Listen to your body.
You hear experienced athletes say this all the time. But what does it mean?
A few weeks ago I went through something which is all too common. I felt off. You know when you can just tell that something isn’t quite right?
I hadn’t been sleeping well. I fought bouts of acid reflux. I had a hard time concentrating. I didn’t want to meet my friends for our Saturday morning trail run.
On top of that, I lost my running shoes. I lost my running shoes.
I. Lost. Them.
They were gone for two days before I finally found them.
I was texting my running partner about my epic case of scatterbrain and you know what he told me?
Listen to your body!
I hadn’t thought about that. He was right.
Something wasn’t right and my body was telling me about it. It was my job to listen.
I am constantly telling my clients to “listen to your body,” and it’s true. Your body is constantly communicating with you. You can learn a lot about yourself if you tune into its cues. I listen to my body a lot – especially when it comes to random aches and pains but I hadn’t thought that the other random symptoms I’d been experiencing were my body’s subtle way of telling me that something was wrong.
Listening to your body means knowing what is normal for you and what isn’t. It means getting to know your body on an intimate level. Is that slight ache below your knee new, or has it been there for a while? Is it normal for you to have a tightness in your hip after a run?
How has your sleep been? Have you been overly tired? Cranky? Are you unusally forgetful? Craving carbs? Do you normally struggle to get out the door?
Listening to your body, means reading your body’s subtle cues and actually taking action. Yes, it’s hard to take time off but it’s easier to recover from a injury if you catch it early. It’s always better to take a few days off now than being forced to take a few weeks off later.
In my case, I wasn’t fighting a physical injury but I WAS fighting a mental one. Some significant stress in my personal life, in addition to maintaining my hefty weekly base mileage, was enough to send my body into the early phases of Overtraining Syndrome.
That next weekend, I let my Saturday morning trail crew go alone. Instead of waking up at 4:00 am, I woke up at 6:30 am. Instead of running, I sat on my back patio and drank a cup of coffee – and I was totally okay with it.
I took THREE DAYS off. I normally run six days a week, often times twice a day, so taking three days off is a big deal.
Instead of running I caught up on my sleep, spent the extra time with my family, took my kids to the playground and to the pool at the Y. I cleaned the house and did the laundry.
By the next Monday I was ready to run again. I wanted to run again. My energy level was higher, my reflux was gone, I was able to concentrate on my trail runs. I was happier. My poor body needed the break.
As runners, we all love our hobby, and it’s easy to let that passion overshadow the very real possibility of injury. The next time something feels off take a step back and ask yourself what your body is saying. It’s your job to listen.