Conditioning, fear, and Garmin step target

I couldn’t run much over the summer due to an injury I’ve been carrying since spring (and done nothing about).

So, to make up for the lost miles, I ended up doing a long step goal streak on my Garmin. I started the streak with a step target of 8731.

With the default setting, Garmin automatically adjusts the step target up/down based on how you did the previous day. So, just achieving the target increases the goal only by a few dozen steps. Go overboard, and exceed the target by a few thousand steps, and the next days goal will jump by a few hundred steps.

As expected, very quickly, I started planning so that I didn’t exceed the goal by much. It couldn’t be managed on many days – Monday track runs, Thursday club runs, and weekend chores meant those days usually ended anywhere from 50% higher to even 2x. Still, I tried on the days I could.

I ended the streak [^1], 74 days later, with a step target of 15,223.

Now that we’re back from holiday, and I’m starting to give running another go, I still wanted to keep up the steps. But, tired of being scared of an ever increasing target, I decided to go with a static target of 12,000 steps a day.

It’s a good, high-ish step goal, yet not one that I’d have to really slog on non-run days to achieve like those 14000+ targets were. 

On 5 of 6 days since starting this new streak, I’ve ended up with 3000+ steps over target. Success.

Also, a problem. 

While the Garmin watch has been configured to keep the target static, my head has not.

Over the long streak period this summer, my brain got conditioned to expecting a higher step goal of I exceeded the target by a lot. So, everyday, once the days steps start heading north of 13-14K, I start feeling mild, subconscious panic. 

The conscious knows that the goal won’t change, but the subconscious has been trained to be afraid of exceeding it by much.

It’s pain from overtraining. Of my brain. In response to a stimuli that doesn’t represent a threat anymore.

Conditioning. Fear. Garmin step target. Buggers all!

We listened to the man because he had…

We listened to the man because he had something to tell us, and us alone. Not how to play baseball, though he did that better than anyone. Not how to win, though winning was wonderful. Not even how to sacrifice. He was teaching us something far more important: how to cope with the two greatest enemies of a well-lived life, fear and failure.

To make the lesson stick, he made sure we encountered enough of both. I never could have explained at the time what he had done for me, but I felt it in my bones all the same. When I came home one day during my senior year and found the letter saying that, somewhat improbably, I had been admitted to Princeton University, I ran right back to school to tell Coach Fitz.

Then I grew up.

Coach Fitz’s Management Theory