Do Numbers Motivate You Or Hold You Back?

Now that I am finished with physical therapy, I am gradually adding back more challenging running workouts–like speed and hill intervals. I usually do interval workouts on the treadmill. That way, I can force myself to do a long enough warm-up and cool-down, and work up to faster intervals or steeper “hills.” Plus, I find that intervals make the time spent on the treadmill so much more tolerable

Two weeks ago, for my first speed interval workout in ages, I warmed up for 15 minutes and then did 30 minutes of intervals:

0-5 min: waking @ 3.7 mph
5-10 min: running @ 5.7 mph
10-15 min: running @ 6.0 mph
15-45 min: 2 min fast/1 min recovery, working up to 7.0 mph
45-47 min: running @ 5.7 mph
45-50 min: waking @ 3.7 mph

It felt good. I felt good. The endorphins felt really good!

This week, I decided to run on the high school track near my house. I walked most of the way there, but ran the last 1/4 mile to start warming up. I ran two laps to finish my warm up, and then did 4 sets of 800 M repeats–running two laps at a fast pace, with a recovery lap in between.


I timed my laps on my Garmin, but didn’t look at it while I was running. It was a gorgeous day–in the upper 60’s with a lovely sunrise–and I was just enjoying pushing myself like I haven’t been able to for months.

When I got back home and checked my split times, I was amazed. My first repeat was at an 8:40-ish pace (about 6.9 mph), my second and third repeats were at an 8:30-ish pace (about 7.0 mpg), and my last repeat was at an 8:20-ish pace (about 7.2 mph).

I know I would not have gone that fast on the treadmill, and that got me thinking–do numbers motivate me or hold me back?

For distance, I think numbers motivate me. Once I decide to run a certain distance (or a certain time on the treadmill), I will reach that goal–even if I have to push myself, prod myself, or bribe myself to get it done.

For speed, I think numbers may hold me back. I am afraid to set aggressive pace goals, and wary of pushing my pace on the treadmill. Rightly or wrongly, I am afraid that running too fast will trigger an injury. When I run outside, I usually run faster that I do on the treadmill. I used to think that was due to differences between treadmill running and natural running, but maybe it’s because I hold myself back on the treadmill.

What about you–do you think numbers motivate you or hold you back?

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9 Responses to Do Numbers Motivate You Or Hold You Back?

  1. I think for me it’s a little bit of a mix of both. Seeing that I am running fast motivates me and makes me feel good. On the other hand, on my “slow” days (which is every day lately), it is really frustrating to see those slow numbers and realize where I used to be.

  2. The distance numbers always motivate me, the speed numbers do the opposite. I’ve found that running intuitively has allowed me to be so much faster (like 1 min/mile faster) than trying to force a pace. This is the reason treadmill running is so hard for me. I know how fast, how long and how far and I start obsessing.

  3. I do the same thing. Although I also think that the treadmill makes me alter my gait and makes it harder to get into a good groove and pace. hate the dreadmill.

  4. David H. says:

    I think it can work both ways. The best thing is to not get obsessed about it either way — that just drags you down physically and mentally. It’s best to take the surprising numbers and apply those to race days to push yourself; take the bad numbers and figure out why they were bad. Nutrition, weather, mood, sleep, etc. is going to play a part behind what those numbers say.

  5. Carrie says:

    I’ve been running less and less on the treadmill and really enjoy it. I had a similar experience with the 30-20-10 workout and didn’t look at my speeds until I was done and was pleasantly surprised. I think it’s a good habit to step away from the numbers at times.

  6. MizFit says:

    Im such a misfit.
    they do absolutely NEITHER.

  7. Cindy says:

    The treadmill and I don’t get along. I feel like it is running me not me running it. Yeah I always have to be in charge during my workouts. I do my best when I have a purpose and a schedule. I have to get from my home to the gym for a certain time. I get a little extra time on a rainy day. If I go out without a plan and destination I am soon back home again.

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