I recently house sat for my cousins and while there, was able to use their treadmill. The first morning, I hopped on, began jogging and watched the calorie count grow in leaps and bounds. This was amazing. I was exerting myself no more than usual yet seemed to be burning far more calories. I was stunned and a little in love with the magic machine, but I shouldn’t have been. You see, I failed to realize that I had not reset the treadmill. My workout was being assessed as if I were a six-foot-tall man weighing more than 200 pounds, a body type that doesn’t exactly coincide with my own. Thus, my math, calorie-wise, was a little skewed, and yours probably is, too.
We have a tendency to obsess over calorie counts when working out. We are confident that we are burning thousands by the second, dripping them off with every bead of sweat. We rely on generalized averages, mechanical determinations and the say-so of instructors. And we fail to realize that we are individuals, that when a teacher informs the aerobics class that x amount of calories have been burned, he is correct for maybe one person, if any. Two people of the same height, weight and fitness level can perform the exact same workout and achieve completely different numbers. Even in the individual, it varies. You may burn 300 calories the first time you use the elliptical yet only use up 200 on your 25th try. As you become more accustomed to the machine, you become more efficient, and your body has to work less. As a result, you have absolutely no idea what level of exertion you are reaching.
If you want an accurate measure of your workout, ignore the blinking numbers on your stationary bike. In fact, ignore the numbers all together. Focus on broader ideas like how you feel, how fit you are becoming and if you are closer to your primary aim, whatever it may be. If you don’t think you are pushing yourself as far as you should, run a little faster at a steeper incline the next time you are on the treadmill. Or shake up the routine. If you throw yourself into a new class with no level of expertise, you may spend the next hour seriously sweating your way through confusion. Just stop with the math and start with the exercise.