You may have heard this many times or read it…
“listen to your body.”
However there is often very little explaining of what it means and what you should be doing. It really is not that cryptic or ambiguous of a phrase. This is important, so let’s pull down the curtain.
Let’s keep it simple…
You are walking barefoot on the sidewalk to get the morning paper and didn’t see a shard of glass. Pain happens, possibly some cursing – but it hurt. You stop walking and investigate if you can pull it out or hobble back to the front door & get some tweezers.
You felt pain, stopped and investigated.
You and a good friend went out for some dinner. On the drive home on the highway you were behind the wheel and your stomach started turning…really turning. There are ten miles to go until your exit but there is a rest stop coming up before then.
You pull off the highway & take that rest stop exit because your stomach was doing somersaults… so make a b-line for the bathroom.
Yes, these scenarios are fairly straightforward – you felt or noticed something going on in your body and you were attentive to what was going on. You did not ignore the pain or uncomfortableness. Instead you were vigilant and decided to do something about it.
Now enter two other scenarios…
You have been putting down a respectable running regime the last month on the trails. There was no pain or any issues. You are now up to 10 miles twice a week. This week you decide to switch things up and do the same amount of mileage on the pavement instead at the same pace. You find after the second round that halfway through you feel some pain below your knees. The following week instead of the 10 you decide to decrease the road runs to a respectable 6 and then work your way up over time. Also, you sprinkle in some more stretching. Over time that pain subsided and eventually went away.
You backed off on the mileage on the roads and worked your way back up. You also increased the time stretching after runs to target any tight muscles.
A bagel and a coffee has been your go-to breakfast for a while now. However, you find that by 10:30 a.m. you start dragging and have to grab another coffee to keep on point the rest of the day. Today you wake up and decide that you are tired of the never-ending battle to stay alert. You begin trying out different things to eat for breakfast and seeing what your energy level is. Soon you found your go-to breakfast that did not leave you wondering why you were always so tired.
You decided to change up your breakfast after you found that crashing before midday was a pattern. After noticing the pattern, you edited & kept on editing you breakfast until you found what would not send you back for another cup of coffee.
You know what it means…now listen!
Honestly if in any of the scenarios someone just ignored what was happening and kept on going – the outcome would not be good. The argument is made often that you can just push through it especially if it is pain related to exercise. I would counter that eventually that pain will come back & will not go away. The solution can be as simple as taking a look at what has changed to make your body react that way.
Of course, there may be many things in the mix like stress, muscular imbalances or running form that can be a wild card. Just fight the urge to be stubborn and think that it will just go away (like never addressing tight calves -yes runners I am talking to you!). When it comes to what you put in your body, of course that can be complicated. But again, if you ignore what you are feeling and it is not changing – why not see what you can do about it?
Above all, if you listen and can’t figure out what is going on then talk to a qualified professional that can be your guide. She or he can use their experience, knowledge & objective view of what is going on to assist you.
Empower yourself to take charge of what is going on with your body. You have a choice – be proactive! You don’t have to do it alone.