#58 Are we too obsessed with metrics?

We live in a world where many things have realtime analytics already put in place. I’m not against any of these. In fact, I love these. I can gather a lot of insights out of these metrics. But we have to be careful about being too much caught up in metrics, or start chasing metrics too much.

I do bodyweight trainings regularly.

Bodyweight training is exercise such as pushups and pull-ups, primarily using your own body weight instead of using gym machines.

When I do pushups for example, I set a goal such as 

“Do 10 pushups as one set, do 3 sets with 30 second intervals between sets.”

My actual record on the first day might be:

  • Set 1: 10
  • Set 2: 9
  • Set 3: 8

On the second day, I might get:

  • Set 1: 10
  • Set 2: 10
  • Set 3: 10

On its surface, I did better the 2nd day with 100% completion rate.

Or is it?

To answer this question accurately, I need to dig deeper, and ask these qualitative questions.

  • Did I do each rep with a correct form?
  • Did I do each rep without using a momentum?
  • Did I do each rep with enough range of motion?
  • Did I do each rep with focusing on a target muscle to do the primary work?

If my answer is no to these questions, my second day’s metric becomes meaningless.

If I achieved those numbers by using momentums for example, that means I only did a very easy incomplete version of pushups.

I did not give my muscle enough stress that a proper pushups is supposed to provide.

I am completely missing out of great benefits that I could have gotten if I did it right.

Metrics are powerful and easy to compare. But metrics could be deceiving too.

A lot of times, we tend to get caught up in metrics.

And because of the nature of metrics being so simple and easy to compare, we sometimes start chasing just metrics.

When “just chasing metrics” becomes a primary goal, that’s where I need to ask myself, what is the most important thing that I want to achieve.

In the previous bodyweight training example, achieving 10 reps per set by itself does not mean anything, if each rep is done improperly.

Goals are set to be something that I aim towards when performing the exercise.

But the focus should always be maintaining my posture, form and do each move as correct as possible so that it puts the stress to the targeted muscle as much as possible.

It does not matter if I end up only being able to do 7 or 8 reps as a result of focusing on quality of each rep.

Actually that is way better than just achieving 10 reps by using momentums every time.

Overtime, I slowly realized the reality that being too obsessed with metrics is meaningless.

To me, this is quite an eye-opening, interesting realization.

I think this applies to not only training, but also many things.

Metrics are mere indicators.

It gives me what to aim towards.

It helps me stay focused.

It helps me see my progress, patterns and trends overtime.

Nothing more. Nothing less.

The most important thing is always quality, not quantity.

With that said, I will always aim towards some sort of quantitative metrics in order to improve and grow towards a quality I want to achieve, like the body weight training example.

To do so, most likely I will end up accumulating quantity to improve my quality too.

All these will help me constantly improve and grow to a better version of myself.

And that’s what matters.

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