today versus two weeks ago? How many circuits were you able to complete versus when you began doing the programme?

The numbers between our toes measure the force of gravity and tell us nothing about our body fat percentage or level of muscularity. Your BMI is a measure of your fitness and the lower your percentage of body fat the fitter you are regardless of the number between your toes. After a quality workout assessing what your RPE was for that workout is a key to its quality.

To get away from the numbers racket the question to ask is not how many or how much but rather how good was my workout.

Thus endeth the sermon for the day. All say amen.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Amen, and thanks for the reminder!
    2964 days ago
  • no profile photo SKINNYTEXAN9510
    Great blog! That is definately true and something that I need to work more on. Thank you!
    2964 days ago
    Amen and Hallelujah !

    Now, if we could just get more people to understand that there is more to good health than a number that stares at them from between their toes in the morning. Part of the problem is that we've been conditioned to believe that thin is in. These days, how your body looks carries more weight (pardon the pun) than what your body can do.

    2967 days ago
    I totally agree; people focus on quantity and irrelevant numbers instead of on quality and the numbers that truly matter. It's a re-education process - people have to re-learn what real fat loss and fitness involve. Everybody's been conditioned to believe the wrong things.
    2967 days ago
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