Why I will never be your fitness coach (an ode to not keeping track)

I’m not really one to get excited about exercise metrics — how many miles run, how fast a certain commute was, what sort of heart rate was happening. None of that has ever been super compelling to me, and I’ve never really had the drive to track performance, nor have I ever had a phone with any apps that keep track of that for me. This is probably why I’m an utter failure at training for anything: I just don’t care that much about output; what I care about is outside — am I getting enough time outside, and am I enjoying it?


(from a particularly lovely run outside last year that I enjoyed very much:)


That being said, there are two things I tracked last year. One, a holdover from an experiment a few years ago, is how many minutes (not miles) I ran. The other, because I was participating in two workplace commute challenges, is how many miles I biked — at least, in May and November.

In 2018, I ran (or, at least, recorded; I often forget) 5,187 minutes. Which is much less than when I first started keeping track way back in 2014, but is still, if we take a sort of general trail running pace of 10+ minutes/mile, a good 500 miles.

This is particularly rough guesswork because that’s actually running time — if I stop to walk during what I think of as a run, I usually stop my timer, even though I’m still moving forward and covering ground. (So when I ran the Timberline Trail, for example, where I took the picture above, even though it took us like 15 hours total, I have no idea anymore how many minutes of that I recorded as running minutes.) So other than that super rough guesswork, I actually have no idea how many miles I ran. Which is fine with me.


(from another lovely run through Badger Creek Wilderness, questing for Western larch)


As far as biking, again, I have no idea really at all how far I biked in 2018, but in May I recorded 785 miles, and in November, 556. If I average that out over the year, it’s about 8,000 miles, which is probably about right. I mean, who knows really, but that seems ballpark reasonable.

Does any of this matter? No, not at all. I guess I get curious sometimes about how much moving around in the world I actually do, and sometimes it’s fun to use what little information I do have to try to extrapolate a bigger picture, which is detail enough for me. But I’ve also been thinking about it recently after hanging out with my brother, who was just starting out on a super regimented training program, such a foreign and fascinating concept to me. The closest I’ve ever come to training for something was when I decided to run a marathon and wrote myself a very precise mileage schedule to work up to it — which was successful, though definitely crude in terms of whole-body training finesse.

I guess I’ve never really cared that much, but then sometimes I wonder if I should, or what would happen if I did. On the one hand, I don’t think it matters, at all. On the other, what’s possible? But do I care? Ha! This is why I will never be a real athlete, and why I will probably never know what peak performance is. Here’s to more adventures, more being in the world, and probably no more keeping track;)


  1. “Should” ne compte pour rien! Es tu ES un vrai athlète!

    • heh. Merci, though I suppose it all comes down to what actually makes one an athlete. I just looked it up cuz I’m a nerd and I realized I didn’t really know what the actual denotative definition was, and the online OED says it’s someone “who is proficient in sports and other forms of physical exercise,” which seems much more attainable;)

      • …though then there’s the question of what “proficient” means in an athletic context, and on and on down the rabbithole. heh.

  2. I like to keep a simple journal which includes what I did for “exercise” each day. I don’t have a gps or computer on my bike so I just go by hrs and min. Same for running, climbing etc. Its just fun for me to see how the hrs and min add up. The only time I set up a training plan is if I have a goal for myself such as doing a 1/2 marathon last fall. I only ran 3 times a week for it and supplemented that with cycling. So those 3 days had specific “training” in mind. I think it kept me from injuring myself and gave me a goal without getting over serious about it and kept the fun level high.

  3. I appreciate the way you express this perspective about ‘outside’ rather than ‘output’. There seems to be mounting pressure for everyone to track their every physical movement (with fitbits or other tech-y things), as if the numbers can quantify the value of these physical experiences. I love your attitude about keeping track only casually, I think it’s a mindset that many people could benefit from! Also, you are without doubt a fabulous athlete, you don’t need any numbers to tell you that!!

    • I love that: “as if the numbers can quantify the value of physical experiences.” That’s exactly it — a number will never do justice to the actual experience, and I’d rather focus on the experience itself.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment! :)

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