No more self-optimization – what’s all this performance madness for?

The city was not far ahead as an extremely energetic racing cyclist rode past me without a word. But I still had the last reserves; I caught its stream while digging. At the next traffic light, we started a conversation. When, due to the circumstances, I pointed out to the young man that I was riding without a cycle counter, he said – in terms of charm with room for improvement: “I see a lot in older people now.”

Did he know about the new trend? Have the gray racing cyclists lost their desire for speed? Is “slow” the new “fast” for older students? Well, maybe things are different. Maybe she is like me. I still think “fast” is better than “slow”. This seems to me to be the natural order of things. But I don’t let the computer on the steering wheel burn more numbers into my brain – I broke its spell.

More confidence in your own body

Our body is good at arithmetic itself: arithmetic without numbers. That’s why I now ride a racing bike differently, more consciously, more carefully, somehow more humanely. Brainless, quick start with cold muscles, only to squeeze the coveted cut of so many km / h from the very start – over and over again.

Obsessive keeping pace in the crosswind, breathtaking uphill sprints … What for? By the way, public clocks tell me I’m not slower than I used to be – thumbs up. And even if it were only a few minutes, it wouldn’t spoil my luck after three or four hours in the saddle. What else often happened during the last obsessive look at the computer. All of this makes me feel like living proof that it is otherwise.

Ultimately, I optimized myself as a road cyclist, doing the exact opposite of what self-optimizers don’t just recommend and practice on the move “Quantified Self”. Namely, to digitally measure, store and evaluate every twitch of the body to squeeze the last bit of performance out of it. Don’t worry! Just because I’m more inspired without a bike computer than with it doesn’t make it a culture-critical lament. The ability to quantify the functions and achievements of an organism in sport and medicine is a gift of technical evolution.

The data is wonderful – but

Of course, no professional cycling team can do without tedious data collection, and no doctor can do without a complete blood count of patients with diseases. The data is great. They bring to light what is unusual, invisible and imperceptible. However, data has an inherent weakness, especially when it occurs in large numbers: it interferes with a holistic view of the body, for example, and easily obscures a clear picture of connections.

If it were otherwise, the vague question “How are you?” be medically redundant in the digitized 21st century. But he is still asked – and then you get to the details. But let’s stay with road cycling. If you watch bike races on TV, you know: although the pros are completely digitally measured, transparent beings, they don’t re-check all their performance data before attacking their final climb.

I speak to myself with my body

no When it comes down to it, they attack according to the feeling of the body. And if they do share the information later, they will be happy to do so with a slogan that must outrage data fetishists and Quantified Self advocates: “I had good legs today.” Which says nothing objective – and yet the decisive thing. Good legs tend to be in a higher order than the power and lactate levels. It’s true: our old-fashioned mind-body complex is hopelessly inferior to digital machines when it comes to collecting data. But he knows about his legs, the computer doesn’t.

And for this reason, I control my stress when riding a road bike by talking to myself with my body. My bike computer is just lying there. His battery is dead. A beautiful view that makes you want to go on your next trip.

Arno Orzessek, born in Osnabrück in 1966, studied literature, philosophy and art history in Cologne. He works as a freelance journalist mainly for Deutschlandradio and lives in Berlin.

© Eric Zimmerman

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