overtraining

Listen To Your Body

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.

coffee on patio

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.

When I Don’t Run, I Remember Why I Do

When I don’t run my whole world falls apart. I don’t eat well. I don’t drink enough water. I’m grumpy. I have no energy. I start to feel pudgy and my pants get tight. Of course, it takes not running for me to realize exactly how important it is to my life and my happiness.

I’ve been struggling lately. My lazy side has gotten the best of me.

Since marathon training is no longer something looming over my head I find myself de-prioritizing (is that a word?) my runs. Marathon training and to some degree half marathon training forces you to run. You don’t have a choice.

You have 12 miles scheduled and your husband can’t watch the kids? Put them in the stroller and go.

Pouring down rain? Go.

20 degrees? Go.

That’s great when you’re trying to loose 40 pounds of baby weight so you can fit back into your pants. Being forced to exercise is good, until it isn’t. What I did was give myself a serious case of burnout.

I need to change my mindset from having to run to wanting to run. A task which is proving to be somewhat more difficult than I’d hoped.

Marathon recovery this time around was much worse than before. I pushed myself harder during the race and I think I tried to get back to running too quickly afterwards. I didn’t give my body enough time to heal itself from the damage I’d done. As a result almost every run I’ve done since then has been brutal. The first month after the marathon, during the “recovery” time frame, my heart rate would spike and I had trouble breathing. Most of my runs turned into runs with walk breaks.

The problems with recovery were followed by the weather, more specifically the wind. OH THE WIND. Nothing spells misery quite like pushing a 100 pound double jogging stroller into a 20 mph headwind. If I looked outside and saw the trees blowing (which seemed like every day) instead of doing the right thing and taking the kids to the Y I would just throw my shoes back in the closet and eat a handful of M&Ms.

Not cool, Joni. Not cool.

So here I am. Almost through April and I’ve only gone running eight times this month, three of those in the last three days. I’m struggling to find a groove.

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The last few days I’ve been trying to change up my routine, doing more to focus on the run and less on the work of running. I’ve altered my route to see different scenery. I’ve instituted a mandatory walk break halfway which is more to help me get out the door than is actually needed on the run. I’ve turned off my radio which is making me much more aware of my surroundings, not just the sounds but the sights too. We stop at the playground on our route to make it easier to get Evie in the stroller, which she’s been fighting lately. Most importantly, I’ve slowed down which makes running more fun, at least for me.

Thankfully, this struggle has a purpose.

By not running I am reminded of how important it is to my life and to my happiness. It’s not until I don’t run that I remember why I do.

I run because it makes my happy. I run to be strong both physically and mentally. I run to be the person I want my kids to become. I run because it holds my entire life together. Without running, I fall apart.

Ironically, do you know when I figured all this out?

On a run, of course.