Fitness Friday presents: The numbers game

A good decision is based on knowledge and not on numbers. --Plato

Ever get halfway through a set and think, "Damn, am I on my sixth rep ... or my seventh?"

For better or for worse, the fitness industry is driven by numbers. No matter how you diet or what your exercise regimen is, there is a number attached to everything you do, every goal you're trying to accomplish and every setback you've ever had.

How much can you bench?

That's a question every man will be expected to answer at some point in his life and how he's judged by his peers may depend on the answer -- just as every woman will eventually be forced to admit what size jeans she wears. And whatever that number is, please, do not wince or make a face when she says it.

I only limped for about a month.

Numbers ... percentages ... statistics, we need them as a metric for performance. But at what point do we lose sight of their intended purpose and begin to manipulate them to suit our needs? Or worse, use them to sabotage our objectives?

It's so easy to get discouraged, especially in the beginning: Shit, I only lost two pounds this week.

Unfortunately, we can't escape the numbers.

How many calories are in that banana?
How many scoops of protein powder do I need?
How many miles did I run today?
How many steps did I climb on the Stairmaster?
How many reps did I do on the flat bench?
How much does that Kettlebell weigh?
How many inches are my biceps?
What's my heart rate?
How much weight did I lose?

Regular readers of Fitness Friday will know that I'm something of a minimalist.

If someone asked me what I was capable of bench-pressing, I wouldn't have an answer. I could probably guess, but in the end, it's really not that important to me. Same with my heart rate. I know that if I get off the treadmill, or free myself from the Stairmaster, I should be sweaty and out of breath.

If I leave the gym thinking, "That wasn't so bad," then I've done too little. Conversely, if I collapse in the parking lot and wonder how I'll ever make it back the next day, then I've gone too far. Yes, I know what you're thinking...

That's why we have these numbers, so it's not a guessing game.

Aye, good sir (or madame), but in the fitness industry, nothing ever goes according to plan.

I've seen people become unglued when there are no available treadmills, or freeze like a deer in the headlights when a particular machine is roped off for repairs. I've even witnessed a meathead punching a hole in the wall because he couldn't get that last rep.

Calm down, bro.

Psychosis aside, I do believe we have way too many clock punchers out there. They clock in, do their job, clock out and go home. Sure, they might be putting in the work, but results don't come just because you showed up and hit your quota.

Chase goals, not numbers.

I discovered an insane ab workout this morning -- one I promise to share in an upcoming column -- because I have the freedom to walk into the gym and do whatever the hell I want. I can't even tell you how many sets I did or how many reps were in each set. I just remember walking away with my core on fire.

Not sore and not strained, on fire.

It was exciting, but I would have never had the opportunity to discover it, had I been following the same boring routine just to hit my numbers, or doing a mental copy-and-paste from something I read in a magazine at the local 7-11.

Some guys exercise like their dads drive on vacation: Can't make any stops, I have to make great time!

Critics will wag their fingers and tell you the routine helps undisciplined people stay the course, but I just think it makes them saboteurs. How many times have you thought, "If I can just get like, 4-6 reps on this next set, I'll be happy."

Get off the assembly line.

People ask me why I'm against home DVD programs like P90X and Insanity. I'm not, because they do work if you follow them diligently and alter your diet. But my issue is, how long can I have Shaun T making googly eyes at me before I launch my dumbbell through the television screen?

And those products live and die on numbers. Power 90 ... 10 Minute Trainer ... Slim in 6 ...

If the gym is not your cup of ViSalus, make your own fitness routine at home. Put the television on and watch MTV, or pop in a kick-ass DVD like The Avengers, something fun. No weights? But two gallons of spring water and curl those suckers, or do triceps dips using your dining room chairs.

Don't watch the clock or worry about how many sets you do. Work until you're hot and sweaty and can't do any more.

Numbers are crucial for goal-specific training, no question. You need to measure your daily performance and adjust your training accordingly once you've established a finish line, like breaking a six-minute mile or a passing a 300-pound bench.

But like last week's rant on supplement use and abuse, most of us who are just trying to live healthy and stay in shape don't have a finish line, so we shouldn't be counting our laps. Hopefully, our fitness routines will last forever, so we should approach them that way.

Sustainability, as well as expandability.

That means separating ourselves from the shackles of numbers. I haven't weighed myself in probably over a year because ... who cares? My concern is how I look, feel and perform. I know when I've had a good day at the gym, just as I know when I've mailed it in.

I don't need a digital readout to tell me that.

While we're on the topic of numbers, there are two that I want you to remember for next week.

19 and 21.

Those are two dates in July when the Vitality event from ViSalus begins (19) and ends (21) at the Orlando Convention Center in Florida. Come and celebrate the organization's annual celebration of life, heath and prosperity featuring product users, celebrities and of course, the company founders.

To register for Vitality, taking place from July 19-21 in "The Sunshine State," click here.

By now, you've heard me talk in great detail about the ViSalus line of products (see them here). But the Vitality celebration is more than just an exercise in back-patting, it's a launching pad for the company's newest product, one they promise will "revolutionize the most important meal of the day."

I got a sneak peek and let me just say ... yum!

The product will be unveiled on July 21, so sign up, get down to Orlando and try it before everyone else.

Fitness Friday is sponsored by ViSalus. Opinions expressed are solely of the author. For more information on the ViSalus line of products click here.

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