It’s easy to examine our bodies in the mirror every morning before we head off to whatever the day may hold, but do we stop to examine how we physically feel as much as we examine how we look?
In my years as an athlete, I’ve had plenty of time, and a variety of experiences to experiment with my body and nutrition. I’ve pushed my body to it’s limit in both departments, but only because I was spending my time focusing on the outward results rather than the inward feelings. I put cries of my body’s exhaustion to rest by running more miles and the grumbles of hunger by keeping my mind occupied on other things. I filled my time with other unfulfilling activities that eventually came to an end when the screaming and shouting from my body was no longer silenceable. I was told I needed to take a break from “being so hard on myself” and “listen to my body” more thoroughly in the future.
As I began to give my body a say in how I lived my life, I found many feelings to be overwhelmingly loud. It drove me nuts. I didn’t understand why I had to listen to my body, because I thought I could outsmart it and get my way. While the communication from my body was very much so present in some areas, others I wasn’t hearing from at all. I began to get worried that I would never be a ‘normal human’ again. It was at this point in my life I began to realize I truly had pushed my body too far.
In the years of trying to find a healthy balance in all areas of my life, I’ve learned how to listen to all parts of my body, each and every peace if you will. One of the most valuable lessons I have learned is how to react when my body says “no.” In evaluating the different signals I receive from my body, I have a new sense of being. While each situation seems to almost be in a new language, I’m slowly learning the patterns of my body and why I feel “no way” some days.
I usually begin with my energy level and go from there. Unless some other shout comes up from a place in my body, I next evaluate my mental state and fix anything I can by hydrating, eating, praying and exercise. Usually I can tell very quickly whether or not my body is ready for all the hype of life only a few minutes into the latter. Things like fatigue, headaches, muscle soreness, or general “icky” feelings are often what brings me to brainstorm what is going on and how I can fix it. Sometimes, the only thing you can do is rest. These days, I usually bag a run after 15 minutes if I don’t progress in feeling any better. The idea being that pushing your body when it’s waving the white flag is actually not even remotely a good idea. (Crazy, I know.) Obviously, this makes perfect sense, but in a world focused on go, saying “no” to certain things just because your body is saying “no” can be frustrating.
For example, sometimes I only have time a few days a week to run. Let’s say for this given week it is Monday through Thursday. If I end up getting bad vibes from my body all day on Thursday, I’m a little upset, especially knowing that I won’t have time to run for another three days. In this situation, I may push my body when it’s telling me “uhhhh, no.” just because I feel I must. But when I wake up Friday morning in a head fog with a stuffy nose and sore throat, I know I should have given my immune system the extra energy to fight off a virus instead of wasting it on a run that wasn’t even fun anyway because I wasn’t feeling good to begin with.
Ultimately, the calls of our body are often signs we cannot always predict or see coming. Things like stress, exercise, busy schedules, odd sleep schedules, work and even adventure can take a toll with time. So when our body begins to let us know that, it is important we listen. I encourage you to learn how to listen to the many languages our bodies speak. And the fact that each of us are so different from one another should be motivation enough to seek out our body’s feelings before they seek us. We owe it to our well-being to start listening.