The words your body speaks aren’t always obvious. Your body speaks to you daily, but in order to translate the language, you must be attentive to the states and patterns of your body. As we approach the coming New Year, a lot of people are gearing up for resolutions and goals that have something to do with their body. I think that makes it an appropriate time to remember that as we pursue our health and fitness goals, that we must learn to listen to our bodies.
Two days ago I jumped on the treadmill for an eight mile run. I started a pace that would typically be my warm-up speed and immediately felt out of breath. Determined, I knew that I was in for a painful session and so I committed to doing the distance no matter what. What ensued was an hour of pain. My heart rate was twenty beats per minute higher than normal and I found myself exhausted at paces that are normally slower than my warm up. I completed the eight miles, satisfied that I stuck with what I said I was going to do, but physically spent as if I had just raced an half-marathon. I chalked it up to a lack of sleep and a lackluster breakfast and reminded myself to get some extra sleep.
It turns out, there was something else going on. I was sick, and my body was trying to tell me that; stubbornly, I didn’t listen. Twenty-four hours later my throat has clammed up. Every swallow feels like I am drinking jagged glasses pieces and my head is foggy and distracted. My body isn’t holding in any food and I am on my 7th cup of tea for the day.
I never like being sick, but I do like that it deepens my gratitude for the amazing machine that is the human body. We expect a lot out of our bodies, and sometimes forget to slow down to recognize how fragile and complex we actually are. As we encroach upon the season of commitments, I urge you to remember to honor your body and listen to it as you progress towards whatever goal it is that you are pursuing.
Here are a few basics to start the New Year off right:
- Sleep! Get at least 7 hours of shut eye per night for optimal health, and yes, this might mean going to bed earlier than you are used to.
- Move your body. This doesn’t just mean aerobic activity, it also means slowing down to take the time to stretch and care for your body in recovery training.
- Hydrate. If your pee isn’t lightly colored or clear, then you aren’t drinking enough water.
- Celebrate what your body can do instead of what it can’t. Often when we have a new fitness goal, we get disheartened by how far we feel from accomplishing our goal. Instead, celebrate your body for what is has done for you today. The small victories are as important as the final victory.
- Give yourself permission to rest. You don’t have to do it all. In fact, you can’t. Stop trying to be a super hero and start saying “no” to over-committmenting yourself. There is just as much value in doing nothing sometimes as there is in being hyper-productive.