Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth fitness, nutrition, and adventure courses and more than 2,000 instructional videos when you sign up for Outside+ Sign up for Outside+ today.
OK, I have a confession to make. Over the past five years, I’ve been quietly obsessed with my bathroom scale—just ask my wife. It’s not that I’m overweight and need to drop 20 pounds; I actually weigh roughly the same I did when I was in college. It’s just that I’ve been writing enough about endurance sports to know that shedding 10 pounds off a body translates into moving a lot faster, like up to 10 minutes faster in a marathon. And there’s another reason: in our weight-obssesed society where cyclists, runners, and climbers spend thousands of extra dollars on gear that shaves a few grams here and there, the snarky retort from the likes of me has always been, “Gee, you could probably lose 10 pounds off your gut and go faster than your $5,000 bike upgrade will take you. And you’ll save money by eating less, too.”
So part of this mania has been to back up my public stance. Problem is this attitude has led to a less than satisfying recreational life. Ever since I learned that nugget of info, my brain has been running a nonstop “What if?” loop through my psyche. Even worse, the volume on that loop goes up at the most insidious times, such as the time I ran my fastest 10k ever or after I came back from a blistering 100k ride. Instead of feeling satisfied, I’d ask myself, “How much faster would I’ve gone if I had 10 less pounds on my body?”
It’s stupid, I know. This obsession got so bad that I quit a strength-training regimen last winter because the scale told me that I’d actually gained a couple pounds of muscle that I didn’t want—nevermind that I felt great, had no problem carting around 100-pounds of happy kids in my arms, and was climbing up technical singletrack on my mountain bike that I had once found undoable. The only people I’ve met who obsess about shedding pounds for speed are pro cyclists, who, let’s face it, get paid to obsess about this stuff because it can make or break their success at their jobs.
I bring this up because this morning I checked the scale and saw that, yep, things haven’t changed since 1991. And I was bummed. Bummed, because last Sunday I pulled off a solid 20-mile run that I was sure burned at least 5 pounds off my gut and shifted my metabolism into some super fat-burning gear. But that didn’t happen.
It wasn’t until later, after listening to my wife’s complaints about a knee problem that’s kept her from exercising without pain for years, that I finally and truly realized that I am an idiot. I’m closing in on 40 and still lucky enough to be making incremental advances in my speed and endurance. All my parts are in working order. Maintaining this obsession about 10 pounds misses the bigger picture—and it definitely doesn’t help my marriage—regarding my ability to live the life I’d always wanted.
It’s time to get over it. With that, I’ll be banishing that scale to the basement laundry room tonight.