Numerical Illusion

The numbers; they suck you in.

 At first the numbers mean nothing. Your PRO tells you, “Wow, a 413 on Initiation is a great first score!”

Okay, what the heck does 413 mean and why should I care?

Later that night you check your stats only to see your name listed underneath a pile of others who’ve all played in this day’s “game” known as Syphus, and while you know it was your first crack at it, seeing your name near the bottom doesn’t sit well. You demand a better score. You select the ‘Sign Up’ tab to schedule your second class. Hooked.

Numbers keep you distracted.

After several weeks in, you start noticing that your scores are starting to soar along with your consistency to your program. You begin to recall the tasks that are your strengths and those that need work. You start piecing together what others are referring to when they talk about their 30-day, their peak and the day’s slope. The numbers begin to make sense.

But, while you’re deciphering this once foreign number system and striving to boost your scores, there is something unconscious at work. In the past, when you worked out at a Big-Box gym, you moved from machine to machine, counting the calories burned on the elliptical, documenting the amount of weight you benched and using the scale as your ultimate gauge of your progress.

But now, you’re distracted by this number that you’re trying to attain. No longer are you concerned with how your clothes might fit or how aesthetic your look. Instead you’re consumed with improving this number; but in doing so all the reasons that you originally began working out like fat loss, muscle tone, better athletic performance, lower blood pressure and more vitality are all coming to you without you intentionally chasing them.

Your concentration on building your scores has blurred the fact that you now attend a workout on a near daily basis, without dread, and the workout you’ve chosen is notoriously one of most challenging on the map. That’s when you realize that truly how effective these numbers are; they are that dangling carrot keeping you coming back. The physical results are just the by-product. You now work out for the sake of the workout.

The veteran’s plateau; where Form First creates a new number to chase.

Months, or maybe years, into your Syphus journey you’ve hit your peaks, you (may) have finished boards, you’ve participated in competitions. It now feels like you’re just maintaining. You’ve hit a plateau with your scores. You occasionally have “off” days when you score 150 below your average leaving you feeling discontent. There’s no possible way to sustain let alone top the scores you’ve logged. Now what?

Remember; they are just numbers. Why are you beating yourself up over it? As mentioned above, the numbers were a way to keep you committed to yourself and to your workout. Stop. Reflect. And realize that you are leaps and bounds above where you started. The days you consider to be a “poor performance” was an ass-kicking of a workout that majority of the population couldn’t even contend a fraction of what you were able to; and yet you still somehow feel down because of it? Nonsense!

This is a pivotal point for all Syphus-ers. This is when you may start to value form more than your score. You’ve always known that Syphus preaches Form First, and you have tried your best to adhere, but deep down, you were chasing that number first. It happens all too often that the the Form First credo isn’t truly realized until you’ve hit this plateau. Now is the time to create a new baseline with flawless form as your guide. If your scores take a dip; who cares? They are just numbers to GIVE YOU feedback into how you’re doing; only you set that standard – and if your form doesn’t vary – you know the standard that you hold.

Meaningful meaninglessness.

Here is where I must interject personally to explain from the first-person viewpoint as it is only from the perspective of a long-time PRO or a truly die-hard can verify:

The numbers mean everything.

Yes, in the preceding paragraphs I harp on the notion that they are “only” numbers, but without them there is a void.

Try this: After a lengthy career in Syphus, attempt to work out in a traditional gym, it will seem stale. Or better yet, try this, as I do from time-to-time, do a Syphus routine that is not the day’s scheduled workout and not for a score. How does the experience feel?

I only suggest this because it was only the other day when I was doing a separate workout with a client, all cardio based and not for a score, that I realized that other than enjoying the moment, my motivation was shot. I didn’t have the score to chase. I didn’t have my standard. My form was great. But still, I couldn’t put my form to the litmus test of the numbers. Syphus, without the numbers, is not Syphus.

– Hackett

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