Numbers matter. There is no denying in sport at any level an abundance of numbers are critically important. Time, distance, speed, position, minutes, seconds, hours I could go on. Numbers are crucial to see improvements, strengths, weaknesses and results. I used to row and in the eight boat names were not used I was simply "8" for a good few years. I was just a piece of the puzzle that made the boat go faster, a number a part of a wider collective. But is there a point where we need to look beyond the numbers? Where the numbers don't matter as much or we become too attached to them.
I have coached for a long time now and been an athlete even longer, since I started both numbers were crucial and big part of my beliefs and philosophies. I have always been a believer in high volume, stacking up the hours and km's and get deep satisfaction by looking at them at the end of a big week or block. For me if the numbers are adding up I'm getting fitter, progressing and things are moving forwards, which is true to an extent. Generally speaking the higher the numbers in and around training the better things are going.
But I have found and know that focusing even obsessing on the numbers can be problematic, that things can become irrational to hit that next target or arbitrary goal. Like many others in lockdown training, hitting goals and volume became my focus. It was something I could control in a world of uncertainty, a process that kept me going and moving forward. But as the weeks and months went on and I tried to push for higher and higher numbers the obsession and possibly motivation changed. I felt I HAD to hit 100km run weeks, I HAD to do big 200km rides even when deep down I didn't feel up for it and there would be moments of darkness pushing for these goals. I would feel satisfied with a big week, looking at the numbers, the data and proud of myself. But the next day when it "started again" I'd be back to square zero, starting at the bottom and feel a slight emptiness that needed filling again.
This process lasted months on end and I would say is something that at times I still feel to this day. However I have found much more balance and stability in the process and how to control and manage this better.
For example leading up to an ironman I know the work needs done, I know the hours need stacked up and volume accumulated, I look at the bigger picture of the block I am in and how long this will last. If I feel it's becoming too much or overwhelming I'll take a step back, a few days or a week where I get back to just enjoying the miles and not looking at the numbers. I'll change my focus to help re focus and keep the training healthy. I would say even by doing this for a week or so I still hit my targets and what I'm aiming for I just feel the pressure is off and I'm more grounded in the larger picture.
I find this time of year and the offseason a time where most people will take these moments and blocks. Time to do some "fun" training or where the numbers don't matter and we get back to basics, back to doing what we fancy and see where the ride or run might take us. But I think my reflection here is if you start to go down that path, if you start to get too deep into chasing the numbers, volume, kms possibly take a step back. Look at where you are at, where you are going and check if it's still feeling constructive or you're chasing it for different reasons. Don't get caught up in the small moments of the big picture.
I hope some of the above makes sense, really just enjoy what you're doing, remember why you are doing it and numbers, they are just numbers.